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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Peace in the Middle of Our Troubles

Matthew 6:34 (ESV)
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
I am in Singapore on vacation. It is a vacation that I have looked forward to for a long time. My wife and I are visiting our daughter, son-in-law and new grandson. Of course, the new grandson is the ultimate reason we are here.
I have looked forward to these days for months as if arriving here would make all my troubles go away. They haven’t. Each day has troubles. It is part of the curse of a fallen world. The things which plagued us in the US didn’t go away by coming to Singapore. They may be put out of our minds or they may be replaced with new troubles but we just cannot escape trouble.
Take for example the person who wins the lottery. These people may believe that their money problems are all gone. They may even say that all their problems have disappeared. Yet, history has proven that those who win large amounts of money may have even more problems afterwards than they did before. The problems they thought were insurmountable may seem small once they are gone. They have simply traded the troubles they had for new troubles.
The inability to escape trouble can be depressing. Most of us would like to believe that there is a day coming when all our troubles are gone. We speak of retirement, going fishing, playing golf , spending a day in a spa or some other leisure activity as if engaging in these activities will make troubles go away. Forgetting about a trouble is not the same as having victory over it. Jesus said:
John 16:33 (ESV)
33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Jesus came to give us peace in the middle of our troubles. He did not promise to take all our troubles away. Those who truly walk with Him daily are granted peace because they put the troubles in the hands of the one who has overcome the world. Simply put: Jesus can handle the fallen world we are in. We don’t need to be troubled with the troubles.
That’s hard to accept. Our nature demands that we hold onto our troubles because they belong to us. Jesus words tell us to release our troubles because He can truly take care of them. That goes against the language this world has taught us. The world says that your troubles are your own and you either hold onto them tightly or forget them through distractions. (These may include drugs, alcohol, sex or anything else which completely captures your attention.)
Christians are a peculiar lot. We say we can trust our eternity to our Savior but we are wont to trust the troubles of this day to Him.
Each day does indeed have enough troubles of its own. That is why each Christian must daily place his or her troubles in the hands of the man who calmed seas, raised the dead, fed 5000, healed the sick and came back from the dead. He has proven He has overcome the world.
Why not truly trust Him and place your troubles in His hands right now?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Longing of Creation

Romans 8:19-22 (ESV)
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

Yesterday, our little Jack Russell Terrier died. She got up, went outside and just couldn't make it back in. Evidently, the tumor around her liver bled out. We knew it was coming but we just didn't expect it to be so sudden. She had gone to the beach the day before and had a good time walking. The next day she is gone.

She had been our little dog for over thirteen years. It was hard letting her go. We took her to the vet knowing that this would be her last trip. We petted her as she passed away.

It made me think of the corruption of all creation in which death with its tumors, tornadoes, diseases and other tragedies. Creation wasn't intended to be like this. It has a glorious purpose. Any serious look at it reveals that there is purpose embedded within it. A simple look at birds will make anyone realize the purpose of feathers. A look at the eye will make anyone realize the purpose of sight. All of creation has a purpose. It, like us, was created for God's glory.

I don't believe for a moment that creation has a mind which understands this purpose. I don't think my little dog longed for the day when the sons of God will be revealed. I do believe that the purpose for which creation was created reveals a longing to be restored to the purpose of creation. I believe that we will someday see the full glory of God's creation when that happens.

Yesterday made me long for it. I know I should have been longing for it all along but losing a part of creation that you love awakens you to this longing again.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ten Things to Remember While Riding Out a Crisis

I suppose I have always thought that thing should go wrong when I am not doing God's will. It just makes sense. I should reap the consequences of my bad behavior. It serves as a future warning if I am tempted to violate God's will again.

Yet, this isn't always true. Often, it seems that the consequences for bad behavior or so hidden that I fail to notice them until things get seriously wrong. It is only then that I notice what I am doing and return to God. 

On the other hand, there are times when I am completely committed to God's will; close to Him spiritually: listening intently and careful to carry out everything He has commanded which do not go well. I am surprised by the bad things that happen to me and those whom I care about. I wonder why these things happen if I am truly following Him.

I am not alone in this wonder. Many of the Lord's servants wonder why they are tested so severely when they are fully obedient to Him. We all wonder why these things happen and have no real, solid reason. 

So, if you are following God intently but having a terrible time of it, I would like to suggest some things I have learned from the scriptures and personal experience which may help you understand it all.

1. Neither you nor God is finished yet. We are looking at the moment in time as if that moment will never change. It is like saying that it is dark at night and it will never be morning. Of course, there will be a morning but we must wait. (Exodus 6:1- God tells Moses what He will do now. God was not finished.)

2. We don't know how these difficulties we are facing now will turn out. Never forget that Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, accused of a crime he didn't commit and thrown in prison and forgotten in prison after he served others. There were over twenty years between the time that he had a dream that he would have his family bow down to him and seeing God preserve his family because of all of his terrible experiences. (Matthew 6:34)

3. God knows exactly how much you can take. This is often more than we think we can take. It seems that just the moment that you tell God that you can't take another step that He gives you a push and you are forced into another step. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

4. God will make these bad things result in good. That doesn't make bad things good. They remain bad but God will make something good happen out of them. (Romans 8:28)

5.There are always people watching to see how you are going to handle the bad times. Faith cannot be tested without pressure. Genuine faith stands true under pressure. Many people who will never read the Bible or permit you to tell them about Christ will watch how you respond to the negative things happening to you. They can deny the plan of salvation and the words of the Bible but they will be confronted with faith that stands true under fire. (1 Peter 2:12)

6. Bad times are great excuses for God to perform miracles. Miracles enhance our own faith. (Exodus 4:21)

7. God's will is more often understood looking backward at events than looking at the events while we are in the middle of them. Joseph saw his brothers' actions as intended for evil but knew them as God's act of goodness after these acts were instrumental in preserving his family. (Genesis 50:20)

8. God's character does not change. He is still as much the loving, omniscient, omnipotent God in the middle of a crisis as He was in the middle of a blessing. God must have a plan or He wouldn't let you go through this crisis. (Hebrews 13:8, Romans 8: 31-39)

9. You are not the only one God is working on through this crisis. Many people will benefit from what you are going through. (Exodus 12:36)

10. This will not last forever. Be assured there is a glorious end. (1 Peter 1:6)

Some of the greatest servants of God have wondered the same things as you have while they were in the middle of a crisis. I guess we all believe that doing God's will means we will always receive gumdrops and lollipops. Not true, is it?

Exodus 5:23 (ESV)
23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”