Friday, September 26, 2014

Hardship

In this country we do not have a very good theology or understanding of suffering. Suffering or hardship is not an if, it is when, do I have a witness? I suspect all readers are saying yes. And you may be saying, where is God?  He is where he always has been seeing, hearing our cries and answering them for his glory and our good. So what does the Bible say about suffering or hardship?

Even Jesus asked “Why have you forsaken me?” to his Father as recorded in Matt 27:46 and Psalms 22 written hundreds of years before. Perhaps the most difficult and yet helpful scriptures on the subject are written by Jesus’s brother James when under persecution to help his brethren understand. “Consider it joy my brothers when you meet trials of diverse kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance or steadfastness. And perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete lacking nothing.” (James 1:2).  This is saying that we will have trouble and it is for our good, if we will stay under it. What? My first instinct is to run and get out from under. But God is saying that it happens and he allows it to develop us.

So what do we do? Well, the next verse answers that question. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  But we must trust and believe that God will answer us through: our prayer; through his word; through other godly people; or circumstances, his will for us.

God will answer, but he is also saying, stay under, remain under the trial until it has accomplished its purpose. This is one of the toughest lessons and teachings there is. God will bring about good in the trial or storm in our lives.


I could relate many stories, but let me just share one. I once worked on the staff of a large church responsible for congregational care during a very tumultuous time. Circumstances became increasingly stressful on all staff and congregation. I wanted to quit, but God was telling me to stay even though the pain and even depression were overtaking me. It turned out that all pastoral staff except me was asked to leave. I stayed in the storm to try to care for those remaining. The stress and uncertainty was overwhelming, but I tried to persevere. Only after a year of turmoil did an answer come. During Sunday services as I led worship from the front row, the Holy Spirit came down and embraced me. Joyfulness and instant healing occurred. Not only did my fear and depression leave, but a strong feeling of good will and power came over me. God had released me from my nightmare. I had stayed under the trial and accomplished God’s work for the congregation and me. He was releasing me of my call to go care for others. Yes, God is faithful and he will bring us wisdom and healing if we wait and obey and remain under the trial. We may need counseling, care and help from many others. But God is faithful. 
Are you undergoing a trial?  Are 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Glory to God


WI Coulee Country


This last weekend I traveled with a friend on an annual pilgrimage to what is known to fly-fisherman as “Coulee Country”. The western part of the State of Wisconsin is geologically known as the “Driftless Area” where the glaciers moved through during the last Ice-age and creating incredible and beautiful, hilly topography.  Eskers and morrains rise 350 feet bordering Shangra La - like river valleys. The pastoral scene is accented by bright yellow, purple, pink and blue wild flowers, green forests of oak and maple beginning to turn shades of orange, yellow and red. Down the middle meanders babbling brooks with names like Chaffee Creek, Timber Coulee and the West Branch of the Kickapoo, named after indigenous Native Americans.   The sun warms the air with silence broken only occasionally by the clip-clop of an Amish cart or an eagle call as it soars above.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2.   The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

This is the place I go to be refreshed and revived from the noise and busyness of the city life. Here I find rest. The Psalmist David often takes us to nature scenes.  “As a deer pants for streams of (living) water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”( Ps 42:1).  Here is this river valley I seek Him. “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my Rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Ps 63:1-2).  God calls to us to rest in his presence, to find peace and joy where he is strong in speaking his creative love for us through nature.

I have included a couple of photos or my pilgrimage sites. In your minds eye, place yourself there. Hear, see, smell and feel the enwrapping beauty of God’s handy-work.  Perhaps you have a favorite place you go to be restored and to find God?  Perhaps it is a chair in the silence of the pre-dawn hours, or it is in your imagination. God wants us to find these places to find him. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8).  The Psalmist David in Ps 16:11 tells us, “In his presence is fullness of joy, at his right hand pleasures forevermore.”

Friday, September 12, 2014

Something New

Do you have an insatiable need for something new?  I think this is a universal human desire. We want a little bit more or newer. Why? To keep up with neighbors or competitors or to make us feel better about ourselves?  These needs will never be met with worldly goods.

 God is doing something new. “Forget the former things; do not dwell in the past. See I am doing something new! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert, and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19). In Spring I was looking out the window of my study at flowering crab apple trees, white, pink and coral. The scent of blossoms was overwhelmingly beautiful. After months of “Polar Vortex” and snow, God was bringing a new Spring. It was bringing new life to the world. Warmth was slowly replacing the frigid and frozen tundra of the Upper Midwest.  These spring things may be temporary, but God’s newness is not.


“Because of God’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail, they are new every morning, great is his faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21). Jeremiah, the prophet writer of this verse, brought it after sharing overwhelming senses of loss from destruction of Jerusalem, the temple and exile of Judah’s inhabitants in BC 586. It is a Lament. Yet within the lament comes this encouraging verse of God’s faithfulness. Jeremiah writes, “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait patiently for the Lord.” (Lam 3:24-25).


I don’t know about you, but I am encouraged by these words. Psalm 40:3 says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”  When we are looking for something new, a new job, marriage, life, where are we looking? Are we looking in stores, or bars? In Spring I am looking to God and his creation. I want to sing a new song, a song of praise, light instead of darkness, rain instead of snow. Scripture talks about putting on a new self, clothing ourselves in something new, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24). God has given us a new life, a new covenant.  In fact he has given us a new command, to love one another as he has loved us. 

Let him do something new this morning.