Suffering

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January 22

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

My thoughts are focused this morning (I wrote this at 4:15) on Alexander, and by proxy, Jimmy, Christine, Eliza and Isabella. (Ryan and I went at 5:15 but had to leave at 8:30 because of a previous commitment Ryan had. I am typing this at 11:16 and they took Alexander at 10:40 and expect it to last 3-4 hours. I will let you know when I know something. Thanks so much for praying for him).  “Oh Father, I pray for Alexander during  this exploratory and possibly life-changing surgery. Be with the eyes and hands and minds of the doctors and nurses as they work. I pray for an alternative for his heart, but if it is not to be, I pray for grace for Jimmy and Christine. Either way I pray You will be glorified, that You will be given honor and this will be a testimony to you. And I pray for Alexander-that no matter the outcome You will use him for Your glory. Now and in the future.”

Tonight we meet with a young lady named Katherine and her family to pray over her and anoint her with oil. She is 13 and has had Lyme disease since she was 3. (She went 2 years with it misdiagnosed). She is out of remission right now and it is raining havoc in her teenage body. We meet tonight in accordance with James 5:14-15. It started with me visiting them; then I wanted to include Ryan (since she is part of the youth group); then I wanted to include the elders/leaders. I’m praying for healing. Medicine and the medical community says there is no cure for this. Maybe so. But I serve a God who is bigger than that, One who can do more than I or anyone can imagine. It may not be His will to completely heal her. But I don’t know that. I’m called on to pray in faith believing He will heal her.  I refuse to doubt God’s power and sovereignty. I do know Katherine, her mom and dad (Becca and Rob); her grandma (Joyce) all belong to God. She has a sister, Ally, who loves Jesus. She also has two young brothers, James and Robbie, who love Jesus as they know Him. We will pray tonight believing in God’s healing power.

One last thought:Pr.22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” May my life be an expression of God working in and through me with more concern for Whom I represent than what I can get out of it. May I labor for Him and not for wealth or earthly gain and appeal.

January 17/Weekend

Friday, January 17th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Storm vs Calm.

In September of this past year (2019) Jo and I were blessed with the trip/dream of a lifetime-a trip to Alaska. After having made the decision in early ’19 to look into a trip and then deciding to save one more year, some folks in the church I pastor took the initiative to contact others to “bless us.” In late March/early April they surprised us with the all-expense paid trip. We were blown away to say the least.

We have lots of memories of that trip-tangible ones like pictures and t-shirts. But one that hit me today was that we did not encounter any rough weather on or off land. It was absolutely gorgeous! Even the one day we were cruising Tracy Arm Fjord where it rains 100″/year, it was sunny and bright and calm. I’m glad. All my life I’ve had trouble with going in circles and riding rough, windy roads. I had not been able to ride and read in a vehicle EVER (hence my tough time studying on the bus during basketball trips in college). I finally learned a trick to be able to read on the interstate (while someone else is driving of course! 🙂 ), but rough sea weather? That could have spelled disaster on the trip.  Frankly, I did not want to find out if I had sea legs or not.

In real time, storms are a part of life. I get fried whenever I think of the smiling speaker who says I am to have my best life now. Heaven becomes a downgrade when you think about it. No thank you. Storms are a part of life. The way I see it I have either been through a storm and may be enjoying a reprieve; going through a storm right now; or will be going through one soon enough. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests the hearts.” In I Peter 1:6-7 Peter talks about our faith being tested to show the genuineness of it-more precious than gold. Storms are a part of life; a part of growth; a part of the life of the Christ-follower. Storms are never comfortable, but in God’s plan are always essential. A storm on a boat is dubious for me. A storm in life is expected and ALWAYS has a purpose. Among many, one huge purpose is God keeps His promise of being there. A.L.W.A.Y.S.

“Father, storms serve so much more of a purpose than calm. Although calm is nice, storms have a purpose and will benefit my growth. Help me to trust You that storm comes.”

January 10

Friday, January 10th, 2020

My tile for this devotion is Stretch: Growth vs Ease.

I attended a JV basketball game last night of our local high school. I don’t really know any of the players except by name only, but since I was taking tickets I watched the girls game and then took tickets for 1/2 of the boy’s game.  Our JV boys have two young men who are Sophomores. One is 6’4″ and the other is 6’8″. Both play on the JV, both dress for the Varsity, but both are misfits. By that I don’t mean they they aren’t any good, uncoordinated, or all hands. On the contrary, they both, especially the 6’8″ guy, move with some pretty good fluidity.

But they are misfits. Why? Because everything came too easily. The shorter of the two worked fairly hard, Compared to the other team he was more on their plain. But the taller guy was not being challenged. No hands were in his face when he shot. His shot wasn’t really challenged. He hardly had to jump. My question was this: why is that boy not starting on the Varsity? The varsity team is not setting any fires this year. They have one Junior who started as a Freshman and if he stays healthy will get a scholarship somewhere. But there is not reason why the 6’8″ young man is not playing varsity. He could be getting so much better by being challenged.

Growth happens when we stretch, not stay with the status quo. Growth happens when we are challenged, not when things come easily. James 1:2-4 backs that up. Stretching is painful; hurtful; sometimes excruciating, but oh so necessary.

“Father, stretching hurts, but status quo does too. Just in a different way. As much as I like ease that is not the way of a Christ-follower. Stretch me. Grow me into your likeness.”

