Why we Suffer

Luke 23:31 proclaims if such things as this are done to me, the Living Tree, what will they do to you?image

God makes this comment while carrying His cross to His crucifixion. Suffering is horrible but it should not be unexpected.

Men have killed men since the first son Cain, in anger and revenge, struck down the second born son Abel. We even struck down God when He came to visit us personally in Jesus the Messiah so He warns if we will do this to Him how much more will we do to one another?

Our struggle with God is His apparent obliviousness or helplessness to stop it. We should remember that as He warned us of suffering neither did He interrupt His own suffering by stopping it.

God suffering and dying is part of God’s plan for reconciliation and restoration. His justice requires blood be shed for our disobedience thus He shed His blood though innocent so He could pardon all of humanity who are guilty.

The resurrection proves God wins. The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee that we too will rise from the dead. The resurrection from the dead is the defeat of death and the assurance of a better tomorrow.

God surrendered the rule of this world to men and demons. Two entities He created for His glory who choose instead to rebel against Him.

God has not abandoned this world but He seeks to save this world by reconciling people to Himself before He finally destroys this world because of its constant rebellion against our Maker.

He promises a new world where He will rule as He lives among men as King of kings without temptation from rebellious angels.

In the meantime, those who love God, will suffer even as He suffered because many still oppose God but His people are to live God’s ways so that the world might experience the difference between God’s world to come and the one we are living in now.

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The Key to Resisting Temptation

Luke 22.46 exclaims, “Asleep! Get up! Pray God that you will not fall when you are tempted.”image

Twice in this chapter God invites His followers to pray so that they will not fail when temptation comes. Temptation always comes says God, but whoa to Him through whom temptation comes. While always dangerous to add to God’s words, an argument could be made to add, ‘and whoa to Him who yields to temptation.’

Perhaps this is what the Lord Jesus spent most of His time praying about, it certainly was in His last recorded prayer. Jesus’ work of prayer was the accumulation of spiritual resolve to do God’s will over against His own. Our failure to log large volumes of prayer for spiritual resolve probably explains our vast failure to do and live the will of God in our lives.

How important is our resistance to temptation anyway? Asked another way, how serious does God take sin? God has demonstrated His violence toward sin in at least three major occurrences as recorded in the Bible.

First, He destroyed the entire earth by flood except for 8 people due to the wickedness of humanity. That seems pretty serious.

Second, He destroyed His temple, His people and His first covenant with Israel as a result of their consistent rebellion against Him.

Finally, He sacrificed His own perfect Son as a sacrifice for the sins of all humanity inaugurating His second or new covenant. Even when Jesus asked for an alternative solution God the Father was resolute that His Son should perish. Pretty serious business.

God says one day He will judge every person based upon their obedience to His commands separating Himself for all eternity by fire and torment those who refused to humble themselves before Him while they lived on this earth.

God appears to take sin seriously, we would do well to do the same.

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What is Faith?

1 Samuel 17:47 teaches that the Lord does not depend on weapons to fulfill his plans—he works without regard to imageshuman means!

This verse is the antithesis to that famous pseudo Bible verse that teaches God helps those who help themselves. My mother was fond of quoting this statement though we never attended church while I was a child.

While the Bible certainly commands work and condemns laziness it promotes faith and trust in God as the means to please Him. God is not far off, neither has He wrung His hands of human activity so He takes no delight in our workings without Him regardless of how noble we think our efforts.

The Bible teaches the opposite of human nature: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, He uses the foolish to confound the wise, He uses the poor to shame the rich and He uses the weak to overcome the strong.

In this particular case a boy defeated a giant not because he was faster, stronger or better equipped but because God’s purposes were on the line and only a boy was willing enough to trust God to see Him create victory.

Faith in God is not inactivity while passively waiting for God to show up with an angelic host of big guys. Faith is doing the will and work of God realizing that unless God shows up and proves Himself strong we will utterly fail. Faith believes and thus acts in victory because it trusts God to see us through.

God is not interested in working with those who have all the strength, wisdom or money to accomplish His purposes for then we wouldn’t need Him. When we use our own strength, wisdom and money to do God’s work we tend to think God needs us!

