Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A rough week has past...

It is good to have times of trouble. It is good to cry. It is good to face opposition. It is tempting to reach the point of despair. It is easy to give in to worry, fear and self-pity. I read these precious verses yesterday:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember You.
Psalm 43:5-6

There is a cure. Hope in God. David encourages us to remember God when our souls are weary and troubled. What should we remember? God's faithfulness in the past and present as assurance for the future: He never has and never will abandon us. God's sovereignty: He is in control. God's love: He knows and does what is best for us.

Last week was rough. It was not the "worst" week I have ever had, but it was challenging. My family faced a myriad of new circumstances. My dad started an assistant manager position at Walgreen's. (Refresh your memory and read this post) He has strange hours. We are a family that ardently guards our family dinner time. Family dinner, I think, happened once this past week. Physically, we have been recovering from colds. Emotionally, several people contacted us from our old church with questions on why we left.

Personally, I was faced with a wave of sadness. Sadness for the church. Sadness for the pressure and stress that I saw my dad facing. My soul, in many ways, was downcast. Monday morning and these verses were a beautiful thing! There is reason to hope! There is a reason to sing!

God is faithful. He is Good. He is still on His throne. Nothing is bothering Him. He is not surprised. He is not puzzled. He is God. In THAT I place my hope when life's circumstances press in around me.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.
And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who
believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5:4-5

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103:1-14

Monday, February 27, 2006

Grace to You

Last night I was talking with a friend who mentioned John MacArthur. I have not read MacArthur's work for a long time, so I decided to find some of his recent articles online. The website, Grace to You, is full of sound Biblical teaching, online sermons and daily devotionals. Here is the first article I read. Oh, how I praise God for men like MacArthur who are not ashamed of the message of Christ and are willing to proclaim the Truth! Please read: (bold emphasis mine =)

A Clarion Call to the Modern Church
by: John MacArthur

Christians historically have understood that their calling is to be in the world but not of the world. As Os Guinness pointed out in a perceptive series of articles on the church-growth movement, traditional evangelicalism not only resisted worldly influences, but also used to stress "cognitive defiance" of the world spirit.

Now, however, "the world has become so powerful, pervasive, and appealing that the traditional stance of cognitive defiance has become rare and almost unthinkable" ("Recycling the Compromise of Liberalism," Tabletalk [May 1992], 51.). At some point, evangelicals decided to make friends with the world.

Guinness pointed out that although we are called to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-18), many Christians have reversed the formula, becoming of the world while not really being in the world. They did this by allowing cable television, VCRs, radio, and other forms of communication to infuse worldly values into their thinking, while isolating themselves from any personal involvement with the people in the world who most desperately need the gospel.

"Evangelicals are now outdoing the liberals as the supreme religious modernizers-and compromisers-of today," Guinness writes (Ibid.). The market-driven philosophy so popular among modern evangelicals is nothing more than "a recycling of the error of classical liberalism" (Ibid.).

The reason most evangelicals were caught unaware by modernism a hundred years ago is that liberals rose from within evangelical ranks, used evangelical vocabulary, and gained acceptance through relentless appeals for peace and tolerance. New church-growth movements are following precisely the same course, and that tactic has taken evangelicals by surprise once again.

Most of the market-driven megachurches insist they would never compromise doctrine. They are attractive to evangelicals precisely because they claimed to be as orthodox in their doctrine as they are unorthodox in their methodology. Multitudes have been sufficiently reassured by such promises and have simply abandoned their critical faculties, thus increasing their vulnerability. Unfortunately, real discernment is in short supply among modern evangelicals.

Like the modernists a century ago, churches in the user-friendly movement have decided that doctrine is divisive-peace is more important than sound teaching. Wanting to appeal to a modern age, they have framed their message as a friendly, agreeable, and relevant dialogue, rather than as a confrontation with the gospel of Christ.

The relevant issues of our modern age-radicalism, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, and other politically charged moral issues-pose the most obvious threat for user-friendly churches. Their undefined theology and seeker-sensitive philosophy do not permit them to take a firm biblical stance on such matters, because the moment they defy the spirit of the age, they forfeit their marketing appeal. They are therefore forced to keep silent or capitulate. Either way, they compromise the truth.

