Tag Archives: obedience

Return to Repentance

The truth sometimes hurts.

As part of my devotions today, I read Isaiah 59.  Although I have read individual verses from this chapter before, today’s full reading of this chapter struck a “spiritual nerve”.   Isaiah 59:2,  in particular, caught my attention.

Your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.  (NRS)

It’s all about us!

Isaiah 59 was not written for people who had no knowledge of God; people we refer to as  “the unsaved”, but it was penned for those whom God had entered into a special covenant relationship with.

Israel had been hand-chosen by God from all the nations in the world (Deut. 7:7-9) to carry out His purpose and plan of salvation.  They were to be a “holy nation, a peculiar people that would show forth His praises” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Unfortunately, instead of heralding God’s praises, Israel went a “whoring” after other gods (Jer. 3:2; Ezek. 43:7), relying on itself and other nations.  The result was punishment—70 years captivity in Assyria and Babylon—away from the land God had promised and given to them.

How do we measure up as a nation?

In reading Isaiah 59, I see an unsettling similarity between the events leading up to Israel’s exile and where we find ourselves today as a nation and yes, as the Church.

As a nation, we have walked away from the spiritual guidance and direction of God.  If you survey our social institutions and political systems, you will see remnants of what we once knew as “one nation under God”.  We have exchanged our “moral compass” for “individual rights”.

The lines of “right and wrong” are no longer determined by God’s holy standards but have been replaced by political affiliations and social relationships.   Man has placed himself on the throne of his heart—doing “what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).  Servility and kindness, community and brotherly love have all been sacrificed on the altar of man’s selfishness.

How about the Church?

As the Church, we have retreated into the safety of our church walls.  Internally focused, we are more concerned with our personal needs and how we can achieve “our purpose to be all we can be”.

We have forgotten about the helpless, the homeless, and the hungry.  Jesus went outside the walls to serve mankind versus being served (Matt. 20:28).  Jesus came “to preach, to bind, to proclaim, and to open” (Is. 61.1).  Can we as the Church do any less?

There is hope!

Hopefully, one of the key outcomes from reading Isaiah 59 is that we will begin to recognize and repent from those “iniquities that have separated us from God” (verse 2).

God wants to be reunited with this nation and His Church.  That’s why Jesus Christ came that our sins—personally and corporately, might be forgiven AND our relationship with the Father restored (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

The Redeemer (Jesus Christ) “did come to Zion” (verse 20) and to the rest of the world—that we might turn from our transgressions.  Let us pray continuously that we as a nation and the Church will repent of those behaviors and attitudes that cause us to transgress against God.

In Search of Peace: When will we find it?

In Search of Peace: When will we find it?

We seek peace.

What peace are we seeking and when will we find it?  Because of God’s grace and mercy, we experience various degrees of peace even in this fallen world.  We are no longer in enmity with God because of Jesus’ gift of life (2 Cor. 5:18).  We on occasion see glimpses of peace between nations and groups divided because of preference, politics, or social agendas.  However, even that peace is tenuous and subject to change with the next difference of opinion.

The search for peace is a pursuit that will continue until we transition to eternity.  So why are we trying so hard to achieve it now?  Because it is God’s desire that we live in peace with each other and experience peace within.  Without peace we will be hindered from accomplishing our divine purpose which includes glorifying God.

Peace was God’s First Choice

When God and man lived in the Garden of Eden, their world was designed to accomplish a specific purpose.  God would provide for His creation—food, clothing, shelter.  Man in turn would be obedient to his Creator and reverence God.  They would enjoy an intimate and harmonious relationship. There was peace.   Of course, we know what happened to the plan of creation.

Although many attempts have been made through the institution of covenants and laws, man has always been troubled with contention, strife, and war (Hab. 1:3; James 4:1; Rom. 2:8).  The biblical text relates attempts by God’s prophets and priests to bring peace, but none could be found—externally nor within.

Only Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah, could bring the “peace” that would reverse the ravages of sin that resulted in broken relationships and shattered hearts (Isa. 9:6-7; Mic. 5:4-5).

Peace is a hard issue.

