Tuesday, September 25, 2018

When Given the Choice


This afternoon, I gave my son's math assignment back to him with five problems for him to correct. He got upset, complained about how hard they were, and said he just didn't want to do it. There were tears. There was complaining. We have had multiple conversations about the importance of doing the work so he'll learn the concepts and be ready for later concepts. We've talked about doing his best every time. We have talked about the choices that he has available to him. We have talked. At times, one or both of us have cried.

Now, this is not was usually happens, but today, I gave him the choice. I told him he could choose whether he made the math corrections or not. He said he wanted to learn it, but he didn't want to do the math problems. He said he'd do some different math problems tomorrow. (Of course he will - he has math four days a week and today was Day 2.) We talked again about how learning is supposed to be challenging (that's how you learn!) and that it takes work.

If you want to eat an apple, you have to chew it.

In order to get the benefit, you have to put in some work. The apple won't give you nourishment unless you chew it up. The math won't benefit my son unless he puts forth the effort to work the problems, to memorize his math facts, to think critically before asking for help or just getting angry and shutting down.

I was thinking about how God interacts with us during this exchange today.

God tells us the way to go and the things on which we need to work.

But what do we do with that? I know it depends on many factors each unique time, but I think it seriously deserves our introspection. How many times do we complain, tell Him it's too hard, or say that we just don't want to put in the work? We tell Him that we'll do it later, when we feel like it or when we think it fits into our schedule better. 

When my son refused to do his math, he thought I was mad at him. I wasn't mad - but I was disappointed in the choice he made. I decided to let him make it anyway. Why? Because that's what God does. He loves us enough to let us make up our own minds sometimes. He loves us enough not to force us, because forced love is never authentic. It hurt knowing that my son made a choice that could hurt him later. (This was minor, but if it became repetitive, it could have a life-changing impact. Okay, I know that might be a tad over-dramatic, but still...) If my son refuses to learn something, it will be his future he will hurt, not mine. I believe God loves us so much that, similar to how I felt with my son, He is saddened by some of our choices because He knows the outcome. He knows all the blessings and opportunities that we pass up every time we choose not to listen to Him. We don't realize all we're missing when we choose not to follow God. We aren't hurting His plans or future. We are hurting our own opportunities to grow and be involved in the wonderful things He's doing. We are hurting ourselves in the present and the future. 

God doesn't like to see His children hurting themselves.

So, how do we respond when (if) we realize that we have saddened God with the choices we have made? Well, I can tell you that my son did not go do his math problems. He did put in more effort on a couple other assignments that he had, and gave me extra hugs. How often are we like that? How often do we try to cover up our bad choices by proving that we are doing well in other areas? "I may sin in this one small area - but look at all these other great things I'm doing!" Or what about trying to make it up to Him? "I'll give a little extra in my tithe this week." "I promise that I'll read my Bible tonight." "I'll put on some Christian music during my drive home today."

What do you think God's response is when we disappoint Him? Does He go pout, refusing to talk to us? Does He leave us on our own to flop around like a fish on the shore until we finally repent? There are times when we feel far from God because of our sin. Yes, there are times when the consequences of our sins are painful and we feel like a flopping fish gasping for breath, but it's not like you might think.

God is still here. Even when we disappoint Him, He doesn't leave us.
It's not God who steps away from the relationship; it's us.

When my son needed help with his English assignment, I didn't make him figure it out on his own. I went over to him, bent over close beside him, and we worked on nouns, plurals, capitalization, and commas. I did not leave him to struggle on his own. I love him. Just like God loves us. He cares too much about us to leave us alone, without hope.

He cares too much about you.

So, what is going to be your choice? When you feel the prompting of God, will you choose to follow Him? When you realize you haven't followed God, will you repent, turning back to Him, or will you try to make up for it in other ways? God doesn't want your acts. He doesn't want empty words and promises. He wants your heart. He wants your love. He wants to show you His love. He wants the best for you.

