Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Common Thread of Suffering

Everyone suffers. We experience or watch it every day. But it seems harder to digest it this time of year. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Baby Jesus. A sense of everything glowing and bright. And the expectation of a new year, a new beginning.

In the last month, I’ve had numerous texts, emails, and phone calls asking me to pray for love ones and friends who are suffering. Liver cancer. Pancreatic cancer. Breast cancer. Cardiac issues. Opioid addiction. Death. Emotional crisis. COPD. Stage 4 kidney disease. An angry son who has left home. A pregnant teen just released from the hospital after a brutal beating by a boyfriend. The list goes on and on. 

When I turn on TV the world shatters into a thousand pieces as I hear unthinkable words: killing, death, murder, adultery, rape, and incest. Nothing about this brings joy. Quite the contrary, it brings grief, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, remorse, brokenness, and sometimes turning away from God.


But wait a minute . . . let me attach God’s story to this whole theme of suffering.

When Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, God pronounced suffering as a punishment for disobeying His only command. Eve would suffer in childbirth. Adam would toil a cursed ground for sustenance. For the first time, they felt shame. Then God drove man out of Paradise into a foreign world filled with suffering and death. Immortality came to a screeching halt when the cherubim raised the flaming sword to block reentry. 

By Genesis Chapter 3 paradise is over and suffering begins. Suffering is sin induced. But Praise God, He spends the rest of Genesis and the next 65 books in the Bible offering redemption to mankind by giving him the choice to honor Him and follow His commandments. That’s the good news. 

We have to understand the beginning of suffering to begin to understand where we are in our suffering. How do we manage it? Do we suffer well? By that I mean do we honor God while we are suffering, acknowledging His involvement in our life, and His continual love and care? 

David exclaims, “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Psalm 119:50

David believed and followed God. Yes, David sinned and suffered, but David’s cries for help and forgiveness were to God. God blessed David even while he suffered, and David gave God the credit. David suffered well because he had a personal relationship with God and knew God’s mighty hand had saved his life on many occasions.  

In the New Testament God sent His only Son, Jesus, to redeem those who would follow Him. During Jesus’ ministry He called disciples and apostles to walk with Him so that they would continue the ministry after Jesus’ death. Following Jesus was filled with blessings, healings, and miracles. It was also riddled with ostracizing, hunger, thirst, beatings, prison, blistered feet . . . all forms of persecution and horrific deaths. Suffering.

We are told suffering will exist until the promise is fulfilled at Jesus’ return where He will set up His kingdom on earth.

From Adam and Eve until now, God has been weaving a tapestry of suffering. Our suffering is woven in and around other’s suffering as we share our concerns, hurts, disappointments, and brokenness. Thousands upon thousands of lives depicted in a giant masterpiece. Tears blending colors and overlaying landscapes of brokenness. Can you imagine its intricate complexity? Then go one step further and envision the tapestry’s border woven from Jesus’ suffering and blood. Each tear, each heartache, each prayer, every hurt, all threaded by God’s hands into a unique pattern, encapsulating every thread, binding every suffering to the border of Christ’s suffering.

Paul reminds us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” 2 Corn. 1:3-5

So, what do I do when I get news of suffering?

I do what Jesus does for me. I try to comfort. I cry with them. I ache as they talk or as I read their labored words. I pray that Jesus heals their hurt and heartbreak. I listen. I offer love. I follow up with cards, calls, or texts to get updates and send more encouragement afterwards. Then, I continue to pray.

I am part of God’s tapestry of suffering. I have a common thread with every other sufferer. Every day I pray:

I cannot live without You, Lord. I cannot trudge through valleys of disappointment alone.
I cannot watch innocent people destroy their lives on drugs and maybe never know that You are with them, always. I cannot hear the cries of the destitute and hopeless without knowing You are the hope and anchor in their lives. I cannot listen to sounds of agony and pain without knowing You are with them, ministering to them.
You, Lord, are our common thread in suffering. There is nothing we’ve been through that is foreign to You. You are the border that keeps suffering contained within the boundaries of Your love, grace, and mercy. Lord, weave us tightly and securely. Don’t waste a moment of our lives. Use all of us to serve You even in our affliction. You are the golden thread that binds us. Our love pours out to You.

In all these things I pray,

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Living Life In Gratitude

All week Thanksgiving has been prominent in my mind and heart.

“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done.” Psalm 105:1 NLT
       1.  Give thanks to the Lord. 
Faith. Family. Friends. The whole week has been living life in gratitude. My faith is fortifying. My family is Christ-bound in love. My friends are my anchor . . . God’s support group for me. I’m so thankful my husband and I will be going to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with my oldest daughter and her family. I’m so thankful that our oldest granddaughter wants to take us to see her college of choice, CSU.  I will miss my other two daughters and their families, but so thankful they have wonderful Thanksgiving plans in place.

    2. Proclaim God’s greatness.
“Through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.” (2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV) I love this verse. I try hard to remember to smile and speak Christ’s name to everyone I meet. “God bless you.” “God loves you!” “God is greater than anything you are going through.” These are great and small things we can always do! People need to hear the good news . . . the Truth that does not alter. Proclaim the richness of knowing Christ.

      3.  Let the whole world know what He has done.
As a writer, I get to share Jesus and His mighty works constantly. I have a card ministry where I share God’s love, grace, and mercy. God nudges me to call people, and I’m always amazed when they say, “I needed this call!” Or sending quick texts to do a Jesus-shout-out to friends, family, and acquaintances. I’ve even done this on Facebook with “friends” I barely know that are relatives of relatives, friends of friends. When their post-feeds come through mine and they are asking for prayer, I take it seriously. It’s a small thing to do for Jesus when he does so much for me.

