Where is God During Tragedy?

Difficulty, difficult days, and difficult seasons of time are a normal part of our lives. I encouraged you to remember who God is, to remember what God can do, and I encouraged you to allow God to keep working through and through you regardless of the circumstances surrounding you.

Tragedy is something we have no control over. It comes will no warning and as no respecter of person, circumstance, title, or age. When tragedy arrives everything else stops. Our schedules no longer matter. Our to-do lists no longer matter. Time seems to stop and freeze. Our minds become numb with disbelieve and denial. The reality of the tragedy simply overwhelms our minds.

Tragedy comes in all forms and scopes; national, regional, community, personal, and even private. In the case of a community tragedy like a tornado, hurricane, etc… the entire region is touched and pauses to hurt and help. If it is a personal tragedy, our close family and friends are touched and pause to aid us. And there are times that the tragedy is very private and few people realize what the individual is coping with that day.

The reality is that every single day tragedy occurs somewhere around us. People die, find out they have a terminal illness, lose businesses, have house fires, are abused, throw away their potential through addiction, etc. Everyday people ask the question, “Where was God when “blank” happened?”

An equal reality is that our loving God is always there in the midst of the tragedy. Life happens! Scripture says, “It rains on the just and the unjust”. We want to live our lives as we choose, then call on God to help us on an emergency basis, and to protect us from anything bad or difficult. God is not some sort of genie in a bottle wanting to grant us our three wishes.

In Revelation 12:12 God himself is quoted, “ Rejoice you heavens, and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short.” There is a real enemy who according to Jesus in John 10:10, is here only to kill, steal, and destroy. God has sent Jesus to provide live and live to the fullest.

When tragedy hits, remember that God is there with you. You are never alone. He will provide peace and strength in the midst of your storm. Trust Him. Even you don’t understand. Even when you can’t His hand, trust His heart. God will use every single that happens in your life, good and bad, to make you who He wants you to be! Let tough times, the storms or life, and even tragedy to draw you closer to God. When all is said and done, God will always prove to be faithful!

Your Perspective Makes the Difference

“Dear Mom and Dad, I’m sorry to be so long in writing. Unfortunately, all my stationery was destroyed the night our dorm was set on fire by the demonstrators. I’m out of the hospital now, and the doctors say my eyesight should return — sooner or later. The wonderful boy, Bill, who rescued me from the fire, kindly offered to share his little apartment with me until the dorm is rebuilt. He comes from a good family, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you we’re going to be married. In fact, since you’ve always wanted a grandchild, you’ll be glad to know that you’ll be grandparents next month.”

“P.S. Please disregard the above practice for my class in English Composition. There was no fire, I haven’t been in the hospital, I’m not pregnant and I don’t even have a steady boyfriend. But I did get a D in French and an F in Chemistry, and I just wanted to be sure you received this news in the proper perspective.”

Your perspective makes all the difference in the world, and it influences how you respond to problems at work, problems at home, problems with your health. Paul says that as Christians we can rejoice even in tough times because we have hope and because we know that God is working in our lives. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” (Romans 5:3)

Believe it or not, suffering can be productive! It does accomplish something. Problems have a purpose. Your trials and difficulties have value. Just as in childbirth so it is in other areas of life, it is easier to handle suffering when you know there is a purpose in it, and that it is not just in vain.

Now, what exactly does our suffering produce? First, Paul says our suffering produces perseverance (Romans 5:3). The Greek word for perseverance literally means “the ability to handle pressure.” That’s what perseverance is — the ability to handle pressure, to hang in there, to never give up but to keep on keeping on. When we make it through a difficult time without giving up, our character and confidence are strengthened, enabling us to handle even more pressure when it comes in the future.

Next, Paul says perseverance produces character (Romans 5:4). This word occurs only a few times in the Bible, and it means “proven reliable.” God uses the problems in your life to produce perseverance and character. And internal character, not circumstances, produces joy. Then, Paul says, character produces hope (Romans 5:4). Remember, in the Bible, the word hope doesn’t mean “I wish” or “I want.” It means confidence in Christ’s power. Instead of destroying our hope, problems are designed to increase our hope!

