Tag Archives: life

A Father’s Love (Reflection for 9/18)

“For the LORD will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief,
he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men”
Lamentations 3:31-33

ROTD:   God’s reactions to our actions are always perfect.

Why?
This is one of the hardest things for anyone to grasp. Why would a God who is so good send trials? Why say no? Why delay the fulfillment of our prayers? Why is there still consequence?

There are many factors into these, but we can look at at least one aspect here in Lamentations. The narrator speaking in chapter 3 is a man who has directly felt the wrath of God, who has seen his punishment firsthand. The best way to explain this, I think, is with an illustration we all can understand.

Parents. (Yes, this is where I am going with it. Hear me out.) As kids, parents have rules for us to follow. They love us and inspire us and better us as people, but there are still rules of the household. What are the worst words you could ever hear when you got caught breaking one of those rules?

“Just wait till your father gets home”.

Terrifying. Because you knew that there was some type of consequence to your action. And dad gets home, and punishment is doled out, and reconciliation occurs as you tearfully swear to neverevereverever do it again. But of course you do. And the cycle continues.

Look at the nation of Israel throughout the whole Old Testament. They are constantly disobeying God, leaving His commandments, following other gods or people, complaining, whining…and then when God acts accordingly, they shape up. And so it continues. To read, it looks like Israel is really, really, stupid. Just follow God and it’s all good!

But don’t we do the same thing?

God is our Father. He is also a perfect Father. So while many of us have had horrible, terrible experiences with parental discretion here on earth, we need to be able to look past those to see what God is doing. Because we constantly are disobeying Him, sinning, blowing off His words, not talking to Him, trying to do life without Him. We disobey our Father all the time.
“He does not afflict from his heart” is such a cool statement, because it shows that God doesn’t bring punishment because He enjoys it. He brings correction to discipline us, to grow us, to help us to better understand Him and draw closer to Him. And, thanks be to God for His Son, we have the ability to turn around, repent, and continue to follow hard after Him.

Being a Christian does not mean that your actions no longer carry weight to them. God is love, yes, but He is also righteous and just, holy, mighty (for more on that, click here). What the speaker realizes is that all of the correction we receive from God comes out of a place of love, not evil sinister joy. Punishment doesn’t last forever. The trial you are going through does have meaning and purpose. All things do. So if God is trying to teach you to let go of some recurring sin, it might hurt a bit when that sin comes to light in the worst possible way. Or if He is trying to grow your patience, life might become quite stressful for a time. Finance and trust issues? Money might be a little tight for a while. We may not always understand the method, or the timing, but we MUST KNOW in our hearts that God knows perfectly how we learn and what we need to push us forward. These things always move us toward a deeper relationship with God, if we let them.

Now, I realize this leads to some bigger questions that have harder answers. Why do people suffer in general? Why is this world full of evil? My sister got raped, is that part of God’s plan? Why do babies die? How much does God send, and how much does He allow to happen to us?

These are questions that I have heard over the years, and some I struggle with to this day. We will dive into some of these later on, and look at the different aspects of God’s relationship to us, and sin’s affect on the world as a whole.

For now, though, rest in this: That just because it seems like God is angry at you, He’s not. He derives no joy from our pain.God loves you more than you can fathom, and with love does come discipline, and correction. Anything that God is using to teach us and correct us-any trial ,situation, person, circumstance-is done in love. We just have to open our minds and hearts to see it as such.

Prayer:

Lord, we do not always understand the means and ways that you work. We struggle to grasp that a loving God can also punish and correct and discipline. God, help us to know that you love us. Help us to recognize Your hand in our lives, in every situation. We pray for forgiveness, for we know we are a sinful, messed up people. Show us where You are at work in us, and correct us in whatever way you see fit. However loud You have to shout to get our attention, do so. However fall You let us fall before we face our eyes to You, let us. However much You have to strip away from us in order to build us up correctly, break us down. Whatever You need to do, do in our hearts today.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Where is Your Hope? (Reflection for 9/17)

“But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope”
-Lamentations 3:21

ROTD: Just because you can’t see God doesn’t mean He isn’t there.

