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Category Archives: Suffering

Honor Much, Suffer Well

I feel the need to apologize. But let me set this up.

Like many Christian leaders, I believe we are living in the last days. Like many believers, I think our country is, like my Grandpa used to say, going to hell in a handbasket. I am like many American Christians: saddened, angry and frustrated at the actions of our government and decisions by our judges and courts. Until now I have been very vocal about my feelings about these things.

This morning, however, a 26-year-old brilliant speaker and one of the Pastors at my church spoke on a passage of scripture in 1 Peter 2 (verses 11-25). His message, titled, “A Colony of Heaven in a Hostile World,” challenged us to “honor much and suffer well” as we face difficult situations in our personal lives and within our radically changing culture. He reminded us that God’s word commands us to honor the Emperor (or respect the King) and that for us, today, that means our President. Unpacking that phrase he showed us that this means to honor, respect and assist those in authority. I have to admit, I bristled a bit at that.

I confess: I think our current President is the worst we’ve ever had. I think he’s incompetent, deceitful and manipulative. I think his actions clearly show his disregard for our Constitution, citizens’ rights, the Founders’ intent, and the very fabric of our great country. I think he’s aiding and abetting our enemies and is playing fast and loose with our taxes. I could go on, and no doubt many of you agree. I don’t think it’s wrong to state opinion when based on public fact.

The Emperor was Nero when Peter wrote his letter. He was one of the worst tyrants in history. He hated Christians so much that he would impale them on stakes and set them on fire in his gardens and porticos for light in the evenings. I’m pretty sure Peter’s contemporaries were talking about this — it was most certainly fact. It was most certainly evil and wrong. Yet this is the dude Peter said to “honor, respect and assist.” Now, I am pretty up to date on news that even the mainstream media refuses to report, but I’m pretty sure President Obama hasn’t lit up any believers for lamplight on the White House lawn, yet.

nero

So here is my apology: I have spent a lot of energy sharing op eds, blogs and articles on Facebook, Twitter, and Scoop.it that were unkind to the President and other leaders. While staying away from the photos with “IDIOT” stamped across the foreheads of prominent leaders saying and doing silly things, I have “liked” posts that disrespected and dishonored the President and other leaders. I apologize. I recognize that God expects me to travel a higher road. I realize that as a follower of Christ I am to emulate Him and we never once heard Him diss the Emperor.

Pastor Travis Clark went on share that “the most Christ-like think you can do is love and honor those you completely disagree with,” and he quoted Jeremiah 29:7:

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

The city referenced here is Babylon, where God sent the Israelites into slavery. For a very, very long time.

So, should we do less? I don’t find it difficult at all to love and honor friends with whom I disagree. But how do you love and honor those who lead poorly, treat you badly, persecute you, and take away your rights?

  • Pray
  • Find common ground
  • Point to Jesus

This does NOT mean to put your head in the sand! We are still called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. We are to be knowledgeable. We are to “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17). DO serve the less fortunate, DO work to correct injustice, DO vote in the next elections and do it with knowledge about the candidates and the issues and wisdom about how they line up with the word of God. Do these things with honor.

“The Gospel is not just a call to heaven–it is a call to a new order of life here and now.” (Another great quote from Pastor Travis.)  “For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” (2 Corinthians 6:2). When we honor much and suffer well, God gets all the glory. Let’s make sure we glorify our one, true King by obeying his words to respect and honor our current “king.”

After all, in God’s economy things are not how we think. Remember, ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first’? Why shouldn’t we believe that if we respond as God commands He will do great things, just at the right time? I believe He will. So I will stop dissing Mr. Obama and start finding common good. I will pray for our leaders, this nation, and for God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

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Tragedy. Angst. Evil. Justice. Love.

I have no wisdom in response to today’s senseless violence and loss of life at the little elementary schools in Connecticut and central China (nor the daily violence in the middle east, nor the hideous and silent suffering of millions of women and children enslaved this very moment across the world and in our own neighborhoods…) but I’ve been reading a lot, and here are some words from much wiser individuals…

An Insufficient Answer to the Shooting in Connecticut

Three Ways Christians Should Respond to the Horror of a Broken World

Responding to the Problem of Evil

A Day for Hatred

Where Was God?

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

A Lesson for All from Newton

Implosion update: The demons of violence are on the loose in America. But why? And where do we go from here?

