Welcome To Daily In Christ Devotionals

Psalm 119:10-11 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not
wander from your commandments! I have stored up your
word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Making Much Of Him

Making much of Jesus is the sweetest thing we can do in our walk with Him. Unfortunately, we often get distracted. The pursuit of riches and the cares and concerns of life can take our focus off of Him and put them back where we are prone to go... onto ourselves.

John 3:30 tells us "He must increase, but I must decrease." This isn't just when we are spending time in His Word or Sunday mornings at the church worship service. It means that in all things the pleasures and desires of the Lord are always on the rise in my life. I often have to ask myself, "Is what I am doing right now bringing glory to God or to myself?" If it is bring recognition and glory to me then I need to step back and consider what inside of me is after the glory that so rightfully belongs to my Maker?

Making much of Jesus is the first thing we should desire when our feet hit the floor each day. And the only way we can achieve this is by being in Him throughout the day. To make much of Christ requires an intimate relationship with Christ and that only comes from knowing Christ.

We are not our own, we were bought with a price. Jesus gave it all for us to have a relationship with Him. This relationship is for the purpose of bringing ultimate Glory to the Father. Are you stealing the glory today? Are you seeking the approval of men and not of God? Making much of God means that we die to ourselves and humbly and thankfully receive the new life in Christ that He has given us.

Today I will make much of Him. I will give Jesus the glory that is His and allow His righteousness to become mine. Thank you Lord for allowing me to be one of your own. For calling me into this relationship with you so I can spend the rest of my days making much of your glory.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Problem With Unbelief

They say that it takes a lot of faith to walk the Christian walk. And whoever "they" are, they are correct.

Living a life of faith can be one of our biggest challenges. Often I have thought that if God just sent me a message through an angel, then I would believe what He was about to do in and through me. Well, as we read in the book of Luke, this may not be the case at all.

Elisabeth is about to have a baby. However, she is completely unaware of this. Not only is she unaware, but her husband is as well. Zacharia and Elisabeth are two of the good ones. They are righteous in the sight of the Lord. They are a couple who walked blameless and kept the commandments. So, you would think that they would have the kind of faith that moves mountains.

God sends not only an angel to inform Zacharia about the good news of the forthcoming child, but he sends Gabriel himself. They top dog of God comes down to give a message of hope to a man of God... Sounds like a great story that has a great ending... And it does. John the Baptist is born and his entire life is spent heralding the good news of the coming Messiah. However, there is one little glitch. Zacharia doubts the angel and questions him because of his age. Zacharia is an old man and Elisabeth is no spring chicken herself, so maybe we can say, "give the guy some slack here."

God takes faith and unbelief quite seriously. Because of the unbelief, Zacharia becomes mute until the birth of his son. Read the story for yourself...

Luke 1:18-22 And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.

So what does this message from Luke teach me today? Well, the main thing I see here is that there are consequences to my unbelief. And, in spite of it, God's plan will still be fulfilled. Zacharia was praying to the Lord for this very thing and when it is announced he doesn't believe it. He was praying without conviction. How often do we throw up a prayer to the Lord and when it is answered walk around in disbelief? I know for me it is far too often.

Today I am going to learn from the unbelief of Zacharia. Lord, I pray that you will open my eyes to your truth and help me to believe you when your hand is moving in my life. Help me to believe your promises... Thank you for using broken vessels and not turning us away because of our unbelief. Amen

Monday, June 24, 2013

Where Does Your Value Come From?

There is a lot of talk these days about one's self image or self worth. We read books, listen to talk show doctor's on television, and even attend churches in an attempt to feel better about ourselves. It has almost become an obsession in our culture. Having the right clothes, driving the right car, and living in the perfect neighborhood are all contributors to how we feel about who we are and what we are all about. If we have everything just so on the outside then we will certainly feel better on the inside. Our schools even teach kids that if they put forth the effort, then that is often good enough to get the grade simply based on trying to build up the student and make them feel worthwhile.

