Thursday, March 21, 2013

GUATEMALA 2013: (9) Afflicted but not Consumed

Lots of people are put off by Christianity. Do you know why? I think it is because we claim to know the way… we claim to have the path to eternal life, to peace, to joy, the very path to God.

And we are the worlds biggest complainers.

I think we are far too comfortable. I think we are far too safe. We are far to insulated. We seem to believe we are entitled to happiness, to be pain free, to not be afflicted.

This simply is not true.

Why do we believe this insidious lie? Who exactly got this privilege? Joseph was sold, Daniel thrown to lions, Job lost everything, the disciples were killed, Paul was tortured and killed, even the very son of God was beaten and killed.

And we think we deserve better?

What is this garbage? What we are promised is so much MORE than a safe and fair and pain free life!

I do not want fairness! I want to follow the plan of my life as written by God as part of His story. Too many of us quit because the way is hard. We think we get an out on commandments because we continue to struggle. We rob ourselves of the value of the fight when we surrender our integrity and believe for this puff of temporary comfort.

When we claim to be Christians and then we forfeit our eternal perspective… and risk our very eternal standing, for the troubles of our days, then we show the world that our belief is nothing but words.

I have seen this through the tears, struggle, and beauty in the eyes of people who sleep on dirt and yet dress in white to sing the praises of God for another day of life.

I am challenged to find my truth and passion in the content of my belief… NOT the context of my situation.

I have no time for doubt. I have no patience for fear. I am not about wallowing in the difficulty of my days. Whatever struggle you find yourself panting against… do you not realize that it is what God has placed before you? What will your choice be?

What is my daily choice? Do we curse God, or do we embrace His promises that are new to us with every sunrise?

How different my world can be when I reach for the promises of God through my obedience than when I grumble about my circumstance! It comes down to a daily, and even at times a moment by moment simple choice… is there joy in this struggle, do I recognize the virtue, or do I simply wallow in the filth of self-pity?

Have you heard the old song, Great Is Thy Faithfulness? It was written in 1923 by Thomas Chisholm at age 57. He was a new minister at age 27 when health problems changed his life. He became an insurance agent… I wonder if he was ever disappointed by the circumstances of his life?

And yet…30 years later he wrote the words that would be used by the Billy Graham crusade and sung by millions.

The words of his song came from one of the most tortured books of the Bible. Lamentations. It was written by a man who hid in a cave and was in despair over the loss of his city, his nation, the very center of his belief. 

But… in his hopelessness, we find some of the most powerful words ever written about the promises of God. 

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.

Jeremiah recognizes that his struggles are many… some from his enemies, some because of his own actions, and some even from the Hand of God. And still, he writes of the compassion and mercy of a God that is really all that he needs.

What more do we need? We do we grumble? Surely we know that God is all that we need. Would we not be better off naked in a cave with our eyes open than to be safe and comfortable and miss this greatest of truths?

Too many times we focus inward and we gnash our teeth while we grown increasingly bitter and forget to look up. We rob ourselves of the joy, the peace, and the fulfillment of a life lived according to the purpose and plan of an almighty God.

Have you ever heard someone quote, "God won't give me more than I can bear?" Do you know that it simply isn't true?

It is a misquote of I Corinthians 10:13 that reads, 

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; 
but God is faithful, 
who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, 
but with the temptation 
will also make the way of escape, 
that you may be able 
to bear it.

You see… we are not promised an easy life. 

He promises that when temptation is too great for us, He will provide a way that we MAY BEAR IT. There is no promise that he will take it away.

We can lean on His strength when we are weak. (2 Cor. 12:9)

This is how we grow in our faith. This is how we become the men and women that lift up the truth of our belief. Our very lives become testimony of the promises of God because our walk remains true even through hard days.  We shine out the fruits of the spirit… love, joy, peace… even when we live in the dirt.

Kellie and I are now about 80 days from our first moments in Guatemala. We do our best to prepare, and many walk beside us in support. However, I do not know that the days will bring. I simply know that wherever I find myself, whatever state my family is in… God is there. 

Nothing can separate us from His love. Nothing else is more important than us living out our belief. We have created a stir… eyes are watching us. Pray for us that we remain faithful. Our work there may not be as critical as the witness we can live for those who see us go.

And go we must. This is the calling of God on our hearts. We are not the first to walk away from the stuff of life, from family, from real needs we could help here. I think we also will not be the last. For us it isn't a choice or a priority… it simply is part in God's story.

And so…this phase of our life is winding down. The lights are dimming and I can see the rustle of the curtain as it anticipates its close. Our eyes have already begun to turn away from things here. Our feet are ready to run.

Indeed we will soon wake up to the glory of another morning. 

The words of Adam Agin carry the spirit found in that Great Hymn… and they play without stop in my mind:

Take the hand that’s given
Oh this dance is endin
Bow before the curtain
Bow until your certain
The lights are goin down
Music’s fading out
Run right out the back
Run right to the tracks
The sun is whisper low
It tells me where to go
Dust is in the sky
Dust is your disguise
The hum, it lingers long
I’m sure we’ll carry on
Careful for your step
Careful for what’s next
Let that whistle sing you softly

Wake up to the glory 
Of a brighter morning
Roll on, train don’t slow down now
I’m only gaining speed
I need you to lead the way out

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