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Entries in Suffer (4)


Show me the marks!

The question is:  "Sally, what marks do you have for the gospel?"
Mark:a visible impression on a surface, as a line, spot, scratch, dent, or stain; a noticeable or lasting effect; imprint.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul has a list of sufferings - things he endured as a result of his faith in Christ, proclaiming the gospel and speaking truth. Each suffering left a mark - an impression or imprint and as I read through Paul's list, I am deeply moved and challenged.  Paul's "marks" are:
· Labors
· Imprisonments
· Beaten times without number
· Often in danger of death
· Stoned 3 times
· Shipwrecked
· Frequent journeys
· Dangers from rivers, robbers, countrymen, city, wilderness, sea, false brethren
· Hardship
· Sleepless nights
· Hungry & thirsty
· Cold and exposed
· Daily pressure due to deep emotional concern for the churches

I am challenged by Paul's willingness to suffer - even unto death - for the gospel. The truth is, a real believer or follower of Christ suffers and will bear marks for the gospel.  So, I say I believe?  Show me the marks.

Pondering this truth in my heart.


Tribute to Bob

This is my dear brother in law Bob. It's hard to believe that this picture was taken almost one year ago (May 21, 2011).

Next week, we will be meeting my sister and the kids, grandkids and extended family to celebrate Bob's life. You see, he died on November 15, 2011 of complications from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).  Because we shared some wonderful family vacations together in Hilton Head, SC, it seems a fitting place to gather, be with each other, remember and fulfill his desire to have his ashes scattered at sea.

Bob was a gift!  He was one of those project guys and it seemed there wasn't a project that he wouldn't tackle!  But, he was a family man too. He had such a servant's heart.  If you had a problem, you went to Bob and he was always there with some kind of solution.

As I've already mentioned, we were blessed to have many, many wonderful family events and vacations together and each one was filled with fun, laughter and delight in being together. Precious memories.  Bob was special and I miss him.  But, you know what impressed me the most about Bob?  The way he finished his life. He finished well.  I'm not saying he didn't struggle.  Sure, it was hard for a man who loved projects to no longer be able to do anything.  For someone who loved to spend time with family, it was really hard when he got to where he could no longer talk or eat.  But he never lost his smile and he expressed his love for the family in notes, nods, the plans he made and the desires he shared while he still could talk.

Yes, I am most impressed with the way Bob handled dying. He was never afraid or bitter. He had great peace and faith in God because of his relationship with Jesus Christ. You hear a lot of people talk about what they believe but Bob's total peace with dying was real.  His confidence in "absent from the body, and at home with the Lord" could not be faked, missed or dismissed. He wasn't eager about leaving his family, but he was ready for eternity.  Oh, what a legacy of faith Bob left.

During the trip when this picture was taken, I remember sitting with Bob at the table. He could no longer eat but he was doing his best to eat a cookie.  (Chips, cheese and cookies were Bob's foods of choice.)  He shared with me how much he wanted each member of his family to know Jesus the way he knew Jesus.  That really was his dying desire. What a precious gift he left us.... his faith which God's says is "more precious than gold".  When I read the below verse, I will always, always think of Bob.  Thank you Bob for many things but most of all for your legacy of faith.

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." - 1 Peter 1:6-9


I've a long way to go, baby!

In my last post, I made reference to the feminist movement of the 60's and 70's.  One of the old Virginia Slim's commercials used the slogan:  We've come a long way, baby!  A great reminder to us women (baby) that things weren't what they used to be!

As I've been listening to the book of Job, I reached a point and my first thought:  I've a long way to go, baby!  Why?  Job's response to the devastation of losing his sons, daughters, livestock and home.  Did you know that after he tore his robe and shaved his head (a sign of mourning), he fell to the ground and worshiped?  Rewind...he did what?   He fell to the ground and worshiped!  And, in his worship, he declared "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Okay, wait a minute. I want that. I want to know God like Job knew God so that no matter what devastation and loss comes my way my response is one of worship and one that blesses the name of God.

But wait a minute...as I listen on,  Job's devastation doesn't stop there.
     Next came sore boils.
     Then came friends to sit in silence with him as his physical pain was very great.
     They babbled on and on - convinced that Job needed to fess up and get right with God.

After about 10 chapters of listening to these so-called friends go on and on I found myself saying - enough already!  Ah, but then God speaks...

Oh my!  What God reveals about Himself in the midst of Job's pain, suffering and despair are some of the most incredible insights you'll ever find about God. I believe Job 38-41 are some of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  At the beginning of Chapter 41, Job says:

...I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:1-6
God showed up and revealed Himself to Job in such a way that he "saw" God.  In the midst of Job's physical and emotional pain, God spoke to Job and told him wonderful things he did not know.  The visual picture that God painted for Job allowed him to "see" God in a fresh and deeper way.  Look, see - God's power and might are seen in creation!  He is everywhere, he sees everything - He knows everything.  I love this one...
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band, And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors, And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop’?" Job 38:1-11
Alrighty then.  I'm good - how about you?  I've a long way to go...but God's compels me through His Word - keep going, come closer, look...see...worship!


