The Gift of Suffering?

In the not-too-distant past I attended a Purpose Driven Life™ program at the church I’ve been going to. After short video presentations each week by the book’s author, Rick Warren, the group divided into smaller, more intimate discussion groups where we would tackle certain questions before rejoining the larger group to talk about what insights we may have had. One week, one of the questions was what benefits we might have derived from some of our life’s trials or situations. A young woman in our group, mother of 2 young children, said she received the “gift of cancer” and it had done much to improve her relationships with both God and her family. I had never thought of cancer, that most dreaded and hated of all diseases, as a “gift” of any sort until she shared her experience, strength and hope with the rest of us (by the way, she is still battling it). I can remember a time in my life when I was so angry with God for not removing it from my mother as I stood by — hopelessly watching her suffer. 10 years later I witnessed my father’s struggle with cancer. Neither time could I conceive of cancer as a gift or offer thanks for it. I guess I was not spiritually grown up enough at the time to see it that way.

I still miss my parents and the friends I have lost along the way and remain a little sad for their suffering, but believe I have found the grace to accept such things that I can’t understand so well and even sometimes be able to offer a sincere prayer of gratitude for them. I don’t know what benefits, if any, they may have derived from the suffering they went through. Perhaps they received a renewed sense of commitment to God as they understood Him and/or their loved ones – I can only hope that is the case. I know that I have received gifts as a result. My faith has wound up being renewed and my commitment to God is as good as it ever was (hopefully better).

The previous two paragraphs I posted about 5 years ago. Since then, I have renewed my walk and commitment to Christ and have been spending much more time in His word and have benefited deeply in understanding by His grace. Sure, people still go through trials and I can still wonder why, but I know it has much to do with our freedom of will and the fact that we live in a fallen world with Satan as the “god” of it. I also know that what I may consider a major thing is not necessarily so to God. Should not we rejoice at the funerals of believers? If we truly know Christ, we know where we are going. It should be a wonderful celebration – a Bon Voyage party, if you will.

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The Power Of Prayer

Jesus in Pray

So own up to your sins to one another and pray for one another. In the end, you may be healed. Your prayers are powerful when they are rooted in a righteous life. -James 5:16 (VOICE)

Some time ago I got involved in the prayer chain that is circulated among members of the church I attend. As I grow in my walk with Christ, I see more and more the power of prayer. I have actually seen things happen recently with family members and in my own life– and this little voice inside of me tells me where those results came from.

Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One. -Philippians 4:6-7 (VOICE)

The more I pray and listen for His answers, the better off I am.

Discipline

The wife loves to watch Joyce Meyer in the morning and she is usually on just as I am supposed to be leaving for work. today she focused a lot on discipline and how essential it is for those of us who are Christians to practice in our daily walk. I must confess I was convicted of a lack of discipline when I listened to her talk about how we can have a sense of entitlement and think we are owed certain things that we, in fact, are not.

Regardless of how anyone feels about Joyce, her theology– or Christianity in general, it is a fact that we do live in “the age of entitlement.” I spoke to a young woman some time ago who is in her early twenties, unmarried with a child from one guy and another one on the way from somebody else. When I asked her how she was going to fare financially (she was working and receiving some form of government assistance in dollars and food stamps), she informed me quite unashamedly that “they” (I’m guessing that means us who work, since we are the government’s revenue source) would give her more money. By the way, she was an avid fan of cigarettes at the time of the conversation and seemed to have no issue keeping a constant supply on hand. (Last time I looked they were in the neighborhood of $8 per pack).

This post is not meant to be an assault on anyone individual– it is designed to expose a culture that has swollen in this country that subscribes to the concept of cradle to grave entitlement. Through the years, our society’s practices has fostered this sort of mentality and neatly packaged it free from guilt, remorse or shame.

Going to work everyday, denying yourself some pleasure because it is not in your budget or simply thinking ahead in the bedroom to the consequences of your actions before you commit them are all acts of discipline that will enrich your life, feed your self-esteem and provide you more than you probably think in the long run.

Just some food for thought: don’t eat too much!

The Dilemma @ The Border

You would have to be hiding under a rock these past few weeks to not be aware of the dire situation on our southern border with children streaming in from South and Central America. On the ride to work this morning I happened to catch a portion of Laura Ingraham’s radio show in which one of the topics of discussion was President Obama’s meeting with other heads of state, one of which made the blatant claim that we share in this responsibility for these children.

I must confess I was immediately annoyed by such a thing and am sick and tired of America being made the scapegoat for the shortcomings of other governments– often mired in corruption and responsible for their own mess.  But the thought immediately entered my head that [perhaps] such heads of states and their respective governments have no intention of aiding these children whatsoever.  Therein lies the dilemma.  Galatians 6:2 says the following about our responsibility for other human beings: Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

So what’s the answer here?  I think it is more complicated than it might appear on the surface.  One thing is for sure, securing the border would stop the flow.  However, perhaps it is important to consider that there is a humanitarian crisis (regardless of whose fault it is) that we can do something about.  Your thoughts?  I welcome a discussion on this one.

