Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rejoice in Suffering



We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Peace with God is achieved when Jesus Christ is received. We have been justified by faith we have access into His grace and we rejoice in the hope of eternal life with God. But how should we react to the difficulties of life? We can still have joy even in the midst of our sufferings.

Just because we are justified by faith, that does not excuse us from the trials of life.  Jesus said, “In this world you shall have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Moses wrote, "Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away." Psalm 90:10 

In this life we have afflictions, chronic pain, emotional distress, suffering, heartache, financial trouble, loneliness, debilitating diseases, marriage and family problems, sickness, grief. But for believers in Christ, trials work for us and not against us. God allows trials to make us better, not bitter. Our trials are designed to bring us closer to God and make us more like Jesus.

Paul says we can rejoice in our sufferings. Consider what he endured.

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:24-28

Yet he could rejoice in his sufferings because understood the reason why.

Suffering produces endurance; the ability to stand up under difficulties without caving in. But you have to suffer to develop endurance. Just like a runner who stresses his body to develop endurance. Suffering is just part of the Christian life. God knows how much tribulation we can take, so He carefully measures the suffering we face.

Endurance produces proven character. It is a quality of confidence that comes through an experience. You’ve probably seen sports teams that do great during the regular season but when they get to the playoffs play poorly because they’ve never been in that position before. But a team that has been tested with playoff experience has fewer jitters. They perform well because they have been there before. But without the first step the second step won’t happen. When you focus on God in the midst of your suffering you will develop endurance, and that endurance deepens your character. You will be tried, tested and approved by God.

Then proven character produces hope. It gives you a stronger assurance and confidence that God will give you the power, strength and encouragement to see you through what trial you face.

Suffering drives us to the one place where we can find real hope, real confidence and real certainty, God. We can boast in the hope that comes from God. When people look at you and wonder how you can get through the trials of life, you can boast that my hope comes from the Lord and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

All of us want to develop proven character and have more hope. Those qualities spring out of endurance, which comes through suffering. If it were up to me, I would prefer that God just sprinkle some endurance and character and hope on me while I’m sleeping at night. I could wake up and be a much more spiritual man! But that’s not the way God works.

And hope does not disappoint. The hope that suffering builds in us is a hope that won’t be disappointed. Our hope is centered on God’s promises and they will always be fulfilled. Our hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The way God works in us produces a domino effect. Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

What are you suffering through? Grief, chronic pain, emotional distress, heartache, financial trouble, loneliness, debilitating diseases, marriage and family problems, sickness? How are you going to deal with it? Remember, our present troubles are small, they only come when necessary and they won’t last for long.

The more you endure, the greater the blessing. So, don’t complain because you have to suffer. Our complaining doesn’t honor God and it thwarts what He is trying to accomplish in your life. Godly character can only be developed through struggle. The trials, the tests, the pain, the suffering, and difficulties only prove to make us stronger.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2

We can praise God in the midst of the storm because we know that the end result is something good. Our trials work for us and not against us. Our trials are designed to bring us closer to God and make us more like Jesus.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Feed my lambs

When Jesus was arrested the night before His crucifixion, Peter followed behind at a safe distance. Although he boasted that he would never desert the Lord; that night he denied three times that he even knew Jesus. After Jesus had risen from the dead, He and Peter had some face time.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. John 21:15-17

Jesus restored a repentant Peter to fellowship. He also commissioned Him to tend His flock, to feed his lambs and sheep. After Jesus ascended to heaven, a transformed Peter powerfully preached the very first gospel message on the day of Pentecost. He became a strong leader in the first mega-church. 

I find it interesting that God calls his followers sheep. Sheep are ignorant and defenseless and they need the protection and guidance of the shepherd. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." And that’s exactly what He did for us. Now He has gifted pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. The lambs and the sheep need feeding and leading and that is the task of the spiritual shepherd. What an awesome responsibility! 

Our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He wants to destroy the shepherd and the flock. Unfortunately, too many pastors have been defeated spiritually, physically or emotionally.

There are times when shepherds feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated. Some grow tired and weary and regrettably give up the fight all too soon. Peter learned what it was like to shepherd the flock and he wrote these verses to encourage all of God’s under-shepherds who would follow in his footsteps.  

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5:1-4



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Resurrection Day

One of the things I love about this time of year is how various colors emerge as nature resurrects from its winter death sentence. This is also the time of year when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. With remarkable accuracy, Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testaments prophecies concerning his life, death, burial and resurrection. Here's the account from the Gospel of John...

Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her. So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. John 20 11-20

Not only did Jesus appear to his immediate disciples after His resurrection but He also appeared to over 500 of his followers! At the time the apostle Paul wrote about this fact many of the witnesses were still alive who would corroborate his story. Paul himself persecuted Christians until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, years after His ascension to heaven. Here is how Paul describes the good news about Jesus death, burial and resurrection...

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

I believe these things by faith, but still there are many skeptics today. However many agnostics and atheists like Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell took the initiative to actually study the claims of Christ. The overwhelming evidence lead them to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Even Josephus the 1st century historian attests to evidence of Jesus' resurrection...

" ... About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and as a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared." Josephus' Testimonium Flavianum, from Antiquities of the Jews 18:63-64

The Gospel of John closes with the reason for his writing. His purpose in writing his gospel is that you will be presented with the factual truth about Jesus and hopefully come to believe his claims. We who believe in Him have hope beyond the grave... because He rose from the dead, so shall we!

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's Good about Good Friday?

