I Thought I Was In A Hotel

Why does God allow suffering

I recently read about a gym where actors go to get in shape for movie roles. It’s somewhere in Utah. The facility is barren. You won’t find much in the way of machines. Mostly free weights. The guy who runs the gym is radical. He’s serious about the success of anyone who walks through his door.

Now imagine with me, there are a dozen people at that gym. Half of them recognize it as a gym. They’re there to become strong. They are there to receive training that will enable them to fulfill their role successfully. But the other half, the other half of the group, they think it’s a hotel. That second group–they are very unhappy.

That’s how it can be for you and for me when we look at planet earth as a place designed for our happiness and comfort.

It’s not.

And if you think it through you wouldn’t want it to be. You can’t grow without adversity, and who wants to live a life without growth. God’s environment for us is similar to your environment for your kids. If you kept everything as cushy as possible for your kids, they might wind up like Wayne and Garth, living in your basement at the age of 35.

Nobody wants their children to remain children. So we offer them different forms of “adversity,” if you will. And nobody wants to remain a child.

God tells us in James 1,

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Trials produce steadfastness. Trials produce strength. This earth isn’t a hotel: it’s like that gym.

In the words of C.S. Lewis,

“If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you will find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training…”

Sometimes training in the gym can be excruciatingly difficult. And training for life can be that way too. But remember that we train for a purpose. We train to become more like Jesus Christ. We train to become more pleasing to our God.

And remember the end.

Remember heaven.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This world is a place of training.

References:

Sarah, A Place of Training, Deeper Still… Blog

Francis and Lisa Chan, You and Me Forever, Claire Love Publishing, 2014

Matthew Casey, Springs of Life

Image via U.S. Navy – Creative Commons

Church: If the earliest Christ followers didn’t do church the way we do today, why should I?

should I go to church

To Go Or Not To Go?

I had lunch with a twenty-something and thirty-something today. These two men happen to be two of my favorite people on planet earth. We had a great time together. Toward the end of our meal the conversation turned to church. During the conversation both agreed that attending church is unnecessary. One commented that Pope Francis made the statement: It is not necessary to go to church, and, for many nature can be a church. The other made the accurate observation that the early followers of Christ didn’t go to a church building to worship in the same way we do today. And I have to confess, I agree with him. And if you’re interested, you can listen to this guy who shares some of the same sentiments as the thirty-something who made that comment: If Jesus were the pastor of your church you probably wouldn’t go there

But what about that? What about the earliest Christians? If the earliest Christ followers didn’t do church the way we do today, why should we? Continue reading

Your Money (And your future)

financesNew House With A View

There’s a thirty-something I know who looked out his window the other day to see his neighbor urinating on a garage. I asked him what he did about it, and he said, “I just smiled and waved at the guy. He was very embarrassed, believe me.” This thirty-something, he very recently made a decision to buy a duplex, and now he and his family are living in one unit. They’re going to rent the other. It’s only temporary, but the thing is, his strategy comes with sacrifices. The unit is small for his family of three and his large dog. The purchase stretches his budget to the max, and then a little beyond. And–well–occasionally he might see his next door neighbor urinating on a garage. Nevertheless, I think this thirty-something has made a very wise decision only a small percentage of people make. He is Continue reading

Easter And Your Fear Of Death

fear of death

The Fountain

Kathy and I just finished watching The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. IMDB describes the movie this way: “As a modern-day scientist, Tommy (Jackman) is struggling with mortality, desperately searching for the medical breakthrough that will save the life of his cancer-stricken wife, Izzi (Rachel Weisz).”

Jackman’s character Tommy is obsessed with finding a cure for his wife’s cancer to the point where he devotes nearly all his time to his research, often at the expense of his relationship with his dying Izzi. He’s consumed with finding the answer to the problem of death.

Death, Dying, And Easter

I think Easter is one of the most relevant times possible for us to explore our anxiety over our own mortality. I know there are some this Easter who are struggling with the fear of death. And there’s a logic to it because the reality is, despite the amazing progress of science and medicine, one statistic about death remains completely unchanged: 100% of us die. And that inspires fear.

Life insurance companies know this. We see them play on this fear in advertisements on TV and on the internet. The content creators of mass media also recognize our fear of death. When they feature articles about health remedies that promise to help us live longer, they know they’ll attract readers, listeners, and viewers (which in turn attracts advertisers–some of which might be life insurance companies).

But what we fear, I think, is not death itself, but Continue reading

My Experience With Christians (and why it’s so hard to leave the Rogue Valley)

why are Christians so mean

The Sun Sets On The Rogue Valley

Kathy and I are moving away from the beautiful Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon. There will be more on that a little later but first I want to look at how some people view Christians.

Why Do So Many Doctors Treating Ebola Have To Be Christian?

Not long ago I read this article on slate.com about how most of the medical care for Ebola patients in Africa comes from missionaries. And the author, who wasn’t a Christian, made some interesting statements about those missionaries. He said he’s uncomfortable with the missionary medical personnel in Africa because they don’t collect data the way some secular medical organizations do, and because they lack oversight. Then he said this,

“And yet, truth be told, these valid critiques don’t fully explain my discomfort with missionary medicine. If we had thousands of secular doctors doing exactly the same work, I would probably excuse most of these flaws. ‘They’re doing work no one else will,’ I would say. ‘You can’t expect perfection.'”

Kind of weird.

A Pastor Fund Raises For A Gulf Stream Jet Aircraft

Continue reading

Couples With Amazing Marriages All Do This One Thing

great marriages all do this one thing

…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

A Spirited Exchange Of Ideas (An Argument) Between A Husband And Wife

Kathy and I are in the midst of transition right now, including relocating to a city nearly 300 miles away, the sale of our vacation rental business, and investing in a new area. And of course along with transition of this nature comes, shall we say, spirited exchanges of ideas between husband and wife. And that has me thinking about Continue reading

Why Didn’t God Heal Me?

Why didn't God heal me?

So last post we saw my friend Mike’s miracle: how he had a heart attack but was healed. It really was remarkable the way things turned out. But when you read that post, you may have said in your head, “Yes, that’s great that your friend Mike was healed. But what about Christians who aren’t healed? What about Christians who have a thousand people praying for them, but then they die anyway?” Continue reading

My Friend Mike’s Miracle

miracle prayer

Last post we talked about one reason God was so responsive to Jesus’ prayers was because he loved God so much. And because he loved God so much, Jesus was always seeking to give Him glory. If you’re interested you can check it out here: The One Thing You Can Do To Give Life To Your Prayers

Well Monday, two days after that post I received a text from my friend Mark. He and another friend Mike host a podcast called Solomon’s Porch Radio. And Mark’s text said,

“Hey Kurt …..let everyone know to be praying for Mike….he had a heart attack. ..and just went in for surgery.”

So I just arrived home from Portland late the night before and I missed that text. But another friend, Luke Salyer, sent me a DM on Twitter about it, so I called Mark and asked him to keep me up to speed on Mike’s condition.

Then Wednesday morning I received another text, and this one was from Mike (via Mark). And this is what it said: Continue reading

The One Thing You Can Do To Give Life To Your Prayers

The One Thing You Can Do To Give Life To Your PrayersThe one thing you can do is at the end of this post. It’s worth it, I promise. If you do it, it will change your life.

Taunts From An Atheist About Praying In Jesus’ Name

I have this friend who’s nearly an atheist. What I mean is, he’s the most atheistic leaning agnostic I know. And around the fire station he sometimes loved to taunt Christians. One time he said to me, (in the snarkiest tone possible), “So the bible says if you ask for anything in Jesus’ name that he’ll give it to you. Right? So ask for a Mercedes Benz tonight. And see if it’s in your driveway when you wake up tomorrow morning.”

In Jesus’ Name: What That Means

Now there’s an obvious answer to that taunt. Asking in Jesus’ name Continue reading

Why Did Lazarus Have To Die? (And why do I have to suffer?)

Why do I have to suffer?

Why Did Lazarus Have To Die?

I’ve been reading Eric Metaxas’s Miracles again and there’s a section where he addresses the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. And Metaxas really made me think. Why did Lazarus have to die anyway? Why did Lazarus have to endure the suffering? Why was it necessary for his family to mourn? I mean, Jesus could have shown up earlier and healed him as he did for so many. But he didn’t. So Lazarus suffered–and died.

By the time Jesus got there his sisters and his friends were weeping. And in answer to anyone who would say that God is some sort of impersonal metaphysical force, Jesus, God incarnate, was overcome with grief himself. And he wept for his friend, and for his friend’s family, and for his friend’s friends. Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, had been dead for four days. Four days. That’s significant because there was this idea in Jewish culture at the time, that when a person died their spirit hung around for three days. And here we find Lazarus dead beyond that time period. In fact when Jesus directed the men to remove the stone that sealed the tomb, Lazarus’s sister Martha protested.

“Hang on, he’s been dead for four days. He’s been decomposing,” she said, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench.”

But Jesus went ahead with it anyway.

He prayed out loud, not so God could hear him, but for the benefit of the people there.

And Lazarus walked out of that tomb.

And here’s where I have to ask: Why? Why was that necessary? Why did Lazarus and the people who loved him have to suffer that way? Why couldn’t Jesus have just healed him?

And the answer is found when we ask the question: Continue reading