buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Suffering”

What Now

For the last few weeks, God has been instilling His plan in my heart. I know; it should be very evident this is what He wants done. Last year, my church started a training program to help us disciple others. I got it. I understood this is the great commission – we are told to go to the ends of the earth to teach others about Jesus. But what about going next door? Yes, I should go there too. I struggle with getting out of my comfort zone. I am perfectly fine sitting here in my nice quiet little house typing away on my computer. I may reach a few with my postings. However, my neighbor may never know that I write these blog postings. They may never come to the place of understanding that God loves them so much that He sent Jesus for them. Jesus came to redeem them – to set them free from their bondage to sin. Oh, we don’t talk about sin anymore – from our mistakes; the mistakes that we commit over and over.

God’s plan. He introduced the plan way back in the garden. He set things in motion until the right time. Then He sent Jesus to finalize the deal. Jesus did what God asked of Him. He suffered and died on a cross so that we could live in His resurrection power. He came to give us life everlasting. Jesus came for the lost. He came to end our suffering. The suffering we no longer endure is the suffering related to our sins. We give the weight of those burdens to Jesus. We now suffer for a different cause. We suffer for the sake of Jesus’ name. We take on His task of spreading the good news around the world or next door. Jesus said that we will have persecution because of Him. We will suffer for His cause if we choose to accept the challenge placed before us. It’s a matter of if we choose obedience or not.

I recently started another Bible study from the book of Jonah. This one is by Priscilla Shirer. This is a powerful study about God’s plan to reach the lost. Jonah had the task of reaching people he cared nothing about. He ran in the opposite direction. He didn’t accept the challenge until God put him in an uncomfortable place, then he did it reluctantly. About the time I started the Jonah study, I read about the persecuted church in the book by Nik Ripkin called The Insanity of God.

We truly don’t understand persecution in this country. It’s a foreign concept to us. But in the first century church, they understood it well. Persecution was like the stamp of a foot that scatters dust; persecution drove the people further into the world to reach the lost. Persecution scattered the Body of Christ. For those of us who are not under persecution, we are 30% of all the believers around the world. The rest of the believers are enduring persecution. Believers in persecution are willing to risk it all for the sake of Jesus’ name being known. They stand up in the oppression for the things we take for granted. They risk death for the sake of the resurrected Jesus. Those seeking will travel miles on foot to find people who know Jesus. They find Bibles miraculously in order to increase their knowledge. People in some areas only have a portion of Scripture, and they memorize every word.

I am perplexed by this concept of persecution. I take for granted all that was done for my sake to know Jesus. I have multiple Bibles. I can worship openly. I can talk openly about Jesus. Yet, I do not have the compulsion to go next door. What do I do with the words contained in the Bibles I have around my house? Something is wrong with this picture. So what now? How do I change my comfort zone to include others who do not know Jesus? It starts with knowing Jesus so well; to be willing to die to myself in order to gain the passion (suffering) of Jesus. It’s the plan that began so long ago. It’s in my hands (and yours). We are the torchbearers of this generation. What will you do with the knowledge that you possess?

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:45-48

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Suffering Through

I sprained my ankle last week. It was the same ankle that I broke eighteen years ago this month. When I had my injury back then I didn’t go to the emergency room when it happened. I thought everything would be better the next day. I was wrong. I suffered greatly through the night. Last week, I revisited my previous injury. I thought about what I had suffered back then and the agony of waiting until the next morning. Through that night, I couldn’t do anything but crawl around my apartment to get from one point to another. When I made it to my bedroom, I stayed there the rest of the night. The ice didn’t last long; the pain medication wasn’t available yet, so there I laid there suffering on my bed until my parents arrived at lunchtime the next day. This time it wasn’t that bad.

I have had a few occasions in my life where I have dealt with major pain. When I was in my mid twenties I suffered from Rocky Mountain spotted fever. I thought I was going to die. The pain was intense and affected every single bone and joint. I had a hysterectomy ten years ago this month (July is a bad month for me!). I thought that pain was going to kill me as well. The morphine I was given didn’t touch the pain. After the first day, I didn’t even press the magical button because I knew the medication wouldn’t give me any relief. It’s been a long time since I have dealt with the throbbing pain of a hurt body. My ankle last week was not nearly as extreme as the RMSF or the hysterectomy or the first ankle injury. This was a reminder for me that I am very fortunate that I don’t live with pain and suffering on a constant basis. And also Jesus suffered so much more than I could ever imagine.

I don’t know why we have to suffer as we do except we live in a broken world. There will always be pain and suffering until Jesus comes back. When Jesus came to earth, He came to heal the sick; to heal the brokenhearted. I had a few days of minor suffering in comparison to the pain Jesus experienced – there is no comparison. I endured my pain for my body to heal physically. But Jesus endured the pain for the entire world to be healed physically, mentally and spiritually. Sin broke the world. Sin brought sickness and death. When sin broke us, God had to send a way to repair the brokenness in us. God loved us so much that He didn’t want to leave us in this broken state. Jesus was the only one who could endure the pain and suffering for us to fix us.

When we are in the middle of pain and suffering, we can come confidently to our Lord and Savior who endured the cross for us. He knows what we are enduring. If we draw near to Him, He will always draw near to us. We can ask Him to take it from us. His answer may come as “yes, not now or no.” We ask with faith in that He hears and will answer in His way. We endure with patience and let the work be finished in us for His glory. We can come to Jesus in faith and believe He answers when we call on Him. Believe that He hears but also believe He loves us with such love that He will not leave us alone in the pain. He longs to hear our voice crying out to Him and will dry our tears with His tender touch. Believe in His love even if the answer is no. There is a purpose that needs to be served in our present sufferings. If you are ready to be healed, in every regard (physically, mentally and spiritually) ask.

My ankle is better with prayer and ice! But my soul is content in His tender embrace.

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Psalm 6:2-4

Hunger and Thirst

A few years ago, I prayed for God to give me a hunger and thirst for Him. Since that time, I have experienced a greater desire to know Him more. I have delved into the Word with greater determination. God has increased that desire tremendously. However, within the last year or so, the hunger and thirst has waned. I don’t know why. Maybe this is the reason why I am feeling so restless now. I felt such a great spiritual increase when I was truly thirsty and hungry; now I don’t feel that persistent longing that I once had. Have a lost my first love? I don’t think so, but I became satisfied in my level of comfort.

I was listening to Beth Moore last week through the program Life Today. She has a small segment on Wednesday’s that I try to tune in for to get a fresh word. The word for this day was about owning it. She talked about us (the Body of Christ) wanting a hunger and thirst for more of God’s outpouring – to see with greater faith in the unseen. We have become complacent and forgotten that God can and wants to do more. I had forgotten my prayer to have a deeper hunger and thirst for Him. But I also want to experience His presence in a greater way. I want such a richness that can only be attributable to Jesus working in me and through me to reach those who are lost and without hope.

My restlessness is a desire for something to satisfy me that can only be satisfied by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in my life. I want that desperately! When we as the Body of Christ unify with the same intensity of wanting that same thing – owning our desperation for God’s work to be done – we will be seeing “works of art” that haven’t been seen in years in this country. God is Creator after all – He is working masterpieces together for His glory. But we are failing to be desperate to see Him work. We don’t long for Him like the deer panting for water (as the Psalmist penned in Psalm 42). At least, this is my opinion in what we are experiencing in this country.

What would happen if we all got on our knees and prayed for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on us like when the disciples experienced His presence in the early days? What would be the difference for our culture or even our own lives when we see a greater God? Are my desires aligned with God’s desires? Does my heart yearn for the same things that God yearns for? We all long for passion, but we never realize that passion is a willingness to suffer for that desire. What are we willing to suffer for? What drives us as the Body to do the will of God? Is there anything worth dying for? I guess that’s the real question. Am I ready to die to my selfish desires? Am I ready to take up the cause of Jesus? Am I ready to turn my full life over to Him who asks us to “follow Him?” If being hungry and thirsty is ultimately about dying, then I want to want it. And I want to own my part in suffering for the sake of the cause of Jesus. There is no other way to live as a follower of Jesus. I believe when we all seek these things, we will see a greater God than we could ever imagine!

The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. So that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:17-18, 20b

Beaten and Bloody

Several weeks ago I was reading about the trials of Jesus. I was going through the Beth Moore study “Jesus: the One and Only.” I was in the final week of this study. The reading for this blog was in the Gospels, all four accounts of the trials Jesus faced – the elders and chief priests, Pilate and Herod – all were mockeries of justice. But what got me most was the beatings Jesus was subject to. Each trial, Jesus was mocked. He was insulted. The ones participating were given power to do so. The soldiers were given power by the officials. The crowds were given power by the elders and chief priests. Pilate thought he had power but really it was given to him by God. But the beatings were all from the evilness in men (and women). Each lash was given by a man. Each thorn was piercing the skin because someone thought it would be funny to see a crown on Jesus’ head mocking His kingship. We are an evil people.

I recognize this evil because it is present in me. There is nothing good in me. I was listening to a sermon recently and the pastor was saying how he loved a good battle scene in a movie. I can understand the thrill of a fight. I once took a martial art. It was more for a self-defense perspective, but it was something that I enjoyed doing. I love to watch a good martial arts fight. So I can’t fault the men who beat Jesus; I think it’s in each one of us. I am just as guilty of throwing an insult or rude comment. I have been known to do it on occasion. There is nothing good in me, except for Jesus. Jesus is the only reason that I do good and have love in me.