Those are the big things I’m grateful for. But this week gave me a new sense of gratitude. Dash-moments of thanksgiving in the middle of real-everyday-life situations.

1     While sitting at BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), I had a woman come up and hug me. She was a total stranger amid hundreds of women, and she chose me to hug. She said, “God asked me to tell you how much you mean to Him.” I desperately needed that message. Before BSF I had been at the chiropractor’s office with back pain. Seeing my distress, the doctor adjusted my back, taped it up, and handed me pain meds. I left in tears, knowing I had to get on an airplane in two days and wondered how in the world I was going to accomplish it. God sent that sweet woman at BSF to give me God’s hug and let me know He had it all worked out. Praise God!

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV

2.     In the middle of listening to Matthew West’s song “Mended,” I received a call from a friend. Her daughter’s husband asked for a divorce. My heart broke with my friend’s. The words from West’s song rang in my heart. “When you see broken beyond repair, I see healing beyond belief. When you see too far gone, I see one step away from home.” A dash moment of thanksgiving, offering a hurting heart a healing message.
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT

3.     Seeing the perfect gift for my sister-in-law and buying it, knowing it will cause her heart to rejoice, just as mine was doing holding it. She’s been going through some disruptive moments. Praying over the gift and asking God to use it as a token of His love and a reminder that He is always with her, providing the support she needs.
“Having a grateful heart keeps our minds focused on the Lord.”

Dash-moments of thanksgiving, those spur of the moment happenings, occur every day. As I’m growing in my faith, God’s growing my ministry to touch others for Him. It’s nice being a vessel for my Savior. Thanksgiving can be expressed in a variety of ways. And the spirit of thanksgiving is a result of remembering all that God has done for us. Heartfelt daily thanksgiving has a powerful impact on us and everyone we come in contact with.

Faith leads to hope. Hope leads to joy and peace. Joy and peace lead to gratitude. 

“Gratitude to God not only honors Him, but it is good for us.” Psalm 92:1

“Gratitude honors God.” Psalm 50:23

A life of gratitude starts today. Begin a thanksgiving list and start writing down the things you are thankful for. Look back over it periodically to add more things God has revealed to you. Over time your thanksgiving list will be a remembrance memorial of all the things God has shared with you or shown you. 

J. Ellsworth Kalas states, “My place on Gratitude Street depends on constant awareness. So each morning . . . I list the three or four matters from the previous day for which I am grateful.”

Kalas lived on Gratitude Street. Can you believe that? But we can also live on gratitude street as we live a life filled with thanksgiving.

“May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father.” Colossians 1:1-12 NLT

Have a beautiful Thanksgiving. Let gratitude pour out of you as you proclaim God’s goodness,

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Truth on Trial

Jesus stated plainly that He had come into the world “to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). For Christians truth is not elusive. Truth is grounded on Biblical principles. Knowing the truth affects one’s concept of faith. Do you really believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God? 

“Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation” (Psalm 25:15).
Everywhere I turn people are debating the truth about everything. There seems to be no real standards on truth. We are filled to the marrow with half-lies, white-lies, half-truths, broken promises, fabrications, bold-faced lies, exaggerations, fake news, and deceptions. That’s just a few techniques we have for altering the truth. 
Maybe nothing is real anymore. We’ve thrown character, integrity, and honor out the door. Is truth following the same pattern?
Rather than strain to find truth in a lie, why not find truth that is solid, truth that cannot be altered. It’s found in the Bible. 
When Jesus came into the world, His mission was to teach the truth to men who had altered the truth, defiling the name of God, His promises, and His ten commandments or moral laws. 
When my five-year-old granddaughter got miffed at her mother for challenging her words, she fumbled, twisted around, and finally blurted out, “I make the truth!” I just happened to have my phone in my hand when the conversation started and was able to catch her in action. 

For a few minutes, it was funny. Then the reality hit me. Everyone wants to make the truth easy and palatable for them, and they don’t seem to care if it’s right for anyone else. Children are having a hard time deciphering what is truth from a shallow-lie, a pocketed-lie. Forgive me, adults are struggling with deception and subterfuge. What’s happening to us?
Truth is on trial again. It’s nothing new. Truth (Christ) was on trial with Pilot. How many stood by and watched an innocent man spat on, scourged, beaten, stripped, and hung on a cross? Are we standing by and watching while people tear God’s Word apart? 
Repeating illogical tunes and confidently elaborating on them carves lies into the very fabric of who we are. Satan would like nothing better than to blind and beguile Christians. He wants to disturb the mind, deceive the heart, and defeat those who belong to Christ. 
I want Wonder Woman’s lariat of truth to bind around our people, so when we lie it tightens and hurts. I bet after a few burn marks as evidence of our recalcitrant nature, we would stop before lying. 
I may not have a lariat of truth, but I have the truth of God’s Word. I’m going to gird on the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. 
Then stand firm and tall, knowing God will win the battle against the assault on His Word. Prepare for the triumphal victory, knowing God’s Word will prepare your heart, mind, and soul against cultural and worldview lies.
My prayer for you and me is a song by Micah Tyler. 
God bless you, Angela

I don’t wanna hear anymore, teach me to listen.
I don’t wanna see anymore, give me a vision.
Then you could move this heart, to be set apart.
I don’t need to recognize, the man in the mirror,
And I don’t wanna trade Your plan, for something familiar.
I can’t waste a day; I can’t stay the same.
I wanna be different.
I wanna be changed.
‘Til all of me is gone,
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different.
In me.
And I don’t wanna spend my life stuck in a pattern.
And I don’t wanna gain this world but lose what matters,
And so I’m giving up, everything because
I wanna be different.