Musing on Remembrance

Today is a day marked of remembrance of a fateful day when two towers fell in New York city. On this day the memories of the darkness and the evil on man can inflict on another are prime. Remembrance is importance. This blog is not going to reflect on any aspects of that fateful day but rather discuss the ongoing importance of the act of remembrance. It is some God directs us to do and is important to any level of moving ahead and growing. Often we want to forget dark and painful things. Yet, there are important things to bring to attention, primarily the ways God moved.

God directed others over and over to remember. First of all to remember Him and His promises as we can often forget. We can become dull of mind and caught up in varied aspects of life and we can forget. God knows our tendency to forget. He directed Israel on several occasions to set up memorials and altars to remember what God has done. He established festivals in Israel such as Passover that focus on remembering what God has done. These things can be easily forget or even set aside off in some dusty corner of our lives and mind. We need to remember. There is restoration and healing in healthy remembrance. Any healthy remembrance is focused on what God did, is doing, and has promised to do. So take time, reflect and consider what God has done, is doing, and has promised. Look back on that fateful day eleven years ago and look at how God dealt with you then, where are you know, and where are you going. As you remember let God move in your heart and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with and surrender whatever comes to light to him. And when you do, when you remember, then praise God, for whatever has been gives chance for God to reveal Himself and each memory is an opportunity to give God praise and glory. Even in the darkest of memories and time.

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.

Musing on the fragility and unpredictability of life

No matter how long we are in this world life is short. Life is filled with twists, turns, ups, and downs. There is good, bad, painful, difficult, ugly, joyous, beautiful, and painful as the Bible states in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there is a time and season for everything. Recent life events have thoughts musing about the fragility and unpredictability of life on this earth. One day a person can have freedom the next a sudden acceleration can kill some people and a person can end up wrongly imprisoned as was the case of Koua Fong Lee who spent two years in prison but was recently released in light of the evidence of problems with Toyota’s and sudden acceleration. Joseph one day was serving Potipher the best he could and the next minute accused of trying to rape his wife resulting in many years in prison. The fact is difficult and extremely painful things can happen to any of us at anytime. They can range from minor irritations like viral infections to more severe forums of suffering.

It Matthew 5:45b (ESV) Jesus states: For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The good and difficult things that happen in life, happen. The question for each believer is how we deal with both the good and bad. What does mean to be truly at peace and what can bring the perceived peace into question. It is during the difficult and tough times that test how we stand in pain when things are not going well. In the good times, when everything goes well the question is really is how much is the good taken for granted or seen as a byproduct of self? Paul stated in Philippians 4:13 (ESV) that the secret to any situation any season in life is: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. We can say it easily enough, but do we grasp what it means, or is it a nice phrase that can be put on a plaque on the wall?

So what does that phrase really come down to? Well examining the words a little closer it really comes down to the ability to be at true peace and wholeness comes not from our own effort but in surrender and dependence on the Messiah. It really points for the need to surrender. Times of plenty and times of pain are difficult times to surrender. One it is easy to place a lot of emphasis on self, the other to focus on the pain and suffering. Both can lead to a focus on self. Here it is really a true turning from self and resting in Jesus so that what God puts before us we are able to do regardless of season of life.

God only knows what will happen in each of our lives. We can face tests like Koua Fong Lee or Joseph with wrongful imprisonment. We can face choices to serve God and give up what appears to be good for self? We can be asked to give up what God has promised like Abraham. The fact is we will all face times of testing of one form or another. Some testing is short, some are longer, but when you surrender to God, he works to His good purpose. As the Bible states in 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. Now each of us may never know what was the good brought in difficult times. God simply asks us to surrender and trust him regardless. It is real easy to lose focus and sight of what God is doing. Honestly there are many times in my life where focus was lost. There are times of great anger and sin that came from circumstances in my life not matching my hopes and expectations and God not bringing things about according to my will. Ultimately the process becomes about bringing my will in alignment to his and living in surrender. For it is only in surrender of self and alignment of my will to God’s where there is any peace and wholeness.

