How we define the word good

“One of the reasons we have a hard time believing that God’s grace is working for good in our lives is because of how we define the word good.  We have our own ideas of how God should work for our good . . .”- Kyle Idleman

Pastor Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 10 of Grace Is Greater as he talks about how we define the word good.  We tend to believe that if God works everything for our good, the results should match how we define the word good.  Conversely, when adversity strikes, we feel that God’s failed to keep His promises.

However, Kyle observes, God’s grace works in the midst of our pain to bring about goodness in two ways:

  1. God’s grace works in your pain to draw you closer to Jesus.  The worst thing that ever happened to you ends up as the best thing that ever happened.  Why?  Because that event brought you closer to Jesus.
  2. God’s grace works in your pain to make you more like Jesus.  God uses all you’ve been through to make you more like Jesus.  Therefore, your pain always has a purpose.  And when pain has a purpose, we’re able to find the strength to endure.

In conclusion, Kyle finds it helpful to distinguish between reason and purpose.  That’s because we don’t always know if there’s a reason for our pain.  But, we do know that God, in His grace, always provides a purpose.  Hence, Pastor Idleman compares reason and purpose.

Reason:

  • looks for a because
  • wants a logical explanation that makes sense out of what happened

Purpose:

  • focuses on the for
  • offers us a hope that God is able to work good out of what happened

As Kyle encourages, just keep reading.

Today’s question: How do you define the word good?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the Annotated Bibliography of Grace Is Greater

Through veins of suffering

“Love runs through us through veins of suffering.”- Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp continues Chapter 13 of The Broken Way by reminding us all who love ultimately suffer.  Most noteworthy, when God beckoned “you shall love your neighbor,” He knew we’d also keep suffering in keeping His commandment to love.  Still, Jesus gave that command.

Author Nicholas Wolterstorff observes that the burning core of suffering consists of love.  However, our suffering God pulls close at our call.  Therefore, we need not feel alone. Yet, Ann reminds us, we have a choice:

“We can receive if we want — there is always more God (emphasis author’s).  In tears is intimacy.  God understands because He stands with us.”

Furthermore, Ann reiterates that the word suffer comes form the Latin “to bear under.”  Therefore, through suffering we bear under that adversity which we cannot control- an act of surrender.  Ann then focuses on additional aspects of suffering.  Suffering:

  • asks us to bear under that which ultimately isn’t under our control- proving to us we have zero control
  • begs us to surrender so we obtain greater wisdom, deeper strength, and closer intimacy
  • says we cannot bear our cross alone; we must bear the vulnerability and intimacy of koinonia as well as bear depending on Jesus

In conclusion, Ann states the everlasting arms of One in control enable us to bear under that adversity beyond our control.  God never lets us go.  When we depend on our Christian faith community, Ann says, we’re “carried by the crossbeam of the cosmos- koinonia.”

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how has love run through the veins of suffering?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A willingness to be inconvenienced”

The grace to remain strong

“Resilience . . . the grace to remain strong after going through something that almost breaks you.”- Ron Luce

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”- Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

Ron Luce, president and founder of Teen Mania Ministries, wrote Resilience in response to a plane crash that took the lives of four young men.  Two of the men were ministry staff members and friends of his daughter Hannah, the sole survivor of the crash.  Furthermore, thirty percent of Hannah’s body received third-degree burns.  In addition, her lungs had been burned.

During times of tragedy and adversity, as Christians, we know that:

  • Jesus loves us
  • one day, Jesus will comfort every heart and dry every tear
  • we’ll be with Him forever

However, Ron personally points out, those facts seem of little help to those suffering intense grief.  So, the author asks, how do Christians respond when circumstances careen out of control and we no longer comprehend what’s going on?  Such uncomfortable situations block us from making much sense of those situations.

Unless we prepare ourselves for these moments and develop the steel backbone needed to take us through them, our response may be toxic.  Mr. Luce summarizes:

“All too often when those things happen, people slide off the end of their faith and back into the world’s ways.  They get mad at God and give up on Him.  Their anger turns to resentment and even full-blown rebellion.”

As a result, Ron emphasizes, it becomes imperative to build or reinforce our foundation on Jesus before life hits us in the face.

Today’s question:  What Bible verses give you the grace to remain strong during your desert, transformational time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Feel-good Christianity” (the second of four excerpts from this book)

 

Godly grief

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  For see that earnestness this godly grief has produced in you . . .”- 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

In Chapter 6 of Before Amen, Max Lucado observes that tattoo parlors need a sign over the entrance: Think before you ink.”  Although tattoo artists possess no delete key, the artist can remove mistakes or unwanted tattoos- for a painful price.

