Suffering

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May 23

Monday, May 23rd, 2022

I’m back…with more confusion! ūüôā¬† Revelation 16 has me bewildered. But rather than focus on the bowls of wrath and their meaning, let me take another road.

Several times throughout this chapter we are told the people blasphemed God.

  • In verse 9 it says they blasphemed God because He had power over the plagues but evidently didn’t exercise it.
  • In verse 11 they blasphemed because of their pain and sores.
  • In verse 21 they blasphemed God because of the plague of hail.

Let me just say that this chapter sounds a little like the plagues God put upon Egypt in Exodus. (Short side note there).

It has always been interesting to me how God gets the blame when tough times come. It is never because of our own stupidity, of course. It’s always God’s fault. Both followers of Christ and those who aren’t followers are too quick to blame Him for all the bad stuff that hits them. It’s as though we think that we “deserve” not to have this trouble. You know…we “deserve” better treatment. Ironically, in this chapter it is those who despise Him and His people who are doing the blaspheming. In verse 1 I think it is summed up well: “they blasphemed God because of …” It’s all His fault.

One last thought before I go: Verse 15 seems out of place but it is a true statement of hope: “Behold, I am coming like a thief.”

God is in control. There will come a day of reckoning. When that day will be no one knows.

“Father, help me to be ready. Keep my eyes focused on You not on events. And certainly help me not to blame and blaspheme Your Name.”

May 10

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

Okay…so this is strange. Maybe I should say, “This is getting stranger.” So I read Revelation 9 & 10 this morning. Chapter 8 (yesterday’s post) included the first 4 trumpets. Chapter 9 included trumpets #5 and 6. I read chapter 10 thinking Trumpet #7 would be there. Nope.

Chapter 8 seems to continue the ecological disaster from the previous chapter and the first 4 trumpets.  The big difference was who was doing the destroying. It starts in an abyss and out of the abyss comes a swarm of locusts. Not just locusts-which are bad enough-but a swarm of the ugliest, meanest, weirdest-looking locusts anyone could have ever seen. Their description is in verses 7-10.  But the big reveal is their leader: Abaddon (Hebrew) or Apollyon (Greek) . Translated: Satan. I guess the clue should have been where they came from: the abyss.  (Sounds like a scene from Lord of the Rings)

With the 6th trumpet comes more devastation. An angel (trumpet) releases an army that rains down devastation on the earth. But a change occurs in the narrative. Devastation and destruction rain down on the earth but this time people are included, not just the environment. Sinful people. Those who refused to repent (verses 20-21).

I’ll save chapter 10 for tomorrow.

What does all this mean? Got me. Hmmm. Perhaps the answer is two-fold. One, devastation is coming for sure. Two, maybe a clue is found in 10:4- “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken, and do not write them.” Perhaps we are not to know?

“Father, Your Word is sometimes too complex for me. But I trust it because I trust You and You are its author. I do not and can not know it all. Give me faith to trust You and Your Word.”

April 20

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Two things ran through my head this morning as I read the Scripture about the church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11).

One, around here we have a saying, “It’s all good.” Very seldom do you read or meet someone who either has nothing negative to say about another person or whom nothing negative is said about him/her. We tend to think there has to be a flaw somewhere. The church at Smyrna is one of those churches where there is nothing negative to speak of. Perfect church? There’s no such animal. But in matters which really count? Nothing. “It’s all good.”

The second item is a stab at the current idea that a follower of Jesus does not suffer.¬† There are certain religious teachers, i.e shysters, hucksters, false teachers who teach that a follower of Christ should not suffer. To suffer is to show a lack of faith. Hmmmm. I wonder what they might say about this passage in Rev. 2:8-11- “Do not fear what you are about to suffer…Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” In fact, previously in verse 9 Jesus says, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)…” Those both slam the door on the heretical health/wealth un-gospel (as I call it) of Copeland, Hinn, Osteen, et al. Tribulation (suffering) and poverty: both things they teach against.

As follower of Christ, we can and should expect suffering. The difference is when we are faithful unto death it will be well worth it. AND IT’S ALL GOOD!

“Father, Your Word says to expect suffering.* Give me the strength I need to hold up under the pressure and be faithful.”

April 14

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

One last thought from a quote in Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur:

“An easy, routine way of life which many associate with stability and security only gives man stagnation. Entrenched routine only spoils man and makes him simple and weak. On the other hand, progressive resistance in life always has the potential to give man progressive strength, and to make man progressively wiser…Resistance makes a man think new thoughts he never thought before. It makes a man seek answers he never sought before. It makes a man beg God for help that he never before realized he needed. Theses quests, quests of the heart and soul, eventually make a man deeper, wider, taller.” (Pages 249-250)

One of the fallacies of our thinking today among certain religious people is that we shouldn’t suffer, we shouldn’t have a hard time. Even the one deconstructing or questioning the faith states it: “Why do Christians suffer?” or some variation of that.

Tragically, we have bought into the lie that one who follows Jesus ought to have an easy life. It’s almost seen as a reward which is earned. I’d like to think I’m wrong in that assessment but I’m not.

Instead of seeing it as a punishment or a bad experience from a “mean” God, it seems wiser to consider them a way to grow. In the words of the quote: “To grow deeper, wider, fuller.” At this time of the year, when remembering the crucifixion of Jesus is right around the corner, let’s consider the suffering of Jesus as an example to us that we too should expect to follow in His steps. See I Peter 2:21-25.

“Father, may I see the difficulties in my life not as a bad thing but as a growth thing.”

March 30

Wednesday, March 30th, 2022

“It’s not fair.” If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times. If I’ve used it once…

That phrase came up in a texting conversation I had the other day. A very much loved brother and son is dying of cancer. He has fought valiantly. He has taken his treatments for his wife and 2 children and is still in a lot of pain. He will be called home soon and is ready to go. The words said to me where, “It’s not fair. He was an organic, health-conscious person.”

Consider me stumped.

Not because I didn’t know what to say or how this all fits into God’s dealings with man. I do on both counts. I do know what to say but I didn’t want to sound all cliche-driven. As for the latter, I can’t answer specifically for his case, but I do know sin has brought about destruction and death.

I think at the core of that statement¬† is the “I don’t understand.¬† Why him/her? When all the while this evil person is well or is healed” idea which runs through our head. In our heads, the injustice of it all just doesn’t gel, especially with the idea of a good God.¬† I think in the back of our minds is this feeling that “I’m a Christ-follower. I shouldn’t have to deal with this” mentality.

We have bought into the lie, be it ever so little, that we shouldn’t suffer. We rail against the health/wealth un-gospel, but all the while semi-expect it for us. The truth is that sickness and health, wealth and poverty, unhappiness and joyfulness, peace and misery are found equally in believers and unbelievers alike.

I could go on some more about this, but two things rise to the top of my thinking: 1) It (life)-good or bad-happens to all of us; and 2) no one knows God’s ultimate plan except for the fact we can’t see it all here. Someday we will. Someday justice will be served.

Take a moment and join me in what I read this morning: I Peter 5: 8-10. Perhaps that will help answer a question or two.

“Father, I don’t understand. Help me to rest and rely on Your plan and trust You to bring it all to pass.”

March 17

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

One word. That’s all it takes is one word and watch the reactions. Eyes glaze over. An eyebrow will be raised.¬† A hand will go the chin. Or you might even get a sigh, an exhale of air, and a judgmental look.

The word? Depression.

Disclaimer: I have never suffered from depression. I’ve have some down days, as have had all people from time to time. But I’ve never been one who suffers from it days, weeks, months, or even years. My first real exposure to it was in 1974 right after I had graduated from college. I visited a woman named Jane (not her real name) Doe in a psych ward. I could not understand how this woman who laughed a lot and called herself a Christian could be there.

How little I knew. Time. Maturity. Almost 50 years in ministry has shown me Jane is not alone. Some deeply spiritual people have suffered from depression. Some I know. Even pastors! (Charles Spurgeon being one of them). Some have clinical depression (it is in their DNA). Some have seasonal depression (they head south for the winter). Some have it from a past event or action. Some from guilt and shame. Some have it worse, like bi-polar. Medication is often prescribed for depression and should not be seen as a testimony to a lack of faith or a failure in their walk with Christ.

David suffered from depression upon occasion. Please stop right now and read Psalms 42 and 43 and tell me he didn’t. I soon learned depression was no laughing matter and certainly not something upon which to judge another person. I don’t always understand and may not always understand, but I must always have an understanding heart, a soft shoulder and a spirit of empathy.

“Father, teach me to be more caring. Help me not to judge a person’s closeness to you by his mental state. You are the One who knows all. Help me to be more loving.”

March 14

Monday, March 14th, 2022

One of the issues many Christ-followers struggle with is the advancement of evil. I’m not speaking necessarily about culture, although it certainly is an issue. We have slowly watched evil creep into our nation, our families, our churches, and yes, even us. Things we never thought would change have changed. Fifty years ago if someone had told us homosexuality would be normalized and accepted we would have probably pooh-poohed it. If someone had told us ten years ago that polyamory would seen as “right” and “normal,” we would have probably spit out our soup.

But…here we are. Accepting as normal things which are abnormal. Accepting as okay the things which are sin.

It is difficult for the one who loves Jesus and wants to serve Him to stand by and watch evil gain a foothold and even triumph. It was Edmund Burke who said, “The only way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

The Russia-Ukraine war, conflict, whatever the talking heads want to call it, is a good example of evil running rampant. An evil, deranged, ego maniac has attacked a sovereign country and is in the process of laying it to waste. I cringe as I see our leaders bow to him and not lift a finger. But then I read verses like Psalm 37: 38-39 which says, “But the wrongdoers will altogether be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be eliminated. But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in time of trouble.” (NASB2020).¬† I then remind myself he will lose. Evil will not triumph in the end. This is especially true in the fight of good vs evil, of the flesh vs the Spirit.

I pray each day for Ukraine and my friends there: Zee and her husband, Sam, and their two children, Zhenya (Jenny) and Zhora (George).  I finally heard from a pastor friend, Caleb Suko, who was in Odessa.  They are now in Moldova, doing ministry there and helping with the refugees.

In the end, righteousness will triumph. In life. In death. Amen.

February 28

Monday, February 28th, 2022

People often come into our lives who shape us, affect us, influence us, even change the course of our lives. Well over 10 years ago, a young lady whom I have never met in person came into my life and still profoundly affects me. I can say the same about a man, a pastor and missionary.  They both cause me to be grateful for those unseen people who God brings into my life.

I have never physically met Zee and Caleb. I met them through my blog. I could not even pinpoint when our paths crossed. But cross they have. Zee and I have exchanged comments on our blogs until we went dark for awhile. We exchanged books and I sent her a CD or two of music.¬† Her companions were the furry kind until she met Sam. They loved each other, married, and then shortly afterward decided to share their love by adopting Jenny and George, a brother and sister, who needed a home and lots of love. They got it. The 2 kids have grown (my how they have grown!). Zhenya (Jenny) and Zhora (George) are probably 6 years older than when I first saw them via pictures. I’ve never known what Sam does for a living; Zee works in some form of IT. They also love Jesus. Before I met her, Zee spent time in the states. A pastor of a church in Nashville, IN knew her from spending some time with her family. Oh yeah…did I tell you that Sam, Zee, Zhenya and Zhora live in Kiev?

Caleb is a missionary pastor. He married a Ukrainian girl and they have had 3 children. Caleb is pastoring a church in Odessa. Yeah, that Odessa. Ukraine. The church he pastors and the others he shepherds are ministering to the people in the city. They did not run.

I heard from Zee yesterday (Sunday) early morning after I sent her an email. Sam is one of the volunteers who patrol the city by taking up arms to defend their freedom. Zee and the kids are in the church basement steering clear of the missiles the ego maniac has ordered upon these freedom-loving people.

My heart aches for Zee’s family and friends. My heart aches for Pastor Caleb and his church and the pastors he shepherds. But I’m also encouraged by their resilience, their passion, their love for freedom, their country, their God, and for their friends and neighbors. Caleb pastors Odessa Baptist Church and Zee’s family (at my last word) attended a Nazarene church.

May they know God’s unlimited mercy and peace and grace. May they never forget there is a pastor and his church in Spencer, IN praying for them. May they know there is a nation that sees people who love freedom and are willing to pay the ultimate price to defend it.

My prayers-and hopefully yours-will be with people like Zee and Caleb and the Ukrainian nation. And may God bring an end to this ego maniac’s plan to destroy another country with his godless philosophy.¬†

November 4

Thursday, November 4th, 2021

I have been blessed in oh so many ways.  As our family grew, we have all been fairly healthy.  Other than the two babies, Jo was never in the hospital except for a hysterectomy and then a gall bladder removal. Other than my cycling accidents, I have been blessed with good health until my recent bout with long-haul COVID.  Our girls never spent a night in the hospital growing up.

I have been blessed with a personality that is outgoing, positive, and energetic (rumors of ADHD float around but I debunk those since I can sit for hours and read or work a puzzle).  Anyway, one of the hardest folks for me, and ones I have finally come to somewhat understand, are those who suffer from depression. Let me explain please.

When I was in my early 20s and still very much wet around the ears and very naive, I was a youth pastor who found himself visiting a lady (I will call her Jane) in a psych ward. I had no clue what clinical depression was. I had no clue that some had DNA that leaned that way. Jane was fine one week and the next she was in the psych ward. I didn’t understand.

Sadly, I was somewhat judgmental. I was also clueless. “How could a follower of Jesus have trouble with depression?” It has taken me years-and I do mean years-to understand the battle some face. I’ve seen how it is passed to children and grandchildren.

I think David may have had some of this. From the heights of some psalms to the depths of Psalm 42, one can see it. “Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me?” (v.5).¬† “My soul is in despair within me.” (v.6) “I will say to God, my rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me?’ “ (v.9) “Why are you in despair, my soul?” (v.11)

I’m much more understanding now. We all go through hills and valleys. We all go through highs and lows. We all go through moments of joy and despair. It usually has nothing to do with something we have done (although there are exceptions). What I’m concerned with more is my patience, or lack of it, with those who are. For all of us, Psalm 42:11 rings true.

“Father, forgive me when I am impatient or judgmental toward struggles of others. Change my heart and attitude.”

October 25

Monday, October 25th, 2021

I know very few people who like tests. I have a daughter who didn’t do very well with tests. We found that out early on thanks to a teacher. Call it a worksheet on a Tuesday and she “Aced” it. Call that same worksheet a test on Wednesday and she barely passed.

I can understand that. In high school I didn’t really care. In college I did. I found out in my high school Spanish class I could do fairly well in class. A test? Not so. In Geometry and Trig I could do okay in class and even as I studied. A test? How many ways can you say, “Bomb”? In college, I did okay with Greek class. I knew the words. I knew the synonyms and antonyms. In class. But give me a test? Bombs away!

Life is full of tests. Some I have passed; some I have failed. Some I have passed with flying colors; some not so. Some I was the poster child for steadfastness and faithfulness and trust; some for negativity and wishy-washedness and failure.

I’m thinking this morning of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham failed a few times along the way, but this would be his ultimate test.¬† Pass or fail? Stand¬† tall or bite the dust? Trust or waver? Genesis 22 tells us he passed. As did Isaac.

It isn’t easy when being tested. Choosing the hard way sometimes is a challenge. Choosing to trust is sometimes a real chore. Choosing to stay the course and to trust is sometimes next to impossible.

But stay I/we should. The reward is phenomenal!

“Father, may I stand firm in spite of the test. May I choose to remain steadfast and follow Your path.”