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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Accept Suffering

We know that Jesus suffered for us, but a lot of times we don't correlate that Jesus's death and resurrection was an example for us to emulate.

Our culture tells us that it's important to get a good education, having a nice job, and make a lot of money in order to live in a big expensive house, drive a luxurious car, and buy other luxuries. There's nothing about suffering that bit. Oh sure, it's accepted that sacrifices in college will be made for a future life of luxury, but that's about it. After that it should be smooth sailing and life should be enjoyed to the fullest, cramming it with every whim and desire. Because of that mindset that is blatantly against God's will for the life of a Christian, we tend to mix that with our Christian mindset, not even realizing it. We know it's wrong, but it becomes intertwined with our viewpoint when we complain about not getting that job we want, that relationship, that promotion, that degree, that house, that car, etc. We grow weary when we can't have that child we so desire or a clean bill of health. We're sick of not being happy and having that cloud hang over our heads. If only we had that one thing, we'd be happy. And it's this attitude that comes literally from Satan.

This is what Jesus said about his future suffering:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." - Matthew 16:21-23

Jesus accepted that it was God's will for Him to be killed, though he was innocent and had done nothing wrong. He did not fight it. He accepted it and treated it just as if it were a normal activity. Peter couldn't accept God's will for Christ though and encouraged Christ that this was not a good way to think. Jesus's response revealed that Peter's denial of submitting to God's will was an attitude that only came from Satan.

Satan wants us to believe that we deserve to be happy and shouldn't have to suffer. He wants us to feel miserable until we get that one thing we desire and the misery is over with. But that's not God's will for us. His will is to accept that times of suffering will come to every believer and to accept and endure it, just as Jesus did. This is God's will for us, and anyone who opposes this doctrine or who resists submitting to God's will of suffering for their life is acting against God.

Suffering isn't enjoyable. It's not supposed to be, but it's supposed to draw us even closer to God. During times of suffering, it's hard to accept it and continue to bear the burden, and sometimes we just can't muster the strength to do so. It's in these times that we remember that Christ accepted suffering though He had done no wrong. He was perfect. He didn't deserve it. In a way, we deserve any suffering that comes our way as we are still sinners who sin on a daily basis. On the other hand, we can take heart that oftentimes suffering doesn't come because we have committed a certain sin that deserves suffering as punishment; rather, if Jesus had to suffer punishment He did not inflict upon Himself, then so must we.

So what will your attitude be when suffering comes? It's coming, and you should prepare to accept it with a humble attitude, which pleases the Lord.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Through the Psalms Part III

Sometimes people wonder what the purpose of the Old Testament is if we have the commands God has given to us in the New Testament. We take our beliefs from the New Testament, so what's the point of the Old Testament?
Psalm 78 gives us a good reason why God wants us to pay close attention to the Old Testament. This Psalm is a Psalm of Asaph, and in it, Asaph says this:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have hard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell them to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

Asaph then explains why the generations to come must know about what God has done for the past generations:

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Asaph gives four reasons on why it was important for his generation to recite the works of God to the younger generations. First, recalling to mind the things God has done in the past helps us to trust in God. The ability to call to mind all the times God helped us in the past gives us hope that God will do the same, even when the future seems bleak. These reminders help to direct our focus on a truth that God will come to our aid, just as He has done in the past. So the first two reasons go hand in hand, recalling to mind the works of God helps us not forget what He has done for us.

The third reason Asaph gives is so that we will keep God's commandments. This might seem like an odd reason for recalling the past, but there are two ways this can be viewed. The first is that remembering how God worked in the past ellicits a response of wonder at God's power. When we remember who we are and who God is, we are better able to keep God's commands, recognizing God deserves our obedience to Him. The second reason could be taken that in recalling what God did for Israel, they also remembered what God did to their enemies. It's a scary thought to think about what happens to those who oppose God.

