An Open Letter To Those In Pain and Suffering

Christian pain and suffering

Dear Friend In Pain,

I feel so sad and so sorry about what you’re going through right now. I can’t imagine what it’s like. I can guarantee you that what I’m sharing in this letter won’t take the pain away. And I want you to feel perfectly free not to read it. If you don’t I won’t take the least bit of offence. I only want to share with you what made the biggest difference for me when I went through my time of pain. Continue reading

Why is Christianity so Difficult?

why is Christianity so hard?Why is Christianity so hard? It’s not. Not if you’re all in. What I’ve found in myself and observing others is that if you live your life for yourself, you’ll experience a certain level of comfort, or, if not comfort, then at least some measure of self gratification. But if you give yourself completely to Christ, you’ll experience an abundant life–the best life possible. It’s when you or I are in between that it gets hard.

Jesus said the Christian life is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14), but he never said it’s hard. In fact he said it’s easy. (Matthew 11:28-30) The thing is, it doesn’t become easy until you’re all in. Jesus said he came so we could have a rich abundant life (John 10:10), but you and I won’t experience that rich abundant life unless we connect with Christ to the fullest extent we can.

I think many Christians today find Christianity hard because they’re not disciples. It might seem like a paradox but the deeper you go in Christ, the richer and more abundant your life becomes. You love God more. You grow more. You love people more. And you also lose yourself, and that part can be scary. You lose yourself because your focus turns away from you and toward loving God and loving people. That idea can be frightening. It’s frightening because we don’t want to let go of ourselves. We fear losing the self-life. But if you ever have the courage to try it, if you ever find the courage to just plunge into Jesus Christ and become a real follower of him and his words, you’ll discover what many have discovered before you:

Intimacy with Jesus results in the best life possible.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” -Jesus Christ, Matthew 16:25

Lose yourself in Jesus Christ, and see what happens to your life.

[Image via Pictoscribe – Creative Commons]

You’re Young; Profit by My Sincere Confession

Do not act this way, my brothers. You are young; profit by the sincere confession I make to you of the little care I took to consecrate my first years to God. Consecrate all of your years to His love; for, as for me, if I had known sooner, and if anyone had told me the things I am telling you now, I would not have waited so long to love Him. Believe me, and count for lost all the time that is not spent in loving God. -Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

I couldn’t possibly say it better than he did.

 

What Jesus Gave For Christmas

Christmas Surrender Yourself to God

Surrender by “Ancient History” – Creative Commons

The thermometer said 3 degrees and there was snow and ice on the roads. We were experiencing some unusually low temperatures here in Oregon and it was during that cold snap, I was reluctant to leave the nest to go to church. Inside, my house was warm and cushy. There was food in the fridge and games on TV. The lure of the self-life called strong. I didn’t want to give up that comfort to go worship Jesus corporately.

What Jesus Gave

Have you ever thought about what Jesus gave up, to come to us? He didn’t leave a warm home on a cold day, he left heaven. He left his Father. He left his throne. He left multitudes of angels who supported him at his every turn. He left a place where there’s no pain, a place overflowing with joy. He left a place so magnificent we can’t even imagine it. He gave it all up so he could come to our place, planet earth, to bleed on the cross, because it was the only way to reconcile us with our Father.

Jesus gave up everything for us. He gave it all.

What I Give

That’s what we celebrate on Christmas. I’ve been thinking about that lately, what He gave up and what I gave up. He gave up everything, I gave up–not much. I became a Christian a long time ago but there has always been some something I wanted to hang onto. Oh I wanted to be a Christian to be sure, so I could make it into heaven. But I didn’t want to let go of certain things.

I wanted to remain a Christian but… Continue reading

What God Wants

What does God want

Jesus’ Last Moments

Jesus hung there on the cross between the two criminals. The sign Pilot ordered, hung over Jesus’ head, it said, This is the King of the Jews. The bible says the Jewish rulers were “sneering” at him. “He saved others,” they said. “Let him save himself if he’s God’s Messiah.”

One of the criminals who hung there with him also sneered. He said, “You’re supposed to be the Messiah? Save yourself and save us too.”

Darkness came across the land.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Then Jesus called out loudly, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

And then he died.

(Luke 23)

How God Said It

In the story of Jesus’ death we see him mocked and sneered at while he hung there to die. Before that we feel his pain as we see him falsely accused, and whipped, and crowned with thorns, and nailed to the cross. We see it, we feel it, we experience it. That’s the way the bible is written. Have you ever noticed that? Have you ever noticed all the sensory experiential language in the bible?

