Blessing

My Biggest Problem & The Beauty of The Struggle

Life is hard. I think most of us can agree with this statement. Certainly there is much beauty that surrounds us, but the undeniable truth is that life is also quite the struggle. Most of us spend our days either ignoring these struggles, or simply trying to avoid them.We just have to grin and bear it, and eventually we will be able to move past the struggle, and once again we will be see the beauty. The beauty is what we are after, but the struggle seems to be where we often find ourselves.

Two things are on my mind this morning.

How we respond to the struggles of life says much about us. My default is to blame other people or to blame my circumstances. I am a perfect illustration of Genesis 3:12-13. After man sinned in the garden, God asked man what happened…Instead of fessing up he decided to blame both the woman and even God himself…”This woman YOU gave me, she is the one who gave me the fruit!” In the same way, the woman also blamed the serpent. Neither the man nor the woman were willing to take the blame for their own actions. Instead of appealing to and trusting in the mercy of God, they chose to take the low road and say, “It isn’t my fault!”

Now, perhaps we can give Adam and Eve a pass. They’d never sinned before, so perhaps they didn’t have that great a grasp on the mercy of God. Perhaps they didn’t fully understand how this grace thing worked. We don’t have this excuse. We’ve been seeing people sin for quite a while. We’ve only lived in the midst of sinners. In fact, all we’ve ever been is sinners. Yet, we’ve also seen grace in action, especially in the person of Christ.

The point I’m trying to make is this. My biggest problem isn’t my circumstances. My biggest problem isn’t other people. My biggest problem is myself. The struggle is there for all of us. Yet, the issue is not really the struggle, but how I respond to the struggle. Do I blame everyone, including God? Or do I accept the struggle, accept my responsibility for the struggle, and hand it over to God appealing to his rich steadfast love and mercy? (Psalm 51:1) Turning it over to God is the only right answer. This is true whether we are speaking of sin (our own or of someone else) or any other struggle of life. The fact is, whatever your struggle, whatever your circumstance…God has you there for a reason. This doesn’t make it easy, but seen in the proper light, wherever you are, whatever ever your situation…is an opportunity to glorify God. (I am reminded once again of Philippians 1:20-27)

And this takes me to my last point. Perhaps the struggle is the point. Perhaps the struggle is the beauty of it all. There is nothing more beautiful than the love, mercy, and grace of God. This is never more evident than in the midst of trying times. It might take us a while to see it, but once we are able to re-center and refocus ourselves on God we know this to be true. Apart from these struggles we could never know the the mercies of God, at least not in any experiential way. This is true in speaking of sin, sickness, or even death. It’s even true when the kids are driving you nuts or the drive-thru is slower than it should be. So, perhaps the struggles are there to point us to God.

Maybe, just maybe, the struggle isn’t the opposite of beauty…Maybe, the struggle is all part of the beauty.

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Death, Tragedy, Glory, and God: Is there more there than we think?

Continuing to add to couple of weeks of tragedy, I heard two days ago about the death of our pediatrician’s 22 year-old daughter due to H1N1. My prayers go out to this family, especially with her 3 year-old little girl.

I read in the news that now this doctor was on a mission to get all children in the area vaccinated. My wife also told me, as we were discussing this tragedy that he and his wife were planning to give out vaccinations at their daughter’s funeral. This got me thinking, how so many times when a family is struck by tragedy or the death of a loved one, there is this innate desire to use it for good. There is this longing within us that a tragedy or the death of a loved one should mean something, can be used for something.  How many times have we heard the phrase, “I didn’t want his/her death to be in vain.” How much good has been done, and how many lives have been changed because of someone taking death or tragedy, and using it for good.

As I said though, this got me thinking. Why do we as humans have this desire to turn bad around and use it for good? Why do we so often want to use the tragic death of a loved one, and use it for the good of others? I think I have an answer, or at least a thought on what the answer could be. Could it be, that God has programmed this into the DNA of humans to prepare our hearts for the Gospel? What greater good has come about as a result of a tragedy, than the atonement of our sins, through the blood of Christ? What greater good has come about than the salvation of our souls, as a result of the brutal murder of our Savior, God’s own son, Jesus? (Ephesians 2:13)

The idea of tragedy/death bringing about good, and being used for good isn’t a new, or even unique concept. Just watch any number of movies. Like I said, I believe that just maybe this is something that has been programmed into the hearts, mind, and DNA of humans in preparation for us to receive, or be able to receive the truth of the Gospel. The thing that boggles my mind though, is that God didn’t just decide to use the tragedy of the cross for good, but He planned it. (1 Peter 1:2) He used, no planned the tragedy of the cross for the greatest good imaginable, to bring a people who were once far away, near to Himself. Thank God that His ways are not our ways.