It will require some chewing, but those apples sure taste good when we put in the effort to eat them. He has so many blessings and opportunities just waiting for us!


I don't know about you, but I will definitely be striving to make some better choices. There's also one certain young man who will be doing all his work - including any needed corrections - tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What To-Do?

Banner on display at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
The banner above is an accurate reflection of how I feel sometimes. I'm starting to feel ruled by my to-do list - like my life is run by all that needs to be done. Okay, I can't honestly say that I'm just now starting to feel that way, but it has intensified after our family vacation.

I like to feel productive. I like to help others. I enjoy all the activities in which I participate. But I think it has become too much.

When I find myself not enjoying activities that should be fun, like swimming or playing a board game with my kids, because I'm too distracted by all the things that I could be accomplishing during that time period if I weren't playing with them - it's too much.

When my children says they rarely see me smile or hear me laugh - it's too much.

When my children repeatedly ask, "Mama, are you happy?" - it's too much.

If someone asks what my hobbies are and I can't think of a single one - it's too much.

(I have come to think of my serving others as a hobby, because it is something that I do truly enjoy doing. I used to say that my hobbies were things like reading, playing the piano, sewing, but I rarely do any of those things anymore. Well, I do read, but almost always to the kids and not on my own, which is still good, but not the same.)

When I find that I can't even clean my house beyond the basic washing the dishes and clothes, or just enjoy time sitting still and quiet - it's too much.

When friends and family members say, "Well, I was going to ask you, but you're always so busy," - it's too much.

Going on a 17-day vacation with my family and spending five days in this beautiful location:
Wellesley Island State Park, Camping Spot 62



...and seeing sunrises like these...



and sunsets like these:

Our kids with a newly met cousin



...I didn't want to come home. I almost cried, especially when the rest of the family wanted to rush home in two days instead of the three days we already had planned. I was not in a hurry to return to a list of things to do. And do you want to know how my first week back looked?


It really hasn't been too bad, but it has definitely been full, especially when you add washing clothes, making meals, washing dishes, training up children in the way they should go, and other daily tasks to it that don't get written down on the planner. It's as if I have a to-do list that doesn't even make it onto my to-do list. Again, I do find that I enjoy being productive and helping others, so it really hasn't felt too hectic. I've also noticed that two weeks in, it feels more familiar and less like a problem. I'm not sure that's what I want, though.

I think it's time to attempt a change. It won't be easy, and I'm probably more open to the possibility of failure than I ought to be, but I plan to try.

About four or five years ago, I found a Commitment Worksheet online that was very helpful in showing me where and how I prioritized and spent my time - how divided and spread my time and efforts were. Unfortunately, it was a bit buried on the internet and took me a while to find it again, but I succeeded and have linked it here for you, if you click "Commitment Worksheet" above. Thank you to Erica at ConfessionsofaHomeschooler.com for creating this resource and sharing it so others may benefit! (Whether you homeschool or not, she has some great resources.)

God has been showing me that this - finding rest - is an area He wants me to pursue. He has bombarded me with songs, Scripture, devotionals, and even the Editor's Letter in a magazine!

The editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens, Stephen Orr, wrote in the August 2018 issue about how everyone is rushed and busy, and how phones and other technology are taking the place of real, meaningful relationships and action. "We are in a near constant state of reaction." "We often feel that we don't have the time to be creative." (Yes, I've said that to myself and others more than a few times.) People are losing the ability to have original thoughts as they consume "a large portion of info that they haven't sought out. It is coming to them via algorithms that choose what we see." He writes,"I assure you that as soon as you stop for a minute, you'll end up thinking. Real thoughts - your own - will start seeping back in. Problems will find their solutions. Forgotten tasks will be remembered without a calendar prompt. And most important, inspiration and creativity will return and flourish. Think about grabbing those pauses instead of instinctively reaching for your phone the next time you encounter a gap in your day...Those gaps, no matter how tiny, are so precious. Let's make the most of them by doing a little less," (emphasis mine).