  • Jesus’ first miracle had to do with tasting. He turned the water into wine. And the master of the wedding feast tasted it and said, This is the best tasting wine of the feast.
  • “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” Psalm 34:8 says.
  • Jesus said, I am the bread of life, he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. (John 6:35) In fact most of John chapter 6 is about Jesus explaining how we must eat and drink of him.

And there’s also all the talk about Jesus our bridegroom, and how we’re his bride.

  • Jesus said, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?” (Matthew 9:15)
  • The bible says in Revelation, “The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready…” (Revelation 19:7-9, see also Revelation 21:2, 21:9-11)
  • And Jesus tells the parable of the virgins and the bridegroom in Matthew 25.

And those are just a few examples. So why does the bible push all this sensory and experiential language on us? What is God saying to us?

What God Wants

What is he saying to us? What does God want? Here’s what He’s saying to us: Continue reading

Top 10 Posts of 2012

Christian life with Jesus Christ1) Love Like Jesus series: The most popular posts of 2012 begin with a series. Jesus commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 NKJV) But He never provided instruction as to how we’re to love–or did he? Posts from the new Love Like Jesus series examine every encounter Jesus had with a person or a group, in chronological order. Each interaction is analyzed and a way for you to make application in your own life is provided.

You can check out the top Love Like Jesus post by clicking on Love Like Jesus–Love the UnlovableOr check out the whole series by clicking on Love Like Jesus.

2) Senna Part 2–Teach Us to Number Our DaysOne of the most compelling stories I’ve ever heard is that of Formula 1 race car driver Ayrton Senna. I was surprised to find I’m not alone. Senna Part 2–Teach Us to Number Our Days is one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written. We can learn some valuable lessons from his life. If you’re interested in Ayrton Senna, you might also like Senna Part 1–Senna vs. Prost–Esau Ran to Jacob.

3) Sex and Your Future–Trading 45 Minutes for 1,000 YearsContinue reading

What God Says to You: Genesis 45:1-4

Painting by Peter Cornelius, circa 1816. Photograph by Notanyron, Creative Commons

To read the last post on Genesis, see What Does God Want?: Genesis 44

Read Genesis 45:1-4

In the last post on Genesis, we left Joseph’s brothers in deep deep trouble. Joseph’s steward had just found Joseph’s divining cup in Benjamin’s bag. Joseph has ordered that Benjamin be taken as a slave. Judah, realizing his father Jacob will die of grief if they don’t return with Benjamin, offers himself to Joseph, in place of his youngest brother.

It’s at this point Joseph can no longer contain himself. He orders all his attendants out. “Have everyone leave my presence!” he says. So he’s alone with his brothers. And he weeps. He weeps so loudly, the Egyptians outside hear him. And the word spreads to Pharaoh about Joseph’s weeping.

Joseph says, I’m Joseph! Is my father still alive? But his brothers are unable to speak, because they’re terrified at his presence.

Then Joseph says to his brothers these words, “Come close to me.”

What God Says to You:

What does God say to you? Before He says anything, He weeps for you. He desires you. He wants you to draw close to Him. Your greater than Joseph, Jesus, says the same thing Joseph said. He says, “Come. Please come. Come close to me.”

Listen, I know, it’s like it was with Joseph’s brothers. Your terrified at His presence. You might even be speechless. It is, without question, a daunting thing to come close to Jesus. Like Joseph, Jesus knows about your past sins against Him. And He knows about your misplaced confidence in your own ability. He knows, well, He knows everything. And like Joseph, He has incredible power. Like Joseph He has the power of life and death over you. He has the power to destroy you.

He has the power to change your life forever–one way or the other.

So you’re terrified. You’re terrified at His presence because you know if you draw close, your life will change forever. And there will without question be collateral portions of your life left behind.

But the thing is, you need a Person with that power. You need a Savior. You need your life changed. Your anxiety, your problems, require Someone with that much power to overcome them. Yes it’s dangerous, but the risk is worth the reward. Because the reward is release! You’ll be freed from your burdens!

Listen:

You can unload your problems.

You can be freed from your emotional burdens.

You can be freed from your depression.

Just give yourself to Him.

The degree to which you give yourself to Christ, is the degree to which you’ll experience release from your anxiety.