The cost of complacency

I remember the moment I realized I was a complacent woman. Sometimes the truth hurts and this was one of those times. Until that very moment, I would have never thought of myself as complacent. In fact, God was developing within me a real passion for Him and for His Word. As such, I was seeking Him in a greater way and devoting more and more of my time in service to Him and to His. But I was still complacent. In some ways I still am. I hate that because there is a cost to complacency.

How did I come to understand I was complacent? I came face to face with the Word of God. Specifically, Isaiah 32. There I saw that the women who were at ease and complacent were being told to "rise up." A verse later the women at ease and who were complacent were being told to tremble, be troubled, take a look around and then mourn and weep over what they were seeing. These women were comfortable and secure and this had caused them to be careless. I learned they no longer cared about what was going on all around them but cared only for their own comfort and ease. Otherwise they would not have been told to "rise up." So how does complacency look in my life?

It looks like…
…A lot of time, energy and effort making sure I live in comfort and security.
…Spending hours tending my stuff and accumulating more.…Pursuing the "American dream" rather God's will and plans for my life.
…Seeing what others have, are pursuing and doing and letting that be the measure for how I am doing in my own life.
…Doing everything I can to keep from sacrificing any of my comfort and what I’ve determine brings me security.

Being complacent is the exact opposite of trusting in and relying on God. For trusting and relying on God ALWAYS, ALWAYS means getting out of my comfort zone and walking away from what I consider secure.

Complacency has cost me God ordained moments. You see, to pursue what God has planned for me means giving up my plans for a life of comfort and ease. That means giving up something or being uncomfortable in some way. My complacency causes me to put my needs above the needs of others. So then, my complacency cost others. I mean just look at Isaiah 32 and what had happened to the land and to the people because of complacency.

More and more every day, I realize how much I have bought into the "American Dream" that I should have and hoard. I have so loved the world and the things of the world. I have been so easily distracted and bought into so many of the lies the world has offered and I am SO ashamed.

Complacency has cost me years of denying myself, taking up my cross and following my Jesus (Matthew 16:24)

Complacency has cost me untold moments when I could have "gained Christ" but didn't because I was unwilling to "suffer loss" (Philippians 3:7-14).

Complacency has cost those God has put within my reach and influence because I have been and am unwilling to get out of my comfort zone, give up my comforts & ease. So it means others go without. Complacency costs me the experience of finding all my joy in God, having all my needs met in God or being totally satisfied in God.

Complacency costs me untold opportunities to bring God glory by proving He really is my Provider and that suffering for His name sake really is a gift.

God's Word has opened my eyes and what I see is that God wants me to live a life totally abandoned to Him so that I can fulfill His purposes for my life. It means trusting in and relying on ONLY Him. It means walking by faith but in order to do that I have to KNOW Him and the only way to KNOW Him is to KNOW His Word. I understand now that I cannot step out in faith and follow Jesus if I don't know Who it is that I am following. Praise be to God I do KNOW. But I’m also learning what it really means and looks like to FOLLOW Jesus.

To follow Jesus will cost me my comfort and life of ease. I will have to deny myself. It will cause me to have to “rise up” and follow Him. How did we get so far from the truth? Truth has stumbled in the streets (Isaiah 59:14). We preach another Jesus and a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4).

I am tired of paying the price of complacency and I am tired of making excuses for myself and other complacent Christians. Living out of our comfort zones isn't easy. Denying me of what I want and think I need - dying to self is painful. I don't want to suffer - but if I'm not denying, dying and suffering - can I really call myself a follower of Christ? What does staying in my place of complacency say to the world about what I really believe? How does my complacency distort the character and glory of God? What will happen to the world around me - around us - if I/we don't “rise up” out of our place of comfort, ease - complacency?

I call myself Beloved of God. Years ago, I claimed Philippians 3:7-14 as my life verses (I know, obviously clueless). But today I am taken back by a fresh look at these truths from God's Word and also from Romans 8:16-18 which says...

"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

"If? IF? IF INDEED I WHAT????? What I BELIEVE determines how I live my life. Does my life say that ....
...I suffer with Christ?
...I consider the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed?
...Whatever things were gain to me those I counted as loss for the sake of Christ?

Oh God, what does my life say about what I really believe? I am so tired of missing the mark, living the life of complacency. I want my life to SHOUT your trustworthiness and faithfulness because I trust in and rely on YOU and YOU alone. I want to live a life totally surrendered and submitted to you no matter what it costs me. Please God - don't let me miss another minute of what You want to do in me and through me. Cause me to fully understand what it means to find ALL my joy in YOU. Help me to experience being full in the fullness of YOU. Help me to remember that glory awaits me and nothing this world has to offer or can take from me can compare to that!