Similarly, Pastor Lucado noes, “guilt leaves a tattooed heart.”  Furthermore, unresolved guilt births a host of unhealthy emotions.  Hence, most of those emotions, Max notes, fit under one of two headings- defensiveness or defeat.

Defensive souls:

  • keep the skeleton in the closet
  • tell no one; admit nothing
  • seek innocence, not forgiveness
  • reduce life to one aim- suppress the secret
  • don’t address or treat failures

Defeated souls:

  • define themselves by the past
  • didn’t make mistakes; they are the mistakes
  • didn’t foul up; they are foul-ups
  • wear the past on their sleeve
  • cudgel themselves with doubt and shame

Therefore, Pastor Lucado encourages you to “open yourself to the idea of a guilt-free you.”  Consequently, when you drag your past around for too long, it becomes part of your identity.

In conclusion, Max describes three ways to avail yourself of Jesus’ final word on your life- grace.

  1. Give God your guilt.  Hold nothing back.  In addition, Max exhorts, “Place your guilt on the back of your Sin Bearer.”
  2. Be concrete in your confession.  Just as physical wounds heal when exposed to air, exposure to the atmosphere of grace heals guilt.  Furthermore, confession isolates sin, thus exposing and extracting it.
  3. Be firm in this prayer.  Finally, speak to your guilt in the name of Jesus.  In addition, tell your guilt where to get off.

Today’s question: Have you experienced godly grief, or have you responded to adversity with defensiveness or defeat?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Intercessory prayer”

All things work together for good

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”- Romans 8:28

Max Lucado begins Chapter 9 (“All Things Work for Good”) of More to Your Story by observing that we’ve all asked questions about how adversity plays a part in God’s plan.  There are so many things we don’t know.  However,  Max states that, according to Romans 8:28, we absolutely can be certain about four things:

  1. God works.  He works ceaselessly and tirelessly “behind the scenes, above the fury, within the fray.”
  2. God works for the good.  God works for our ultimate good, not for our comfort or pleasure or entertainment.
  3. God works for the good of those who love him.  As Max explains, “behold the benefit of a loving God! . . . Being the author of salvation, he writes a salvation theme into our biography.”
  4. God works in all things.  In “all things” God works- not through a few things, good things, best things, or easy things.

Yet, we question whether or not God could use our ministry downsizing or vocation loss to advance his cause.  As Max states, this question is more than hypothetical:

“We all have seasons that are hard to explain.  Before we knew God’s story, we made a mess of our own.  Even afterward, we’re prone to demand our own way, cut our own path, and hurt people in the process.”

The good news- God instilled, and continues to instill, within you everything you need to fulfill His plan for your life.

Today’s question: During your desert, transformational time, how have all things worked together for good?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the Annotated Bibliography of More to Your Story

The proper time

“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.”- Psalm 145:15

Wayne Stiles concludes Chapter 4 of Waiting on God by noting that when the apostle Paul penned, “Love is patient,” he literally wrote, “Love is being patient.”  The original Greek word defines patience as a continual decision we make.

Therefore, although waiting on God seems passive, reality indicates otherwise.  In addition, Dr. Stiles explains:

“. . . waiting is a very active part of living.  Waiting on God, if we do it correctly, is anything but passive.  Waiting works its way out in very deliberate actions, very intentionally searching the Scriptures and praying, intense moments of humility, and self-realization of our finiteness.  With the waiting comes learning. . . . God made his creatures to live in dependence on their Creator. . . . Dependence demands waiting.”

Demanding instant gratification, even for good things, trivializes and overlooks the priceless worth of God’s sovereignty.  Consequently, Wayne states, “our faithfulness to God must find its motivation in our resolve, not its results.”

That’s because God often keeps quite about why he allows specific adversities in our lives.  Our sovereign God handles all our questions with ease.  However, we cannot handle all of His answers.  As a result, often God’s best answer to us is to say nothing.

Most noteworthy, God promises us His presence- a need far beyond our comprehension.  Even though we lack understanding, deep down we know that He understands.  Because He’s with us, that’s enough!

Today’s question: What Scriptures enable you to wait on God for the proper time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God’s goal for leading us”

Blessing hidden in the shadows

“There’s nothing life can throw at us that God can’t use to draw us closer to him.”- Kyle Idleman

In Chapter 2 of The End of Me, Kyle Idleman observes that it’s human nature to do everything one can to stay away from suffering in the first place.  But we take things one step further when suffering inevitably hits.  We do everything possible to stay away from mourning.  And when we do catch ourselves mourning, we embrace avoidance behaviors to do all in our power to make mourning go away.