The Bible however has a different view on our worth. It isn't because of our status, our job, or how much money we earn. Who we are is not based on anything external, but simply on the fact that we are made by God and in His image.

 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Psa 139:13-14 ESV 

When we understand our value, we can speak the way the apostle Paul speaks of himself in Romans. He calls himself a "wretched man." Now that doesn't sound like the most famous evangelist known to man. Paul was the greatest apostle and he considers himself to be wretched. How can that be? It is because he saw himself the way God sees us apart from Christ.

Paul knew the condition of his heart. He understood that apart from Christ he was nothing but a wretched sinner deserving the condemnation of God. His value didn't come from his possessions, his status with the churches he served, or even his knowledge. His value came from Christ alone.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the 
Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 
Rom 8:1-2 ESV

Though he did the things he hated and had difficulty doing what was right, he knew that he was delivered by the blood of Jesus Christ. When we place our value in the cross of Christ, the things we seek of this world for our sense of worth become vain idols. But when we know who we are in Christ, repent from our self focused ways, and seek Him for our worth then we will be free to live life to the fullest.

Are you seeking the things of the world to bring worth to your life? Or are you seeking Christ alone? Only He can satisfy that place in your heart that longs to be valued.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

CCSE Uganda Short Term Mission 2013

Our video from Uganda...

Have a blessed day!

About My Father's Business

About My Father's Business

Luke 2:49 - And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?

I went on my first short term mission trip last month and this theme was prevalent in all that we did during our stay in Bukere, Uganda. "I must be about my Father's business." Since my return the lenses I see life through have become quite different. I have been transformed by Christ in a whole new way.

The weeks leading up to the trip were filled with anticipation and preparation. I had many uncertainties and concerns. On occasion I was challenged with thoughts of not wanting to go because of these concerns, but once I arrived, I was filled to the brim with the Love of God and fulfilling His business there. Shortly into the trip I was now not wanting to return home to the everyday life I so reluctantly left behind.

The Lord spoke many things to me during my time away. The most clear instruction came during a devotional we had on about the 10th day of our trip. It came from both the books of Ecclesiastes and the book of John. Ecc 1:3 asks "What does a man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?" And in John 6:27, Jesus instructs us to not labor for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life.

As I prayed over these verses I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit speaking to me. "What is all the toil you are doing in your life... you are spending much time taking care of your wants and desires and My work is going undone." As I continued through Ecclesiastes I was struck by another key verse. Ecc 6:7 says, "our toil is for our mouth, yet our appetite is never satisfied." That is exactly where I have been over the past many years that I have been serving Him. My day is spent toiling after food that perishes and yet, I am never satisfied. The blessings that were coming to me through the Holy Spirit while serving in Uganda was far more satisfying than what my everyday toil was and is bringing me. So I sought Him to help me know what to do next.

As I listened to what He was speaking to me I heard the word... "downsize." Not just the things I have stored away in my attic, basement, closets, and garage :) but to downsize my responsibilities and time. To cleanse myself from the things that are distractions. Extra work loads, entertainment, down and idle time that is beyond the necessary rest the body requires. To downsize my life in material and other ways.

So here I go... downsizing my life to free up not only my resources, but my time as well. To do what the Lord has called each of us to do. To be "about my Father's business" rather than my own.

Who's business are you about? Is the Lord calling your to be about His business and trim a few things from your life like He is mine? If so, what are you doing to answer that call?

While in Uganda we encountered much poverty. The belongings I have in my bedroom alone are worth more than most families worldly possessions. As we were digging our trench to feed a water line to the village one of the villagers said to a companion of mine, "All we need is water. We have electricity some of the time, but we don't need it for life. We need this water for life."

What a basic concept and a life lived in simplicity. The message, "All I need is water to survive!" God spoke to my heart and I will never be the same. To live here on this earth is temporary and I must be simply about my Father's business. So that is what I will be about.