Helpful Articles: Overcome so you are not overcome by Julie Markhausen

 
The following is commentary by Julie Marxhausen.  She is the pastor’s wife and part of the ministry team at Calvary Worship Center in Minnesota. The church is associated with International Ministerial Fellowship.  I ran across the commentary on her notes page on Facebook but since learned she posted on her own blog found here: http://julieamarxhausen.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/overcome-so-you-are-not-overcome/.
 
Overcome So You Are Not Overcome

As Christians, we have the unique privilege of overcoming all things this world, sin, and the devil throw our way. We need to be people who choose to overcome the things of this world so we can bring others into that same victory in Jesus and not be victims of this world. Overcoming and faith go hand in hand. We need to walk by faith, in order to be the kind of people who overcome. 1 John 5:4 says: “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” It is our faith in Jesus Christ which enables us to overcome this world.

If we remain people who are tossed to and fro based upon the circumstances of life, we must conclude we are not living in faith because faith is victory, and faith victory has overcome the world. Before anyone gets guilt ridden or feels inadequate about their faith as a result of hearing this, let us remember our faith is a gift from God. He has given each of us a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 says “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” The point to be made is that if we are being tossed to and fro, and if we are not experiencing victory to overcome the world, we need look no further than our faith in Jesus. We can press in with God and His Word, refocus our attention, give our honor and praise to Him, and find ourselves exercising our God-given faith which will enable us to find ourselves IN Jesus once again. Our faith in Jesus overcomes the world.

There is a simple way to determine if we are among those who overcome and it is found 1 John 5:5 “Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? “ Many people “say” they believe in Jesus Christ, in fact even Satan believes Jesus is the Son of God. In a “Facebook” comment one lady remarked to some others witnessing the love of Jesus to her, “Wish you would stop trying to stuff Jesus and God down other people’s throats. It is f……sickening, a lot of us believe but do not need to go to church with a bunch of hypocrites to have that belief so just go away.” Does that sound like someone who believes in the greatest news on earth?

You see, believing is far more than simply acknowledging we know “of” Jesus. Satan acknowledges Who God is but will not accept the dominion of Jesus Christ. Many people do the same thing. They acknowledge who God is but do not submit to His Lordship in their lives. Therefore, simply “believing” in the basic essence of the word, is not what God is talking about here. “Believing” is the acceptance of everything about Jesus, acknowledging Him as God, as the only One who overcame the world, death, and the devil. Truly believing is “a knowing” at the seat of our desires, feelings, affections, passions, and impulses, that Jesus is the Son of God. Believing takes place in our hearts not just our minds. And it means accepting Him as Lord over our lives and then sharing our lives with those in the body of Christ. When we believe Jesus is the Son of God, when we have faith in God, we overcome. It is not an option. The Word says our faith overcomes the world. We may like to bring all the arguments against this since we don’t always experience the overcoming victory we expect to achieve, but that is only evidence our faith is still not grounded in Jesus.

One of my favorite verses on overcoming is found in Romans 8:37 (NASB) “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loves us.” Most versions are written, “We are more than conquerors.” We probably should know what “all these things” are. We are going to go through things while living on earth. Those things are: v. 35 – tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakednesss, peril, and sword. Tribulations would be things causing great stress and pressure or calamity. Distresses we experience include extreme circumstances where we feel there is no way of escape because it feels so narrow, including sickness and disease. Perhaps we suffer persecution for our faith in Jesus Christ even fearing attacks from people beyond mere words. We will also experience hardship, possibly lack of food, clothing and other dangers to our well-being.

Then verse 37 comes with the words “but” and “all”. But, in all of these things we overwhelmingly conquer. Christians almost daily proclaim, “I don’t know if I am going to make it through this one.” Or “It will take a move of God to get me through this.” Or “I just can’t take any more.” Or “I wonder if God is even watching me because He sure isn’t doing anything for me here.” We may feel all of things but at some point, we MUST stand up in the faith which gives us victory and proclaim “BUT in ALL these things I overwhelmingly conquer.” This is not simply defeating the enemy, it is a landslide beating.

