suffering


My twin brother, Mark, has always been a huge encouragement to me in my faith.  As a missionary in Japan, Mark understands what it means to do hard things in a hard place.  We often talk about the challenges of ministry and how we want to make a difference for the kingdom.  I love his challenge here:

Will you be faithful to your call, even when it seems fruitless?  Are you committed to Jesus and His glory in your ministry, and not towards numbers?  God is in charge of the results as long as we are simply obedient.

I recall my good friend and mentor as a college student, Jim Luebe, saying, “I just want to be a faithful laborer over time.”

That is my goal as well.

  • Read his entire post here
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Could it be that one of God’s purposes in this recession is to reveal whether we are living in true community with one another as Christians?

In Acts 4:32-33, the early church is described as having “one heart and one soul” and God’s “grace was upon them all.”  They were truly a gospel-centered community.  But the evidence of their community is shown in the next verse.  Verse 34 says,

There was not a needy person among them …

Wow.  According to this verse, one way to guage whether we’re living in true community is if anyone is needy in our body.  Jesus said that all people will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.  Loving one another includes sharing our money with those who are needy, perhaps those who have just lost their job.  Contrary to Cain’s response in Gen. 4, we are our brother’s keeper.  We all are connected to one another.  So, we of all people ought to hold onto our money and resources with an open hand and give to those who need it more than we do.

John Piper sums up the challenge of this recession with a word to the church:

[In these days ahead] God will test to see if we are a church or a club. 

  • Read Piper’s sermon, “What is the Recession for?”

Because of the recent ice storm that hit Kentucky this past week, 93 of its 120 counties and 71 cities have been declared states of emergencies.  Many are still without power.  And while the first few days may seem fun for the kids, a week or longer is costly and terribly challenging for everyone.

Yet in all this God is teaching us.  He’s teaching us that we need each other.  David Whitlock, pastor of Lebanon Baptist Church, writes:

Isn’t it strange that we long for what we seem to dread: time alone with ourselves, our families and friends?

It may take hours for enough ice to accumulate on power lines before they are paralyzed. One may not notice the weight of ice on trees before they suddenly snap, and, as if in unison, ricochet like thunder rolling through the forest.

And so it is with one another. Over time we inadvertently create devices that distance ourselves from those we love the most. We don’t realize what is happening. At some point, we feel as disconnected. The power lines uniting us with others have been broken.

The power doesn’t have to go out for us to return to these things that make life with others meaningful and purposeful. We only have to take the time for the little things that bring us together and better ourselves. Corralling a family and friends from the tyranny of modern technology may not be easy, but it is possible. It can be done with forethought and deliberation. It might take planning and agreement with one another, but time together is possible.

One member of our church came up to me on Sunday and told me how the message I preached last week on doing life together could not have come at a better time.  Although her family was without power, she had witnessed the love of her church family in the way they opened up their homes and provided meals.

None of us would ever ask for an ice storm, but in his wisdom God gave us one.  So let us remember one another and remember these words from God’s Word:

By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast.  He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning.  They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.  Whether for correction or for his land or for his love, he causes it to happen.  Hear this O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.  ~ Job 37:10-14

  • Read David Whitlock’s entire article: Lessons from the Ice Storm

What if you knew you had only a few months to live?  What would you do?  That’s a question most of us have never been confronted with and thus a question that will never move beyond our emotions into real life action.  But for many people, this question is no longer hypothetical–it’s reality.  People like Randy Pausch, who got the news one day that he had pancreatic cancer and had only months to live.

What would you do?  Randy, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, decided to give a lecture.  He called it, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”  But the lecture had nothing to do with dying.  It had to do with living and “overcoming obstacles and enabling the dreams of others, and seizing every moment.”  These lectures became a best-selling book entitled, The Last Lecture.

My mother-in-law gave me this book (thanks Linda!) and I couldn’t put it down.  Indeed, Randy’s message strikes a chord with many people, but his words were written mainly for his wife and three young kids.  I expected it to be a sad book; it was, but it was so much more.  It made me think about the spiritual legacy I want to leave with my children and others.  I don’t know where Randy is at with the Lord (he didn’t discuss his specific beliefs) but I know that all of us must come to grips with how short life really is.  After all we don’t know when our time on earth is up.  Are we ready to meet our Maker?  And are we leaving a legacy by how we’re living our lives this very day?  Makes you rethink your New Year’s Resolutions doesn’t it?

I encourage you to read this book.  If you’re not a reader, you can watch his entire lecture below (1 hr. 16 min.)

Can you believe Christmas is only two months away?  Last Christmas I had the opportunity to hear my friend, Eric Schumacher, preach a sermon from the book of Ruth.  He ended the service with this song he wrote below entitled, A Sweet and Pleasant Providence.  The tune is “Carol” to which we typically sing the Christmas song, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” 

A Sweet and Pleasant Providence

Events that seem unfortunate
May often line the way
That God has paved to guide his saints
To bright and happy days.
Naomi’s dismal hopelessness
Was shown to be untrue.
Remember this the next time God
Deals bitterly with you.

In faith let your heart learn to trust
That ’round the corner lies
A sweet and pleasant providence
Designed through sov’reign eyes.
Like Ruth, take refuge in the Lord
And rest beneath His wings,
You do not know what God intends
Nor what his kindness brings.

The cloud is black before it breaks
And dark before it yields
A flood of kindness over you
To bloom your barren field.
So turn your eyes upon the One
That ev’ry good flows from,
For in his great redemptive plan
The best is yet to come!

Tune: Carol
Text: (c) Eric M Schumacher
Permission granted to reprint unaltered text in temporary, nonsalable worship media. For other uses, please contact the author.

With all the wind damage around Kentucky, I thought this was one little story worth passing along from the Said at Southern website:

Drs. Mohler and Moore (of Southern Seminary) were up at the cafeteria last night on campus serving hot dogs and ice cream to those living on campus. Talk about a servant’s heart!

Yesterday the lights went out in our Sunday morning service and continued to flicker on and off throughout the sermon.  Ironically, our pastor was preaching from Revelation 4-5 and emphasizing God being on the throne and having complete control over all things.

As we left the church building, we soon found out why the power had gone out.  Winds were gusting at very high speeds with power lines twisting and trees toppling down throughout the day.  In some areas it seemed like a tornado had ripped through the area. 

After everything calmed down, Jaime and I took our kids out for a drive to survey the wind damage.  It was humbling to realize how powerful the wind was to do what it did in such a short time.  And thankfully, it gave us an opportunity to talk with our girls about God being on the throne and having authority over all things–even the wind. 

As we passed through downtown LaGrange I saw one church building with a sign out front that said, “Be still and know that I am God.”  How appropriate, I thought.  Because just as quickly as the winds came, they left.  And perhaps through it all, God was trying to get our attention by having us stop and be still and know that He is in control.  He is God.  And he is on the throne. 

Yet in the stillness of seeing God on the throne, I’m also propelled to serve others in my neighborhood.  Hopefully I can do that today in some small way by walking around the block and raking leaves and silently praying for people without power–and perhaps without God–in their homes.

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