Monday, October 30, 2017

A Theology of Endurance

Douglas Frank Photograph

A Theology of Endurance

It is often the enduring or persevering that is most difficult in life. Trials sometimes seem to go on forever. In fact we know that they will, we don’t need to ask for them. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy when you come into trials of diverse kinds because the testing of your faith develops perseverance, which must finish its work so that you may become mature and complete lacking nothing.”  This is one of the many hard Scriptures like “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). I am glad that Jesus adds some solace in the Beatitudes saying,
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:10).  We are to be firmly planted in the truth of the gospel. He warns the one who receives the seed of salvation on rocky soil with joy, ‘“yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away’” (Matthew 13:21). Jesus warns us explicitly in Matthew 24 of the signs of the End of The Age when there will be wars and rumors of wars, coupled with great travail and persecution of many kinds. This time of “birth pains” seems be upon us.  Jesus warns of Christians turning cold and falling away, something that is happening in our world right now. We are to “stand firm to the end and be saved.”

So, how are you doing in your persevering and enduring faith? I must say, the heat is ramping up and as I get older, my body in falling apart too. The Apostle Paul said of this, Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day(2 Corinthians 4:16). He tells us our temporary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs all the hassles. What to do? We fix our eyes on Jesus, and not on what is seen. We are to, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34 and elsewhere).

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8). The Lord and all He is endures. Righteousness endures. His kingdom is eternal and will endure forever. But we cannot stand against His wrath. Disobedience has consequences that cannot stand before the Lord. We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that trials and temptations are part of our lives, but that God is faithful. If we trust Him, He will provide a way out or through so that we can endure it. Paul tells his mentee, Timothy to “endure hardship, conflict and suffering” and do the work of an evangelist. This endurance for the cause of the gospel will cause us to not grow weary. If we suffer for doing good and endure it, it is commendable before God (1 Peter 2:20).

Jesus told the church of Philadelphia in Revelation by way of encouragement, ‘“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth’” (Revelation 3:10). He told them, “I am coming soon.”

 In Romans 5:3-5 we read Paul’s encouragement, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and to character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who He has given us.” He tells the church of Thessalonica “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance(2 Thessalonica 3:5).

In 2 Peter we are told that God has given us His very great and precious promises so that through them we might participate in the divine nature and escape the evils of the world. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to your knowledge; self-control; and to your self-control; perseverance; and to your perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ…For if you do all these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Peter 1:5-11). This is our calling to live a godly life even though we will suffer.  We may have a unique calling like my own as a healthcare chaplain to help others in their suffering, so that they might persevere.

God will reward the persevering with His eternal love. As Paul admonishes, we press on toward this goal and higher calling in Christ Jesus as we forget the past and look to Him and His guidance.  The photograph above by my cousin Douglas Frank is of the ravaged scene after the clearcutting of a forest.  Today it is blooming and full or new growth.  Keep walking!











Friday, October 27, 2017

Commands of God: Fear Not

My last essay was on being still, which is very hard for most of us. Moreover, not fearing is even harder. I once heard a very popular pastor say that he fears nothing. I believe that’s dangerous. There is plenty to fear in this crazy world, yet I think the pastor’s point might have been that with the fear and faith in God we should not fear anything else. So why does the Bible say, “fear not” some 365 times in the New Testament alone?

Fear is a primal instinct that I believe God put in all of us to be able to know when to run from saber tooth tigers and terrorists.  You will remember the fight or flight syndrome. Wikipedia says the following:
The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response [in PTSD], hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. It was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon.

We are wired for this. Yet Scripture is telling us to “fear not.”  However, it first tells us numerous times to fear the Lord and that this is the beginning of wisdom and the way to put away fear. Starting in Deuteronomy 6:13 “Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only and take your oaths in His name.”  The Lord asks us to “fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good” (Deuteronomy 10:12).

Joshua 4:24 tells us that after the Lord dried up the Jordan so the Israelites could cross know “the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” By the end of this book Joshua told the people, ‘Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14,15).  This fear is one of awesome respect and worship. This fear is repeated often in Scripture. Job knew of it bringing Satan to say, “Does Job fear God for nothing” (Job 1:9). God says to Job, “You will be protected from the lash of the tongue, and need not fear when destruction comes” (Job 5:21).

The Psalms are full of expressions of fear starting with Psalm 2:11 "Serve the Lord with fear.”  And “The fear of the Lord is pure.” (Psalm 19:9) and Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” David gained his strength through his faith and fear of God. Perhaps my favorite is Psalm 27:1 saying The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?” Many know Psalm 46:2, “The Lord is my refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way…” Psalm 91 is the song of “911” or disaster. After speaking of finding shelter with the Lord, verse 5 says, “You will not fear the terror by night, nor the arrow by day.”  Psalm 118 is one of thanksgiving as are many because God is in the praises of His people. Verse 6 says, The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”  This verse is repeated in Hebrews 13:6 giving fortitude to the Hebrew believers.  One final psalm speaks of God catching and saving all our tears in a bottle. Psalm 56:3-4 tells us, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in god I trust, I will not be afraid.”

The Prophet Isaiah also gives us strong assurance in times of trouble. Isaiah 35:4-5 says, “say to those with fearful hearts, ‘be strong, do not fear, your God will come.’” Chapter 41 strengthens us after speaking of troubles, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…do not be afraid…for I myself will help you” (Isaiah 41:10, 13, 14).

The Prophet Jeremiah also fortifies us in his Lamentations saying, “You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear” (Lamentations 3:57). We are told in James 4:8 to come near to God and He will come near to you.

