Monthly Archives: June 2018

Suffering – What to do, say and pray!

What do we do when someone who we love is faced with deep anguish, pain and suffering? What do we say? How do we pray?

The Book of Job gives us insight into a situation beyond the knowledge of Job and his four friends. Job had no idea that God and Satan were in the midst of an interaction involving Job who God had declared was righteous in God’s eyes. Satan argued that Job was righteous because he had been so wonderfully blessed by God – a great family, lots of possessions and the respect of his community. Job 1-2

But God knew what Job was made of – He created him! God allowed Satan to take away Job’s blessings. What followed was the terrible suffering of Job who could not understand his circumstances and his friends who judged rather than comforted. Job 3-37

God reveals to us in the Book of Job these nuggets of wisdom:

  1. God is in charge and is looking at the entire picture that we do not have the ability to comprehend. It is not our job to figure out the “why” of a tragedy. If we focus on the “why”, we will fall into a pit of despair that will be difficult to climb out of.
  2. We will all suffer. Each person will have their own trouble. Jesus reminded us of this when he told his disciples that his time had come. He stated, “Now my heart is troubled and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” John 12:27-28.
  3. Suffering removes shallowness. In the course of suffering most of us become more empathetic. In other words, suffering can prepare us to help others. God has put in place persons who are our safety net in the event of a fall. They cannot save us from the fall but they can offer comfort, reassurance and hope to help us weather the storm. Safety nets are made up of a few persons who have usually weathered their own storms with the help of others.
  4. Since there is no way to truly know why a tragic event occurs, we need to focus our energies elsewhere. If you know you are part of the safety net for another, do not shirk your duty. Rest assured that if you do, God will call someone else but you will have missed an opportunity. In that event, repent and move on – ever more vigilant the next time you are called.
  5. In the midst of the storm, there is no room for judgment. Judgment means we are focusing on the “why” instead of the person. Our focus should be “do unto others as you want others to do unto you”.
  6. What to do, say or pray?
    • If you are part of someone’s inner circle, go to them, listening and loving as the Holy Spirit moves in you. There are no hard and fast rules on comfort. It is a work of the Holy Spirit.   Those who ask God to go before them and trust that God is in control of the situation will do and say the right thing. (Job’s friends did start out with the right idea – they went to him, sat with him presumably with the intent to comfort him. However, their focus was on the “why” of the situation instead of sharing the hope of the Living God.)
    • If you are not part of someone’s inner circle, but have been called by circumstance or experience, do your part. Is it sending a card with words of encouragement? Is it helping with a task that will ease the load of the suffering person or their inner circle? Is it a hospital visit or a meal? Is it monetary assistance?
    • If you are not part of someone’s inner circle but the person has been placed on your heart, pray for the person and the people who are part of the inner circle. Your prayers are strengthening the Body of Christ. They are of critical importance.
  7. Persevere in faith. God is good and we can safely rely on Him in our troubled times. In the midst of our trouble or someone else’s, we need to draw close to Him so out of our relationship, we will find His comfort. The key to developing this focus is to practice it on a daily basis during the good times and the mundane times, because trouble will eventually come to us all.  So in this day and in this week be in the practice of “making each moment Holy”.

Remember, God is in charge. He is good – ALL the time. He has The Plan. He is the judge – not us. We can trust in Him even when circumstances are not what we think they should be or what we want them to be. Suffering will come. Ask and you will receive Holy Spirit guidance to be able to persevere and to be able to be the safety net for others.  Our focus in times of trouble should be on Him. Our focus when others are in trouble should be on Him. So, persevere in faith. And Remember, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30

Fruit Bearers

Talking with His disciples, Jesus conveyed to them what the process of life with Him is like. He wanted them to understand the relationship between Himself, God and us. As was His way, He taught the disciples using something they were familiar with – a vineyard and the process the Gardner painstakingly engages in to produce fruit for His use.

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

“But remember the root command: Love one another.”  

John 15:1-17 The Message

This process of life is just that – a process. We have been grafted into God through Jesus. Once grafted, we are pruned in order to bear fruit not for ourselves but for God’s Glory.

Practically speaking, this means that we need to take an active approach to abide in Jesus.