I wish I could hug a mom whose arms are empty tonight. I wish I could hug a mom whose child is safe in bed and she wonders why hers was spared. I wish I could hug the child whose mom’s arms will no longer hold them in this world and I wish I could save every single woman and child who are being held against their will, in slavery for someone else’s sick “pleasure.” Yet I know that the angst I feel is but a drop in the bucket to what my Father feels — and His justice will prevail because He is a God of love — He IS love. And tonight He is surely grieved about our fallen state yet loving on those little Kindergartners who are in His wonderful arms forever.

Boy holding onto his mother

Post Script: A friend just posted this on Facebook — a good resource for comforting those grieving the loss of a child:

Dealing With Grief: Five Things NOT to Say and Five Things to Say In a Trauma Involving Children

And here is a very good book on losing on a child written by parents who lived it:

Written in Tears: A Grieving Father’s Journey Through Psalm 103

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Current Events, Sin, Suffering

 

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Weep With Those Who Weep

AND REJOICE with those who rejoice!  American Christians aren’t very good at either of these it seems. My girlfriend and I were talking about this today. She commented how her daughter felt like it might not be appropriate to post photos of a blessing on FaceBook (a nice car loaned to them while home for a couple of weeks before heading off to the mission field). I thought that it’s sad that, even with a pure heart and motives, many of us feel this caution because of those who make lifestyle judgments or for fear our blessings will cause jealousy in others. We should all rejoice when we see others blessed or prospering. God gives these presents — He should get the glory!

And God takes away. He still gets the glory. We weep with those who weep because sadness is real. Hurt and suffering and pain are real. And we are called to provide love and comfort. Yet again, there are many who keep these things quiet, hold in the pain and don’t share for fear of the legalistic judgmental ones who will try to point out just what sin is the reason for the hurt. Or if they avoid that wrongheaded business perhaps they are offered some trite and unscriptural “word of encouragement” that does no more to encourage or edify than last week’s newspaper.

So here we are: Hiding both joyful blessings and very real suffering when sharing both should be the call to action to our brothers and sisters to extend the appropriate response, resulting in deeper relationships with each other and plenty of opportunity to glorify our King.

Here is the verse in context in my Bible:

Marks of the True Christian

9Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  (Romans 12)

Amen. May these be the marks of all of us!

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Joy, Love, Suffering, The Church

 

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Suffering

I have friends who have been without work for months, some wonder if homelessness is in their future.

I have friends who have been struck by cancer — one went undiagnosed for years, another whose five-year old is battling Leukemia, others with the “regular” kind of cancer cruelty…

Last week a friend of a friend’s child was abducted. They are frantically searching.

A few days ago my friend, a young single mom, emailed to say her house was broken into, precious things stolen, and her young children are traumatized.

Last month some folks were driving home from a retreat and their vans were involved in a horrific fatal highway accident that killed over 20 people. I met a woman at the airport this week whose granddaughter with her was in a car accident several days ago (drunk driver) and still very emotional.

An acquaintance is struggling with a crisis that if known fully might cause domestic violence.

What’s up? Doesn’t God care? If you follow Him, doesn’t He protect you from suffering? Maybe people like Joel Olsteen and Joyce Meyer would have you believe that. (I think Western Christians are about the only ones who do…) But I read a different Gospel. It’s not one where God desires that His followers suffer without reason, but is one that guarantees growth, provision, and the experience of a deeper abiding love when the suffering does come. The God I serve says, “I have spoken these things to you so that you shall have peace in me. You shall have suffering in the world, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Suffering belongs to the discipline of all Christ’s followers (Romans 8:172 Corinthians 1:7Galatians 3:4Philippians 3:101 Thessalonians 2:22 Thessalonians 1:52 Timothy 2:122 Timothy 3:12James 5:101 Peter 2:201 Peter 3:14, 17; 4:1, 13, 16; 5:10) and this fellowship in suffering unites us with the saints of God in all times (James 5:10). It is actually a fellowship with the Lord Himself (Philippians 3:10), who uses this discipline to mold us more and more according to His character.

“The rain falls on the just and the unjust.” We don’t like it and don’t always understand it, but it’s true. We see justice perverted, mean people prospering, and good people experiencing hardship upon hardship. But what we see is so very temporary. And God sees so much more. One day justice WILL be served, and suffering WILL end for those who follow Christ, and hurting believers WILL be healed and happy. And God will get the glory. All of it.

So we run to the Rock that is higher than us, we abide in the shelter of His wing, we feed on every word of God written for our benefit, we encourage one another, we intercede for each other, we comfort our hurting friends, and we, in turn, are comforted.

We give thanks. We praise Him in the storm. We watch as He turns mourning to rejoicing. We learn to find joy even between the tears. We grow more into His likeness day by day, and we give Him all the glory.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Assurance, Prayer, Suffering, The Journey

 

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