Pastor Idleman refers to this as a “grim quest to turn that frown upside down.”  However, Kyle explains, that frown won’t go away because gravity keeps tugging at the edges.  Rather than mourn, we shift our efforts to getting over it.  In fact, a man named Jeff Goldblatt founded Get Over It Day (March 9th).

Kyle counters that Jesus wants us to realize we can find incredible blessings hidden in the shadows- but that blessing only may be visible through the lens of our tears.  Through the unique focus of those tears, the intruder begins to look strangely like a guest.

When adversity hits, we can’t see anything bigger than our loss.  The truth is God more than fills that space, including spaces we didn’t know we had.  Kyle concludes:

“. . . those who follow Jesus find that their pain is not wasted.  There is a blessing that seems totally illogical.  It requires climbing to the bottom of the deepest pit, without a flashlight, venturing far into the darkness.  But the blessing is there, and it’s worth everything.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures have helped you find blessing hidden in the shadows?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Spit first.  Dig second.”

Living the dream

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”- Matthew 5:4

“The end of me often comes when my dreams come to an end.”- Kyle Idleman

Kyle Idleman begins Chapter 2 (“Mourn to Be Happy”) of The End of Me by remarking that toward the top of his list of least favorite things is waking up in the middle of a fantastic dream.  “But,” Kyle observes, “it seems a law of life that if you’re in the middle of an awesome dream, something will wake you up.”

Pastor Idleman states we’ve all had times when life was on cruise control.  Then adversity blindsided us and the ride got rough.  Kyle explains:

“You were living the dream, and then life was shaking you awake.  So intrusive.  To come awake is to lose something- money, health, work, innocence, some special someone.  If you’re going to live, you’re going to lose.  You will come to the end of yourself.  You might as well wake up to the fact.”

You’ve gone from dreaming to mourning.  But what if, Pastor Idleman asks, you could reverse that equation so that you would wake up from a nightmare to a dream, and mourning could lead to blessing.  Kyle encourages us:

“In the midst of loss and deep disappointment, when it feels like we are coming to the end of ourselves, he [Jesus] turns the page and shows us a new story of hope and redemption.”

Today’s question: What is your response to Kyle’s statement that we must wake up to the fact that we will come to the end of ourselves?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Heartache and shattered dreams”

The seasons of our lives

“When we view our lives as a string of random days connected only by the calendar, it’s easy to overlook the active movement of God.”- Bill Hybels

In Chapter 9 (“From Stuck to Moving On: Welcoming New Seasons in Your Life”) of Simplify, Bill Hybels notes the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds became the number one song in America on December 4, 1965.  Pete Seeger based the words of his song on the writings of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3.  Today these words draw Pastor Hybels’ attention for a much more substantive reason- the words call for change.

The author comments on the necessity of viewing our lives to see the active movement of God:

“Our ability to identify the seasons of our lives increases our ability to cooperate with God, recognizing His guiding hand, follow His lead, and accept the end of one season as the beginning of the next.”

The seasons we enter into have different lengths- weeks, months, or even years.  All these seasons have a beginning and an end.  We spend time in one season and then move on to the next one.

Adverse circumstances, such as a ministry downsizing or vocation loss, define some of our seasons.  When adverse seasons come in rapid succession, the challenge is extraordinary.  Pastor Hybels exhorts us that it is vital to remember that adverse seasons don’t define our whole life:

“Good or bad, easy or difficult, every season on this earth is temporary.”

Today’s question:  What Bible verses help you persevere through your temporary seasons of adversity?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Mourning and dancing”

A vivid point of light

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”- Psalm 119:105

“A ‘life verse’ is a power clarifying tool when it comes to simplifying our lives.”- Bill Hybels

In Chapter 8 (“From Drifting to Focused: Claiming God’s Call on Your Life”) of Simplify, Bill Hybels tells of the time he went sailing with his dad from South Haven, Michigan to Chicago.  Bill was eight years old.  On the way they encountered a massive storm, which they fought for over ten hours.  Finally, in the distance, they spotted a vivid point of light- the Chicago Breakwater Lighthouse.  The safety of the harbor was near.

The experience was so seared into Bill’s mind that he painted a picture of that vivid point of light.  It hangs in his kitchen to this day.  In life, Pastor Hybels explains, we need a light directing us back to safe harbor:

“. . . we all need a vivid point of light from Scripture- a particular verse that resonates with us personally, to guide our paths and give us a reference point, no matter the size of the waves.”

When adversity overwhelms us, a life-verse can guide us back to the things that matter most.  In the next blog, Pastor Hybels discusses how he chose his life verse as well as the power of adopting a life verse.

Today’s question: What verse or verses immediately come to mind as a potential life verse?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Choosing your life verse”