Musing on Facing Threats and the Care of God

Personally things have been emotionally draining the past week. Emotions have been raw and anxiety has come easily. The reason for the anxiety is related to some current ongoing threats of loss. Things important to me are at risk. It does not really matter what the risks are, but they are there. However, the things that are at immediate threat are the potential loss to the state of Minnesota if politicians do not approve a stadium. The other threat is to our dog’s health and well being. She developed a cancerous skin tumor that most likely is benign. However, it is still a threat and anxiety producing. See, these are things that personally there are deep care and attachment. When what we care about is at risk, our emotions become volatile with anger and anxiety there easily. Questions come about whether these things that are cared for have too much importance or the care has reached the point of idolatry. Yet, idolatry comes when things cared for are things from which we draw life. They become so important that nothing else matters. God created us to love and care. He wired us to develop attachments. God has given us directions to deal with such threats. Psalms 55:22 (ESV) sates “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” And 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV) states
“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” The verses shows a simple step. Turn over what we care about to God and trust him. God will see us through whatever the threat. God does not promise that there will not be loss. God promises to sustain us, and to look out for our welfare regardless of what happens. God simply directs us to present our request to him. Philippians 4:6 (ESV) states “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We are directed to ask God about the things we care about but have an attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude. Thanksgiving is important here, because God gave us things to care about. Be it a pet, be it a sport team, be it family or whatever else we care about. God gave us these things. So whether there is loss or the ability to continue to care, we are to be thankful for what God has given and allowed. Loss may or may not happen, yet what God has given is good. Yet, God allows threats and difficulties. Life is an ongoing battle with pain, suffering, and loss constantly lurking. God directs us to stand firm and endure. He asks us to submit to Him, to acknowledge Him, to depend on Him. When we do so, he will sustain us and at the right time, raise us up, not because of anything of our own regard, but because we turn to Him. It is easy to get lost and distracted in the things we care for and we can easily make them more important than God in our life. However, the treats of loss are not related to anything out of proper alignment, rather such times allow us to evaluate and examine where our affections lie and what we look to for life and strength. Even when nothing is out of alignment, God still allows for loss and tests, for it draws us to Him and allows Him to work and show us His love for us, by working as He will in the matters that we care about. This is why God wants us to direct our request to Him and depend on Him, for it gives Him opportunities to demonstrate His love for us. Whatever the results God shows He cares for us. Romans 8:28 (ESV) states “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” God does not promise that everything goes according to our will, just that He works it all out for good. The good ultimately comes from God demonstrating His love and care in whatever way he will in the circumstances of life and what we care for. God works when we give him opportunity to do so, and that work is ultimately building us up in His love, whatever may occur. So, in my life there may be loss, or loss may be stayed. Yet, God will be faithful in all. That being said my requests before God is for the football team to remain in Minnesota and for my dog, Bella, to not have her life in jeopardy due to some cancerous skin cells. Yet, whatever happens God will demonstrate His love for me, because He does care for me, far greater than my care for a sports team and a pet.

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Musing on the Passing Storms of Life

The storm this writer has been under has passed. My lungs are free and clear. My energy level has returned. So now to get back to doing the things God has stirred within me to do. One of which is writing this blog on a regular basis. So with the task of getting back on track and getting back to writing, a good starting point here is to start with reflecting on the nature and aftermath of storms in our life. God does direct us that we will face varied “storms” in life. Storms just happen. They are in essence part of the times of trials and testing in our life. Storms come of varied types and sizes but they all have impact. Storms impact us both during the time we are enduring the storm and in the aftermath of the storm. Now the number one question that comes to a persons mind when the trials and testing come is why does God allow this to happen? Now the basic answer to the questions is God is God and we are not as found in Job. Yet, God has given us more than that fact to understand the storms and trials of life. There are three key passages in scripture that help us to understand:

1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV) In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

James 1:2-4 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 5:1 – 5 (NIV) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

So the basic principle is that the storms and trials and testing periods of our lives help us to grow and develop. Rain and storms are part of the life cycle of fruitfulness, the same in our lives. The storms and testing in life lead us into the process of ongoing purification. There are examples God has given us of this process. The making of a diamond for example is a prime example. Carbon is turned into a precious gem known as a diamond by the being exposed to ongoing pressure and heat. The same it is for us, we are brought from common to a glory reflecting God in the process of the pressures of life. Another example is the process of refining metal from impure to pure. The refinement process is again some form of pressure and heat to bring impurities out of the metal. God uses the storms in our life to bring us into greater likeness to him. Note it is not our work, but God at work in us through the storms and trials.

God works in us through what the storms or trials he allows us to experience. We are all tested in many ways. One preacher, Tom Shepard, has a sermon from Job about seven ways we are tested in storms. In examining what God was worked in my life and heart during the recent storms, I have found that there is a distinct revealing of my own limits that occur. Often times, during storms we can rely on our own strength to endure or keep from seeking help. It is a matter of self and pride and own strength. God wants us to turn to him and rest in faith. There is the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat during the storm found in Mark 4:35-40. The disciples reached their limit. They could not understand how Jesus could be at rest on the boat in the storm. They woke him up and he calmed the storm, but Jesus was perfectly content to rest through the storm. He asked the disciples why they had such little faith. So the storms and trials really show us how much we trust and depend on God regardless of appearances. God wants our focus on him. Previously, written on this blog is the article: Seven Principles for Transcending Suffering that points to ways we can grow in the midst of storm. The testing a storm brings also reveals the ways we fall short in those principles and move us to draw from the deeper. And ultimately, at the core of it all, it is about growing up more and more in God and reaching deeper relationship and maturity.