Early in our study we defined peace as a stress-free state of security and calmness, everything co-existing in perfect harmony and freedom.  Let’s be real.  Man cannot orchestrate this kind of peace while we live in this fallen world.   And this is the world we must live in right now.   The peace described in this definition will be possible when Jesus Christ returns and rules physically during the Millennial Age.

However, right now God’s peace is guaranteed by His unchanging promises and can be found through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is possible spiritually through the Holy Spirit living within us. The Holy Spirit fortifies us as we live in this fallen world.  He sustains us even in the most desperate of circumstances (Gal. 5:22).

Peace that passes all understanding.

The Apostle Paul, while imprisoned in Rome, appealed to the church in Phillipi, to “rejoice in the Lord”.  Strange message considering Paul’s situation.  But while experiencing the backlash of living in a fallen world, he found peace in his situation.  He offered the same to them (Phil. 4:6-7, NLT).

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Chrysostom, Eastern church father and archbishop of Constantinople wrote these words on “how this peace—God’s peace—passes all understanding”.

The peace of God, which He imparts to us, passes all understanding. For who could have expected and who could have hoped for such benefits? It transcends every human intellect and all speech. For His enemies, for those who hate Him, for the apostates—for all these He did not refuse to give his only begotten Son, so as to make peace with them. The peace which will preserve us is the one of which Christ says, “My peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.”  For this peace passes all human understanding. How? When He sees that we should be at peace with enemies, with the unrighteous, with those who display contentiousness and hostility toward us, how does this not pass human understanding?[1]

God’s peace is what we need for 21st century living.  Peace that will not only exceed our expectations but also guard our hearts and minds, from fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and despair.  Our “call to action” as believers is to, like Jesus’ Disciples and the Apostle Paul, become agents of peace and ministers of reconciliation to a “peaceless” world.  In the world’s search for peace, let us be the light to show them where they can find it (Matt. 5:9).

[1]  Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture, New Testament VIII, Mark J. Edwards

In Search of Peace: Perfect Peace or Peacelessness?

Perfect peace or peacelessness?

Peace Recap

We closed last week’s session by putting forth the truth that true peace can only be found in God through Jesus Christ.

Through Christ’s sacrificial death and victorious resurrection, we as believers have peace with God (Rom. 5:10), the peace of God (2 Peter 1:3-4), and peace from God (2 Cor. 4:8-9).    God’s peace is underwritten by His unchanging promises and experienced through the presence of the Holy Spirit living within us.   So why is there so much peacelessness?

What causes “peacelessness”?

Is there such a word?  I don’t know but, for me, it is the perfect description of what we are experiencing while living in this fallen world. Increases in depression, anxieties, and mental distress.  Conflict and violence in our world, in our nation, in our communities and our families.

Even nature is experiencing peacelessness as we adjust to the effects of global warming and climatic changes.  Peacelessness (no peace) is one thing we can all agree is going to be difficult to attain in our immediate future!

Why peacelessness?

For both believers and nonbelievers, the difficulty in finding peace lies in where we are looking for it.  Unfortunately, we most often look for peace in the wrong place and from the wrong source.   We place our dependency on the world and on self.

    • The world offers a false sense of security and hope that it cannot produce. Its knowledge and technology are God’s gifts of wisdom, but it cannot replace our all-knowing, all-seeing, and everywhere present God.  The world’s “fallenness” makes it neither trustworthy nor truthful (1 Cor. 7:31).
    • Our flesh, our pride, and our disobedience often lead us down the wrong paths for our life. When we lean on our own understanding, we are placing our trust in the fragility and the weakness that is innate in humanity (Prov. 3:5-7).

We must also consider the influence of Satan’s lies and deception. All these factors result in the same outcome which is the failure to hear and accept God’s offer of peace.

God, however, offers a solution to the peacelessness (lack of peace) in our life.  The God of hope wants to fill us with joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope, through the   power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13).  How can we access this joy and peace?  By believing in God and in His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  By faith, God offers “shalom shalom”—perfect peace.

Perfect Peace

The prophet Isaiah gives us both the outcome and the pathway to God’s peace (Isa. 26:3).

You (God) will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.