Problems don’t automatically produce perseverance and character and hope. Some people go through tough times, and all that happens to them is they become bitter, angry and uptight.  Perseverance, character and hope are produced in us only when we choose the right attitude.

And what is the right attitude? Joy is the right attitude. James echoes Paul’s teaching on this subject: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3). Notice again, joy comes “because you know.” It’s always a matter of perspective. James continues, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4).

What is Prayer?

Prayer simply means communication with God. Communication with God is like communicating with a person, is a two-way process. Prayer changes things. Every documented revival in history had its origin in prayer. Satan uses laziness, complacency, apathy, a lack of discipline, etc….to cause the church to lay aside as a weapon. Prayer is a gift from God without substitute. It is the key to the unlimited resources of God. Satan does mind what we do as long as leave the power of Almighty God out of it. Prayer in the hand of faith, is the key to the immeasurable, unimaginable resources of God.

Prayer unleashes the power of God into a given circumstance. God could, but rarely forces Himself into your world. He desires for you to invite Him into your life and circumstances. In John 16:24 Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be made complete.” God knows your needs, your thoughts, your intentions, your motives, God knows everything about you, yet He still desires to be invited to participate with you. By communicating with Him (prayer) we can simply invite Him to work in, around, and through us so He can make a difference in, through, and around us. Ephesians 3:20 says “God can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”.

Prayer is an invitation to experience the boundlessness of God. We serve an unlimited God who is not bound by anything except His own will and purposes. By inviting us to talk to Him (prayer), God is inviting us to partner with Him in His Kingdom work. As we see God answer prayer, meet needs, restore relationships, set people free from addictions, and bondages of all kinds, we begin to realize that there truly is nothing that is impossible to God.

Prayer takes the battle out of our hands and places it into God’s hands. In Zechariah 4:6, God said. “It will not be by might, nor power, but by My Spirit”. The things God desires to accomplish will not be accomplished by our might, our strength, our wealth, our experience, our wisdom, nor will it be accomplished by our power, our work ethic, our endurance, our fitness, our energy. The God-sized things God wants to do will only be accomplished by His Spirit!”. “God can immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.

Prayer can be launched in an instant, at the speed of thought. Communicating with God can occur any place, at any time, in any posture, in any situation. Prayer isn’t just for the church setting. Prayer does not have to wait until you have 20 minutes to spend. Prayer is merely an intentional thought away. As fast as you can think it, God hears it. Prayer should be seen as on on-going conversation with God. Over the years we have uses “Amen” to end the prayer. Since I believe that we should have an on-going conversation with God (Pray without ceasing. 1 Thess 5:17) I rarely say “Amen” in my personal prayers. That is as silly as saying “good-bye” to someone who will be with you for the rest of the day.

Take a few moments today, as you drive, work in the yard, take a walk, stare at the computer, or watch TV to thank God for all He has given you or to ask Him for the wisdom you need, or just tell Him how amazing He is to you. The God of all creation is waiting to hear from you, don’t leave Him hanging

The Two Realities of the Local Church

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph 1:18-22)

According to researcher, and statistical data guru, George Barna, more that 211 million of the 300+ million Americans claim no church affiliation or personal relationship with Christ. Every day in America, 10 churches cease to exist. Only one-third of new church plants survive to see their three-year anniversary. 75% of churches are in decline. 24% are “growing”, if you call 5% over 5 years growth, but primarily through transfers from other churches. And only 1% of churches are growing primarily through reaching unchurched and dechurched people.

America is in the condition it is in because of the condition of the church. So Jesus gave the church a mandate to “go, and make disciples, baptizing, and teaching them, in the authority that God had given to Jesus” (Matt 28:18-20). Or another way Jesus said it was, “When my Spirit comes upon you, you will be my witnesses….” (Acts 1:8). So where is the breakdown between what Christ expects of His church and the reality of the average church?

The breakdown is the result of a lethal combination of poor leadership, poor ministry systems, poor organizational structures, and poor followship. In practical reality, the average church has become little more than a club for self-centered, flesh-controlled spiritual toddlers (some will even get mad just reading this article :).  Yet, in biblical reality, the church is the only hope of the world. We are to be “the ambassadors of Christ”, that carry God’s message of reconciliation to the world around us (2 Cor. 5:18-21).