Faith in God is obeying Him knowing that what He is asking cant be supplied by our own resources but must come from Him to meet the need. True, this coming from Him almost always involves other people being part of the solution.

God works through people with faith to accomplish His purposes but only as each one does their part so that we learn to work together while depending on our Father.

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Growing our Faith

Luke 17:5 asks, “We need more faith; tell us how to get it.”image

A pretty simple question posed by the Apostles to the God of the universe that provides God the open door He needs for explaining the process to getting and increasing faith. If you watch Christian television you would believe that faith is the most important thing God requires from us.

So here it is, a softball lobbed into God’s wheel house by His followers. His reply?

First, a rebuke.

God has a tendency to unpack the motive of our questions so that we can see the poverty of our hearts and our desperate need for a Savior. The question implies faith already exists; the issue isn’t some faith but more faith. God replies that if their faith were the size of a pin head, a mustard seed, they could uproot vegetation and have it walk into the sea.

Lesson one is that if you think you have a lot of faith you probably have very little faith. Work on getting a little faith and you will eventually have a lot of faith. But how?

Then God says a slave is expected to do all they are assigned without recognition or reward. A slave doesn’t do anything special by serving the master, though he serves he does only what he has been told to do.

What does this have to do with gaining more faith? Faith is inherent to obedience.

An element of trust is exchanged between the one who does what he is told and the one telling them what to do. The one doing trusts the one telling that what they are doing will be good, profitable, and rewarded.

Jesus was perfectly obedient. His perfect obedience allowed Him to accomplish the work He was assigned to do. His obedience demonstrated His faith in the plan of God and His love for God’s plan.

We love Jesus when we obey His commands. We demonstrate faith when we do God’s will for we show ourselves and the world that God’s way is better than our way.

As we increase in obedience we increase in faith for through our obedience we experience the wisdom of God and the presence of God. God’s ways are the best ways, not mine.

As I obey Him I demonstrate my faith in Him so the more I obey the more my faith grows.

God answered their question by reminding them they are servants of God and if they will faithfully, obediently serve God as they should, their faith will grow.

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Handling Money Properly

Luke 16.11 observes if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of imagesheaven?

What does it mean to be untrustworthy with worldly wealth? Does it mean stealing money from others? There is already a command against stealing. Does it mean accumulating financial debt? There are already warnings about debtors being servants to lenders.

In the context of the teaching it appears to mean loving money more than God. It means trusting in money for our security more than trusting in God Who controls all things.

Jesus told the story of a man who was a thief and was fired after being caught. To help him survive without a job the thief further stole from his boss by changing his boss’ accounts so that people owed him instead of the boss. Jesus said this guy was shrewd or smart and resourceful at taking care of himself. Yet he was a man on a mission to miss the kingdom of God.

Jesus warns us that if we too are so engaged in trying to ensure our future by focusing on the accumulation of money we risk missing the kingdom of God.

We do have a propensity to worry more about mortgage payments and retirement funds than we do with the number of people who are going to heaven. Eternity is a long time. We all live forever we just don’t all live together in the same place.

Those who love God most and seek first His kingdom will live with Him forever but those who love money most and seek first their own welfare will live forever in torment and suffering.

The person who forgets to make God first is like the person who spends all they have today without putting any money into some form of retirement program. When that person gets to age 70 they will have nothing to live on and are most likely unable to provide for themselves (think no social security).

So too will that person be who places all their emphasis on wealth and security without making the building of God’s kingdom their first and highest priority. When this person stands before God and He assess their life based upon His ROI they will have nothing to offer and so will be cast away like the man who returned his talent to the king without so much as a bit of interest to show for it.

God certainly loves us but let us not think we are unaccountable for how we live in obedience to His commands. What kind of God would He be if He didn’t care at all how we lived? He certainly cared about how He lived among us as Jesus being careful to obey everything His Father commanded lest He disqualify Himself as Savior of the world.

God cares so much about disobedience He crucified His Son for ours, He didn’t just forgive everyone’s sin, He sacrificed His Son over our sin. How much more will He do to those who refuse to take up their cross and follow Jesus?

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The Purpose of our Suffering

Psalm 38.3 declares my health is broken beneath my sins.image

God uses pain in our life to remind us of our need for Him.

Two realities need to be ever present in our thinking if we are going to successfully pass from this life into the next.

First, is that we have been Created by God for God. The purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We who are in Christ are not our own but have been purchased by His blood to serve Him all of our days. In our pursuit of our own security and pleasures we tend to forget God’s will and purpose placing our own ways above God’s ways.

God does not hit us in the head with a hammer every time we place His interests on the back burner but He does use pain in our life to remind us to turn back to Him and to re-prioritize our lives toward His will and ways. If His Kingdom is to come to earth as it is in heaven then His people must be busily engaged in bringing it about.

The second purpose of pain is to remind us we wont be staying on this earth forever but will one day stand before God to reap our eternal reward. All of humanity has been created in the image of God so like Him we will live forever but where we live is determined by how we lived this life.

These bodies are prone to death and all die but where all will live is determined by their relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Those who have humbled themselves before God and asked for His pardon through the Lord Jesus will be granted eternal life in the coming Kingdom but those who refuse to submit to Jesus the Lord will be judged unworthy of God and will reap their desire of eternal separation from God where there will be eternal torment and suffering.

Those who seek God through Jesus will receive the healing they desire, either in this life or in the one to come. Those who refuse Jesus will never be released from pain and suffering.

It was not God’s original intent for us to suffer and die but in our rebellion we have reaped the consequences of our disobedience.

God uses this suffering to remind us of Him, are we tuning in?

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Counting the Cost

Luke 14:28 warns don’t begin until you count the cost.image

I continue to be amazed at God’s attitude toward saving the world while He lived among us. Certainly His sacrifice had and has world-wide significance and impact because God loves the world since He Himself is both Creator and Sustainer of all life in the world.

However, when He had the opportunity to say to the world that He loved everyone and everyone would be welcome into His eternal heaven He chose not to make such a statement. God instead chose to communicate that few would make it into heaven, that the road was difficult and that we should count the cost before claiming to be His followers.

God encouraged us to consider all the things we had and all the people we love then when comparing them to our love for Him, live as though we hated those things.

The problem with God is He believes He is God and as God demands our love and loyalty above all things.

Many who claim to be His followers in the world are suffering greatly right now, their cost is very high in possessions and relationships. The middle east is on fire being set ablaze by Muslims who are using Christians for their fuel. Throughout history the physical cost to follow Jesus has been enormously high among a few. None of us wish to suffer but we all must count the cost of placing Jesus first and foremost in our lives.

So what does that look like for the vast majority of us who are not being persecuted for claiming to be adherents of Jesus and His teachings?

Loving God more than family means leading our family to love God. The cost we must pay is death to our selfish ends, death to ignorance of God and instead apply our self with the utmost diligence to know God and to pass this information along to our children through word and deed.

Loving God more than our treasure means choosing to build relationally with our family so that we can influence them toward Christ rather than working extra hours so we can provide nicer things and a more comfortable life. It means giving as much as we can to the building of God’s kingdom while keeping as little as possible for meeting our own needs.

Loving God more than ourselves means placing the needs of others above our own beginning with everyone’s fundamental need for reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. We must sacrifice our comfort and objectives in order to place God’s objective of global salvation at the forefront of our prayers, efforts and goals – beginning right where we are in our homes and communities.

It costs to be God’s disciple, what price are we paying?

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Pursuing Greatness

Luke 9:48 observes your care for others is the measure of your greatness.image

When the disciples discuss being the greatest of all God does not reprove them for their desire but rather He refocuses them upon its proper accomplishment.

The One True God, the God of the Christian Bible, He alone defines greatness as service for others.

God modeled such greatness serving to the point of death as a substitutionary sacrifice for the evil all people from all time have committed against God. God lived as man among us not to be served but to serve and to lay down His life as a ransom for many.

God is great so it makes sense people made in His image would seek greatness. Our predisposition by birth is antagonism toward God and all His ways which causes us to redefine greatness by power, control and prestige. These are all the things God has and deserves, they are not for people.

While God holds all power, is able to control all things and demands all glory and honor exclusively He wields His power in humility with mercy and compassion showering all humanity with His kindness both toward the evil and the good.

The desire to be great reflects the greatness of God inherent to our origin. The definition of greatness as people understand it demonstrates our distance from God and inherent brokenness with God.

Those who would pursue greatness by God’s definition will become the servant of all, placing the needs and even desires of others above their own – a daunting task indeed.

No greater love has anyone than this, God said, that a person lay down his life for his friends. We are God’s friends, we demonstrate great love, when we lay down our will and ways to submit to God and His ways or as God said, we are His friends if we obey His commands.

The godly person will pursue greatness because God is great but they will define greatness God’s way which is the serving of others at personal cost no matter who they are or what it takes in order to help them be reconciled to God.

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Knowing and Doing God’s Will

Romans 3:2 teaches God trusted them with His laws so that they could know and do His will.A Call to Worship and Obedience

If there really is a God doesn’t it make sense that He has some kind of standard He expects humanity to obtain in order to please Him? And if there really is a God doesn’t it seem only fair and right that He would make that standard known so that humanity could attempt to achieve it?

In the case of the Christian religion the answers to those questions are affirmatively, ‘yes.’ God is indeed good and because He is good He has worked through people to record His will, His ways and His story.

The expectation of God is that people would share this story all over the world so that all people everywhere could know and do the will of God. Indeed this expectation has been carried out to a degree but must be reengaged by every generation in every corner of the world.

The rub of this truth is that we are then responsible and without excuse for knowing and doing the will of God. The Bible describes God’s judgment as beginning with Him opening a book which records our names and our doings. The history of our lives recorded in His book determine our future living conditions; either with God in heaven or with all the disobedient in hell where there is eternal torment and suffering.

Truly ignorance of the law is no excuse.

The attractiveness of the Bible is diminished by Christians when they both argue about it’s ‘version’ and meaning and when they fail to read it themselves so live hypocritical lives.

God expects us to both know and do His will.

While we cannot do His will without knowing His will knowing His will without doing His will reaps the same reward as not knowing and not doing His will.

So what must we do?

Read the Bible as much as you can and while you read ask God for one thing He would have you to do as a result of what you have learned: then do it. If you need a plan for reading the Bible download the free one listed on this website but get started reading and doing today so that you will be prepared to meet God tomorrow.

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The Testimony of Robin Williams

imageThe testimony of Robin Williams is an oft repeated tale of the poverty of fame and fortune to make a man happy. Repeatedly the famous destroy their lives with drugs, alcohol and finally suicide telling the world by their actions that money cannot buy you happiness.

We read their stories and remain incredulous that ‘they’ could do such a thing. ‘They’ had everything. Why would ‘they’ do such a thing? Then we muse that if we had their success we would be much wiser deceiving ourselves into the continual pursuit of fame and fortune to make us happy. Fame and fortune often lead to folly ending in failure, the inability to live a life full of meaning and purpose and satisfaction.

The wisest man ever to have lived was also the wealthiest man of his time which allowed him to pursue pleasure unbridled until he reached the conclusion that Mr. Williams and so many others also reached: everything is meaningless.

The testimony of Robin Williams is also a testimony against the witness of the Church in America. The Television Church has promised fame and fortune as a result of having a personal relationship with God these past seventy-five years but Robin didn’t need more of that: he needed a real relationship with God. The Television Church leaders too have demonstrated repeatedly that fame and fortune leads to folly which results often in moral failure.

The True Church has had 2000 years to model the abundant life but its testimony to Jesus’ desire for His people has been sorely lacking and increasingly ineffective if measured by the ‘light’ of our current culture.

God in Jesus modeled and gave testimony to a life of sacrifice, service and surrender and called His disciples to do the same by denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Him. The Son of Man came to sacrifice His life so that others might live. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a sacrifice. ‘Not My will but Your will be done,’ the Savior stated before surrendering His life to be sacrificed.

His best life was not now it was to come neither should we strive to obtain our best life now by accumulating fame and fortune but rather like the Savior we should seek to sacrifice, serve and surrender so that others can come to know Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Robin Williams’ death testifies to the shallowness of fame and fortune. His death without Christ testifies to the shallowness of the Church’s current witness to sacrifice, serve and surrender so that all people will come to know the hope of life eternal and the joy of life now in Jesus.

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