Loneliness

maroon-bells

Most of the years growing up, my family vacationed in Colorado. We always joined other members of Mom’s family. We all loved the mountains. They were so beautiful! The Maroon Bells, shown here were one of the places we visited. Cragged rocks clad in white reached almost to the heavens. Crystal clear streams cascading down in waterfalls, eventually settling in the purest lakes. The change from the near flat world of west Texas was so dramatic. The plants, trees, and flowers were also completely different from what we were used to. We would camp out, hike and fish. I started collecting rocks at the age of six, a hobby I would keep into manhood. It was so wonderful being able to pick up beautiful crystals.

We moved to Colorado Springs when I was 13. But we didn’t live very close to my cousins or my new friends at church. I felt very lonely a lot of the time, missing Abilene and Danny, my best friend. Some things I did with my brother, but mostly I spent hours finding things to entertain myself with: Shooting BBs and a bow and arrows, hitting a tether ball back and forth on a pole, throwing darts and knives. I got pretty good with one knife, eventually using and almost always hitting the 2” side of a 2 x 4 for a target (which is actually 1 3/4″). I missed Danny, my best friend terribly. Somewhere in there, I remembered the pictures of a naked woman we had found and began to “dumpster dive”. I wasn’t just looking for more pictures. I also found other interesting trash: old transistor radios, pieces of metal and wood for building something, anything cool. At fifteen I hit pay dirt and found a couple of Playboy magazines. It took only a minute to be hooked on professional pornography, keeping them this time as “my own little secret”.

It has been helpful for me to do a bit analyzing about the associations of feeling with temptations that tend to bring them on.

I think often our emotions are mixed in with our fleshly desires, giving them more power and importance. These desires intensify the emotions we appreciate, while lessoning the effect of negative ones.  I found it was really an illusion in this case. Have you had times where you’ve experienced this?

No Pain or Trouble Is Ever Wasted

refiner

Malachi 3: Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness…

Jesus is foretold as a refiner and soap. I used to make jewelry for a jewelry store. I usually made it using old gold and silver. As the old gold fully melted, impurities would come to the top. Once I was making a couple of personal items, rings that hold a crystal on a watch. One of them  came out well and was easily formed completely round on a mandrel. I then turned quite easily on a small lathe. The other ended up with a stubborn place. I had difficulty making it round. It was not easy to start over so I persevered.  I eventually traded the rawhide mallet I was using for a small brass hammer, then a heavier steel one.

I think sometimes we are like them both. Sometimes we are very cooperative with the Saviors reforming other times we resist, not wanting to give up what Jesus wants to change. It seems then trouble and pain increase. They are there to drive home the lesson. So when we feel we are going though a time of trouble or pain, it is a good idea to ask the Lord to show us what we need to learn through this.

 

Fulfilling The Purpose of Our Suffering

We come to know the Lord better and the suffering he went though for our sake when we go through suffering ourselves. But only in drawing close to God does this happen. Otherwise we only learn bitterness and despair.

There is a another purpose fulfilled when we use our pain to help others going through suffering and hardships. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”

May we let no pain or hardship go to waste.

The Shepherd’s Crook

Often, as parents, our children don’t want o listen to what is best for them. When my son, Clint was little he typically wanted to drink more than eat. He was happiest with a sippy cup full of juice. But he couldn’t get all of the nutrients he needed in juice, so we would take it away from him and say “Eat your vegetables first, then you can have more to drink.” At first this advice would be met with crying “Juice, juice”. or maybe a sad “Ju-i-ce” said in such a forlorn voice it was hard not to give in. But eventually he accepted the inevitable and ate his vegetables.

shepherd“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” the very familiar 23rd Psalm says. David was long a shepherd boy. He knew the habit of lambs to want to just run and play. Some times they had to have encouragement with the shepherd’s crook to lie down – to eat and then rest. A lamb might choose to only run, play, and eat in clover. But they need a variety of pasture. A shepherd worth his salt will lead the lamb to other pastures, so they will get what they really need.

In John 10, we have this great passage about Jesus being the good shepherd.  His flock know his voice and follow him. Our choice may be to only run and play, then lie down in a bed of ease. But Jesus knows what is best for us. He may lead us, at times, to hardship as that is how we will grow the most. He does not necessarily cause the hardship, but will allow it for our own good. In those times, we are to “press in” to his lead, learn the lessons he wishes to show us, then take on his comfort – lie down  in his green pasture.

The Saving Power Of God’s Glory

My wife and I have lived with the American military community in S. Korea for the past 2 1/2 years. One of the interesting differences with Korean churches is that most have an early (5am) morning prayer service – every day.  My wife and I began joining in with the nearest church some time ago, first only once or twice a week but eventually, most days. It has been a great blessing. Each day we sing a song and look at a passage of scripture, most of the time a chapter. This mornings reading was Psalms 80. I’d like to call attention to three verses.

3. Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

7. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

19. Restore us, O Lord God of Hosts; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

The prayer is the same in each verse except for greater reminder of who it is that is being called on. He is God, he is omnipotent (all powerful) and he has hosts of extremely powerful beings waiting to take an order concerning us.  Scripture tells us he uses both to work in our lives. Paul says in Ephesians 1 that his immeasurably great power is at work toward those who believe. And Hebrews 1:12 says in the affirmative “Are not the angels ministering spirits, sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”

The most interesting part of the prayers is the saving power of just God’s look. Certainly I know the feeling of looking upon either of my children and beaming. I did a bit of that the last couple of days after leaning how well my son is doing at a New Mexico State Law Enforcement Academy. God looks on his children with even more care and love.

But it’s also a reference to God’s glory. His glory is active, emanating from him with the power to save.

He will rescue us. We’ve just got to keep the faith.

Trusting God Through The Storm, cont.

Last time, I asked the question, “Why do some things in life have to be so hard?”

First of all we need to recognize there is a reality happening we cannot see. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul warns us there are “cosmic forces” and ” the spiritual forces of evil” who are wrestling against us. They may very well be influencing people, circumstances, even our even our own thoughts to work against us. We are not told great deal about how they work, but there are some clues in scripture. The important thing is to ask the Lord of the Angel Armies to work on our behalf and fix our eyes on Jesus.

Secondly, everything around us is in a state of deterioration. Adam and Eve’s sin not only brought mortality to their children but everything in creation. This is so constant that it is one of the laws of physics.

Lastly, God is in control, whatever is happening – he is allowing.

“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever.  Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.  Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 1 Chronicles 29:10-12

God has a variety of purposes for allowing the negative to happen in our lives. First, he is calling us to seek him more, his help. He is drawing us to himself. Second he has something to teach us through this process, he is refining us. Third, he is disciplining us as his children (Hebrews 12:7-12). Finally, suffering will draw us closer to Christ, more ready for his glory. (1 Peter 4:13)

Knowing these things may not make going through hardship easy, but we can praise God for what he is doing in us, turning all things into good.

Trusting Through The Storm

Psalms 13-5Psalms 13 How long, O Lord ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord , for he has been good to me.

I’m not sure which time David’s life was in danger he wrote this Psalm. He had so many. I suspect this is not the first time he ran from Saul. He is clearly tired of it here.  Life has many struggles, at least for most of us. Sometimes we just get tired of it all. As I write this I am taking a break from trying to wrap up a watch I’m making. It seems to be taking forever – two steps forward, one step back (sometimes the other way around). I’ve been working on it for years. We are desperately needing the work done as we have a financial emergency I spend much time in prayer while working, focus on it most of the day, yet have little to show at the end for each of many days. Why do some things in life have to be so hard?

Those who wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength. Maybe I should quit striving and just wait on him. There’s a thousand ways he could meet our needs. Is that his plan? Or has he prepared a buyer and I need to have it ready for him?  It is hard to know.