    • “God will keep”. God will guard and watch over us.  Just as a watchman in a high tower of an ancient city continually surveyed the terrain for potential problems.  God watches over us.  If there is a problem, the watchman will defend and protect.  So will our God.
    • “our mind”. Our intellectual framework “continually processes” the daily trauma we’re exposed to.  It guides our decisions as to the best solutions for the problems we face.  It holds our thoughts and our imagination.  It also houses our fears and brokenness.
    • “in perfect peace” (shalom shalom). Why is it perfect?  Because God is its source.  God commands the “right resources” we need to address life’s situations.  His peace is underwritten by His promises, His presence, and His power.  He is the Great I Am (Exod. 3:14).
    • “he trusts”. Trust, translated, means “to have confidence; to make secure”. This is our part to perform.  Our trust is reflected in our obedience to God’s Word and in our allegiance to Him.  Trusting in God is a non-negotiable.  Rather we are “abound or abase” (Phil.4:12-13) or “pressed on every side” (2 Cor. 4:8-10), we trust God!  (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
The Final Peace

God alone can give us the peace we so desperately need in our life and in this world.  I leave you with these words from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  While He shared them with His Disciples in the moments prior to His crucifixion, He speaks to us today.   Read them; meditate on them.  God is our peace (Eph. 2:14).  He is our “Shalom Shalom”.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, NLT)

Clarion Word Classics: What if Jesus Really Meant what He Said?

Expand our spiritual thought

Earlier this year, WordBytes launched a new learning format entitled The Clarion Word Classics.  The word “clarion” comes from the Latin word claru or ‘clear’.  Used as an adjective, it means ‘loud and clear’.

Our intent with this quarterly series is to make “loud and clear” what is ours in Christ (Rom. 8:17) and  the relevancy of our faith for this present generation (Matt. 24:34).

New thought

With The Clarion Word Classics we will share faith writings from key theologians who will strengthen and enrich our spiritual lives and faith walk.  Some from  sage theologians and writers  and also introduce contemporary writers who express spiritual answers to the challenges of 21st century living.

To kickoff this Clarion Word Classics (CWC), we introduce the book Red Letter Revolution:  What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?  Listed among the most popular devotional books, we thought this may be of interest to our curious readers.  Shane Claiborn and Tony Campolo , offer interesting perspectives on how to make our faith real in a world with no absolutes and growing disbelief in God and Jesus.

Let the Holy Spirit guide you

In the Word Ministries provides CWC in our effort to “inspire authentic communities of faith, fellowship, and learning.”  It is in that spirit that we share this book.  This is not an endorsement or agreement with the views shared.  Here  is an excerpt from and about  Red Letter Revolution.  

On the Road to God’s New Thing

A road by any other name

A road is literally defined as a wide way leading from one place to another. We often think of roads as access to new opportunities of commerce or development, such as the road to success.

A road can also describe a series of events or a course of action that will lead to a particular outcome. In the book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck uses “road” figuratively to describe the sometimes hard and often painful process of change. Peck uses the “road less traveled” as a illustration of the journey this requires.

Jeremiah’s  road

In Jeremiah 31, the prophet speaks to the people of God in Babylon to prepare them for a “road”—both literally and figuratively—that would return them to their own land after their 70-year exile.

Jeremiah’s message is clear. They are not to be afraid or lose heart. They are to be focused with a firm resolution to rebuild the nation of Israel.

In Jeremiah 31:22,  Israel is called to refrain from falling back into their old rebellious habits as God creates “a new road”  to their salvation—a “new thing” that had never been done before (or since).

How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.  

Failure on the road

Israel is warned against potential backsliding which is interpreted as “faithless”. In the past both Israel and Judah had consistently failed to “holdfast” to God and depend solely on Him for their every need. (Job 27:6) The results was always disastrous as proven by the conquest of both nations.

Where are we placing our faith? Is it in people—elected officials, family members, or friends?  Are we dependent on things—bank accounts, social status, or professional affiliations? Do we believe only in ourselves—our intellect, looks, or personality? When Jesus returns, will He find  us faithfully following Him on the new road? (Luke 18:8)

With God on the road to new things

Israel is encouraged to trust God, Who would create a “new thing”—interpreted as strange and surprising—in the earth. God would create a woman who would “compass” or protect man.