So do it.

Go to your knees. Or fall on your face before Him.

Pray.

Pray a prayer of surrender.

If you do, you’ll begin a process of healing.

If you do, you’ll be freed.

 

Shocked by God — Seriously!

Photo by sea turtle, creative commons

Hi, I’m on vacation, hiking in the North Cascades National Park with family. So you’ll see a guest post today (with a short comment from me at the bottom) and a few posts with links to people who write better than I do, until Saturday, July 28. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

The following is a guest post by Kassidy Lane. Kassidy is the manager of Oregon Painting and Repair. He is a disciplined follower of the paleo diet and I’m pretty sure his body fat content is less than what you find in a carton of 1% milk. He lives in Springfield, Oregon with his wife, two kids, two dogs, and an undisclosed number of chickens. He is my favorite nephew (in a tie with all my other nephews, but don’t tell him that). Most importantly, he is a lover of Jesus Christ.

So I was in church last Sunday and I’m not proud to say that It was one of those services where I could not wait for it to be over so I could get on with my day. I had a long list of things I planned on doing and felt I did not have enough time for it all.  My pastor said something to the effect of how some people think they don’t need God, how they have it all figured out, and how those people need to be shocked and completely surprised by God to see and feel his awesome power. One thing I know for sure and I’ll never forget, he used the word “shocked” when he shared this with us.

As the service ended I rushed out without talking to anyone so as to have more time to get my many tasks done.

Later that day I was up on a ladder, painting my neighbors house, and was electrocuted by around 220 volts/amps (don’t really know which), when my arm came in contact with a power line. I was lit up for about two seconds, then I fell 12 feet to the ground. It was by far the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. The electricity went in my right wrist and out my left wrist leaving a burn about the size of a quarter. The 220 volts passed directly through my heart and, from what I have read, could have killed me.

I just hugged my family and I cried like I have not cried in years!

God really got my attention and I hope to remember Him and His awesome power and His Grace in my future days!

-Kas

Kas’s story is so timely. As I’m posting this for Kas, I’m trying to find my Kindle. I’ve been trying to find it all day and it’s really bothering me. At the same time the wounding of the 59 and the killing of the 12 by the gunman at Dark Night Rises in Aurora, Colorado is all over the news, which really puts things in perspective. What’s a lost Kindle compared to losing a loved one? I’m betting there were more than a few families and friends of those who suffered, who let the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word — before the shooting. (Matthew 13:22) After the shooting, I’m betting most of these people have turned their hearts toward God. I’m betting the little worries of this life, and the pursuit of wealth don’t seem very important right now.

Turn your heart toward God. Don’t wait for the shock to come, or the tragedy.

You’ll be glad you did.

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

-Jesus Christ, Matthew 13:22-23

Drawing Close to God

Close to God James 4:8

Image by Jonathan Kos-Read – Creative Commons.

Every person on the planet is precisely as close to God as he or she wants to be. Have you ever thought about that?

James 4:8 says if you draw near to God, He will draw near to you.

That truth compels you, and I, and every one of us to ask ourselves,

“What am I doing to draw near to God?”

He’s waiting for you, you know. He’s watching. He’s watching for when you begin to move toward Him. While you’re still a long way off, He’ll see you, and be filled with compassion for you; He’ll run to you, and throw His arms around you. (Luke 15:11-32)

Get up and go to Him.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you — 1 Peter 5:6-7

90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper

I’m reading about Don Piper who was crushed in a head on collision with an 18 wheeler, was dead at the accident scene for 90 minutes, and then revived when a pastor, who happened to be passing by, felt lead to pray for him. He gives an amazing account of what those 90 minutes were like. He says he went to heaven. (90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper)

The good and the bad for Don.

Good: He was permitted to experience heaven for 90 minutes.

Bad: He was permitted to experience heaven for 90 minutes.

Now that he’s alive he finds himself physically devastated and in constant excruciating pain. Pain all the morphine in the world won’t touch. Having had a taste of heaven, he longs to go there, and he struggles with the difficulties of remaining in this life on earth.

Then he does something that changes everything. He gives his whole life over to God. And the great thing about giving your whole life over to God is He gets all of it — even the heartbreaks and pain.

The great thing about giving your whole life over to God is He gets all of it — even the heartbreaks and pain.

From that point, his whole life turned around.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

1 Peter 5:6-7

References:

Bible Gateway

90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper