There are many Christians who assume that if they obey God, He is obligated to bless them. This comes up in different forms:
- God owes me this promotion because I have been tithing
- God must save my son. I have been faithful in praying for him.
- God ought to heal Aunt Mary in light of her many years of serving Him.
We are not always so crude, but the thoughts are often there.
But Scripture gives us another answer. In fact, Scripture makes it clear that obedience will sometimes be costly.
I have been in mourning for the last two months. My mother unexpectedly died at the end of August. As I look back on the last two months there have been some things that have stood out. I mention these in hopes they will help you minister to others in the midst of their grief.
The pain lessens over time but the void never goes away
It is true that as time goes on the tears flow less often and the stabbing pain is less intense. However, the void does not go away. I feel the void most vividly at the end of my workday. I would often call my mother on my way home from the office. There are still days I am ready to call and talk about the day and remember that I can’t. Don’t assume when someone quits crying that they are over their loss. The void continues.
I had the opportunity to watch the Medal of Honor ceremony today in which Sgt. Ryan J. Pitts was awarded our nation’s highest military honor. Sgt. Pitts received the honor for valor beyond the call of duty in Afghanistan. For over an hour he was alone holding off the enemy. All the rest of his squad was either wounded or dead. Despite losing blood from wounds in both legs and an arm, he continued to fire at about 200 Taliban fighters and guided air strikes that helped repel the attack.
Sgt. Pitts is the 3,470th recipient of the Medal of Honor since its inception in 1861. This is a small company of the extraordinary among the millions who have served in the United States military.
It got me thinking. Who would be the Medal of Honor recipients if there was such an honor in the Christian church?
We are at the half way point in 2014. Instead of waiting until the end of the year, I thought it would be good for us to have a mid-year spiritual check-up. The seven questions you will find below are not the only questions that are important, but I hope they will spur you on to thoughtful evaluation of how things are going for you spiritually so far this year.
I was recently given a book as a gift that I wanted to share with you. The Illuminator’s Gift is a wonderful Christ centered adventure that can be enjoyed by both adults and children. I believe this is Alina Sayre’s first published book and she hit a home run.
The story telling reminds me of a C.S. Lewis type fantasy story. Usually I am not one given to fantasy stories. Other than Lewis, I have mainly avoided the genre. However, since it was a gift, I decided to at least start reading it. After I started I could not put it down.
The story is about Ellie, a twelve year old orphan girl and her adventures as she learns to live for Ishua (Jesus) and fight against the forces of evil determined to destroy Ishua’s kingdom. There are wonderful descriptions of regeneration and sanctification and the battles that every Christian faces in this life. Ellie’s desire to be part of a family and to belong reflects the desire of many today. Also, her growth in understanding her role and place in Ishua’s kingdom is instructive and important for all of God’s people to understand.
I highly recommend The Illumintor’s Gift. You will not be disappointed.
The Bible tells us that Jesus spent about six hours on the cross. It was a time of agony, both physically and spiritually. Before the cross he had endured a sleepless night, a beating with rods and a scourging with whips. On the cross he was exhausted but still had to lift himself up in order to breath. The last three hours were especially hard, as he experienced the wrath of and separation from his Father.
The next to the last recorded thing that Jesus said was, “It is finished.” Under the circumstances it is understandable how his statement could have been understood as defeat – “I’ve had it.” “No more.” But it was not a statement of defeat but of triumphant.
What was it that was finished that made Jesus feel triumphant just prior to his death. There are three things:
There are many pictures that come to our mind when we think of the term “God.” Some of us may think of a stern judge. Others picture a loving father. The image that comes to your mind first, probably reflects more of your past than it does a balanced view of God.
One of the images that the Bible uses of God is that of a great Warrior. The Lord is a great Warrior who not only acts to destroy his enemies but also to protect his people. One example of this theme is seen in Exodus 15:3. This is part of the song of Moses after the Lord delivered his people through the Red Sea and destroyed the Egyptian army. Isaiah 42:13 is another example.