Another benefit of the trip is that I often didn't have access to wi-fi services, which meant no e-mail or Facebook. It felt strange at first, but I found that I really enjoyed the time away (which, for a long time I've known I would). I need less time tied up with technology.

It's time to do some weeding, to pare back on some activities so I can focus more effectively on others, and find some rest.


I want to grab those pauses. I want to enjoy time with family and friends without worrying about everything else that "needs" to be done. I want to smile and laugh more often. I want to take long walks, go on hikes, exercise, ride bikes, look at God's beautiful creation all around me, play the piano, sew, read books, and study the Bible more.

I want to see more sunrises and sunsets.

I want the calm that comes with those moments. I want the rest that God intended for each of us to have. What about you?

A Sunset Near Home



Devotionals that I've read recently pertaining to this topic:
(All of these are short devotionals found on the YouVersion Bible app, but many are based on books from these same authors.)
"Turning Off the Noise" by John H. Munro
"Breathing Room" by Sandra Stanley
"Soul Rest: 7 Days to Renewal" by Curtis Zackery
"Holy Hustle: Embrace a Work-Hard, Rest-Well Life" by Crystal Stine

Songs that God brought during this current time:
"Just Breathe" by Jonny Diaz (This is a song that comes often for me.)
"I'm in a Hurry to Get Things Done" by Alabama
"Oh My Soul You are Not Alone" by Casting Crowns
"Sunrise, Sunset" by composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick

Scriptures that relate to this topic:

For having Sabbath/rest
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. - Exodus 20:8-11

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. - Genesis 2:1-3

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. -
Psalm 46:10

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. - James 2:10

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:5


For choosing activities wisely
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:33

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. - Colossians 3:17

But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. - 1 Corinthians 14:40


Reminders to not become lazy in the pursuit of rest
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:10

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. - Colossians 3:23-24

One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. - Proverbs 18:9

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - and poverty will come on you like a theif and scarcity like an armed man. - Proverbs 6:6-11

The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway. - Proverbs 15:19

The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. - Proverbs 21:25

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat." - 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Why Does God Allow Tragedies? (5 of 5)


This is the fifth and final part of a five-part series. If you missed the earlier posts, you can read them here: 

Background:
The points presented in this series are in response to a friend's questions a few months ago. She asked questions like:
- Why doesn't [God] save more from tragedies?
- Young girls are being raped and murdered. Why won't he save that kinda stuff?
- Why does a sweet, kind God not save children?

I have done my best to address these and answer the question about why God allows tragedies, understanding that I don’t have all the answers myself either. This final post is a collection of additional quotes, verses, and resources that might help as you further explore why God allows suffering and hardships in our lives. I pray that these posts have led you to consider God and His activity in our lives in a new way.

_____________________________________

Here are some more quotes and verses I found that might be helpful:

“Although suffering may seem unfair at times, on a personal level suffering has the ability to produce so much good if allowed. On a broader lever, God uses the suffering in this world to bring about some good. Although it was not His original design, He uses the pains that rattle our world in ways we may not see it. To try to grasp or comprehend the reasons and validity of everything that happens is an exhaustive endeavor that will leave you discouraged and lacking in faith. Instead, hope for the fruit born out of suffering,” (Why Does Suffering Exist?).

“Getting mad doesn’t help either. Anger is a secondary emotion. It doesn’t achieve the will of God. In tough times our anger and resentment can begin to simmer. We imagine that by drifting away or giving God the cold shoulder, we can teach Him a thing or two. The beginning step is to seek an ally that will love us better than God. Some see alcohol as a ready friend offering quick comfort. Others believe a church switch to where ‘people really understand me’ will relieve their pain. Coping mechanisms and strategies for handling hurts and disappointments abound. But regardless of the action we choose, we’re focusing again on a tiny pencil dot on the line of eternity,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).

“Faced with the part of God’s will I do not want, He is the One I draw close to, trusting that He is weaving a plan – even when I don’t understand how,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).