If a church is not even willing to take a firm stand against abortion, how will it deal with the erosion of crucial doctrine? If a church lacks discernment enough to condemn such overt errors as homosexuality or feminism, how will it handle a subtle attack on doctrinal integrity? Many evangelical churches have wholly abandoned strong preaching about hell, sin, and the wrath of God. They claim God's primary attribute is benevolence-one that overrides and supersedes His holiness, justice, wrath, and sovereignty.

Rather than addressing humanity's greatest need-forgiveness of sins-modern sermons deal with contemporary topics, psychological issues (depression, eating disorders, self-image), personal relationships, motivational themes, and other matters a la mode.

The market-driven philosophy of user-friendly churches does not easily permit them to take firm enough doctrinal positions to oppose false teaching. Their outlook on leadership drives them to hire marketers who can sell rather than biblically qualified pastors who can teach. Their approach to ministry is so undoctrinal that they cannot educate their people against subtle errors. Their avoidance of controversy puts them in a position where they cannot oppose false teaching that masquerades as evangelicalism.

In fact, the new trends in theology seem ideally suited to the user-friendly philosophy. Why would the user-friendly church oppose such doctrines?

But oppose them we must, if we are to remain true to God's Word and maintain a gospel witness. Pragmatic approaches to ministry do not hold answers to the dangers confronting biblical Christianity today.

Pragmatism promises bigger churches, more people, and a living church, but it is really carnal wisdom-spiritually bankrupt and contrary to the Word of God.

Marketing techniques offer nothing but the promise of popularity and worldly approval. They certainly offer no safeguard against the dangers of the down-grade toward spiritual ruin. The only hope is a return to Scripture and sound doctrine. We evangelicals desperately need to recover our determination to be biblical, our refusal to comply with the world, our willingness to defend what we believe, and our courage to defy false teaching. Unless we collectively awaken to the current dangers that threaten our faith, the adversary will attack us from within, and we will not be able to withstand.

Yet, surely, there must be some who will fling aside the dastard love of peace, and speak out for our Lord, and for his truth. A craven spirit is upon many, and their tongues are paralyzed. Oh, for an outburst of true faith and holy zeal! (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

Adapted from Ashamed of the Gospel, © 1993 by John MacArthur.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Marvelous Muffins!!!

I tried the muffin recipe that I posted several days ago. They were delicious and a hit with the family. Here are the pictures:

My little "helper." He loves helping me "cook a muffins fer brekafast."

Roller Blading Pictures

My beautiful sister, Victoria.

Timothy and I, ummm, "roller blading."

Timothy, Samuel and Victoria
Yesterday it was beautiful outside! Compared to our -17 degrees last week, the 55 degree temperature yesterday was a SERIOUS heat wave! We were out enjoying the sunshine, barefooted, roller blading and walking in the remaining snow in our yard to cool our feet. My dear friends in California might be mortified... tee hee hee!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Cutie boy at the park!

Samuel and I went to the park a couple weeks ago. I thought the pictures were too adorable to keep to myself! He is getting soooo big. He is working really hard at putting sentences together. The other day we were eating lunch and dad said he could not have a cookie until he ate two more bites of sandwich. He proceeded to do so, with quite some fuss, and received his cookie. Once he had consumed the cookie he started retelling the drama by saying, "Can't eat cookie 'til meat is all goooooooone." It was hilarious!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Berry Cheescake Muffins


1/3 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup milk


2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries


1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon cold butter

DIRECTIONS: In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; beat well. Combine the flour, baking powder and cinnamon; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half full. For filling, in a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and egg until smooth. Fold in the berries. Drop a rounded tablespoonful into the center of each muffin. For topping, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. (Muffin cups will be full.) Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 1-1/2 dozen.

I will be trying this recipe either tomorrow or Friday morning. I will post pictures of my muffins then! They look sooooo yummy!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Office Painting

Left: From the doorway, my desk and Katie at her's. The far office belongs to our boss, Rich.

Right: A shot towards the entrance from Rich's office.

Katie and I spent several days looking at paint samples before deciding on a rich green. Boy, let me tell you it was a shock to see the end results! It is much more homey feeling! I am not sure if any of us are used to the change quite yet! Here are the "after" pictures from the same view:

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thanks, Dawn, for my surprise Valentine's Day present! The verse is from one of my favorite Psalms and Dawn did not even know that!

"The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands."
Psalm 19:1

If you have not read this Psalm lately, please do!

If you love Me...

"If you love Me, you will obey what I command."
John 14:15
"Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him."
John 14:21
"9 As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. 10If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father's commands and remain in His love. 11 I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command."
John 15:9-14
"This is My command: Love each other."
John 15:17
"7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us."
1 John 4:7-12
"3 This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world?
Only he who believes that Jesus is the
Son of God."
1 John 5:3-5
PURPLE: Things relating to God
Orange: Things relating to what we do/ receive
Pink: Love

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Love, Chocolate and Martyrs

Love. Romance. Chocolate. Flowers.

These words describe the days surronding Valentine's Day. The world spends an incredible amount of time, energy, emotions and money on this holiday. In 2003 CNN Money reported that the average man spent $138 on a gift while women spent around $36. This year Americans are expected to spend an amazing $13.2 BILLION dollars for Valentine's Day! An estimated 1 billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year (see this article).

What if I used these words, instead, to describe Valentine's Day:

Rome. Prison. Christ. Death.
Is this surprising? You may already know that there was a real man named Valentine. You may know he feel in love with a girl and wrote her a note signed, "From your Valentine." You may even know that he died for Christ. There are many legands and much confusion surrounding the truth of St. Valentine's life.
I would love to know the truth about this man, but that is not where my thoughts usually dwell on Valentine's Day. This day is a wonderful reminder to ponder LOVE. What is Biblical love? How does God love? How did Christ love? How do I display love? Who should I love? Why should I love?
1- God IS Love.
*If you are like me, this is an amazing concept to grasp. I am human, therefore I can only "do" love. I am not Love as an end. Only God can BE Love in His Divine, All-Powerful nature.
2- Love is...
(taken from 1 Corinthians 13)
* Patient
* Kind
* Content
* Humble
* Good
* Giving
* Pleasant
* Forgiving
* Pure
* Truthful
* Strong
* Hope
* Enduring
* Sacrificial (Ephesians 5:2)
* Displayed in Christ (1 John 3:16)
7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 7-21
If you have not read 1 John lately, I encourage you to read ALL of it. Do you see how many times he uses the word "love?" Think of who John was. Think of the relationship he had with Jesus. In the gospel account he authored, he calls himself "the disciple Jesus loved." He too loved Jesus. He spent three years at Jesus' side, learning what love truly was and how to live it out. He was with Love.
Oh, how short I fall from loving like Christ loved. I get impatient. I am unkind. I do and say so many unloving things. I want to be more like Christ. I want to love without reservation. I want to love like Christ loved. God, help me! I cannot love without knowing Love Himself.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Mother and Daughter

My mom and I in our "matching" shirts. We went out to dinner together last night and to a movie at the dollar theater! There must have been serious inflation because the movie was $1.50 at the dollar theater! We are expensive dates...
I love you mom!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A New Perspective

My brain is officially on overload. Let me explain.

Three weeks ago I started a class called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. The class is 40 minutes from my home and lasts 3 1/2 hours. Plus, I decided to take it for college credit, meaning I have extra work.

That is not why my brain is on overload. My mind, heart and soul are overwhellmed with three things: my sin, the fallen world, and the majesty of God. The last of which keeps my hopes focused and alive when the other two threaten to consume me!

The first three weeks of Perspectives has been an amazing breath of fresh air to my weary soul. It has convicted me until I felt like crying. It has invigorated me until I felt like dancing (which is HUGE for me...hahaha). It has burdened my soul for the blind Church. It has opened my eyes to God's glory. It has renewed a passion in my soul for the nations.

I would like to post some of my notes from the first lectures here soon. Until then, imagine yourself among the crowd screaming:
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for Godfrom every tribe and language and people and nation,10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,and they shall reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:9-10
"day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,who was and is and is to come!”
Revelation 4:8
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,to receive glory and honor and power,for you created all things,and by your will they existed and were created.”
Revelation 4:11

A Hunger for God

"14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of un-shrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:14-17

During my quiet time a few days ago I read this passage of Scripture. It is a segment I have read numerous times before, but on this occasion several concepts seized my attention. There are many Scriptures on fasting: how to, when, for what reasons, etc. They are all wonderful and encouraging. Yet, this passage has something that most of the others do not. It communicates a sense of longing.

I love the reply Jesus gives to the questioners, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” The obvious answer to this question is, “No! Why would they mourn while he is with them?” Jesus places Himself as the beloved Bridegroom in this analogy. He was with His disciples, living and teaching them. They had no reason to fast in expectation of His coming! God was with them! In the same way, we will have no reason to fast when we are in heaven.

Jesus continues by teaching, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” The Bridegroom, Jesus, was taken away a short time later. Those that either 1) were left behind or 2) have become believers through testimonies since the Bridegroom was taken away (ME!), have a need to fast in response to their longing for the Bridegroom to return!

What a reason to fast! God, I am not eating today because I long for your return as a bride longs for her bridegroom. I groan with hunger pains because I miss You. I long for heaven. I long to know You as fully as You can be known on earth.

Those basic, obvious thoughts on the passage lead me to introspection. Do I long for the return of Jesus with such passion and desire? Am I willing to lay aside personal needs, like food, to show love for my Savior and cultivate expectancy for His return? Do I desire His return? Why or why not?

"7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. 12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation."
James 5:7-12

James encourages believers to be patient as we wait for the coming of the Lord. The question I had for myself was, am I displaying impatience as I wait for the coming of the Lord? Am I so anxious that I am impatient? The honest answer is no. In my waiting, though, can I hasten the day of Christ's return? Is there something I can do to see my Savior face to face? There are two options: 1) I die. 2) Jesus returns. God knows which will come first. Still, I ask, when will the end come? When will all the wrongs be punished? When will righteousness reign? When will we sin, Satan and death be destroyed?
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
Matthew 24:14
The end will come when the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed throught the whole world. So, not only do I fast as a way to display my excitement for the return of Jesus, He has given me a mission to join!
"1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,because the Lord has anointed meto bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captives,and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,and the day of vengeance of our God;to comfort all who mourn;3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,the oil of gladness instead of mourning,the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;that they may be called oaks of righteousness,the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;they shall raise up the former devastations;they shall repair the ruined cities,the devastations of many generations."
Isaiah 61:1-4

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rejoice in Suffering?

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Romans 5:1-5

Rejoice in suffering? Oh, everything in human rational fights this concept! We are raised to avoid conflict, pain, problems and heartache. We are taught that life is supposed to be safe, happy and comfortable. Even in church we are taught theology that centers on human reward and ease. Many Christians accept the gospel of Jesus on the basis that you believe in Jesus, flee from hell and get heaven when you die. We teach our children “Jesus Loves Me” and John 3:16. We center sermons on what we need to do, how we need to live, what God has done for us and what we should do for Him.

These things are good, but if left completely alone will remain an incomplete picture of life.

When we base our mindset on happiness we will be severely disappointed. Happiness is built on a person’s desired wants and circumstances. Joy originates from knowing God Himself. Joy is not found in avoiding something bad. That is called “relief.” Joy is only found in being given something good. Joy is even more wonderful when that “something good” was not deserved, earned or expected.

So, how can we rejoice in suffering? I thought we escaped suffering when we dodged hell and believed in Jesus? I thought God wanted us to be happy? Ah, there lies the misdirected motive! What if we change our perspective to think: treasure Jesus because He alone is worthy of treasuring. Treasure Jesus. Seek Him at all costs. He is God, He is worthy and He is good. Love Him no matter what. Worship Him regardless of the pain. Spread His joy with others. When you examine suffering in that light it seems, well, appealing.

Look at Romans 5 again:

What We Receive:
1- Justification by faith
2- Peace with God through Jesus
3- Access to grace by faith
(Did you notice the Scripture does not say comfort, money or possessions?)
What We Do:
1- Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God!
2- Rejoice in our sufferings!
(Did you notice it said “rejoice in sufferings” not “avoid pain?”)
What God Does with Us:
1- Produces endurance through suffering
2- Produces character through endurance
3- Produces hope through character
4- Produces no shame through hope
(Did you notice God does not promise comfort but a process of sanctification?)
Verse five tells us the how and why:
"because God's love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
James, the brother of Jesus, also understood this process of sanctification. He writes:
"2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."
James 1:2-7
Numerous sermons are preached on James 1:2-4. Pastors communicate, intentionally or not, something like this, "If you are having a trial, try to keep your head on straight and see the good in life. God wants you to be happy. God will not give you more than you can handle. He just wants you to grow. So, if you are having a trial, count it as joy that you are becoming more perfect! Try to laugh a little, smell the roses and know that the trials will end someday! God, we ask You to take away the pain in life. We ask that You would help us to feel better, have more money, buy nice things, oh, and to serve You too." Ok, that may be a little drastic, I admit. Those may not be the exact words that flow from the mouths of Christians, but it is how most Christians today live.
In my Bible there is a section break between verses four and five. Maybe it is just me, but my mind has never connected verse four and five how it did two days ago. The end of verse four says, “lacking in nothing” and verse five starts with “If any of you lacks wisdom.” Was James making a joke here? We all lack wisdom! Follow my train of thought for a second, please.
Trials produce steadfastness and steadfastness, once it has its full effect, causes completion and a lack of nothing. Yet, we all lack wisdom and we all want wisdom. What produces wisdom? Suffering. Therefore, this is an indirect command to ask God for suffering, tests and trials! If “lacking in nothing” happens when we have been steadfast through trials, then asking God for wisdom will undoubtedly cause trials!

It is no wonder the next phrase says, “but let him ask in faith.” You are going to need it! What does the next part mean when it says, “with no doubting?” The original Greek word diakrino means to “waver, doubt or dispute” and comes from the root word to “select, choose or question.”

When asking God for wisdom we must have full confidence in Him and the way He chooses to produce the wisdom we have requested. We must not waver or dispute His plan. We must release the desire to select, choose or question the method of God’s production of wisdom in us! If we doubt in this sense we are like a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. We cannot ask God for wisdom without accepting the trials, pain and heartache. If we ask for wisdom and yet refuse suffering we are double-minded and unstable.

Suffering produces steadfastness. Suffering produces wisdom. Wisdom comes with suffering. James did not say it would be easy. Suffering is never easy. Our flesh will never want to experience pain. This is why Paul encourages us in Colossians 3:2 to,
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
When we reach this level of maturity we can join with Paul in proclaiming:
“7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
Philippians 3:1-16
Even after saying all this, there is a problem with pain. (See my previous post here-Oct 18, 2005) Christians believe God is all-loving and therefore think He should not cause us pain. We also want to believe that He is all-powerful and therefore struggle with the idea that He would cause us pain. We have a tendency to look towards heaven and cry, “This hurts, take it away!” This attitude, in essence, is pride. We think we know what is best for our lives. What if Christians, instead, sank to their knees in humility and prayed, “Not my will, but Yours, oh God. Refine me. Mold me.” What if we agreed with Job when he wept and worshipped:
“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
Job 2
“20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”
22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”
Job 1:20-22
Look where Christ’s humility led him: death by Roman crucifixion.
“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:8
What if we viewed pain through the eyes of true humility? And what is true humility? Humility is not expecting to be treated better than Christ was. Humility sees the end- glorifying God- as the ultimate purpose of life. Every thing else, pain or happiness, laughter or tears, money or poverty, is nothing compared to knowing God and glorifying Him.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13
“8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:8-10
The end and ultimate goal of my pain is Christ’s exaltation. I am weak; He is strong. I will boast in His strength, for I have none. So when I face weakness, insults, hardships, persecution and calamities I want to cry,
Blessed be the name of the Lord!
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

I found this picture while putting a new background on my desktop. I have no idea where this waterfull is located... God does. Stunning, isn't it? Our God is an amazing Creator and Sustainer of all things, visible and invisible! You are Glorious, Almighty God, King of the Universe! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Family Ties

What I have learned from my family...

1- I am not perfect.
2- Neither are they.
3- We love each other anyway.