January 3

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Sorry this is late in coming today. Computer issues (it wouldn’t turn on) were a big downer. Finally…

My title for this devotion is Ready or Not.

As a child playing hide-n-seek the saying was familiar.  Count to 100 as everyone scatters and then say, “Ready or not here I come.”

I think one of the things many, if not most, people don’t like are surprises. Oh, we don’t mind surprises on our birthday or at Christmas. We like the surprise of seeing a loved one we haven’t seen in awhile (like a service man surprising his/her child at school). Those kinds of surprises bring a chill up and down our spine and a smile to our face and heart.

It’s the other kind of surprise we aren’t fond of. The kind that take the wind out of our sails. The kind that take our breath away. The kind that test our faith. They hit us when we least expect it. These seem to rise up out of nowhere and slam us. I don’t know about you but those are the kind I don’t like!

But I read something today that speaks to that. Proverbs 3:25-26 says, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” We are often thrown curve balls. Some pitchers throw curve balls so wicked they buckle the knees of the batter. Life’s surprises may do that but God’s Word says we don’t have to be afraid of them. Not when our confidence is in God.

“Father, help me to not be afraid of life’s surprises. Instead, help me to trust You no matter what comes.”

November 19

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Will He or Will He Not.

I believe all of us have struggled at one time or another with believing God is faithful. A tough time comes; a downturn in our business; a health issue dogs our tracks; we lose something or someone of importance; a child wanders from his/her faith; a marriage blows up; the examples are numerous. It is during those times that we have a question to ask: Will He or Will he not?

Will God keep His promises, or will He not? Will He be faithful, or will He not? Will He sustain His love, or will He not? Will He renew my strength, or will He not? The questions about God are as numerous as the examples.

But one thing I know: God DOES keep His promise. What promise is that? “I will never leave your or forsake you.” How do I know that? Well..I’ve seen it fleshed out in my own life for one. Some of the horrendous things I’ve done surely made Him cringe at the least. I have to wonder how and why He stayed true. I know the answer to that.

HE PROMISED IT.

Look no further than the Christmas story. How could one not read that story and see God’s promise fulfilled? 3-4 centuries (maybe more) passed from His promise in the Garden to the night in Bethlehem and 33 years later on a cross. Those two events sealed the deal.

The Christmas story alone would have been enough. That story alone shows God keeps His promises. The cross? The nail in the coffin.

“Father, when I’m doubting; when I’m swinging on a pendulum of emotion; when I’m having a tough time connecting the dots between life’s reality and  feelings, remind me of the Christmas story. Proof positive of Your faithfulness to Your promises.”

November 6

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Giving Up vs Giving In.

I realize as I write that title some would say, “But Bill. Those are essentially saying the same thing.” On the surface I would agree, but on a deeper level I’d say, “Hang in there with me. I want to take it and stretch it.”

Giving up is what someone does when they seem to have no hope left. We might use the term “throw in the towel” to indicate surrender. Lots of people do that.  Life gets hard; fortunes turn; a medical diagnosis turned life upside down; and we find ourselves throwing our hands in the air. We give up.

On the other hand, we don’t give up…we give in. Like King Hezekiah in Isaiah 36-37. Sennacherib, king Assyria, invaded Judah.  He sent a messenger to the king painting a very dark picture of Judah’s future (as well as slamming on God). Hezekiah seeks Isaiah’s help, then he goes to God himself. Hezekiah could have given up but instead he chose to give in. He chose to give in to God’s plan. Isaiah reassured him but a letter from Assyria drove him to the temple and into God’s presence where he spread the letter out before God and poured out his heart to God. He didn’t give up; he gave in to the only One who could save him and his people. He put his trust in God…where it belonged.

God brought about his/Judah’s deliverance by routing the Assyrian army. God will do the same for me. For you. While it may not be a literal army attacking, he will take what seems like an army and bring it into submission to Him.

“Father, help me not to give up and give into despair. Help me not to give up hope. Instead, help me to give in to You, to take the seemingly impossible situation and trust You to work things out as you did for Hezekiah.”

June 18

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Shaken vs. Broken.

Have you ever received a box as a gift and your first inclination is to do what? Shake it. Kids are notorious for doing that. Unfortunately, shaking it sometimes breaks it, especially if it is not packaged well. How different it is to be pleasantly surprised and then slowly and carefully unwrapping the gift to see what’s inside.

There are some peoples’ lives who seem to be a story of shaken. It seems every day brings something new to challenge them. Tragedy hits. One after another. The loss of a job.  Child(ren).  Property. Friends (yes, even so-called church friends). A thousand voices screaming unasked for and uncalled for advice. Feelings of despair. Accusations. Failing health.

Know someone like that? I do. His name is Job. Job went through more than anyone I know. He was shaken but his faith was not broken. In fact, Job 1:22 says, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

There are some people you just have to admire. Their life seems to be one shaking after another. I must admit that while I have had my share of setbacks (some self-inflicted) and downturns, and yes tragedies, there are people who have had it a lot worse than me. Those are the ones I admire. Especially when their faith is strong and stands the test. They are shaken but not broken. How about you?

“Father, when it comes to being shaken, may my faith be strong. May it be said of me ‘In all this he did not sin or charge God with wrong.’  May my faith stand secure in You.”