“if we could handle these things without Him, many of us would try,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).

“If something is going on in your life today and you’re wondering about God’s character, ‘If God really is X, then why is Y happening?’ the answer to that dilemma is prayer. God says, ‘Call to Me, [in that moment] and I will tell you great things you don’t know,’” (Authentic Prayer from James MacDonald).

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us,” – Romans 8:18

“Notice the method Paul and Barnabas used to encourage the churches about facing hardships [Acts 14:21-28]. They did not encourage the churches to pray that God would spare them from hardship. Neither did they minimize the hardship. Instead, they encouraged the churches by helping them embrace the reality and inevitableness of it. Hardship will come, so prepare for it. It will come because God uses it for His kingdom purposes,” (Jason C. Dukes, Session 8 of The Gospel Project Chronological, Volume 10).

“God does rescue the holy from affliction, but he does so not by rendering them untested but by blessing them with endurance,” (Basil the Great [circa 329-379], as quoted in Session 8 of The Gospel Project Chronological, Volume 10).

“We believe that Christ wants to give us comfortable, easy lives with minimal hardship. But that is not what Jesus promised. Actually, He promised the opposite,” (Jason C. Dukes, Session 8 of The Gospel Project Chronological, Volume 10).

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," - 2 Timothy 3:12

"I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich!...Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution...Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life...He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death," - Revelation 2:9-11 (See Rev. 2:7, 17, 26-28, 3:5, 12, 21 for more promises from Jesus for those who overcome.)

"Doing nothing about evil, ungodly stuff going on around you isn't what God wants. You can stand up for holiness. Don't just turn your head and hope the bad stuff goes away. Pray hard against it, and if you get the chance, speak the truth in love," (Dannah Gresh, The One-Year Mother-Daughter Devo).

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many," - 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

- "We go through difficult circumstances so we'll rely on God and not on our own strengths," (Jared Allen)

- "Prayers of others make a difference." (Jared Allen)

"Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ," - Galatians 6:2

"When doors close, don't stop seeking God and serving Him," (Jared Allen).

"God uses closed doors to direct us to the one who is waiting for us [Jesus]," (Jared Allen).

"Sometimes our disappointments in life can become God's appointments," (Jared Allen).

"Despite our failures, God can use our faith," (Jared Allen).

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed," - 1 Peter 1:6-7

- "Pain proves and purifies our faith," (Jared Allen).

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed," - 1 Peter 1:13



Here are a few other resources you might want to check out. I have not read the books, but have checked out the websites and videos mentioned below.

- www.everyperson.com – “A Safe Place to Explore Questions about Life and God”
- Resources from Ravi Zacharias – He has some videos on YouTube, books, and a website. From my own quick searching online, I think your best option to find something related to this specific topic would be to type his name into the YouTube search and look at some of the videos that are found. There are some with titles like “How could an all-powerful, all-loving God allow evil to exist?”  “Who is responsible for evil?” and “Belief in God through times of suffering.”
- When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner
- Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People: Answers to One of Life’s Greatest Moral Questions by David Arnold
- https://www.gotquestions.org/bad-things-good-people.html
- The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis


Sources (listed in the order in which they first appear in this post):
1. Rust, Brittany. "Why Does Suffering Exist?" Brittany Rust, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
2. Matte, Gregg. "The Part of God's Will No One Wants," in partnership with El Centro Network, Baker Publishing Group, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
3. MacDonald, James. "Authentic Prayer from James MacDonald," Walk in the Word, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
4. Holy Bible, New International Version. East Brunswick: International Bible Society, 1978. Print.(Some quotes also came from the NIV version (not 1978) on biblecc.com.)
5. Dukes, Jason C. Session 8 of The Gospel Project Chronological, Volume 10, Lifeway. Print.
6. Gresh, Dannah and Janet Mylin. The One Year Mother Daughter Devo, Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2010.
7. Allen, Jared. "That's Not in the Bible: 'God Won't Give You More than You Can Handle.'" First Baptist Church, Round Rock, TX. 15 April, 2018 Presented. Sermon.
8. Allen, Jared. "That's Not in the Bible: 'When God Shuts One Door, He Always Opens Another One.'" First Baptist Church, Round Rock, TX. 22 April, 2018 Presented. Sermon.
9. Allen, Jared. "1 Peter: Holiness in Hard Times." First Baptist Church, Round Rock, TX. 3 June 2018 Presented. Sermon.
10. Allen, Jared. "1 Peter: Holiness in Hard Times." First Baptist Church, Round Rock, TX. 10 June 2018 Presented. Sermon.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Why Does God Allow Tragedies? (4 of 5)