Have a blessed day,

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Uganda Update... Lots of hard work and much blessing

Day 2 on the ground of Uganda is finished! More importantly, day 1 of work projects is completed! Thankfully prayers were answered and everyone survived for the most part. With the exception of a few dehydrated and worn out workers, everyone is just exhausted.

Jim, Mickey, and Bob worked hard on carpentry projects today. They are in the process of building shelves and finishing up some closets for a couple of the orphanage's houses. When their projects are done, the team house as well as a couple of unfinished children's houses will have a lot more much needed storage space.

The rest of the guys worked very hard on digging a trench for a new water line. What is so awesome about this new water line is that it doesn't benefit the Agape Children's Village, it benefits the Bukerere community! This has proven to be an incredible way for the community members to see God loving not just the orphanage, but everyone, including them - the community. One lady, a witch doctor who lives very close to where the new water line will go, has actually said that if we put a water tap by her house, she will accept Jesus into her heart! Therefore, the team decided at tonight's meeting that we will be putting in a water tap for her. So pray for her salvation, please! Another example is a man named Chris. Chris is the plumber who is helping our team and community members lay down the piping for the water line. Bill James has been witnessing to Chris for quite awhile, and today 2 of our team members got to speak to him about Jesus as well. Everyone who has spoken with him seems to see his heart softening very quickly. A big reason for that is this water project. It shocked him that the orphanage and our team wanted to do this new water line for the community without asking for any money or aid in return. He definitely is seeing God all over this project. Please keep his salvation in your prayers.

I know I've talked a lot about this water project, but I can't move on without speaking on the enormity of this project physically and the toll it is taking on our men's bodies. The trench they are digging is at least a foot deep and it is going to be at least 500 yards long! They put in SO much hard work today, yet they still have a long way to go so...PLEASE PRAY!

Jan worked on helping the village ladies and children with their laundry and also tutored some kids in their reading. Seeing her with these kids and seeing the way they learn with her is amazing. Illiteracy is one of the biggest and most common problems with these children, because it hinders their school work tremendously. A lot of them can hardly read at all, so God is definitely using Jan and Colleen in productive and moving ways.

Colleen and I were blessed to spend a lot of time with the children today. We began the morning with walking around the village with the younger children and Katie (the Katie that lives and works here) and then spent the afternoon running water and granola bars to the hard working diggers. After that, we each spent more individual time with the kids. We talked with them, laughed with them, learned new things from them, and Colleen took on the challenge of teaching them as well.

Today was definitely extremely long and exhausting for everyone, but as always God provided. He provided strength, endurance, energy, time, and plenty of water to go around! It isn't even 9 pm yet here, and for the most part we are all either in bed or in the house chilling quietly. Before I head to bed, here is our prayer request list:

- Ryan experienced a little dehydration today while digging. He's very much okay now, but please pray that he and everyone here stays hydrated and healthy.

- Natalie James worked extremely hard today while digging as well. She expressed some ill feelings and pain tonight, so please pray for rest for her tonight.

- Please pray for Chris and the witch doctor's salvation, as well as anyone and everyone else around us who needs the Gospel.

- Jim had some stomach pains tonight. He went to bed early not feeling well so please keep him in your prayers.

- Please continue to pray for Saturday's carnival outreach.

- The men will continue their projects tomorrow. Please continue to pray for good health for all of them, as well as spiritual fruit to continue to come out of their physical labor.

*Praise report!* Bill James is feeling much better. Thank you very much for all the prayers!

Goodnight and God bless!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Uganda Update

Uganda update from team member Katie:

"Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

This seems to be the ongoing quote in the last 24 hours. We are all so shocked that we are finally here, in this beautiful and very different place, that we have to keep commenting on God's amazing miracles that brought us all here.

At this moment it is 6:30 pm here in Uganda, (8:30 am in Oregon) and we are wrapping up our first day in the Agape Children's Village. The team is currently eating dinner and tonight the menu I believe is posho and beans. (Hope I spelled that right!) The best way to describe this meal is that it is very similar to mashed potatoes and beans. This meal, we have been told, is a staple here in Uganda.

told, is a staple here in Uganda.

Reflecting back on the day we had makes me smile from ear to ear. For the most part it was a very relaxing day filled with meeting everyone, touring the village, and playing with all the beautiful kids! I don't think I ever saw a team member not smiling. It is impossible to not be filled with God's peace and joy when surrounded by all these children and their contagious smiles as well as their infectious love for the Lord.

I saw team members doing everything with the kids, and the kids loved it! Keith, Jan, and Kevin all played volleyball, which seems to be a village favorite, with the kids at different times; Mickey, as well as many other team members, had a child's hand wrapped around his own almost every moment, and Colleen and I spent some very precious time reading the Bible with a group of about 8 kids at their request!

I have to say, Colleen and I were almost teary eyed at the experience we shared together with a small group of kids. About 5-8 kids came running up to Colleen and I asking us to bring out our Bible, because they wanted us to read it to them. Honestly I was very stunned and confused. At first, I wasn't sure that I had understood them correctly. Seconds later we were all sitting on the steps outside the team house reading God's Word! However, Colleen and I were definitely not doing the reading. Once I opened my Bible, one by one they started shouting out passages they wanted me to flip to. Once there, they'd all recite the verse! They must have referenced and recited about ten verses. It was incredible. I really don't think I've seen Christ more clearly than when I heard these children recite John 3:16 together in the most loving and sincere voices. I honestly don't know why I didn't break down in tears when a couple of the children told Colleen and I they loved us when we were done.

I think I can speak for the whole team when I say all of our lives were changed today, even if just by a little, and we still have 2 weeks to go! We are all definitely enjoying the people, the food, the environment, but most of all, seeing the Holy Spirit all over this village. Like a lot of things in this world, God's fingerprints are very evident and seen here in Uganda and especially at the Agape Children's Village.

As for prayer, we are always appreciative for it, but here are some specific prayer requests:

- Bill James has been sick since last night. He thinks it might have been something he ate, but whatever it is, please pray for a quick recovery.

- Kevin burst a blood vessel in his wrist today while playing volleyball with the kids. He's ok and his hand is functioning, but it's definitely sore. Please pray for his pain to go away.

- Tomorrow we start the work projects. Some people will be digging a trench for a new water line. Some people will be doing carpentry work around the village. Some people will be painting and helping Danyal with the kids. Please pray that everyone stays safe and hydrated, as well as for the work to go by quickly and productively.

- Finally, the village is putting on a carnival this Saturday as an outreach to the community. The girls will start preparing for that this week. Please be praying that the outreach is what the Lord wants it to be, that many people come, and that many people hear the Gospel.

Monday, April 29, 2013

On Our Way

Thanks to all for your prayers and support. We are off to Uganda...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Uganda 2013 Mission Trip

Dear Friends and Family,

I am writing you this letter to inform you that I am going to be traveling to Bukerere, Uganda from April 29th until May 15th 2013. I will be joining a team from Portland as well as others from Klamath Falls and one individual from Hawaii. In all there will be fifteen of us going.

There are many reasons why I have decided to go on this trip. One of which is to serve the children and staff of Agape Children's Village through various work projects. They have very limited resources there and are in need of so much. Simple things such as clean water tanks, sidewalks to keep them from having to travel from class to class in the dirt and mud, and cubbies and closets to keep their belongings stored off the floor are just a couple of the things we plan on accomplishing while we are there.

Previous work teams have been able to accomplish so much there over the past year. They have poured concrete floors, ran electricity in the houses and built a fence around the perimeter to help protect the village. All of this work has been done through the grace of God and the financial help of men and women with a heart for children... I am hoping for you to partner with me as I travel.