When going through trials, persecutions and the like, people like to vent and get all the “bad” things” out. Perhaps they even convince themselves this is the way to get over something. What we do not realize is that in doing this, we only propagate the negative feelings, and we do it because we want sympathy or empathy. I am not suggesting we “fake” it and pretend all is well all the time. BUT, I am suggesting we speak the Word and do the Word rather than doing what feels good at the time.

Recently I was sad, frustrated, angry, and irritated with Christian people. This happens every so often so I recognize the feeling when it comes on me. I was feeling suffocated by the complaints and lack of faith I was hearing and seeing in the body of Christ. I am not insensitive or immune to the problems we all face in this world, but I am very sensitive to how we handle these problems. In my emotion I found myself discouraged and judgmental leaving me at the point of tears. Since I want to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only, I knew I must overcome and experience victory through faith. I knew I had to get into the Word of God and allow Him to refresh, convict, and renew my thinking. I knew I was to intercess through Him, not vent to others, (which would only fuel my frustration). Knowing all of this, I knew I had to make the right decision but was I ready and willing to be obedient?

It is a choice to nurse negative feelings or move into a place of confession and repentance, allowing God to cleanse and wash allowing Him to take the burdens. I will admit I don’t always choose rightly. Most times I vent first and then go to God afterwards. Timing is everything! If I would go to God first, I can vent to Him and won’t have a need to vent to others. Oftentimes we hang on to these emotions for the sake of validity or we believe the emotions have a hold on us and they will just go away in time. But our victory comes through faith in Jesus, and our faith in Jesus includes being obedient to His will, and His will is firmly established and revealed in His Word and by His Spirit.

The next time trials and tribulations come, as they will, and you feel overwhelmed, remember you are more than a conqueror through Christ. Everything must bow to our holy God. Revelation 12:11 says “And they overcame him (the accuser of the brethren) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Don’t settle for complaining and venting when you overwhelming conquer everything in this world through faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, overcome so you are not overcome. Overcome by faith in Jesus so the world does not overcome you!

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.

Christian Creativity: Mikeschair- Let the waters rise

Christianity Today recently posted an article about a newer Christian Band publishing with Curb Records that is going by the name of Mikeschair.  Strange name and have not found an explanation for it. The band just released their first music video Let the Water’s Rise.  The video images in combination with the lyrics to the song are powerful. It really points toward remember God and his faithfulness regardless of what is going on around you. 

They have a MySpace page which can be found at www.mikeschair.com. Mike Grayson, the lead singer, possible owner of the chair, and general band front man his a blog at the My Space page. He posted a comment about the song:

Let the Waters Rise is by far one of our favorite songs on the record.  I am so excited about this song being a single because I feel like its one of the most honest song we have written.  There are going to be times in all of our lives where we don’t understand the situation that God has us in, or we feel like He is no where to be found when we need Him most.  These are the times when our faith is truly tested.  Jesus never promised that our lives down here were going to be perfect, in fact, in John 16 Jesus says “In this world you will have troubles…” In this life we are going to experience death, we are going to experience loneliness, disappointment, and heartache, but Jesus doesn’t leave us there!!  That same verse in John is finished by Jesus saying “but take heart! For I have overcome the world”.  One of the hardest things we are going to have to do as believers is choose to follow even with a raging sea is right in front of us.  Our prayer is that this song encourages you in those times of struggle to “take heart!” and follow God no matter what the situation.

Here is the video he is taking about and drew my attention to this young band and how God may be using them:

Please pray that God continues to work out in their life what it means to worship in spirit and truth and keeps them on the narrow way. At the concerts they apparently have a table letting people donate food or money to various ministries and organizations helping those in need in this world, displaying God’s love in action.  The heart of their actions and desire definitely comes across as displaying genuine response to God’s revealed reality.  Mike Grayson also has a video explaining their commitment to Mike’s table: