Friday, October 13, 2017

If God Wants You to Suffer

“But they do not let the teaching go deep into their lives. They keep it only a short time. As soon as trouble or persecution comes because of the teaching they accepted, they give up.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:21‬ ‭ERV‬‬
Sometimes I have a bad attitude because I am suffering. There are several ways that I observe how suffering people react, including myself. We try to analyze why in the world God has allowed this in our lives. We question why God picked us and not our neighbor. We try to buy more or eat more or try to stay entertained more to wipe out our pain. The majority of people just get bitter and decide that God cannot be trusted because they are suffering and they walk away.
“So if God wants you to suffer, you should trust your lives to him. He is the one who made you, and you can trust him. So continue to do good.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭ERV‬‬
Look what this verse says, "If God wants you to suffer." Yes, even though I don't like this sound of this, God has a reason for me to suffer. He says that this is the very reason that He can be trusted. Think about that. Because you are suffering, He should be trusted. Why is that?
“My brothers and sisters, you will have many kinds of trouble. But this gives you a reason to be very happy. You know that when your faith is tested, you learn to be patient in suffering. If you let that patience work in you, the end result will be good. You will be mature and complete. You will be all that God wants you to be.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ERV‬‬
He wants us to be mature and complete. He wants us to be patient in suffering. I was crying out to God this week and was asking God to end my dad's suffering. Pa has ALS and the suffering is unbearable! God clearly spoke to me that night. He made it clear to me that He knows exactly when Pa will be mature and complete. He knows exactly when I will made mature and complete. He knows what it will take in our family's lives to be made mature and complete. He has not turned away on a break and forgotten us.
I must ask myself. Do I want to be all that God wants me to be? Do I want to be complete? Do I want the end result to be good for eternity? Each of us must decide that when we suffer, we will choose to trust. If we walk away bitter and decide that He cannot be trusted, in eternity we will be judged harshly.
When I woke up the next morning, I felt joy. Joy is different from happiness. Happiness can be bought with food or money or entertainment. It is cheap.
Joy is when your circumstances did not change one bit but you changed.
Thank you, Lord for loving me so much that you know what I need, including the suffering. Thank you so much that when I meet you in heaven, you will remember this time of pain and you will say that I pleased you then, instead of grieved you with my attitude. I want it to be said that I trusted you wholly.

Instead of Giving Up, Try Looking Up

When I am tempted to have a pity party about life, I need to read the book of Philippians. Paul's life was not a picnic, by any means. What was his secret? How did he “learned to be content whatever the circumstances?"
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬
He practiced doing things like "“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬
He also did not try to live in his own strength. He said things like ““Even if I am able to trust in myself, still I don’t do it. If anyone else thinks they have a reason to trust in themselves, they should know that I have a greater reason for doing so.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:4‬ ‭ERV‬‬
But I am thinking the main thing he did was to control his thoughts. He did not let his thoughts control him. He practiced thinking about things that were true and honorable and pure and respectful. Look what happens.
"And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds. Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:7
I want that peace to stand guard over my thoughts and feelings. Don't try to do this in your own strength. You may can do okay on your good days. But when life gets tough, you are going to fail in your own strength. The peace that we all are looking for is not within ourselves. Quit looking there.
instead of giving up, try looking up.

Are We Judging Our Spouse

“So why do you judge your brother or sister in Christ? Or why do you think that you are better than they are? We will all stand before God, and he will judge us all.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:10‬ ‭ERV‬‬
“So each of us will have to explain to God about the things we do.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:12‬ ‭ERV
I think if we let the weight of these verses hit us, it will change us forever.
Take marriage, for example. When our spouse disappoints us or makes us unhappy, we focus on their sin problem. We, in essence, judge them as it describes in verse 10. I think that we act as if God will not notice that we did that. However, it says in verse 12, we will have to explain "the things that we did."
I have to remind myself that I will stand before the Lord one day and explain how I treated Mark. Wow! Keep that thought in your mind when you judge your spouse. It will be silly to say to God, "Mark did not remember to take out the trash on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That made me mad." Keep in mind that I am using a silly example. Mark always takes out the trash, as long as I set it right by the coffee pot:):):).
Fill in the blank. God, my spouse does this____. Name it...whatever the thing is that gives you the right to judge him. Just name it. Practice saying this excuse before the Lord one day. Will this excuse hold up? Will this make it okay to judge him, even though Romans 14:10 says not to judge but to love?
I firmly believe that when I stand before the creator of the universe one day, He will want to know how did I love Mark. He put Mark in my life to love and cherish and serve. God will ask me, "How did you do?" Jesus loved Mark enough to die for Mark. I do want to wow God's heart when I loved Mark when he didn't take out the trash or serve me. I would love to hear God say, "I noticed that time when Mark did so and so and you forgave him and loved him anyway."
Who in your life are you judging?

Start Reading Your Bible

““Jeremiah, get a scroll and write on it all the messages I have spoken to you. I have spoken to you about the nations of Israel and Judah and all the other nations. Write all the words that I have spoken to you from the time that Josiah was king, until now. Maybe the people of Judah will hear what I am planning to do to them and will stop doing bad things. If they will do that, I will forgive them for the terrible sins they have committed.””
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭36:2-3‬ ‭ERV‬‬
Jehudi began to read from the scroll. But after he would read two or three columns, King Jehoiakim would grab the scroll. Then he would cut those columns off the scroll with a small knife and throw them into the fireplace. Finally, the whole scroll was burned in the fire. And, when King Jehoiakim and his servants heard the message from the scroll, they were not afraid. They did not tear their clothes to show sorrow for doing wrong.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭36:23-24‬ ‭ERV‬‬
I have always been intrigued by this story. It's like watching a movie and seeing the king burn the scroll and wanting to shout out, "Don't do it!" We know what happens at the end of the story. Everything that Jeremiah prophesied came true.
“This is how Jerusalem was captured: During the tenth month of the ninth year that Zedekiah was king of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He surrounded the city to defeat it.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭39:1‬ ‭ERV‬‬
Does this remind you of America today? We are playing with fire. We ignore anything and everything that God talked about in the Bible if we don't agree with it. We are taking the Bible, one page at a time, and thinking that if we burn it, it won't exist.
But the end has already been written. Jesus will return. Every knee will bow to Him. Makes me want to reread the messages over and over again and incorporate that truth into my life. I want the words to be the first thing I read every morning before email or Facebook.
Today is a great day to pick up your Bible and start reading it cover to cover and letting God's Word transform you.

After Pain Comes a New Birth

“In the same way, I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.” The Lord says this: “I promise that if I cause you the pain of birth, I will not stop you from having your new nation.” Your God said this.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭66:9‬ ‭ERV‬‬
One of the reasons I desperately need to read the Bible everyday is to receive a much needed word from the Lord. Our family is going through a sad, hard time. Death is a part of life and I know that, but it doesn't make it any easier. But what an incredible promise God spoke through Isaiah.
Just as labor brings pain and then a new birth follows, something new will come to life after a period of suffering. The Lord says that if He allows you the pain, He promises that new growth follows.
I think back over the saddest and hardest times that I have faced, God brought a stronger faith, a closer relationship with Him. Granted, I could have chosen to become bitter and walk away from Him. I had to allow Him to let the suffering transform me, make me more Christ like.
I think that all of us want growth, without the pain. I certainly do. I want a perfect life with no financial problems, physical problems or stress in relationships. However, that is not realistic. We get mad at God and ask him questions like, "Why did you allow this in my life?"
But I am trusting in a God who ways are higher and deeper. Even though his ways are beyond my understanding, there are promises that I can cling to. For today, this is one of those promises. He will bring joy and new birth in my life and my family's life. I choose to believe this.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Get back in the race

“When Jesus finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Take the boat into the deep water. If all of you will put your nets into the water, you will catch some fish.” Simon answered, “Master, we worked hard all night trying to catch fish and caught nothing. But you say I should put the nets into the water, so I will.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭5:4-5‬ ‭ERV‬‬
Some time later...
“Simon Peter said, “I am going out to fish.” The other followers said, “We will go with you.” So all of them went out and got into the boat. They fished that night but caught nothing.”
‭‭John‬ ‭21:3‬ ‭ERV‬‬
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the passage in Luke, chapter 5. I was about to go to Germany on a mission trip. I was encouraged by the promise that God is not dependent on my "fishing" talents. He proved that to be true when we saw so many teens come to know the Lord. He was not dependent on us but His power. We were only there to "throw out the nets." He brought in the fish.
But notice what happened next in the story about Peter. After becoming a follower of Jesus, he denied Christ three times. And then he returned to becoming an ordinary fisherman. He returned to his old occupation. Did you realize that Peter was going to let his sin keep him out of the race?
I have been on many youth camps and I have seen youths give their life to Christ. And within a short period of time, they return to their former "occupation." They forget that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is living in them.
I contend that each and every one of us has been called to be a fisher of men. Go back to the first time when you felt God speak to your heart. Remember the moment that you gave your life to Jesus and made him Savior and Lord. You have not been knocked out of the race. You have not been thrown away when you messed up really bad. You have not been set back by a returning to an old addiction. You do not return back to your former life. God made us a new creation, with a new heart.
I am so glad that He is not like us with limited mercy and strength. He is a God of infinite grace and mercy and forgiveness. The next page in the story of Peter was a life of explosive power. He brought men to a saving knowledge of Christ by the 1000's. He healed the sick in Jesus name. He willing endured being thrown into jail and beaten. He stood before the Jewish High Council and spoke with boldness and wisdom.
Get back up and start living the life He called you to live. God still has big plans for you.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

God Enjoys Us When We Trust Him

“War horses and powerful soldiers are not what he cares about. The Lord enjoys people who worship him and trust in his faithful love.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭147:10-11‬ ‭ERV‬‬
I just have experienced the most incredible two weeks of God's display of power. I spent two weeks in Germany at a English/Sports camp. I began the week with some sad news from home. I experienced jet lag for days. I had back spasms for the last ten days of the trip. I got a bad cold and lost my voice for two days. I can hardly write this blog without coughing and blowing my nose! I constantly questioned why I was there. I am old. I am not sports minded. I can't speak German. Why Lord, did you bring me here?
He brought me here so that I could see that He does not need "war horses or powerful soldiers." He needs me to worship him and trust him.
I was given a group of 8 middle school aged girls to mentor for the week. I did not speak German and most did not speak English. The older students are better at English. The middle school students are just beginning to learn English at school. My heart was especially drawn to one of my girls who did not know Jesus. She asked me a question. If God was so good, then why did He not draw all of them to heaven? This is a question of the ages, is it not? Many people believe that a loving God would not send anyone to hell. But a loving God provided His son so we could experience a rightness with Him.
When she approached me with her questions, she did not want anyone to know she had these questions. I thought that this would be an impossible situation because she was my most limited English speaking student. But God did not think that this was impossible at all. I began with Romans 6:23.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬
She found it in her German Bible. After she read it, I asked her what did it mean. She said that it meant that Christ was the answer to her if she did not want death.
Everyday for the remainder of the camp, she would stay after the lesson and ask for more Bible verses to read. She would meticulously highlight them. Then she would write the verse on a separate scrap of paper and use that for a bookmark. Our conversation was limited...just the careful highlighting of verses. On the last day, she stayed to highlight 25 verses! I ended with Romans 10:9-10.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:9-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬
I asked her what that meant. She said that if she believed and professed her belief that she would receive Jesus. I asked her if she wanted to do that. She said with a smile, "I do." I was so shocked!!! She went to talk to our camp pastor. He called her father(who is not a believer). Her father agreed that she could be baptized. She came back to find me and hugged and sobbed for 5 minutes. The joy of the Lord was evident in her heart.
Another amazing thing is that she agreed to stand in front of the group and share her testimony. This was huge! She did not like to talk in front of the 8 girls much less 41 campers and 20 adults. She worked all afternoon on writing her testimony. She practiced with me. She was insistent that she must share her favorite verse...Romans 6:23, the one she began her journey with.
God does not need my talents, my energy, or my wisdom. He does not need me to be well-rested. He does not need me to know a foreign language to share with a non-English speaking person. He needs my willingness to go into all nations and trust Him.