Here is my hope and request. I am trying to help raise nearly ten thousand dollars to help with this project. The more resources we are able to raise the more we are able to accomplish while we are there. At the date of this writing we are up to almost $4000 in donations toward work projects. In addition to the work projects I will have invested nearly $2800 of my own resources to pay for travel and other expenses.

I am asking that you consider helping me by contributing to this much needed work project. A small amount from many can go a long ways in funding a project such as this. Your prayers and financial support is greatly appreciated and needed to accomplish great things for those with so little. In addition to the work project, we will be ministering to the people in various ways such as discipleship, prayer, and teaching.
Please make checks payable to CCSE and in the memo section of the check write UGANDA-CAREY.
We need to have all proceeds for this project to us before April 24th 2013. If you are unable to help please keep us in your prayers as we move forward to Uganda.

You can send them to me at:
13520 SE Pheasant Court
Milwaukie, OR 97222

Keith Carey

If you would like to be updated on our progress, send me an email and I will include you on our daily updates.

All donations are tax deductible and will be used 100% for this team and project.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Thorn In My Flesh

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV  (7)  So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  (8)  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  (9)  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul is sharing in these verses that he has a thorn in his flesh that he says was given to him by God. In the previous verses he explains that he has a reason to boast because of all that he has accomplished, yet he chooses to boast in Jesus.(2 Cor 12:5-6)

We all have some form of thorn that should keep us on our knees begging Jesus to heal us. Often it is marriage or family issues, financial situations we can't control, or even serious health conditions. Whatever the thorn is, God tells us that His grace is sufficient for it. Though we may think otherwise, the Father knows best what we need.

Weakness in the world is looked down on. How many of us that have children encourage them to grow up weak? It doesn't happen. We want them, (as well as ourselves) to get good grades in school, go off to college, find a great career that will afford them the things we may or may not be able to accomplish. But weakness??? That isn't even in our thoughts. Paul tells us that God's power in us is made perfect when we are weak.

Often when I am in groups of people and we are praying I hear prayers asking God to remove this problem or that problem. As did Paul... They are genuine prayers asking our Lord for help. But far too often I see frustration, discouragement, and sometimes hostility towards God from the seekers when the problem or ailment isn't removed. Paul tells us "That His grace is sufficient."

What is the sufficiency of God's grace in our lives? How is that to bring me comfort?

When I think about the life of Paul I think of a superhero of the faith. He is to Christianity what Lance Armstrong is to cycling. Strong, persistent, well trained, focused, diligent, and committed 100%. It is easy to read over a verse like this and say, "well this is Paul talking, a super apostle."Often I forget to look at my own life story. I miss the blessings I have had through his grace because I am so caught up in the thorn in my flesh I forget to look back on what God has delivered me from and how He has sustained me. The word sufficient means this: enough to meet the needs of a situation.

God's grace is enough. He showers us in it and we complain that what we are going through isn't coming to an end. Paul shares with us that the thorn was never removed, yet he pressed on. Today I am encouraged by this. I will press on in Christ Jesus. Looking not at the thorn that He, in His sovereign love, has chosen for me to bear. But at the amazing Grace He promises me as I press into Him through my weakness.

I pray today that you can look to Jesus as you work through your challenges. Realizing that He is sufficient to relieve the stress, anxiety, depression, and difficulties that come from that thorn he so graciously chose to give you. May you see His face shine on you as you draw closer to Him.

Be Blessed!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Who Am I? Finding Identity In A Mixed Up World.

1 John 3:1-3 ESV  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  (2)  Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  (3)  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

There are so many things for us to identify with. Our identity is central to the things we pursue and what we believe to be true about ourselves. Many of us identify ourselves with our job. I am a...doctor, school teacher, contractor, stay at home mom, etc... Often we identify who we are with our athletic capabilities. And on the darker side of things, many of us identify ourselves with the negative beliefs we carry from our past. Most core beliefs we have about our identity were formed when we were a small child and changing them on our own is not easy. You have probably heard the phrase quoted many years back by Henry Ford, the creator of the Ford automobile.