Ongoing trials

Well the announcement of getting back on track was really a bit premature.  The intent was there but the health was not.  The viral infection turned into my first ever experience with bronchitis.  The cough seems to have slowed only gradually but some energy has returned.  Currently reflecting on patience through affliction and the the need to look to and depend on God for strength just as need to rely on doctors for aid with what is needed to combat the cause of the infection.  The focus on patience is because the suffering and difficulty continue. It is an ongoing persistent suffering that can be very draining, but it to will come to an end. In this, in my mind I know that God is using this time to refine and build me up for what is ahead.  Yet, in the moment and the emotion it is difficult and many things suffer.  Yet, I know that God will show me and teach me what he wants me to learn in the midst.

Passion Week Musings: The Last Passover Supper

After the Olivet discourse the events documented in the Gospel’s really focuses on events of preparation leading up to the Last Supper which was a Passover meal.   Prior to that meal there are two other significant documented events.  Jesus was anointed with perfume by some woman, which Jesus described as his being prepared for burial.  During this same time the other event described in the Gospels is Judas making a deal with the religious leaders to betray Jesus.   Up until the last Supper all the tensions were mounting and the crescendo was building.   As Jesus spent time preparing both himself and his disciples for what is coming there had to be an emotional storm building in Jesus.  The anticipation of what was to come had to far more intense than anything any of us have gone through.  Tomorrows post on the Garden will touch a bit more on the emotions of Jesus.  Here the focus is really about the preparation and Jesus pointing ahead and trying to prepare his disciples for what is to come while the pieces were moving and being set into play.  Jesus focus during that last Passover supper was all on what is to come.

After all the pieces were in place, Jesus and the disciples had the Passover meal and celebration. Now if the reader is not aware, the Passover points to the night Israel was delivered from Egypt with the tenth plague, the death of the 1st born males in Egypt.  There was instruction to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on the doorpost, resulting in being spared having the first born killed.   The Passover meal reminds us of sin and bondage and points to God’s once and for all sacrifice in Jesus.  Jesus declared himself the “Afikomen” when he directed his disciples to eat the bread. He declared himself “salvation” when he drank the third cup.  He really told the disciples about what was coming and it would be for salvation.   Jesus also spent time giving the disciples words to remember and a significant object lesson of serving and loving one another.  His actions were all about preparing the disciples for what was ahead, even though he knew they did not understand that they could not possibly understand. When Judas left the meal, after likely dipping the parsley at the same time as Jesus and announced as a betrayer, imagine the confusion and shocked the disciples experienced.  I can imagine the indignation the disciples felt as they were told that they would all falter.  Imagine after the resurrection, the disciples talking and discussion the events of the Last Passover Supper with a new grasp and understanding that had failed them in the midst.  The point that really hits home today thinking about this, is the Jesus and the Father both spent a lot of time preparing the disciples and those around for the events that were to unfold.  The essential point here is God does prepare us for what is ahead. 

Now our being prepared is not something that we are fully aware of at the time.  We like the disciples may be confused and lost in the midst.  We wonder the who, what, when, where, and whys of things we do not grasp. Yet, God does go before us and prepare us. God is in control.  Sometimes many pieces come into play that converge, but God is not caught off guard or surprised by anything and he gives us what He knows we need, which is often different than what we think we need.  Jesus spent personal time with his disciples during an important and meaningful time to prepare them for what is to come.  As what was to come in the next few days was an apex of darkness before the point of victory occurred.  The time leading up to the Last Passover supper was all about preparation,  it was the “middle” part of the story that at the time seems insignificant and can even get  bogged down but really is the essential time as it was the time the pieces moved into place, the character moments established that build to the climax, which in the cause were the death and resurrection to come. 

In this day and age, when pieces and events seem to be moving us ever closer to the second coming, it is important to know that God has us undergoing times of preparation. Whatever we are doing and going through, it really serves to build us up and prepare us for what is yet to come.  God is working in each of our lives to give us the teaching, training, and growth needed for what is yet to come.   Each day is a day closer to Jesus return.  Just like the cross, the moment of victory will be preceded by a time of great darkness and the appearance of victorious darkness. Yet, Jesus is coming and Victory is assured.  God has prepared us for what is ahead and will go before us and lead the way.  We just need to stay the course, be sober, be alert, and remain awake.  God is and will test all claiming to be in the faith. Lines are being drawn, pieces are moving, and we are nearing the end.  It is both a terrible and glorious day.  But worry and fear not, because it is God that prepares our hearts and minds, it is he that enables us to stand firm.  Just seek and pursue truly loving God and others, walk the path God directs and points you and trust that God will prepare you for what is ahead.