The fourth reason Asaph gives is to ensure that the younger generation will not repeat the same mistakes their forefathers made. There was a purpose behind knowing all of this historical information.

So if Asaph urged the Israelites to recall the deeds of the Lord from the past, how much more should we as Christians do the same? It seems like that's the reason for the Old Testament. It serves as our guide of how we should not behave, how we should fear God's punishment upon the Israelites, and it also gives us hope of how God led His people through the wilderness with the promise of an even greater hope of the Messiah to come. They couldn't see the fulfillment like we can; all they could see was one side of the picture, and yet God still led them.

That's the way it is with us. We can only see half of the picture, this side of Heaven. We cannot see the fulfillment of our eternal life in Heaven yet, but we know God is guiding us toward that. We are better able to understand this when we see how God led His people and still continues to lead us today. So take some time to reflect on the Old Testament. Don't dismiss it as pointless information irrelevant to today. It's very relative to today, serving as a reminder for all of us!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Through the Psalms- Part II

Sometimes it feels like God has forgotten us and our prayers. Maybe we've prayed for something for years, like the salvation of a friend or relative. Counting up the amount of time you've spent praying for that one thing over the span of several years equates to quite a bit of time begging the Lord to hear you. And because of that large quantity of time spent without a change in circumstances, you might be wondering, Has God forgotten me?
Asaph felt the same way as he wrote Psalm 77. Just as you and I pray because we believe God hears us and will respond, so Asaph begins his journey of begging for deliverance: "I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord . . . ." It's unclear what is bothering Asaph, but it's enough to make him physically ill, " . . . in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak." Perhaps you can relate to Asaph's feelings. You are so bothered by your circumstances that you're up at night worrying, wondering, and waiting. Maybe you even pray more so at night on your bed, and like Asaph feel tired and worn out with your cries.

 Asaph can't find comfort in praying. He's not finding peace and rest, and as his mind tries desperately to find a way to peace he remembers something, "I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, 'Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.' Then my spirit made a diligent search: 'Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?" Asaph goes back in time, thinking about what God did for him years ago. Unfortunately for Asaph, he has been in distress for years, perhaps just like you, as he has to carefully recall the past and retrace his remembrance of God's help for him. He begins to ask himself rhetorical questions. He knows the answer to them: "Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?" We all know the answer to that- No. God will not forsake us. Asaph reminds himself of that and a lightbulb comes on: "Then I said, 'I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.' " He decides to repeat back to God about the promises we know are to be true of Him and appeal to God to answer through God's own words He gave to us. This brings Asaph hope, and it should to you as well.

Perhaps you have not been able to find comfort in praying. Don't stop. Do what Asaph did and recite the promises God has given to us. Make a list. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that God hears and will respond when it's in His timing. This seems to be the turning point for Asaph who then continues on, "I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds." Asaph decides to remind himself of all that God has done for him the in the past, how God answered him in the past. And I know we all have those moments to look back onto too. Remember the time when God answered your pray almost immediately after you finished praying? What about all of the other prayers He answered? Bringing to mind all that God has done for us in the past helps to assure us that He will be faithful to continue to answer in the future. It reminds us that God is in charge still and that our God is great enough to conquer even this problem.

Asaph recognizes this as he says:

What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people . . . When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; our lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Asaph ends his Psalm with a recognition that God was big enough to lead His people through the sea, leading the reader to conclude that God is fully able to do so with Asaph's problems, and not just his, yours and mine too! Think about all of the miraculous ways your prayers have been answered, prayers full of impossible requests that God granted. And if you can't think on those, do what Asaph did and go all the way back to how God helped the Israelites, His people.

Although Asaph couldn't end with letting the reader know his prayers had finally been answered, he was able to end his Psalm with hope. Hope is what kept Asaph going, and it's exactly what should keep you and I going. Whatever your circumstance, whatever the request, whether you've been praying for five days or ten years, God will answer, we just need to wait and remind ourselves of His promises and His faithfulness as our God.