Many interpreters understand this “new thing” to be the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  A woman, the Virgin Mary, enclosed in her womb the Might One. This was to be their incentive.

They would know that with their return from exile came the promise of not only their physical restoration but also the spiritual blessing of the Mighty God (Is. 9:6). God would not cast off His people but bless them. This was to be their assurance.

What is the road for us today?

How do we  to live in the knowledge of this “new thing”?  Knowing the blessings of being in Christ (Ep. 1:3-14).

We live attentively in God’s presence. God is creating new opportunities for us.  However, we must listen for His voice and watch where He is working. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

We live expectantly in God’s provision. God has provided all that we need to live godly lives and to accomplish His purpose in our lives. (2 Pet. 1:3-8)

We live faithfully in God’s purpose. As the elect of God we live by faith. We do not backslide or “draw back unto perdition” but trust that He who began this “good work in us” is able to complete it. (Phil. 1:6)

Our journey to understanding “new things” has hopefully provided incentive and inspiration to walk in the divine purpose God has created for our lives. When we as believers trust God and understand God’s reason for “new things”, we can move forward joyfully in faith and confidence.

Ready for Something New?

Ready for Something New?

Do you need something new?

Do you need a new surge of inspiration?  Perhaps you began 2023 with a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, gain more faith, or increase your personal time with family.

Perhaps you’re fasting to discipline your body or engaged in a prayer effort to renew your spirit.  Aren’t these the things we normally do?  How’s it working?  Maybe it’s time to change our thinking.   Maybe it’s time to do a “new thing”!

It’s been said, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you got!”  So do a new thing!  God’s thing!  Walk in the divine purpose God created just for you—from the beginning of time (Eph. 2:10).

What’s a “new thing”?

In the Old Testament, the use of “a new thing” is cited in only three (3) texts:  Isaiah 43:19, Numbers 16:30, and Jeremiah 31:22.  Here they describe situations where God’s greatness and sovereignty is on display as God “invites man” to move into His designated purpose.

In the New Testament this concept of “a new thing” is manifested in the fulfillment of Messiah who came to gift us with salvation and to restore man to God’s original purpose—to glorify Him and live with Him forever.  God was unable to fulfill His purpose through families, tribes or kings; through prophets, mediators or priests.  God brought salvation to earth through Jesus Christ—”God’s new thing”.

This “new thing” would result in:

      • The Kingdom of God coming to earth. (Matt. 4:17)
      • Mercy, grace, and truth. (Ps. 85:10)
      • Man becoming a “new creation”. (2 Cor. 5:17)
      • Freedom from the penalty and power of sin. (Rom. 8:1)

A new thing is promised.

In Isaiah 43:19, God is promising to retrieve and restore Israel from their 70-year exile.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  (KJV) 

The New Living Translation makes God’s plans even clearer.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. 

The Israelites deliverance out of captivity would be more famous than that from Egypt (Jer. 23:6-8).  Israel thought they knew God but He was about to show them something different—“a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert”.  To do this would be humanly impossible but God alone had the power and authority to do “a new thing” (Isa. 45:7, 12).

I am learning that with God nothing is impossible (Gen. 18:14).  As my pastor stated in his Sunday sermon, the reason we aren’t realizing God’s best for our lives isn’t because of God.   “God is not the problem.  WE are the problem!”  Our lack of faith and refusal to get out of our comfort zone keeps us from moving into God’s promises and His purpose for our lives.   1 Corinthians 2:9 reminds us that: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared or those who love him.”

Are we ready for a new thing?

For us, God is more than able to “make a pathway through the wilderness and create rivers in the dry wasteland.”  God wants to do a “new thing” in our life so we can walk in His divine purpose.  Here is the “CPR” we can use to revive us and begin our journey.

      • Confess areas of sin in our life that are interfering with hearing God.
      • Position ourselves to hear God speak—pray, read and meditate on His Word.
      • Reflect on where God has already begun working in our life.