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't -- you're right."

What we believe about ourselves, whether it stems from childhood or has been developed over the years, will shape who we are and who we become.

John shares with us in the book of 1John that we are called "Children of God." When we lay down our past hurts, our accomplishments, and our challenges at the foot of the cross we are then able to begin the process of building our new identity in Jesus. Paul tells us that when we give our heart to the Lord we are a new creation. The old self has passed away. The things we struggle with, the accomplishments we think prove our worth, and the insecurity of future events no longer have to be our identity. We are now a child of the King. Our identity can now be based on something unchangeable, unshakeable, immoveable.

As children of God all things are possible. We no longer have to be burdened by our past failures because we have the Creator of the universe as our Heavenly Father. With Christ as our identity we no longer have to strive for the things of the world to bring us fulfillment. Our purpose and pleasure is to please Him.

Gal 1:10 - For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

If you identify in you job, you will need to always perform in a way that you wont let yourself down. If you identify yourself as an athlete you must be the best athlete or you will begin to feel like a failure. And if you are seeking the approval of men and try to identify yourself with whether or not you are accepted, you will always be let down. But when you seek your identity in Christ and pursue Him you will never need to perform. You will never feel like a failure. And you will never be let down.

Where is you identity placed? Do you see yourself as a Child of God. One who has an eternal inheritance that will never be lost, stolen, or replaced. Or do you identify with the things of the world that are shaky at best?

Prayer: Lord, I want to find my identity in you and you alone. Help me to release the negative beliefs I have carried for so long and see myself the way you created me to be. I want to find all of my joy, hope, and fulfillment in you Lord and not the things of this world. You are my Rock and I am so thankful that you call me your child. Amen...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Trying To Understand The "Why" Question In Suffering

Psalms 10:1 ESV  Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? 
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Headline News:
  • Bus Crashes On Oregon Highway Killing 9 Injuring 38
  • School Shooting In Conneticut - 26 Dead
  • Charred Bodies Found After Japan Tunnel Collapse
  • Mall Shooting Leaves 2 Dead and 1 Critically Injured
  • Divorce Rates In The US Are At An All-Time High
  • Iran Intensifies Persecution Of Christians
  • Short Rains Intensify Kenya Food Insecurity
  • 16,000 Children Die Daily Of Hunger Related Causes
  • Natural Disasters Pose Serious Financial Threat To Asia
When we look at the events that are occurring around the world one of the first questions that most of us ask is "why." Why do these terrible things happen to so many people? Why do not only the unsaved suffer, but those who love and follow Jesus as well?

I was recently visiting a church in another state and the day my family and I were attending they had a memorial video for the passing of the daughter of the pastor. She was a beautiful five year old girl. Her big eyes and contagious smile would capture of the heart of anyone who was around her. Her precious little life was stolen from her a few days prior to Christmas of an asthma attack. As I watched the video my eyes welled up with tears. I had never met this precious little saint but I did understand the pain of her passing. After the video, mom and dad came onto the stage and shared their feelings about their grief of loss and their hope for what God is doing through this tragic event in their life. Many wept, many listened in a sort of mesmerized disbelief, and as I listened, I heard hope in their voice.

Why does God allow bad things to happen to His children? That question is often on the minds of many in times of trials and temptations. Why do we go through ugly bitter divorces in the church? Or why do our little ones die too soon? Why does disease strike at the most inopportune times? What about job losses and not being able to care for some of our basic needs?

The Psalmist in Psa 10:1 asks: Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Often it appears that God is far from us when we fall into our deepest need. The waves of the enemy are crashing on our shore and there is no place to escape from drowning. There is no rest from our pain and suffering. The peace that surpasses all understand has eluded our anxieties. Where are you God when we need you most?

David cried out, "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" (psa 13:1-2) David, the man after the heart of God cries out to God... "Why?"