I will end my references to the Old Testament with the Prophet Haggai stating of the promised glory of the new house referencing the coming Messiah, “For I am with you, declares the Lord Almighty…and my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear” (Haggai 2:4,5).


In the New Testament Jesus Christ replaces our fear with a living faith. “But perfect love drives (castes) out fear” (1 John 4:18). That perfect love is Christ Himself in us. Revelation 14:7 ends the Bible with Jesus telling us not to fear any of the trials and tribulations but instead saying “Fear God and give Him glory.”  I think we easily get afraid before we seek God and His provision. We like control and when we fear, we feel out of control. God says, give your control to me.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Commands of God: Fear Not

My last essay was on being still, which is very hard for most of us. Moreover, not fearing is even harder. I once heard a very popular pastor say that he fears nothing. I believe that’s dangerous. There is plenty to fear in this crazy world, yet I think the pastor’s point might have been that with the fear and faith in God we should not fear anything else. So why does the Bible say, “fear not” some 365 times in the New Testament alone?

Fear is a primal instinct that I believe God put in all of us to be able to know when to run from saber tooth tigers and terrorists.  You will remember the fight or flight syndrome. Wikipedia says the following:
The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response [in PTSD], hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. It was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon.

We are wired for this. Yet Scripture is telling us to “fear not.”  Starting in Deuteronomy 6:13 “Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only and take your oaths in His name.”  The Lord asks us to “fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good” (Deuteronomy 10:12).

Joshua 4:24 tells us that after the Lord dried up the Jordan so the Israelites could cross know “the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” By the end of this book Joshua told the people, ‘Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14,15).  This fear is one of awesome respect and worship. This fear is repeated often in Scripture. Job knew of it bringing Satan to say, “Does Job fear God for nothing” (Job 1:9).

The Psalms are full of expressions of fear starting with Psalm 2:11 "Serve the Lord with fear.”  And “The fear of the Lord is pure.” (Psalm 19:9) and Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” David gained his strength through his faith and fear of God. Perhaps my favorite is Psalm 27:1 saying The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?”


In the New Testament Jesus Christ replaces our fear with a living faith. “But perfect love drives (castes) out fear” (1 John 4:18). That perfect love is Christ Himself in us. Revelation 14:7 ends the Bible with Jesus telling us not to fear any of the trials and tribulations but instead saying “Fear God and give Him glory.”  I think we easily get afraid before we seek God and His provision. We like control and when we fear, we feel out of control. God says, give your control to me.

Friday, October 13, 2017

God's Comandments

The 10 Commandments are simple and impossible to keep without a faith in the One who gave them. The same is true about other commands in the Bible, that’s why I like to look at the some 7,500 promises of God more.  However, I was looking more closely at two critical commands in the Bible that I stumble on, and perhaps you do too. “Be still” and “Fear not!”

I am taking “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) first because it is hard. We in America are always on the run to or from something. I think we are often doing both and for lots of things and people. If you say, “not me” you are lying. We are a frazzled and un-centered people. Well, perhaps we are centered on ourselves. And that is the problem. God is saying, “Be still” and look at me, away from yourself. I am the One who made you and love you. I am the One who knows the answer to every question. I will not tell you why, but I will tell you how and what to do. I only way you will hear His voice is by being quiet and still and silent in solitude. Yes, that is hard to do in this crazy world. We need to be intentional. I suspect you have heard of the concept of “mindfulness” by now. This is being very aware of the present and what is going on around and within you. God is in the present with you, not in the past or the future. Oh, yes He will be there when you get there. But concentrate on the here and now. Find a place you can go and find Him. A secret place to slow down and find God. I will say that this will be different for each of us, as we are all unique creations of God. Interestingly, I have two places I go to find and hear God. One is a chair in the basement where I do my devotions, pre-dawn every day. I read His word and listen for His response and guidance. I almost always hear clearly. Then I journal the thoughts God gives me. The other place is on the road on my bike, riding in the pre-dawn darkness. All I see is the morning star in the east and shadows from my bike light. I am alone and God is with me. I sing, pray and listen.  “Be still before the Lord all mankind because He roused Himself from His holy dwelling” (Zechariah 2:13). 

I enjoy reading Intimacy with the Almighty, Encountering Christ in The Secret Place of Your Life, a devotional book dealing with the “deep things spiritual,” the unsearchable and unfathomable. This leads you to know that it takes discipline to find these things. Chuck Swindoll, the writer of this book talks of four special disciplines: simplicity; silence; solitude and surrender. He tells us that we will need to reorder our lives to achieve these. Albert Einstein once said, “All things should be a simple as possible but not moreso.” He was a deep and godly thinker. Our lives are too complex. Get rid of the unimportant. Don’t dwell on getting just a little bit more. Envy and this world will consume you; so don’t consume it. Does this seem like an insurmountable challenge?  Perhaps at first, but these are disciplines that take self-control. But I prefer to call it “God control.”  I would start by tuning out so you can tune in. Turn off the noise!  Relax you need silence for that.  You may need some other thoughts to achieve this. The best-selling devotional Jesus Calling Enjoying Peace in His Presence will give you a daily example of what that means. Eventually you will find a place externally and internally that brings serenity. Cultivate this; it is critical to finding peace with God. If you are having trouble, another “s” word to look at would be “self-analysis.” What are you doing or thinking that is keeping you from silence and solitude.

God is saying to come away by yourself, alone and find me. Calm your spirit by surrendering all the stuff that is bothering you. God will supply all you need.

So how are you doing on your intimacy factor? Keep at it, for it is a process of transformation that is taking place. Paul says in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It is not easy but it is simple in God’s guidance for He will be with you. I think this is enough for today, next time I will do “fear.”