Then ask God how we can serve in His Kingdom (our purpose), wait patiently, and listen attentively.  God invites us to join Him in doing a “new thing.”  When we trust God with our lives, we can look forward to an exciting future with purpose (Jer. 29:11).

Rehearsing God’s Mercy

Rehearsing helps us remember.

When we hear the word “rehearse”, we conjure up visions of singing, dancing, or acting. A rehearsal is a preparatory event that is performed before the official public performance, as a form of practice. The intent of a rehearsal is to ensure that all details of the performance are adequately prepared and coordinated for presentation.

This Psalm is a timely rehearsal that help us to remember God’s loving protection and provision in our lives. It is a time that we reflect when God has shown His great mercy to us (Lam. 3:22-23).  It is, then possible, by repeating God’s example, that we can begin to expand our mercy and our compassion to others.  It is in preparing that we begin to conform to the image of Jesus (Rom. 12:2). We can begin to rehearse God’s mercy.

Rehearsing prepares.

In Psalm 106, the psalmist prepares the Jews who have returned from Exile by recounting the mercies extended by God to the nation of Israel. Can you imagine returning to your hometown after a 70-year absence?

Many of the older Jews had died in captivity; younger Jews had little to draw upon to refresh their memory of God’s love and provision for Israel during her glory days. Instead, they arrived to find burnt gates and broken walls.

Many would have forgotten God’s reason for allowing them to go into captivity.  It was their habitual, sinful nature and rebellious lifestyle (v.43) that resulted in their 70-year banishment from Israel.  It was the psalmist’s intent to prepare the returning Jews’ hearts and minds for spiritual revival—a return to God.

Rehearsing increases wisdom.

The Psalmist takes time to share with the returning Jews, the errors that contributed to their  exile.  Here are a few key learnings that are still appropriate for today’s believers.

    • Confess and repent of your sins to avoid God’s judgment. “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.” (v. 6)
    • Seek God’s wisdom in all your decision making. “They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel.” (v. 13)
    • Eliminate complaints about what you don’t have and express gratitude for God’s provision.“They despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word: But murmured in their tents and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD.” (vv.24-25)

Even in Israel’s rebellion and sin, God never failed to extend His mercy and grace (vv. 44-45).

Nevertheless he (God) regarded their distress when he heard their cry.  For their sake he remembered His covenant and showed compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” 

Rehearsing makes for great testimonies.

If we were to “rehearse” God’s mercy in our life, what would we write? Would it be similar to Israel’s history reflecting a life pattern of sin and backsliding? Do we see evidence of God’s love and mercy regardless of our rebellion and spiritual failures?  Take time to reflect on where you’ve come from and then write your own psalm reflecting when and how God’s love and mercy was extended to you.

Satan uses our memory to evoke shame and guilt for things we have done that were not God honoring.  However, we can use our past errors as our testimony to others about the saving love of Christ. If we now walk under the guidance and direction of God’s Spirit, remembrance of our life B.C. (Before Christ) should not be an indictment against us but evidence of the immense love God has for us.

There is nothing better than living in God’s A.D. (Abundant Dominion). Let us continually rehearse God’s mercy in our hearts and minds as we prepare for effective service and kingdom building.

What do you want for Christmas?

 

What do you want for Christmas?

Christmas past

What do you want for Christmas this year?  What’s your ask?  When I was a child, my anticipation of Christmas was so high.  I remember the special journey to see the animated Christmas displays in the store windows in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.  The shops on “Petticoat Lane” and the special baked goods at “The Cake Box”.  There was no sitting on Santa’s lap and sharing our list of wants, but endless nights of looking at the special Christmas catalogue from Sears, J.C. Penney’s, and “Monkey Wards” (Montgomery Wards).  What a wonderful and magical time!

But I’m no longer a child.  To the contrary, I’m a grandmother and family elder.  Now as I anticipate Christmas, I ask myself, what do I want?  What are my choices?  Things eternal or things of this world? Now I must look beyond Christmas Day with its torn wrapping paper and empty boxes.  I want something that lasts beyond Christmas Day.  Don’t you?  As we close out this year, I invite you to join me in answering this question for yourself.