There are many Biblical examples of the saints of God asking that same question. "Why, O LORD, have you forsaken your child?" I remember a time several years ago where everything in my own life seemed to be spinning out of control. My marriage was on the rocks, my work load was overwhelming me to the point of major anxiety and panic attacks, my emotional and spiritual health was at its lowest. I remember crying out to God often, "Lord, if you are good then why am I going through such turmoil? I have children and I would never treat them the way I feel like you are treating me right now!" My anger and frustration was directed at God as if He were the cause of my woes. My wife had recently recovered from cancer and now this? "What was God doing to us," I thought.

What was God doing?... That is a really good place to start. And when it is asked with a genuine desire to understand His ways I believe we can find answers in His word. The key words in my question was "to us." As if God was simply trying to punish me or cause me harm. God wasn't doing anything to us, rather, He was doing these things "for us."

When we look at the story of Job we see some similar questions being asked. Job had finally came to a place of frustration in his trials to the point of even asking God, "Why did I not just die at the moment I was born?" (paraphrase Job 3:11) "Lord, why did I not just come out of the womb and die?" It would have been better for me to die than to go through all of these troubles. I have been there. God, please just take me now! All of these things you are allowing me to go through are simply too much for me to bear and I would rather just die than continue to go through them.

We even find Jesus asking the Father to remove the suffering He is about to endure. "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." (Luke 22:42) No one wants to walk into a situation that will cause harm, difficulties, and suffering. It isn't a natural place for us to be. But as we see from the prayer of Jesus, we are to desire the will of the Father over our circumstances. Yes, Jesus willingly went to the cross knowing beforehand what the outcome was going to be. What is our end going to look like in this trial? That is a piece to our suffering puzzle we may never fully understand. Never-the-less, God calls us to desire His will over our comfort. Yet, in the midst of our suffering He is always there to bring us comfort when we draw close to Him. One of the ways Jesus will bring us comfort during suffering is to grab hold of the Scriptures. Psalm 119 is a clear example of the connection between our affliction and God's Word:
  • Psalms 119:25  My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
  • Psalms 119:28  My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
  • Psalms 119:43  And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.
  • Psalms 119:50  This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
  • Psalms 119:61  Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
  • Psalms 119:75-77 ESV  I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.  (76)  Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.  (77)  Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
Putting our focus on the Word of God is inexplicably tied to our comfort and understanding. As we read through the book of Job we realize some things about his story that we can relate to our own story. Here are just a few:
  • We should trust that God is working behind the scenes: We often neglect to see what God might be doing because we are focused so closely on what is happening right in front of us. I often hear well meaning Christians say, "You need to look at this from an eternal perspective." And yes that is good, but often eternity seems so far away. I want to see what God is doing right now... Remember that God is not only doing a work in this trial for eternal purposes, but He is also doing a work in many ways for you today.
  • Though it is good to confide in friends, they may not have the right answers: Often we hear from our friends advice that doesn't seem to fit quite right in the situation we are going through. After Job had a conversation with his friends there was more confusion than solution. Yes, it is good to receive sound advice, but the best thing his friends ever did was to sit quietly by his side and walk with him in is suffering.
  • We should not turn from God and question His goodness: After Job was done questioning God regarding the trials he encountered, God rebuked Him for his unbelief. One of the most profound cries of forgiveness is contained in the book of Job. Job 42:1-6 ESV  Then Job answered the LORD and said:  (2)  "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  (3)  'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  (4)  'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.'  (5)  I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;  (6)  therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
So why do we go through trials and suffering? Why did Job have to lose his entire family only to have twice what he originally had restored to him? Why did that pastor lose his daughter at such an early age? Those are really good questions... I am not sure we can answer each and every individual "why" question about suffering, but we can find from the Word that there are some universal reasons for it. Trying to answer why to our individual circumstances may be futile. It is probably void of meaning and if you ask ten people why you are going through a particular time of suffering, you may get ten very different answers.

So why does God allow suffering? 
  • To Draw Us Closer To Him: John Piper, in a sermon on suffering, says this, "No one every cries out to God for help when they are sitting on a beach, looking at a sunset, drinking a drink with a little umbrella in it." Well, maybe he said it a bit differently, but the meaning is the same. When we go through difficulties we are forced to draw close to Jesus for our comfort, peace, and joy.
  • To Bring Him Glory: It may seem a bit strange that suffering brings Glory to God but it does. And it is intended to. When Jesus went to raise Lazarus from the dead he told Mary and Martha, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." And in the story of Jesus healing the blind man he tells the disciples, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." God wants to bring Glory to Himself in our afflictions.
  • For Times Of Discipline: God does discipline those He loves. (Heb 12:4-11) We should not make the mistake in assuming all difficulties are because of disobedience. We should, however, spend time in fervent prayer asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our sin and see if what we are going through could be a byproduct of our sinful and disobedient behavior. 
  • To Refine Us: (Isa 48:10-11; 1Pet 1:6-7) God uses testing and trials to refine His people. Often affliction will come to a person and they will fall away. Difficulties display whether our affection to God is true, even in the difficult times.
  • To Make Us More Like Christ: (Phil 3:10) As we enter into a time of suffering and trials we discover things about ourselves, our faith, and our character that may not be revealed at any other time in our walk with Christ. To share in the sufferings of Christ will make us more like Him.
These are just a few examples of why we may go through suffering and trials. Whatever the reason may be in your particular situation, one thing rings true in all we go through... Jesus is no stranger to the struggle we are facing. He has been tempted and tested in every way, yet was without sin. He will comfort us when we are feeling alone in our greatest time of need in ways beyond our understanding. (Heb 4:15-16) He will never forsake us in our trials and promises to provide us with the strength we need to overcome it. The Eternal Son of God suffered to the point of death, even death on a cross.

However, there is hope. He overcame the grave and defeated death's sting. That is not to say that we don't grieve during hard times. Of course we do. Jesus defeating death brings us hope. It gives us a purpose and a meaning to all we go through that allows us to look to the things eternal. Our difficulties may bring others to Christ because of how we get through them. They may bring us to our knees in fervent prayer in ways we never experienced before. Suffering will afford us the blessing of seeing His hand work miraculously in and through our situation. Though the pain and sting is there, we are assured of one very important thing:

Our Struggles Wont Last Forever...

Revelation 21:3-5 ESV  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  (4)  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."  (5)  And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (emphasis added)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I Will Give You Rest... So Come!

I have been spending much time in the Gospel of Matthew over the past three months. This week I am in the eleventh chapter. One of the verses that really spoke to me was verse 28:

Matthew 11:28 ESV  Come to me, all who labor and 
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Over the past several weeks we have been running kind of crazy because of the holidays. So much to take care of. Shopping for just the right Christmas gift, preparing meals, and spending time with friends and family has been a priority. Then to top it off we had a 5 day road trip covering almost 1500 miles... It is enough to wear you out!

So as I read Matt 11:28, I am compelled to ask a question. "What is this rest he is talking about?" Is Jesus saying He will give me rest from all of my busyness and sometimes overwhelming expectations and pursuits? I think that is exactly what He is saying...

As I break down the verse I see that in order to receive this blessing of rest I am required to do one simple thing. Come to Him. "Come to ME" Jesus says. It is a personal invitation. Jesus has an open door policy. Unlike the boss at our jobs who seem almost untouchable because of their position, Jesus, the creator of the universe invites us to "come."

Are you burdened today? Have you been overtaken by worry, sin, burdens, sickness, temptation, or persecution? Only Jesus can give you the rest you need. He will reassure the worrier, forgive the sinner, take the load off the burdensome, give rest to the sick, help the tempted overcome, and give strength to the persecuted. Jesus is the rest, all we need to do is come.