Why All the Suffering in the World?

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One of the tough questions I get asked often is, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I must admit, I do not fully know the answer.  One thing I know is that God is with us during the pain.  I am sure you all know someone who is going through a difficult time. Maybe you are going through challenges right now. Maybe it’s your loved ones dealing with pain. The multi-million dollar question is: “Why does the all-loving, all-knowing God allow people to experience pain and suffering?” I may not have all the answers, you may not have the answers, but I know that God’s Word provides comfort, hope, and guidance through difficulties. Below are a few verses for you:

1. God will see you through
Psalm 18:2 – “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

2. In the midst of your pain, God is there.
Psalm 34:18 – “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

3. Jesus knows and understands. He suffered pain, too!
Hebrews 2:18 – “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

4. There is a reason. Pain leads to repentance
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

5. There is a reason. Pain leads to hope in the Future
Revelation 22:4-5 “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

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6. The cross we bear precedes the crown we shall wear!
Romans 8:18 – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

7. God knows the reason. Praise Him despite the pain.
Job 1:21 – And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Job 6:10 – This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.

8. God provides the Strength to Overcome Pain
1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

9. God provides the Grace to Handle the Pain
I Corinthians 4:9-10 – “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

10. You are not alone.
1 Peter 5:9-10 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Engaging in a Two-way Conversation With God

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Two-way conversation is a healthy way of verbal interaction between two parties engaged in the transmission of information. A two-way conversation is personal, and effective.

The definition of prayer is:  it is a two-way conversation with God.  One speaks to God, and God speaks back.

Since the time I could speak, my mother taught me to pray. She taught me to pray before meals, and at bed time.  As I grew older, I learned to pray for things I wanted from God.  These things could be good health, to pass a test at school, to get a job, to get food, to get a girl to like me, and the list goes on.

It was as if prayer was a grocery list I took to the “God-mart” for shopping.  In some ways, prayer was like a magic phrase I yelled to God when I needed urgent help.  I treated prayer like my convenient wand I pointed at material things my heart craved.  I often prayed, asking God for material things, then bolting out of the prayer time without waiting for God’s response.  I assumed my role is to ask, God’s role is to give me whatever I wanted.

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Philippians 4:6-9, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Prayer is a two-way, relational communication between God and His beloved children.  Prayer is a conversation between two beings who love and respect each other.  Prayer is like a walk down the beach at sunset, hand in hand with your daddy. “Prayer at its highest is a two-way conversation –and for me the most important part is listening to God’s replies.” (Frank C. Laubach)  A personal relationship with God is impeded by a one-directional, self-centered conversation.

We are already good at asking God for stuff. We need to learn to listen to God.  We need to change our prayer lists into two-way conversations with God.  This happens when we listen.  We cannot listen if we do not know how God speaks.  How then does God speak to us?

God speaks through His Word, the Bible.

God speaks through an audible voice.

God speaks through circumstances

God speaks through the church. Yes, through the sermons, worship, songs, and Bible Studies.

God speaks through people. He can speak through the children, the neighbor, your friends, family, mentors, and so forth.

God speaks through visions and dreams.  While dreams and visions could be difficult to interpret, it does not mean God does not use them to say something to you.  (Blackaby)

Next time you pray, take time to listen. Prayer is a two-way conversation.

  • How often do you pray?
  • How would you rate your prayer time?
  • What’s good, and what’s bad about your prayer?  Why?
  • What stops you from praying? Why?
  • What stops you from listening to God?  Why?
  • How could you make your prayer time a two-way conversation with God?
  • What do you think God is saying to you these days?

 

Blackaby, H. T., & King, C. V. (1994). Experiencing God: How to live the full adventure of knowing and doing the will of God. Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Disruptive Worship

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Disruptive innovation is an innovation that challenges the status quo.  “A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances.” The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.

When Jesus came to earth 2,000 years ago, He disrupted the worship of the day. His arrival disrupted Herod’s plans.   His arguments captivate the religious leaders. His righteousness anger overturned tables and drove the traders out of the synagogue. His revolutionary love, and incomprehensible grace disrupted the universe by forgiving the unforgivable, loving the unlovable, and redeeming the hopeless.

We should do the same.  We should dare to disrupt the religious apathy of today. We should bravely challenge the status quo.

I am in no way, comparing my proposal to the advent of Christ.  However, there is a deadness, a degree of apathy in the church today that needs to be disrupted.  There is a complacency that has chilled the church to the point of ineffectiveness.  I am proposing the introduction of a Holy Spirit induced worship disruption.

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We need the Holy Spirit to disrupt our sanitized comfortable worship.  We need the Holy Spirit to displace and bankrupt the cold, religious services that pass as worship. We need the Holy Spirit to disrupt our well planned, neatly laid out plans.  We need the Holy Spirit to disrupt our immaculate, beautifully manicured church programs.  I pray for God to replace our spiritual apathy with a spirit filled, God honoring, Jesus uplifting worship.

John 4:23-24, Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (NIV)

What would this kind of worship/lifestyle look like?

  • Pray for revival
  • Ask for forgiveness for self, and the church
  • Worship God earnestly, in Spirit.
  • Christians must start to forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, and redeem the hopeless.
  • Get lost in worship.  Allow God to take you deeper and farther.
  • The time is now.

Hang On In There

 Do not give up

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:3-6

 As your pastor, I pray for you often.  Sometimes I go through the directory bringing your names and families before God.  In particular, I deeply feel the need to encourage you.  I know many of you face difficulties with family, at work, health issues, financial challenges, loneliness and so forth.  I want to tell you I prayed for you this morning.  I also want to encourage you to hang on in there, no matter how tough the battle gets.  We will be victorious.

  1. Don’t give up. Your victory is Close
    Sometimes we give up too early.  Hang on in there.  You are too close to give up.

Isaiah 41:10, “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.” (NIV)

  1. Your victorious testimony will encourage others
    Someone will be encouraged, uplifted and ministered to through your perseverance.

Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (NIV)

  1. Others Have Done It, so can you.
    Many people have gone through what you are going through, and they have made it. You can make it.

Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)

  1. With God, All Things are Possible (Luke 1:37)
    God can. We do not do anything on our own.  God does it through us.
  2. You Have More Strength Than You Know (Romans 8:31)
    You can more than you can realize. “Greater is He who is in you, than he that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
  3. If you quit now, quitting tomorrow becomes easier
    You don’t want to be known as someone who gives up easily. Go out there and show the world you can do it. Through Jesus, you CAN and WILL achieve what He has set out for you to do.
  4. Believe Your Promise
    What God said will happen, will happen. Don’t sell yourself short. In life there are going to be many people who will try to bring you down and tell you what you want to achieve is not possible. Don’t let anyone destroy your dreams.
  5. When you quit, you let yourself down. You let many down. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

When you quit you let God down.  You let yourself down.  You let those cheering you on down. Do not give up on your dream.

Quitting Failure is not a death sentence, staying down is

“For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” – Proverbs 24:16. Get up, dust yourself up, and keep on keeping on.

  1. Delay is not denial.

Do not lose patience with God.  He will do it in His time.  Hang on in there.  Do not give up.  Sometimes, we learn the most during the times of delay.

Running the Race of Life with Perseverance

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As the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. I have been reflecting on what it takes to win a gold medal.  Many of the athletes attribute their success to discipline, perseverance, and hard-work.  As Christians, we find these attributes beneficial in our Christian “race.”  We are all called to a life that demands perseverance.

In light of that, I have decided to give you a few verses on Perseverance.

Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Psalm 27:14 – “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
Romans 5:3-4  – “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Galatians 6:9 – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Romans 2:7 – “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”
Hebrews 10:36 – “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

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1 Chronicles 16:11 – “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.”
Matthew 10:22 – “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Hebrews 11:27 – “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.”
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
2 Thessalonians 3:5 – “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”
James 1:2-4 – “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
1 Timothy 4:16 – “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
2 Peter 1:5-7 – “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
James 5:11 – “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

Who’s Watching You? (Reblog from Our Daily Bread)

Christ the Redeemer

No matter where the athletes of the 2016 Olympics go in the city of Rio de Janeiro, they can see Jesus. Standing high above this Brazilian city and anchored to a 2,310-foot-high mountain called Corcovado is a 100-foot-tall sculpture called Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). With arms spread wide, this massive figure is visible day and night from almost anywhere in the sprawling city.

As comforting as this iconic concrete and soapstone sculpture may be to all who can look up and see it, there is much greater comfort from this reality: The real Jesus sees us. In Psalm 34, David explained it like this: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry” (v. 15). He noted that when the righteous call out for His help, “The Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (vv. 17–18).

God oversees our lives, and He hears the cries of those who trust Him.

Just who are the righteous? Those of us who place our trust in Jesus Christ, who Himself is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). Our God oversees our lives, and He hears the cries of those who trust Him. He is near to help in our greatest times of need.

Jesus has His eyes on you.

The Lord never lets us out of His sight.

(Reblog from Our Daily Bread) http://odb.org/2016/08/05/whos-watching-you/

Psalm 34:15-22, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.  The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.   The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.  Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.  The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”

Letting My Soul Catch Up

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A story is told of an American traveler who planned a safari to Africa. He hired some local people to help carry some of the traveler’s supplies as they trekked throughout the land.

On the first morning, they all woke up early and traveled fast and covered a great distance. The second morning was the same—woke up early, traveled fast, and traveled far. Third morning, same thing. But on the fourth morning, the local hired help refused to move. Instead, they sat by a tree in the shade well into the morning. The American traveler became incensed and irate and said to his translator, “This is a waste of valuable time. Can someone tell me what’s going on here?” The translator looked at him and calmly answered, “They’re waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.” Terry Hershey, Sacred Necessities: Gifts for Living with Passion, Purpose, and Grace, 68-69.

We live in a fast-paced world. We are always rushing from one appointment to another.  We wake up to get the children ready, drive them to school, and then go to work.  Some of us spend the days in meetings, while others are driving children all over the city.  Cooking, cleaning, and laundry duties await us upon our return home. The 24-hour days seem like they are too short.  If only the day was 3 more hours longer, I would accomplish more, so we think.  Life is traveling at supersonic speeds, affording us little time for anything else.

Since reading the book, First, Things First, by Steve Covey, I have been convicted to reorganize my calendar.  Since then, I set a goal to practice solitude.  What is solitude?  Solitude is intentional time to be alone to reflect on life, pray, and mediate on God’s Word. Mark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Jesus was in the habit of withdrawing from people, to be alone.  He found it necessary to go to a solitary place to pray.  Since I started taking time for solitude, I have found it to be a great personal blessing.

I come back refreshed, recharged, rejuvenated, and invigorated for ministry and service.  Over the last six months, God has affirmed me in many ways through spending time with Him.  I used to fill my calendar with one meeting after another.  Since taking time for solitude, I now plan my schedule better, starting with the most important things.  I prioritize my appointments based on my life values.  My life values are: my relationship with God; my relationship with my wife, my relationship with my family; and then my ministry.

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The African helpers mentioned earlier, were not necessarily tired, they just wanted to slow down their fast paced lives.  In the same way, solitude, stops us so that our souls can catch up.  Our lightning speed lifestyles are detrimental to our spiritual growth. Through solitude, God has an opportunity to heal, restore, and refresh our souls. God can get through to us. Solitude helps put things into perspective – the world does not need me.  The world can function quite well without me and my input! What a sober fact.

  • Do you take time to meet with God every day?
  • How valuable is your time with God?
  • What do you do to make your time with God fruitful?
  • Do you use a commentary, devotional book, writing pad, and the Bible?
  • Do you have an accountability partner?
  • What can you say has been the biggest reward of meeting with God?
  • If you are not setting aside time to meet with God, what is stopping you?
  • How can you overcome those obstacles?
  • Where can you go to get away, so you can get closer to God?