This is the fourth part of a five-part series. If you missed the earlier posts, you can read them here:
The first post
The second post
The third post

Background:
The points presented in this series are in response to a friend's questions a few months ago. She asked questions like:
- Why doesn't [God] save more from tragedies?
- Young girls are being raped and murdered. Why won't he save that kinda stuff?
- Why does a sweet, kind God not save children?

I will do my best to address these and answer the question about why God allows tragedies, understanding that I don’t have all the answers myself either. There are many resources in print and online about questions such as these, some of which I'll share at the end of this series.

As I have been reading, praying, and sharing about this topic, God has been drawing my attention to this topic of suffering repeatedly. Bible verses will stick in my mind when I read them with an inner voice saying, "This!" Devotionals read with my kids will mention suffering. My pastor's current sermon series is entitled "Holiness in the Hard Times" and has made me contemplate more. If I can't get it all in these last two posts, there might be a bonus post at the end of the series!

_____________________________________

Here we go with a few more thoughts about why we have tragedies and why God would allow them.


9. There will be trouble, but take heart – Jesus has overcome the world! In John 16:33, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Did you ever think about the fact that Jesus, himself, went through suffering? Consider all that Jesus went through! He endured a 40-day fast in the desert. (Yes, that one was His choice, but it was still suffering - and sometimes our suffering and trials do come by our own hands, don't they?) He was verbally abused and cursed. He had crowds who wanted to stone him. He was beaten, whipped until his back was in shreds, nailed to a wooden cross through his hands and feet, and hung on the cross to die. He endured incredible pain for the sins of which we are guilty – not Him. That was an innocent life that was greatly hurt by other people! If Jesus went through suffering, why would we think we wouldn't?

a.       For verses about some of Jesus’ suffering, see Matthew 27:26-50, Mark 15:15-37, Luke 22:63-65, Luke 23:11, 35-46, John 19:1-3. These verses are about the end of his life, but there are more about earlier times in his life and ministry as well, such as John 10:31 and 39.
b.       “But what about when life is unfair? What about those horrible circumstances that hit us in life, caused by someone other than ourselves? When we are feeling victimized, it’s useful to realize that God [Jesus] himself endured horrendous treatment from others. God more than understands what you are going through,” (www.everyperson.com, “Why Does God Allow Suffering in the World?”).
c.    "In fact, everyone who wants to live godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," - 2 Timothy 3:12
d.    "Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." - Romans 8:17
e.    "For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." - 2 Corinthians 1:5

      10.  We must hold on to hope. Faith is believing without completely seeing or understanding. (See 2 Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 11:1, and John 20:29.) 

a.       “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently,” – Romans 8:24-25
b.       “We will all face these moments in our lives, when everything we can see tells us that God is not good to us. At those moments, whether we realize it or not, we ask ourselves this question: Do we believe God is good by what we see or do we believe God is good because of who he is?” (Hope When It Hurts).
c.       “Friend, this life is filled with circumstances that will leave us questioning or even denying God’s goodness if we live by what we see, rather than by faith in what God has promised. The choice we face is a daily one. We can choose to either trust what we see and define what’s good for us ourselves, and grow annoyed with God and doubt his goodness, or we can live by faith in a crucified Savior and let him define what’s good for us, even if it means exercising our faith muscles as we choose to trust him over what we can see and feel,” (Hope When It Hurts).
d.       “So let’s come to Christ with our doubts and weaknesses and ask him to give us the faith to take our eyes away from what we can see in front of us and lift our eyes again to the cross – because that is where we will find assurance and confidence in the undeserving goodness and faithfulness of our heavenly Father. Is God good? Yes. He died for you,” (Hope When It Hurts).

      11.  The question was asked, “Why won’t he save that kinda stuff?” The answer is that He does save it! He redeems it, but it is in His way and timing, not ours. He does care about us and our trials, wanting nothing more than for us to be saved and to remain with Him forever.

a.       “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” - 2 Peter 3:8-9
b.       “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” - 1 Peter 5:10
c.    "Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins." - Psalm 30:7-8
d.   "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." - Galatians 4:4-5
e.   "But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself." - Psalm 49:15
f.    "I will strengthen the house of Judah and save the house of Joseph. I will restore them because I have compassion on them...I will signal for them and gather them in. Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before." - Zechariah 10:6, 8

         12.  In the initial questions, God was referred to as a “sweet, kind God.” So many people want to see God only as this, but He is so much more than that! He is just, merciful, gracious, jealous for your devotion, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, patient (but not as we understand patient), loving (but beyond what we understand as loving), forgiving (but forgiving does not mean removal of consequences). In the Old Testament, there are many times we could interpret God as being harsh. God is the same today as He was then. All of the characteristics of God have always been true of Him - the soft, fuzzy ones as well as the hard, strict ones. Here are a few verses to consider:

                  a.       “The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed,” - Psalm 103:6
                  b.       “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”
                                Psalm 103:8
c.       “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’” – Exodus 34:5-7
d. "The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet." - Nahum 1:2-3
e.   "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." - 
f.   "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." - Hebrews 13:8


See you next week with more thoughts. 
I'd love to know what you are thinking about this topic.


      Sources (listed in the order in which they first appear in this post):
      1. Holy Bible, New International Version. East Brunswick: International Bible Society, 1978. Print. (Some quotes also came from the NIV version (not 1978) on biblecc.com and the YouVersion Bible app.)
      2. “Why Does God Allow Suffering in the World?” Everyperson.com, Accessed: January 2018.
      3. Wetherell, Kristen and Sarah Walton. "Hope When It Hurts," The Good Book Company, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.   

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Why Does God Allow Tragedies? (3 of 5)

This is the third part of a five-part series. If you missed the earlier posts, you can read the first part here and the second part here.

Background:
The points presented in this series are in response to a friend's questions a few months ago. She asked questions like:
- Why doesn't [God] save more from tragedies?
- Young girls are being raped and murdered. Why won't he save that kinda stuff?
- Why does a sweet, kind God not save children?

I will do my best to address these and answer the question about why God allows tragedies, understanding that I don’t have all the answers myself either. There are many resources in print and online about questions such as these, some of which I'll share at the end of this series.

_____________________________________

Here we go with a few more thoughts about why we have tragedies and why God would allow them.


       6.  God can use hurt to save others. What we learn as we go through hard times (or as we go alongside others as they go through hard times) can help us be more empathetic of others. We might be able to understand their needs, feelings, concerns, wishes, as well as ways to support and encourage them. Also, as one of my mentors told me once, not every message from God (nor everything with which we deal) is meant for us specifically. We are not meant to live in isolation, but rather in community and fellowship with each other. I have had friends go through cancer diagnoses and treatments who have impacted doctors, nurses, and others through their ordeals, which were personal, but not kept private...just like our Christian faith should be.