What’s on your list?

Harry & David suggests we warm hearts with festive gourmet gifts and Christmas gift baskets.  That’s no surprise!  “Do it Yourselfers” ensure us that handmade gifts will be received with joy:  polaroid photo magnets (try finding a polaroid camera), beautifully packaged cookie mixes or pretty finger knit blankets.  Who has the time?

Topping the list of the 23 “hottest cool gadgets” for Christmas is a Black Bird drone with camera for $99.  “For the first time, ordinary people can capture crazy selfies and shots that were previously only possible with professional equipment.”  I’m sure our neighbors and friends will love sharing in on this gift.

But what do people really want?

Here are some things to consider as you plan your gift shopping.

In an article entitled The Top 10 Things People Want in Life but Can’t Seem to Get, I was amazed in reading the responses to this informal survey that probed “critical life and career questions.”  From my reading, I compiled (in their order of importance) the top five (5) areas people are feeling desperate about:  happiness, money, freedom, peace, and joy.   I’ve included a sixth, balance, since it is the focus of many Millennials and Genxers.  What was surprising was that most of the items were intangible, subjective (what I can feel), and internal versus external.

In the aftermath of COVID (before the variants), people wanted “relationship”.   A few verbatims are captured below recognizing the extraordinary power and satisfaction that can only be found through our connection with one another.

  • “Have a big family get together!”
  • “Go to a game and watch some sports!”
  • “See my mom in assisted living.”
  • “Make sure all my friends are cured too, then we’ll party!”

A new Barna Group report was released this month on trends in the Black church[1].  When asked what churchgoers wanted for their lives, the results were as follows:

  • 84% wanted good health
  • 83% wanted a close relationship with God
  • 77% wanted to provide for their family
  • 75% wanted a clear purpose for living

Note the focus of the three groups.  They were primarily, intangibles, subjective, and internal.

What I want for Christmas 2022

Challenges will continue in 2023.  Financial upheaval, political squabbles, shortages, rising social needs, hunger, and homelessness (regardless of the new names).  What do we need?  What do we want?

After conducting my personal survey among friends and family, I’ve created a revised “short Christmas list”.  Many of the items on this list have been sermonized during this season of Advent.  They are hope, peace, joy, and love.

    • Hope—”expecting a better future for the world, our nation, and our families”
    • Peace— “less hatred, division, and political strife”
    • Joy— “more contentment and gratitude regardless of our situation”
    • Love—”better relationships and greater compassion for others”

Reflecting on the various lists of “things” people desire, it is clear, God has already provided these and much more.  Happiness, freedom, and balance. God will provide it.  Relationship.  God will be whomever we need in our life.   Hope, peace, joy, and love.  In Him and in His presence, we will find more than we need (Eph. 3:20-21).   It is up to each of us to access our heavenly gifts through faith and obedience to God.  In Christ, all these things are currently ours.

Below are my “gift lists” available to us through relationship with our Heavenly Father, Who only gives “good and perfect gifts” (James 1:17). God’s gifts last beyond the torn tissue and open boxes.  They last beyond Christmas day through all of eternity.  With God and in Christ, every day is Christmas.

  • Ephesians 1:3-17
  • 2 Peter 1:3-18

[1]  This report was created in partnership with Black Millennial Café, Urban Ministries, Inc., Compassion International to celebrate the legacy of the Black Church in America and to pursue racial justice inside and outside the Church.  With that intent, there is no comparative study for White churches.

 

Throwback Wednesday: Recapturing Our Thoughts

Throwback Wednesday for a New Year

A Great Read

I recently finished a book which has proven very insightful for me as I strive to be “more conformed” to the image of my Lord and Savior.  The book is entitled, “Watchfulness: Rediscovering  a Lost Spiritual Discipline, by Brian G. Hedges.

Hedges proposes that Christians could benefit spiritually by exercising greater “vigilance or watchfulness”  over their hearts, minds, and souls.  Why?  To protect ourselves from Satan’s snares, the world’s bendings, and our flesh’s weakness.  We need to be more intentional.

Throwback connection

With this book I mind, I thought it would be a great refresher to revisit  for this Throwback Wednesday, “Recapturing Our Thoughts.”

Our thoughts are vulnerable to attack by the world and by Satan.  Our flesh is continually weakened by marketing and media; by every sound byte we listen to.

Begin your “watchfulness journey” by recapturing your thoughts.

The Theology of Suffering: Purpose and Possibilities, Part 2

Our Theology of Suffering: Purpose and Possibilities, Part 2

Just the Facts

We understand that suffering is a part of life.  As we know, suffering is not part of God’s original divine plan but is a result of sin.  Because of that, Christians acknowledge that we live in a sinful, “fallen world.” As believers, our response to suffering—pain, distress, and hardship—is shaped by two key factors.  First, our trust in God (Ps. 62:5-8) and secondarily, our Christian worldview (Eccl. 9:11).

An “enlightened” response

The Bible also informs our response to suffering.  Although it offers no “magic pill” to overcome pain and distress, it does reveal how God operates on our behalf during difficult times (2 Cor. 1:3-5).   Jesus demonstrated how man can operate knowing he will suffer.  For Jesus, suffering was needful and “purposeful” (Heb. 2:10).  It resulted in the salvation of mankind and the elimination of the power of sin (Heb. 2:14-15).  In His suffering and death, Jesus modelled for us His trust in and obedience to God.

How we choose to respond to our suffering will determine its purpose and possibility in our life.  As I said earlier, our response to suffering can either make us “better or bitter”, it all depends on our trust in God and our worldview.  These create an enlightened, faith-based response.

Better or bitter?

In 2010, a well-known Bible teacher and speaker, Joni Eareckson Tada was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The thing that made this news so heart wrenching for me was the fact that Joni had for the last 43 years lived as a quadriplegic—and now this?  Questions raced in my mind.  “How much suffering can a person take?” She dedicated her life to Christ and helping others—and now this?  The old cliché came to mind.  “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Can any good come from suffering?

Certain types of suffering may result from our own wrong choices or because of the wrong choices and acts of others.  But regardless of the cause (sin), it is our personal response that really matters.  A faith-based response will not only enable us to cope during the suffering but also rekindle our hope (2 Cor. 4:7-9).  It will also strengthen our resolve and build our resiliency (2 Cor. 4:15-17).

Suffering—purpose and possibility

Our suffering is purposeful.  As a ship is proven seaworthy by the beating of the waves and the whipping of the winds, likewise, our suffering aids us in becoming mature Christians.

The Apostle Peter states that after we have “suffered a while, we will be perfect, established, strengthened and settled” (1 Pet. 5:10).  Paul eloquently witnessed to the value of his many suffering experiences and the future reward of his obedience and faith: “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

How we respond to suffering is a witness to the power of God and His sustaining Presence (The Holy Spirit) in our life.  It will result in His praise, honor, and glory (1 Pet. 1:6-7).

Our suffering offers possibilities.  Possibilities is defined as “unspecified qualities of a promising nature”.  In Latin, possibilis means “able to be done.”  All things are possible, even in the midst of suffering, if we build our full reliance and trust in God.  Is anything, including our suffering, too hard for God? (Jer. 32:27)

Possibilities build our hope.  As Christ trusted Himself to His Father, so should we believers commit ourselves to our faithful Creator (1 Pet. 4:19).  He remains our strong tower and defense regardless of the challenges we face.  In addition, our hope is anchored in the firm expectation that we will reign in heaven with Christ (2 Tim. 2:12).   We are to fix our eyes on Christ and the future He has for us, even though we may suffer all kinds of trials in these present times (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

Can any good come from suffering?

What would Joni Eareckson Tada say?  How would the Apostles Paul and Peter respond?  If we read their writings, we’d find they would answer yes.  Why would they respond in that manner?  Because they had developed the right theology of suffering.

That theology was not based on their current condition (suffering) but on their trust in God and their Kingdom worldview.  We are told that in everything we are to give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18).  That includes our suffering.  We know that in that suffering experience we are guaranteed the presence of God to sustain us and the exceeding promise of His glory, both now and in the future.

Next week, we will conclude our study on suffering by answering this question, “Where is God in suffering?”