I stand amazed at the great lengths God would go to just to save us. You might say, "Why do I need to be saved? What am I being saved from?" It all goes back to the Garden of Eden. The story is found in the Book of Genesis. God created Adam and Eve and gave them simple instructions which ultimately they disobeyed. God had warned them that their disobedience would result in death. They chose to listen to the temptation of Satan rather than the clear command of God. The result was their banishment from the Garden, eventual physical death and separation from God. However God promised that he would provide a way of reconciliation for them. Since we all descended from Adam and Eve, the same curse is upon us, we're born, we die and without God's intervention we would be eternally separated from him in a place of torment...fire and brimstone.

God says we are all born as sinners. Some will readily admit to being sinners but others believe we are basically good. The problem is that we have the wrong standard. We think we're good because we're not as bad as others who may be drunks, murderers or thieves. God is the one who sets the standard and His standard is nothing short of perfection. "...For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood." Romans 3:23-25

I don't understand why God loves mankind but I'm just glad that He does. He loves us so much that He provided a way of escape from eternal punishment. If we accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and allow Him to have control of our lives, we can become righteous in God's eyes. "...When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Romans 3:6-8

I'm currently reading through the Gospels as we approach Resurrection Day. It's good to be reminded of the price that Jesus paid to redeem us from the penalty of our sin. The cross can be minimized to jewelry or clothing adornment but it was the most brutal form of execution ever known to man. But God decided this would be the method by which Jesus would willingly give up His life. "... Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face." "...So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull. There they nailed him to the cross." John 19:1-3,17


That's what makes Good Friday "good". Jesus suffered the ignominious death on the cross but it was "good" for us because He became the substitute on our behalf. God poured out His just and holy wrath on His own Son, whom He had made to be the very embodiment of sin. You just need to believe it and receive Christ by faith. Good Friday can be good for you too when you become a follower of Jesus Christ.  

"For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." 2 Corinthians 5:21

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Life is Short



On February 3, 2014, my beautiful daughter Jessica went home to be with Jesus. She valiantly fought leukemia for the past 5 years. She left a gaping hole that only God can fill.

We don’t always understand why God allows certain things to occur, but whatever happens we know that we can trust Him. One good thing is she no longer has to suffer. Through Jessica’s death, the Lord gave me the opportunity to share the gospel and he used to occasion to restore some strained relationships. 


Death is an unwelcome intruder. It’s like an alien invader. When God created the first man and woman, they were made to be immortal. Death wasn’t part of the equation. They had been warned not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because that would bring death in the world.


The serpent deceived them into believing that God was holding out on them (same tactic he uses today). They fell into Satan’s snare and the world was cursed with the plague of death.


The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90

It is wise to live in light of the fact, life is short. 


Whenever I perform a funeral, I am reminded again of the brevity of our time here on earth. Death has a way of putting things into perspective. It forces us to think about our own mortality. When you’re young time seems to move so slowly and as we grow older, time seems to fly by. When I was young, 70 or 80 years seemed like an eternity but these days 70 doesn’t seem that far away. And here’s the thing, you don’t even know if you’ll make it to 70. Jessica was only 28 years old.


Seniors die, adults die, teens die, children die, even babies die. You don’t expect to bury your children, but it happens. We never know when that unwelcome intruder will come.  

“There is a time appointed unto man to die, and after death comes judgment.” Hebrews 9:27. 

That’s one appointment that you won’t break and you don’t know when your day will come.



O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Psalm 39:4-5


We need to prepare to meet God so that whenever that appointment with death comes we are ready to meet him. Only you can honestly answer this question, "Are you ready to meet Him?"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Year's Revolution



Many of us make resolutions when the New Year comes. Some of us keep them a few weeks, some make it through the entire month of January. But very few actually accomplish their annual goals. I found a list of my goals from last year. I reached some, but failed to accomplish most of them, so I just changed the heading from 2013 to 2014. Since then God has been speaking to me about what He wants for me this year.

There's nothing wrong with resolutions per se. Here’s what the apostle Paul had to say about resolve…

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Maybe we make things too hard, too complex. Maybe the goals we set are not realistic, not measurable or not attainable. Maybe we should try to minimize our goals, narrow our focus. This year I have asked the Lord to give me just one thing to focus on and He gave me this one word…follow.

Remember what Jesus said about following Him?

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

We don’t like to deny ourselves. It seems almost un-American. We live in a land of indulgence and instant gratification. When we want something, we get it. We go buy it or charge it. But if we’re going to follow Jesus, He said that we must deny ourselves, and take up the cross daily. Taking up the cross means dying to self. The outer man is broken before Him. Like a kernel of wheat, the shell must break before new life can grow from within. That's what it means to follow Jesus.

Last month I read a book called “Speaking of Jesus” by Carl Madearis. He lived in Beirut, Lebanon for 12 years, serving as a missionary to Muslims. The way he reached Muslims was to talk about Jesus. They don’t want to hear about Christianity, they don’t want to hear about your spiritual convictions and preferences but they will listen to you talk about Jesus. They revere and honor Jesus as a prophet of God. What a novel idea!

It's no wonder Christians are scared to share their faith. We have complicated things and turned evangelism into a formula. There's the Romans Road, Four Spiritual Laws and Evangelism Explosion but why not simply talk about Jesus? But then you have to ask yourself, do you really know Jesus well enough to tell others about Him? If you're going to talk about Jesus, then you need to study His life, what He did, what He said. Here's what Paul had to say about his quest to know Jesus...

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2


I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11

The one thing I want to focus on this year is following Jesus. I want to become more like Him. If I’m going to follow Jesus, then I need to get to know Him more. I need to saturate myself in the Word and spend more time with Him. I must learn what He did, what He said, see how He treated people and how He responded to them. I want to represent Him, I want to resemble Him, I want to imitate Him, I want to exemplify Him, I want to smell like Him. Maybe you will resolve to do this with me.