a.   In John 9, we read about a man blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples ask who sinned, he or his parents, to cause him to be born blind. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Then, Jesus healed the man’s blindness. His healing did not come when he was a child, but when he was a grown man, which means that he still had to deal with the hardship for many years before healing came. His healing brought glory to God, leading people to seek to know Him more.
b.   Think of Job. He was a righteous man who was greatly afflicted, with God’s permission, and yet glory was (and is) brought to God through his tragedies. Also, Job was blessed even greater afterward than he had been prior to the tragedies in his life.
c.   Joseph (whose half-brothers planned to kill him, threw him down a well, and then sold him to slave traders) said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives,” (Genesis 50:20).
d.     “Our pain can keep us focused on ourselves and how difficult our circumstances are. Or we can focus on the comfort that God promises to us so we can make it through anything. Then we are better able to share what we have received with other hurting people. Hope is found when you let your pain make you more compassionate to the world around you,” (Live Hope Minute: Become a Champion of Hope).
e.       We receive comfort so we can comfort others. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God,” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

       7.  The devil is real. So are demons and angels. We all have personal temptations as well (and the devil knows this). There is a plethora of verses about this, and below is just a small sampling.

a.       “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when It is full-grown, gives birth to death,” – James 1:14-15
b.       “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:11-13
c.       Matthew 4:1-10 is the story of when, after his baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus went into the desert and fasted. The devil met him there and tempted him.
d.       “The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is fill with fury, because he knows that his time is short.’” – Revelation 12:9-12
e.       “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7
f.        “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” – Matthew 26:41 and Mark 14:38 (and similar wording in Luke 22:40)
g.       “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13
h.       “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” – 1 Peter 5:8-10

       8.  Heaven will be better knowing how different it is from earth. No sadness, crying, pain, death… Sometimes it is harder to appreciate something when we don’t know what we are missing, what the alternative could be.

a.   "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." - Romans 8:18
b.      “he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace from his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.” – Isaiah 25:8
c.       “’Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” – John 14:1-3
d.       “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” – Revelation 7:16-17
e.       “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” – Revelation 21:4-5
f.       You may want to read all of Revelation 21, Revelation 22:1-5, and Revelation 4 to read about the beauty of heaven.
g. "The thought came to me and I don't believe the mountains would be nearly as beautiful, magnificent, or awe-inspiring without the valleys. In fact, I'm not sure there'd even be mountains without the valleys. But later someday...'Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken,' (Isaiah 40:4-5). Other verses I found for this idea include Isaiah 41:15-16, 45:2-3, 49:11, and 54:10," (from http://strivingforgodsglory.blogspot.com/2017/06/glad-for-hard.html).


See you next week with more thoughts. 
I'd love to know what you are thinking about this topic.

(Please excuse the formatting issues below; I couldn't get the text to move back to the left margin.)

Sources (listed in the order in which they first appear in this post):
1. Holy Bible, New International Version. East Brunswick: International Bible Society, 1978. Print. (some quotes also came from the NIV version (not 1978) on biblecc.com)
2. Smeby, Mark. "Live Hope Minute: Become a Champion of Home," Broadstreet Publishing, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
3. Shuman, Christa. "Glad for the Hard." Web blog post. Striving for God's Glory. Blogger, 16 June 2017. Web. January 2018.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Why Does God Allow Tragedies? (2 of 5)


This is the second part of a five-part series. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.

Background:
The points presented in this series are in response to a friend's questions a few months ago. She asked questions like:
- Why doesn't [God] save more from tragedies?
- Young girls are being raped and murdered. Why won't he save that kinda stuff?
- Why does a sweet, kind God not save children?

I will do my best to address these and answer the question about why God allows tragedies, understanding that I don’t have all the answers myself either. There are many resources in print and online about questions such as these, some of which I'll share at the end of this series.

_____________________________________

Here we go with a few more thoughts about why we have tragedies and why God would allow them.

3. God is not human. We cannot project our minds and ways of thinking onto Him. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. He sees, knows, and understands way more than we can. Like my pastor, Jared Allen, said in a sermon in July 2017, “Our infinite God cannot be fully understood by our finite minds. His power is not limited by what we understand.” We may see the trees. He not only sees the forest, but the whole world – the whole universe! He sees not only how a situation affects us as an individual; He sees how it affects the people around us, the people around them, and so on. He sees how it affects people we don't even know or think about. There is more going on than what we can see and know about life. He can work good in anything, even tragedies!

a.       “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,” – Romans 8:28
b.       “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declared the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,’” – Isaiah 55:8-9
c.       The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart,” – 1 Samuel 16:7
d.       “God is working things out during those very parts of His will we do not want. He is crafting, shaping and planning at a deeper level than we can see. He is looking at a lie that stretches from eternity past to eternity future, while we are looking through a straw at a tiny black pencil dot set on that line of life. He is looking at eons of eternity at once,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).
e.       “I had two options. I could walk by sight and allow what I couldn’t understand to simmer into a rolling boil of anger toward the Lord, or I could choose to walk by faith by reminding myself that God’s ways are higher than my ways, and that he is trustworthy and good, even when I can’t make sense of my circumstances,” (Hope When It Hurts).
f.       “We didn’t like His will and did not want it, but He didn’t ask us about that. He does not have to. He is the Sovereign One. My job is to cling to Him in trust,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).

        4. Sometimes, it’s the tragedies that lead us to God and make our faith stronger. Pain may be a place of preparation.

a.       “Martyrs, widows, orphans, the impoverished, the forgotten, the persecuted and the wounded have all found Christ faithful,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).
b.       “The more closely you walk with Christ in the uncomfortable of the unknown, the greater clarity of life you will experience,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).
c.       “But consider this: only by experiencing pain do we recognize the areas of our life that require healing,” (Problem with Pain).
d.       But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead,” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
e.        “Those parts of His will that we do not want, cause the volume of our faith to get turned up…Not only do we hear God more clearly, but our attentiveness to Him can also cause the ears of others to incline toward words of hope,” (The Part of God’s Will No One Wants).
f.       “I look at the hardships and the trials as part of my training and believe that they make me strong,” Abernathy said. “As you are going through trying times, you don’t always have the answers, so I encourage you to keep going back to God’s Word and keep praying. When you persevere, you come out a much stronger person,” (Anne Abernathy, Olympic luger, quoted in “The Winter Olympics and the Bible,”).
g.       “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,” – James 1:2-4
h.         “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him,” – James 1:12

        5. There are opportunities for followers of Christ to show the love of Christ to those who are going through tragedies. When people reach out to serve and help those who are suffering, they can show God’s love. They can demonstrate faith, hope, and love. This is not only true for someone from the outside of the tragedy, but for the person(s) within the tragedy – the victim(s). Not only might they be able to demonstrate faith, hope, and love, but they might also be able to demonstrate forgiveness. The offering of forgiveness in such circumstances can be absolutely mind-blowing to others involved in the situation as well as outsiders looking in at it. This can be a powerful message about God to people.
a.       learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow,” - Isaiah 1:17
b.       “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world,” - James 1:27
c.       “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Luke 6:27
d.   But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous," - Matthew 5:44-45
e.   "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." - John 13:14-15
f.   "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer." - 2 Corinthians 1:3-6


See you next week with more thoughts. 
I'd love to know what you are thinking about this topic.

(Please excuse the formatting issues below; I couldn't get the text to move back to the left margin.)

Sources (listed in the order in which they appear in this post):
1. Allen, Jared. "Colossians 1:24-29." First Baptist Church, Round Rock, TX. 2 July 2017 Presented. Sermon.
2. Holy Bible, New International Version. East Brunswick: International Bible Society, 1978. Print. (some quotes also came from the NIV version (not 1978) on biblecc.com)
3. Matte, Gregg. "The Part of God's Will No One Wants," in partnership with El Centro Network, Baker Publishing Group, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
4. Wetherell, Kristen, and Sarah Walton. "Hope When It Hurts," The Good Book Company, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
5. Haines, Seth. "Problem with Pain," Abide, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: January 2018.
6. Abernathy, Anne. As quoted in "The Winter Olympics and the Bible," Museum of the Bible, on YouVersion Bible app, Accessed: February 2018.