What love does it show that the God of the universe would come down, take on flesh, and die for us? Not because He had to, or needed to, but because He wanted to. He planned to…from before the foundations of the earth. (1 Peter 1:2, Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:4-14) Simply amazing…

Post with a purpose…

Everything on this planet that was created, has a creator, and was created with a purpose. When someone builds a house, they have a purpose in mind for building that house. It is to become a home, it is to be a place where people can rest, and be protected from the outside world, and the elements of nature. When someone designs and builds a car, it is built with a purpose in mind. It is transportation, to transport someone from point A to point B.

The Bible tells us that we too, as people, have a creator. Genesis 2:7 says, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Multiple passages in the Old Testament speak of the way God has formed us in the womb. (Psalm 139:13, Isaiah 44:24, 49:5, Jeremiah 1:5) Seeing as though we too were created by a creator, the next logical question is, “What is our purpose?”

In my study of Scripture, I believe I’ve found two passages that give us this answer.

First, in Mark 12, Jesus is asked by a Scribe, “what is the most important commandment of all.” Jesus then says, (Mark 12:29-31) “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord your God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this; ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Jesus is here summing up what God had already told the nation of Israel back in Deuteronomy 6:4-6. Very simply what these two commandments tell us, is that we are to love God with all that we have, and with all that we are.

Second, in Ephesians 2:10 the Apostle Paul tells us this, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Very simply Paul is telling us that we were created for good works that He (God) has already prepared for us to do. God has prepared those things before the foundations of the earth. Technically I believe this last verse, can also be summed up in the previous two commands given to us by Jesus.

So what do we know so far? Everything on this planet is created, and is created with a purpose. We as people also have a creator, God, and we were created with a purpose as well. Our purpose is very simply to love God first and foremost, and to love people. These things work themselves out in various ways. But everything we do, must be rooted in our love for God first and then a love for people. If this is not the case in our lives, then we are missing our purpose. We are not doing what we were created to do.

So now we must ask ourselves, what happens when something that is created, doesn’t serve its purpose? Let’s look back to our previous two examples. When a house is not doing what it is built to do, when people aren’t living in it, when it cannot serve to protect people from the elements of nature what happens to it? Generally it is torn down and thrown away, unless it can be repaired. The same thing is true with a car. If a car is not able to do what it was created to do, when it cannot take a person from point A to point B, it is sold for scraps, or thrown into the scrap heap. That is of course, unless it can be repaired. People are no different. I believe we see great and frightening examples of this in two places in the book of Matthew. (3:12 & 25:41-46)

The great thing is though, we CAN be fixed, that is why Jesus came to earth…Read John 3:16-21 and pray.
God bless…

Be watching for a related post in the coming days…

“Psalm 1” A Poem

My personal poetic interpretation of the first Psalm…

How blessed is the one who forsakes the world and all its evil ways.
How blessed is the one who seeks Your precious face.
How blessed is the one who loves Your Word, and obeys it all His days.
Oh that blessed day when I will look upon Your face.
Help me Lord, for without you, this is an impossible race.
I beg You Lord, please teach me Your ways.

I will absorb Your Word. I will drink Your living water.
Through life’s storms I cannot fall. You are my Father.
Plant me firmly in Your Word, In Your streams of living water.
Let the fruit I yield be proof to the world, that You are my Father.
Your Word says the wicked cannot prosper.
Yet ALL things work together for good, for Your sons and daughters.

How blessed is the one who forsakes the world and all its evil ways.
How blessed is the one who has called You Lord and felt Your precious grace.
Oh that blessed day when I will look upon Your face.
Search my heart and make it whole, for You know all my ways.
The wicked will perish, their ways are evil, why do they live lives of waste.
That was me before You saved me, oh who can know Your ways?