Its a Rocky Road to Heaven

The news is horrible for anyone to hear: a 16 year old dead in a horrible freak accident.  And of course the questions immediately follow: why?  how could God let this happen?

It is another painful reminder that we all deal with tragedies. We all deal with pain and suffering.  We all face the devil.

Today two verses overtake me:

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

God loves us.  He does not set trials in our path.  He does not want us to be hurt.  But the trade off with allowing us to have free will is — He has to allow us to use it.  He does not control us or the people around us.  What kind of life would that be?  We would be no different than robots.  We are God’s children and as His children we grow in strength and maturity.  The way we grow is by facing trials big and small.  Think about your own children: if we do everything for them, how will they grow?  If we never let them make mistakes, how will they learn?  It is terribly hard sometimes because we want to protect them, we don’t want them to be hurt, but at the same time, we have to let them go to discover things on their own, to make their own choices and sometimes suffer the consequences.  Imagine how God must feel with all of us.  Yes, He could put us in a bubble, but how would that be for any of us?  How would we grow?  How would we truly know what joy and love are if we never experience the pain?  We appreciate the sun, when we experience the rain.  (and we appreciate the Son, when we experience the pain.)

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.  But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.

James 1:2–6

God may not fix every situation for us, but He is there with us, and if we are open to it, if we ask, He guides us with a way out.  Some trials may take a lot of perseverance.  Some may feel devastating and it may seem like the pain will never end, but God is there.

I have often wondered, if He loves us how can he allow us to suffer so much pain.  The idea of us allowing our own child to die seems unfathomable.  So how can God?  As I read Corinthians this morning this thought came to me:  our trials, our pain, our suffering is human.  They are not eternal.  Our life on earth is meant to be temporary (indeed we all must die to experience eternal life).  It is like when we watch our own child play a board game or video game.  They may make mistakes.  They may lose or their player may “die”.  They may even be heartbroken (I remember throwing a board game because I was so upset).  But as parents we know that these challenges are little ones.  As they get older, we watch them with their first girlfriend or boyfriend, we see them make mistakes, we see the heart break — they may feel devastated.  They may feel like they can never move on.  Although it is sometimes painful to watch, as parents we expect it and we know it will be ok because they are still young and there are bigger things in store for them.  Similarly, God knows that our entire life on earth whether it is 2 minutes or 102 years, is just a small blip in our eternity.  We are all still young.  We are all still children.  He knows we will be ok.  Because, if we let Him, He has bigger things in store for us.

God,

Thank you for giving us free will.  Sometimes it feels like it would be easier if you would take it away and control the world around us.  Sometimes it feels like the world is more than we can take.  Help us to always see the light and the hope no matter how dark or painful the things on earth may seem.  Help us to share the light and hope with others.  Help us to persevere through any trial and to know that this world is temporary and so is every struggle.  Help us to know that you never leave our side.

 

May Blessings Last Longer Than The Leftover Turkey

Thanksgiving Day is over.  A day when many of us took time to give thanks.  To share blessings among our family and friends.  To speak in loving words.  Today is Black Friday.  Many of us have moved from giving blessings and thanks to pushing and shoving in long lines or fighting to get the last open parking spot.  How long do we stay in thankful mode?  The verbal blessings and thanks that we shower everyone with on Thanksgiving — do they continue past the leftover turkey?

This morning the Bible opened to James:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.  If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies.  It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes.  In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions.

Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze.  The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers.  Does a spring gush forth from the same opening both pure and brackish water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can salt water yield fresh.

James 3: 1-12

Our tongue, our words, are so powerful.

Consider this.  Is Thanksgiving a wonderful holiday because of the Macy’s parade, the football games, the turkey and pumpkin pie?  Or is it wonderful because of the kind words that we share?  The blessings that we give? The grateful heart that we share?  The prayers that we offer up for each other?

So why do we save it for one day a year?  Our words can set the world afire.  Let’s extend Thanksgiving words all year long.  Let’s make this a Thanksgiving year.

Lord,

Forgive me for the times when I fall short, when my words fall short, when my words show evil instead of the love and mercy that you show to me.  Help me to use my words for good.  Help me to be kind, grateful and offer words of prayer and blessing all year long instead of just on Thanksgiving day.

Pray, Praise, Confess, Save

Pray, Praise, Confess, Save.  This is what the Bible tells me tonight.

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise.  Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.   Elijah was a human being like us; yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land.  Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit.

 My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:13-20

When we are suffering, we need to pray.  When others are suffering, we need to pray with and for them.  (Someone is always suffering — so we should always be praying.)  When things are good, we should praise.  There is so much to be thankful for (even during our suffering).  When we sin (which is daily) we need to confess — to each other and to God.  Confess to each other, so we can pray for each other.  And when someone strays, we need to help bring them back.  We can help save.

Pray, Praise, Confess, Save: four things we can do every day.

Lord,

You are truly almighty and know all things.  You know what we need and what our hearts truly desire.  You continue to amaze me.  Thank you for another beautiful day.  Thank you for my family and friends.  I am truly blessed.  Please take care of all those who are suffering tonight.  Bless them with the knowledge of your love.  Forgive me for my sins.  Forgive me for not being patient and kind.  Forgive me for not always following the straight path to you.  Help me to help others who stray from your path.  Help me to model your love.  Help me to share my faith with others.

 

Perseverance in challenging times

We all face trials.  We all face struggles.  I know some of you are facing some right now:

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.  But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:2-8

Looking back, my biggest trials have also brought me my greatest joys.  They have also brought me closer to God.  Of course it is hard to see that when we are in the midst of them.  Perseverance can be hard.  God wants good for us.  We just don’t always choose it.

 Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him.  No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one.  Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.   He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

James 1:12-18

It is easy to say we have faith.  It is easy to say we love God.  Through our perseverance, through our faith, we discover that we actually do.

Dear God, help me to persevere.  Help me to follow your good path.  Help those who are facing challenges, new adventures and trials know that you are near.  Help them to persevere and follow the path that you have set forth for them.  You give us fresh starts, new birth, life.  Help us to live it in a way that leads us to you.

 

Perseverance

Perseverence.  I love this word.  The last few days I have spent in multiple different hotel rooms.  None of them quite comfortable.  I have lost power, had plans changed repeatedly and quickly by the weather and have otherwise just been discombobulated. I am sitting in an airport now ready to travel to another city.  No hope of seeing my own bed or home until the end of the week.  I have struggled to get my computer connected to the various hotel wi fi’s, but I think I have finally figured out how to blog on my phone!(clearly I am technologically challenged!)

And this is where God led me today:

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.  But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:2-8

Just what I needed.

Lord,

I come to you in complete faith knowing that you will grant me what I need. I recognize that you know what I need better than I do. Provide me with the wisdom and Perseverence to lead the life you have planned for me.