After reading the accounts in the Gospels, I am left with a feeling of ugliness. The next lesson will be on the cross, then the resurrection. The ugliness of today gives way to the hope of tomorrow; the joy that comes with the resurrection. Jesus took my ugliness on the cross and forgave me of the insults and evil that so easily surfaces in my heart and mind. Those things are nailed to the cross daily. From the cross, Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, for they do not know what they do. Yes, I need His forgiveness because some of the time, I don’t know what I am doing. I deserved everything that Jesus took for me. He paid the price for my sins. Every lash, every mark on His body was meant for me. He took it all. The cross was bloody. His blood was poured out on the cross. I am grateful for His sacrifice. There is nothing I can ever do to repay Him for His gift, so I just say thank you Lord Jesus for rescuing me from myself.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6

Calm in the Storm

In the last few weeks, God has been pressing upon me about suffering, about pain and about storms. I don’t know why yet, but He is preparing me for something. In the midst of these impressions, I experienced a tropical storm named Andrea. My family and I were at the beach for our annual vacation. For the last twenty-three years, we have gathered at the beach under one roof to enjoy a time together and have a restful (so to speak) vacation. I look forward to those trips. Each year has been a different experience, and this year proved just as different. We have never encountered such a storm at the beach.

I experienced another tropical storm in Houston years ago. There was massive flooding and winds rocked the hotel where I was staying. I really didn’t get the full effects of the storm since I didn’t really go outside during it. The storm I experienced at the beach was completely different. My nephews went out to the beach in the middle of the wind and rain to see the waves. I stayed at home in complete safety until the rain subsided, and the sun was shining. I went out at that point to walk the beach. The winds were still active, and the waves were in turmoil. I held my camera as steady as I could while I was snapping pictures of the waves, and the sea grass bending in the wind. It was an awesome sight. As I was walking along, I had the sense of the wind to my back pushing me forward. But when I turned around, the winds were against me, and I looked up to see a dark cloud before me. I had no idea the cloud was behind me as I was walking along, but the minute I turned around I knew I wasn’t going to make it back to the beach house without getting wet.

It wasn’t until I was back at my home and was contemplating what God was impressing upon me that I found a new perspective on the storms in life. In the midst of the tropical storm I was experiencing peace – whether in the house or out on the beach. I knew God was right there with me. There was no time in the storm that I felt afraid, even during the night when the wind and rain were beating against the house. Whatever God is impressing upon me about suffering, pain and storms whether it’s on the upcoming mission trip or whatever happens next, God is with me in it. He will never leave me in the storm, but will offer me a sense of His peace. My eyes have to be focused on the right thing – not on the waves and wind – but on Jesus in the midst of the storm. When Jesus calls me to cross a great divide, He will protect me to get me to the other side!

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. Luke 8:22-25

Endurance

Last week, I listened to the Passion Conference on LiveStream. There were some awesome speakers who brought a fresh word to me. The conference is led by Louie Giglio (Passion City Church) from Atlanta. The teachers brought some powerful words to my ears. I listened with anticipation of what God was going to say to me. This was the first time I had listened in to this conference. I don’t know what previous conferences were all about, but this one was bringing awareness to the plight of 27 million who are held in slavery. The conference is kicking off an “End It” movement (check out the website www.enditmovement.com). Francis Chan spoke about being a part of the battle. Beth Moore spoke on Jesus’ last Passover meal. John Piper spoke on embracing the suffering. And then the conference was wrapped up with Pastor Louie.

Pastor Louie spoke about the dry bones passage found in Ezekiel 37. I love this particular passage. He brought home the fact we are to be anointed with the Holy Spirit in order to work in the power of the Holy Spirit. The night before, John Piper spoke about embracing suffering just as all who are called to the cause of liberation have to endure. There is a prize for those who endure the suffering. The prize is found on the other side of heaven and it is worth it all. In the passage, God had to put the breath (the Holy Spirit) in the slain in order for them to live. Once the breath of God entered the bodies, they stood up and were a vast army.

God is calling us to stand up. There are many who need for us to take up their cause – to fight when they can’t do so. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to fill us, in order to fight the fight. We need to embrace the suffering that will surely come when we take up the cause of liberation. Jesus came for our liberation. He embraced the suffering he knew that was coming on that Passover night. He fulfilled the Scriptures in every sense of the Word. The Passover Lamb was slain, the bread was broken, and the cup (of wine) was poured out for each of us. And once it was finished, He sat down at the right hand of God. The race is before us. The course is set. Will we finish the race or give up because it costs us too much?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

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