Walking through Proverbs

These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.
Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,
to help them understand the insights of the wise.
Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,
to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
These proverbs will give insight to the simple,
knowledge and discernment to the young.
Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.
Let those with understanding receive guidance
by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

-Proverbs 1:1-7 (NLT)

In an interview with Ben Carson I watched recently, he discussed how important it is to him that he read a little from the book of Proverbs each day. There is some serious wisdom to that statement alone! I have been spending a little time in Proverbs and am better off for it!

The Unknown

There has been serious increase in the uncertainty factor in my life recently, seemingly in every direction I look. I’m sitting here, staring at the screen on my iPad, knowing that there are things I need to get out (for me journaling has always been of therapeutic benefit), yet not sure of exactly what they all are and how to properly express them. There is definitely a fear factor at play here, too. God needs to be more present in my thought processes and decision-making — that much is obvious to me. Prayer is a primary tool for creating peace of mind.

Jotting down what I know of my agenda this week in Evernote earlier this evening (an indispensable app/service if you’re not familiar with it) reveals a very full week for me, at least through Thursday.

There’s several things I am worried about, from someone at work who is dealing with serious health issues to things around the house — and nothing much I can do about any of it, but deal with things as they unfold. Fortunately, I have a great wife who is my best friend, a relationship with Jesus that is worth far more than anything, some really great friends and colleagues, a decent home and relatively OK health (as far as I know). Now that I list those items, I realize my good fortune in so many ways.

I’ve made some new friends from a small group I’m involved with from Church and that couldn’t be happening at a better time!

Let’s see how the week unfolds. I’ve heard that when you’re troubled, helping and thinking of others is the best thing to do. Time to put that fact into action.

Tough Day

Sometimes it seems like life swings from one extreme to another in pendulum-style fashion, with little time spent in the center. Wednesday provided potential reasons to make such an assertion. Fortunately, that’s not the usual mode I live my life in.

Since I’m writing this using the WordPress app on my iPod, it will be a brief post!

Between unusual problems at work, a big fat vet bill for the dogs’ routine yearly appointment, another surprise expense… today was a challenge!

I must remember who is in charge. It’s certainly not me.

Projection

“The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
And He drove out the enemy from before you,
And said, ‘Destroy!’ – Deuteronomy 33:27 (NASB)

Ever have an argument with somebody who wasn’t even there to participate in it or solve problems that don’t exist yet and may never become reality? I know I sure have — more often than I care to admit. I can worry about and plan for things which often never happen and certainly [if they do] aren’t ever going to turn out the way I imagined them. Such a process can really sap my energy and keep me up at night. It creates an inner turmoil and begins with bad thoughts that prevail when there is no thought of God to counter them.

I’m writing this more for me to read than anything else. It is a wonderful thing to have faith in a Power greater than yourself. It makes life much easier to contend with on a daily basis and provides much more serenity — not to mention a better chance of a good night’s sleep. Moreover, it explains a lot.

The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed,
A stronghold in times of trouble; – Psalm 9:9 (NASB)

Holiday Stress

It’s been a long time since I experienced the financial stress of Christmas. This year, being a bit over-extended, I’ve been feeling those feelings that used to be a regular part of my life and it is definitely uncomfortable, serving as a reminder to get spiritually fit. When I have to juggle things to pay monthly obligations, it’s time to get it together.

On top of that,  there’s other stuff going on (family-wise) that makes this time of year more emotional than it might otherwise be. What is required in that regard is a little spiritual discipline, as well.

In either case, it’s me. Normally, ‘me’ is one word I love — but in this case,  it carries a measure of discomfort and requires some action.

Christmas will come and it will be good. I just have to remember why it comes at all.

Worry Worry Worry

Worried!

Matthew 6:25-27  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

The title about sums it up. I devote way too much of my life to worrying about things I have little or no control over. Sometimes I lay awake at night and worry about who might buy the house behind us and what they might do with it, or whether or not my health (and that of my wife) will hold out long enough for us to enjoy some retired years and maybe even pay off the mortgage. Am I going to have trouble with any new, unknown neighbors of the future? Did I mention things like employment, financial obligations rising faster than income, etc? The list seems to be endless and always [for me] reflects a serious lack of faith on my part.



During the day, when my mind is occupied with the pressing issues of the moment, I devote little attention to the things I spend nights losing sleep over. Those items come to the forefront of my mental agenda when all others have been laid to rest for the day. Perhaps my mental agenda needs some serious adjusting to include thoughts of something a bit more important, like GOD.

It seems that all things of this world are fleeting – here for a moment and gone. Yet, those items which are not eternal in nature are the very things I devote so much of my time and effort to having and glorifying.

I miss Church. It always had a way of centering me and giving me time to think about the priorities of this life. I have gotten away from it, thinking that “I’m spiritual and I have a twelve step program and Christian television shows to tide me over.” Yet, I would be the first to tell a recovering alcoholic that he or she should attend meetings. I would explain how it improves the attitude and helps make life more enjoyable and worth staying sober for. I would also assert that it vastly increases the odds for success. Yes, indeed, I would tell them.  Am I showing them, those kindred spirits of Christian faith, by personal example? Hmm. I’d like to say yes, but that would be far from honest.

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