Why?

Life can beat the absolute crap out of us. Sometimes it’s due to choices we have made, and sometimes it’s out of our control, and sometimes it’s both. This is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, because it deals with just that. The first half (v.1-20) are basically this man crying out because of all the pain and affliction he has faced in life. And there is no correction of his thought. He cries out, “God, why? Why is all of this stuff happening to me? Why do you seem so set against me, so far away? Where are you?” Don’t we do that as well? When we don’t see where life is headed, or when we can’t possibly comprehend how God could be at work in our situation, we get down. Frustrated. Angry. Bitter. Depressed.

Then, the turning point.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope…”

What words.
You see, we get so caught up in the before-the woe is me, life sucks, when will this end way of thinking-that we seem to forget all that we know about God. Listen to what the speaker recalls.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The speaker then goes on to describe the goodness of the Lord-how compassionate he is, how His justice is true, how He DOES hear our cries and see our tears. How, even in the midst of suffering, He is eternally merciful, he responds to our anguish.

We need to stop polarizing God-forgetting the good in the bad times, and the righteousness in the good times. But specifically, when things are hard and life has us beaten down, we need to call all these things to mind. Just because life is dark around you, and you can’t see God moving, doesn’t mean He’s gone. He’s always right there. So have hope.

Prayer

God, we pray that you help us to remember who You are at all times-good and bad. God, we know that sometimes life gets out of control, and you feel very far away. Help us to pursue You even then, even more. We need you, Lord, always. Show us Your goodness, God. We won’t let go until You do. Teach us to be patient in tribulation and to have joy amidst the pains of life. We love You, and we thank You for being who You are.
In Jesus’ holy name, Amen. 

The Valleys Can Be Pretty, Too

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke andrebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

-Mark 4:35-41

Hello to you all!
I do apologize for the small sabbatical I took from writing. It started out as a good little break, and then slowly tumbled downhill as I became overwhelmed with school, work, and my own personal struggles.

Over the past month or so, I have slowly become increasingly busy as I prepare for the summer. School became MORE demanding (what a shock). I am helping plan a youth retreat for my home church. I had to turn down a trip to Tennessee, because of school, I haven’t been reading my Bible as much, because of school, I work during the few days I don’t have school…I’m broke because I don’t spend my money wisely, so I’m stuck not being able to enjoy time with others because I have to still pay bills and such things.
One might think that school is the problem here. Or money. Or a huge workload.

But in fact, it’s not. Because I’ve discovered lately that no matter the circumstances of life, that it’s my response that determines how things are going to go. The passage above describes the well-known story of Jesus calming the wind and the waves, and reading it brings to mind a few lessons I’ve learned over the past weeks.

1) Just because you don’t see Him doesn’t mean He isn’t there.

When life is swirling all around us, it’s easy to focus on what’s immediately happening. I have had to juggle school, work, bills, and life all at the same time and it is so easy, so natural, to give in to the misery. “woe is me,”, I cry, “for life has taken me into its depths!”. I felt like I was drowning, I felt like I had come up against the side of a very steep mountain, and had no energy to climb. I didn’t see where God was in the midst of my mess.

But as we see in the story, even though the disciples are focused on the storm, Jesus is still in the boat. Jesus, the incarnate living Son of God, was in the boat. He controls the waves they were so concerned about! His very will allowed for the storm to even exist! God is there in the middle of our struggles, in the midst of the arduous climbs we have to make. We need to keep our focus on Him-not on the storm surrounding us. Because when we recognize that God is always there, it makes storms more bearable. When we know that the Almighty God is in our boat, holding our rope, it allows us to calm down. Step back. See a bit of a bigger picture than what is immediately before us.

2) We can’t learn all lessons on silent seas.

This is the harder one to take in. Let’s say I’m a nautical kind of guy, and I’m teaching my son about sailing. I would like to start on a sunny day, clear, nice breeze…laying a foundation for his knowledge. But if I only teach him, all the time, during perfect weather, what about when a storm comes? When the wind is a bit strong, and dad doesn’t happen to be there? That could be potentially dangerous. Instead, as he grows in knowledge, I take him out when the winds are a bit strong. I let him experience some rough sea, get wet a time or two. A hiker can only learn so much going on small state trails. If He wants to tackle Everest, more of a challenge is needed to build up his skill.
The disciples had Jesus, they had His teachings, but to put what they learned into practice was another ordeal. Sometimes, the storms in our lives are meant to teach us. I messed up big time financially, to the point where I barely had $50 to my name with bills to pay. It was my fault, yes. But it taught me about responsibility, and it taught me to trust in God to get me through-and He did, with just what I needed to get by. I was in a rut spiritually, and God has used this rut to show me that it’s because I’ve been negligent of the discipline required in school for me to continue on in faith. God will send the storm not to shake our faith, but to test us and to grow us. As James says, we are to rejoice in our trials because they produce perseverance in us. They allow us to put into practice the things we have heard and talked about, and they teach us new things both about ourselves and the God we serve. I’ve learned over the past few months that God always has a means to provide; even when it isn’t what I expected or hoped.

3) The valleys can be pretty, too.

Being in a low place in life is never a fun place to be, let’s be honest. Over the past month or so the journey has not been fun. I’ve been stressed out and beat up and tired all the time, slacking in work and trying desperately to figure out what’s going on.
However, looking at the situations that I’m in, there are a lot of things that have gotten better because of my time away. I’ve realized how much I love to write for God. I have a growing family (shoutout to the Brunos for that one) that keeps me centered on Christ. I have a potential writing opportunity with a local company, I’ll be working more hours as school lets out, and just a series of recent events that have given me a new sense of conviction about my faith. Because even when you’re in the storm…even when you’re looking up at the mountain in front of you. It can be quite beautiful to see what lessons, what beauty can be brought out of tough situations. I still don’t have lots of money. I have bills, and I need to clean my room, and I need to keep doing well in school at the end here. But the outlook is different. I recognize now that God really never left me, that I just couldn’t see Him. I realize that I’ve learned some good lessons that I can now apply to the life that’s ahead of me. I see the beauty of the valley, and I look forward to the climb ahead.

So I’m back for a good while now, to continue to share the lessons and stories and teachings God puts on my heart. I love you all, dear readers, and I look forward to what the future has in store. God bless.

Who Steps In? (Devo, February 14)

 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
-John 15:13

     I’d like to apologize for my brief hiatus. This past week I was equal parts busy and distracted-it was a long week. But I back, dear readers, and I shall stay this time.

On this odd day on which we celebrate love, it seems only appropriate to look at a man who showed the ultimate love. Scripture says that there is no greater love than for one to lay down his life for his friends. There are two things on this earth that I can think of that speak to this kind of relationship, and they both point back to Christ: the military, and marriage.

I will start with the latter. We have clearly all heard the oft-quoted line from Ephesians for wives to submit to their husbands, but what about the rest of it? It says

 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). 

Do you know what that means? Christ loved the church unto the point of death-He gave Himself up for the church. Husbands are supposed to have that same mentality-meaning that there isn’t anything (within being a good, Christian man) that a man should not be willing to do for his wife, even to the point of dying for her. In marriage, the sacrifice that a husband makes for his wife-leaving his father and mother to become the head of the household, to provide and to give a good life…that requires much from him. Even more so, Christ gave His all for His bride. He made sure that she would have every opportunity to be presented white and clean, blameless, even if it meant giving up His own life so that she could have hers. We are that bride, and I know that I am personally so thankful to have a groom as faithful as Jesus is. I couldn’t do any of this on my own.

Now to the former. In the military, you are brothers. You are closer than family. The guys in your platoon, in your squad, your group…you all depend on one another for your very survival. And there is nothing you won’t do for them, and they for you. It’s one of the only institutions in the world I can think of where people willingly die for each other, and even for those back home they don’t even know.Your life, while valued, is expendable if it means others will survive. It’s the attitude built up in the military and I see Christ completely in it.Christ is more than just a brother in arms. He is the commander that leads His troops, that would-and did-jump in front of us to take the bullet, the one to jump on the grenade, the one to die so that we don’t have to.  His life, while clearly valuable, means so much more in His death than it ever could have in life. Because of His willingness to die for us, we have the opportunity to continue to live full, abundant lives. Christ is the ultimate soldier.

So i ask you. When things fall down around you, who steps in? Friends? Family? Sure, at times. But when your life feels like it’s crumbling, remember: There is One who is constantly stepping in for you, a man who already has faced death and despair so that in your darkest moments, you don’t have to. He took our punishment-cling hard to His salvation.

http://bible.com/1/jhn.15.13.kjv

My Savior is Bigger Than My Sorrows (Devo, February 3)

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord ; you cover him with favor as with a shield.”
-Psalm 5:11-12

     Now, how does it feel to know that God’s got your back?
Yea. The God who created everything that ever existed. The God who created the moon and the sun and the infinite expanse we live in, the God who made DNA and calculus and other things way beyond our (at least my) understanding. He is for us. And that sounds fantastic, but when you get down to it its much harder to really believe this.

    As humans, we generally just see the day-to-day. We see what is happening NOW, what’s happening in our immediate future. We see a girl with cancer and can’t possibly imagine that God has plans for her life 15 years from now when the doctors give her 3. We look at our bills  and see the debt and we wonder where the plans to prosper us and not harm us are, to give us hope for a future when our future looks like the streets. We don’t know where God is when he has been abused since he was 5 and has had depression and bipolar disorder for 18 years. Where is this God then? Where is He now?

     I am here to tell you that He is there. It requires something we are not willing to give-faith. And trust. And commitment. And it’s hard. I personally know people who are going through situations in which the “favor of God” upon them seems like an impossibility. But He is there, working. The Israelites didn’t think God was gonna come through for them, too. He was leading them with a pillar of fire, and they approached the Red Sea and realized that the Egyptians were behind them. They accused Moses of bringing them out to die. God, however, had other plans, and the rest is history-Israel was saved.

We see the immediacy of the chariots bearing down on us in life. We feel the stones hitting our sides as the challenges and trials of life drag us down. But we forget that there is a God we serve who is greater than our struggles. As hard as it may seem-when we come into those hard times we need to lean into God more. We need to pursue harder, push further, cry longer, pray more fervently, and trust more securely. I personally have had my life flipped upside down within the past year and a half. I’ve moved three times after never having moved at all, lost all my friends, my mother committed suicide, my father almost died, i changed schools, started college, became depressed and suicidal, and was on the verge of falling apart. Because the world is cruel. It was good, but it is tainted by sin and it is messed up out there. And when everything fell out around me, I was barely hanging on to the feet of Jesus.

But He never left. He never left my side, He never let me down. The prayers weren’t answered right away. But He came through in only the way He knew was best for me. The tears still fell, the hurts still came, the pain is still felt deep. But my Savior is so much bigger than my sorrows. He is good. All the time. And that is a fact I will die for, that my God is good. He is my shield and my strong tower, and He desires to be yours, too.

Will you rest in the presence of the Lord today? Will you allow Him to be your shield?

http://bible.com/59/psa.5.11-12.esv

I Gotta Be Nice to WHO? (Devo, January 20)

 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
-Luke 6:35-36

  Oh no……It’s the in laws.
Specifically, MOTHER.
And you have tried. You have tried and tried and tried but it seems like no matter what, there is always something wrong. ALWAYS. And you know what Jesus says about loving your enemies, but it just seems impossible with this woman! Isn’t there another way to do things? Shes’ just..so easy to not like. It’s easier that way. I still can be civil to her. But LOVE her?

Love your enemies.  It is one of those things you can say, and it sounds good. In reality, however, it is one of the hardest to put into practice. Mercy. We are called to love our enemies, to give even when those receiving don’t appreciate, to forgive and show grace. And it’s hard! Because some people are messed up. Lots of us are. But how do you tell yourself to love your parents who never showed any kindness or care towards you? How do you tell a girl to love her rapist? How do you tell a kid to give something to the bully that took everything from him anyways? In real life, loving our enemies is much harder than it seems.

     But let’s put it in perspective.

     There came a man who preached peace, and repentance, and a new way of living that was so different from everything else that everyone else was trying. He talked about reconciliation, and redemption, a man trying to reunite His family back together.  He presented a new kind of relationship, that didn’t require our work but merely answering His call. And what happened?
His children didn’t hear Him, or want to hear Him. They shouted Him down, they tried to kill Him multiple times, drove Him out of towns and villages. His own people in the town He grew up rejected Him. Those closest to Him fled from Him. He was tried in court and, when they couldn’t really find anything wrong, sentenced Him to death. He was beaten beyond recognition, torn up and bloodied, and nailed alive to a cross to bleed and die. He was abandoned by His own Father, and for moments this man was completely alone in the world.

That man was Jesus. He took on the sins of the entire world so that we might be able to be with Him someday-because He loves us that much. And when we do become followers of Christ, we need to extend that same mercy and love towards all that we meet. Now, I’m not saying that sometimes you can’t stand up for yourself. Even Jesus threw people out of the temple when they were doing wrong. But we all are sinners. We all fall short of God’s glory. He died for us all. And to extend the grace that He extends to you, to another person…that kind of love has a powerful, life changing effect. People don’t understand just how somebody can be so gracious and merciful in a situation that clearly would be reasonable to be upset and bitter and unforgiving in. And that is where the Gospel is presented. Because just like that person may seem undeserving of forgiveness…so are we. But God did it anyway.

So yea. Put up with that annoying coworker. Be loving to that person nobody seems to care about. Try to extend yourself to that stuck-up “popular” kid. Try to forgive the driver who killed your child, try to forgive that family member, that mother, that father, that neighbor, that spouse. It’s not an easy task, and it takes time and prayer and discipline. But the effort is so worth it. Because if the love that Christ loves us with is allowed to go forth, this world will be a much, much better place.

Will you begin to try to really show God’s mercy today?

http://bible.com/59/luk.6.35-36.esv

More than A Facebook Post (Walking the Walk) (Devo, January 19)

 “But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
1 John 2:5-6

     Everybody can talk big. Everybody can claim they can do something amazing, or that they are such a changed person, or that they are never going back to that thing/person/addiction. We all know how to talk big. We all have done it. It takes a person of high integrity, however, to live out that kind of lifestyle.

      We see this very much in Christianity today. A lot of people claim they are Christian, that they believe in God and Jesus and that they follow Him. They post about how good He is every so often and you see them at church, usually. ]But is the evidence there? The Bible again and again uses the illustration of vines, or trees, to say that you know they are good because of the fruit they produce. This isn’t to say that it is the works that we do that make us good; rather, it is because we are in Christ that we do good works. But if I claim that I am a Christian and yet I go out and party every weekend and swear all the time and are judgemental and mean, then what good do my words mean?

     If we truly are Christians-if we really have let Christ be the Lord and Savior of our entire lives-then it should show in the way we are. If we love Jesus, it should reflect in our attitudes and in our actions. It should be shown in the way we show mercy, just as He shows mercy. It should be shown in the way we hold to the truth no matter what, and in the way that we love one another. We should literally be a reflection of Christ-that when people look at us they see Him. Our  Christianity needs to be more than an weekly church visit or updated Facebook post.

So  Let’s examine ourselves. Are we really living out this life for Christ? Or are we just acknowledging Him with our lips? Let’s make it more than words this week. Let’s carry our crosses for real; let’s make sure they know the One we serve.

http://bible.com/59/1jn.2.5-6.esv