  1. Believe that when we are grafted onto the Vine, Jesus will not remove us. Set worry behind you – it is unbelief. Unbelief can only be conquered through the process of pruning.
  2. Remember who is first in our life. Jesus is the source of our life – without the Vine, we would have been dead branches (burned and discarded). However, since we believe and are grafted to the vine, we need to remember not to turn from the source of life. Actively seek Him – by taking time to: worship, delve into His Word, communicate with Him (prayer) and serve those placed in our paths on a daily basis. Abiding can only be accomplished through pruning.
  3. Know God’s commands and follow them. This can only occur if we delve into God’s Word and actively seek to follow what we read. Welcome the pruning process knowing that you are being drawn closer and closer to the Gardner!
  4. Celebrate the pruning that occurs in our life. Attitude does matter. When tough times come, we need to be vigilant to abide in Jesus with our attitude, words and responses. As the pruning process becomes more refined, we can see how far we have progressed!
  5. The point of the Gardner/Vine/Branch analogy is to help us understand that we are not in this alone – in fact we are not “in charge”. Our job is to stick to the Vine and not turn from it. Pruning helps us understand that abiding in Jesus is good and getting ahead of Jesus on our own direction is not.
  6. Remember why Jesus told the disciples about the vine and the branches – so that His joy could be theirs! Be joyful – not just in the good times but also in the challenging times. Pruning does produce joy; so welcome it!
  7. Love one another. In each day, we need to be aware of those placed in our path and care for them. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in that care. Walk with others through difficult times as others have walked with you. Send a note. Make a call. Cook a meal. Listen. Share in others celebrations. If you miss these opportunities, don’t worry; pruning produces more opportunities!

The point of pruning is to bear fruit. And as fruit bearers, God will hear you. God is pleased when you talk with Him. Remember, a request to God, made out of pure love for God’s Will to be done in a person’s life, will be granted. He promised.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – A Perspective

Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.

The wild animals honor me,

the jackals and the owls,

because I provide water in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland,

to give drink to my people, my chosen,

the people I formed for myself

that they may proclaim my praise. Isaiah 43:18-21

The “past” sets the stage for the present. It is the launching point for today.

Having perspective on “what has been” is a matter of life or death – of joy or continued sorrow – of eternal significance or of no significance.

Our pain of yesterday – is just that – past pain. It is not present pain unless we choose to continue it in this day. It takes a reordering of our mind to choose God and His righteousness in this day.

Use the past to remember how to live in today.

Those earlier ones never did get to the place of rest because they were disobedient. God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation:

Today, please listen,
    don’t turn a deaf ear . . .

 And so this is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience. Hebrews 4:5-11 The Message

Our goal for “today” is to bring glory to God in each moment by living obediently as Jesus teaches us – in peace with others, acting in a righteous manner (being honest, kind, merciful, humble, meek, pure in heart) and praising God in word and deed.

So, in this day. . . Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-32

Remember, “today” has enough worries of its own – so don’t dwell on what is to come.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:28-34

The purpose of “tomorrow” is to live righteously today. Concentrate on today and tomorrow will take care of itself. Eternity meets us in today and will meet us again, tomorrow, either here or in Heaven.

Remember, today is tomorrow’s past so live “right” today and launch into tomorrow at the right place.

Slipping?

If you feel yourself slipping into depression or lethargy;

If you feel directionless with no indication of where to turn;

If you are hurt and unable to be comforted;

If you are grieving with no end to your pain;

If you are questioning His presence;

If you are worried and losing hope;

If you feel your faith slipping away;

If you feel completely alone;

If you feel misunderstood and have no one to turn to;

If you are trapped in circumstances beyond your control;

If you are in need of reassurance and unfailing love.

Then, turn to the Word of God.

I lift my eyes unto the hills –

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

He will not let your foot slip –  he who watches over you will not slumber . . . Psalm 121:1-3

 Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

 Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. . . Matthew 5:3-6

 Be still and know that I am God . . . Psalm 46:10

 Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? . . . Matthew 6:25-27

 I am the Way, the Truth and the Life – No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6

 Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened . . . Matthew 7:7-8

 I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. . . . John 7:25

It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this and I will be his God and he will be my son.     Rev. 21:6-7

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