As individual Christ-followers and churches we are “The Church”. We are specifically responsible for the redemptive potential God has entrusted to us. According to Scripture, “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (1 Cor. 4:1-5). We will have to give an account to God for how we have managed the redemptive potential He has entrusted to us.

With all the negative comments in the above paragraphs, I agree with Paul’s heart in the verses I quoted in the first paragraph; I pray the church wakes up and realizes the hope they have been entrusted with, who they are in Christ, and the “incomparably great power for us who believe”. Read those last two words again; “who believe.”

If you know Christ as your personal savior, the same power (Holy Spirit) that raised Christ from the dead lives in you. He wants to be released to carry out the work of God in and through you and your church.

Do You Attend a Life-Giving Church?

God hates religion. Think for a moment about how Jesus handled religious people throughout the gospels.   Religion says you can attend church, pray some prayers, follow the rules, etc… and be fine with God. Relationship says that your eternity is based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through which you are reconciled to God.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “There will be terrible time in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying its power.”

Those verses describe America today don’t they? Then verse 5 closes it out with this phrase; “having a form of godliness, but denying its power”. The phrase “a form of godliness” means a structured religion. “Denying its power” is best translated as denying the Powerful One (Holy Spirit).

Religion is empty of any real supernatural spiritual power. It is completely void of the power needed to truly transform lives. Now, let me be clear; attending church and religion is not the same thing. They have become the same thing in many cases. Many churches do just reinforce religion and its rules (I would avoid attending one of those).

But some churches teach a personal, life-transforming relationship with Jesus, which is evidenced by the work of the Holy Spirit in & through a person’s daily life. I call those type churches “life-giving churches”. A life-giving church will spend more time talking about the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through you than about its structure, rules, and expectations of you.

In a life-giving church, you will hear about God’s grace and mercy, and power to transform you; instead of guilt, shame, and condemnation. A life-giving church seeks to remove all the plastic and fakeness (yes, I know, I just made up a word hahaahhahaha), and just be real people, in need of a real Savior for from the real sin, and chasing after the heart of a real God.

God loves you so much He sent His Son, not religion. God loves you so much He sent you a person, not a structure. God loves you so much He wants to remove your sin shame, guilt, and condemnation; not use it as a weapon against you. God is completely different than religion. He is all about us having a personal relationship with His Son, so He can heal us, restore us, give us His righteousness, His power, His gifts, His grace, His forgiveness, His peace, His hope, His gifts, and eventually, eternity with Him in heaven.

It’s not about being religious or spiritual; it’s about actually following Christ; having a personal relationship with a living Savior. Being deeply religious or deeply spiritual without the life transforming work of the Holy Spirit in your life will give you the same results. Hell will be full of deeply religious and deeply spiritual people. Don’t let that be you.

Without Faith it is Impossible to Please God

Understanding biblical faith is a pretty important topic for a follower of Christ. According to Hebrews 11:1, 6; without faith, defined as being sure of what we hoped for, and certain of what we cannot see, it is impossible to please God.

What we believe is proven not only by what we say, but more importantly, by what we do. Our choices, behaviors, and attitudes verbalize our faith. I do not mean “verbalize” as in speaking, but rather turning our faith from a noun-type faith into a verb-type faith.

Turning our noun-faith into a verb-faith sends a message of surrender to God. Turning our noun-faith into a verb-faith sends a message encouragement to other people. Turning our noun-faith into a verb-faith even sends a message of hope to our own hearts. Turning our noun-faith into a verb-faith even sends a message of defeat to our giant. The bottom line is that we will never rise to stay above our verbalized faith.

Life’s challenges come in all shapes and sizes, and God is always faithful to provide the faith to meet every challenge we face. At the same time, Satan will provide the excuse to forfeit every challenge. We get to choose our response to the challenge before us; do we respond with the faith God has provided or with the excuse Satan has provided.

Embracing the challenge before us means we choose to overcome our fear and excuses through faith and action. The challenge exists whether we embrace it or not. Not embracing the challenge through faith and action is like being in denial, hoping it “just goes away”.

Many time challenges stretch us, and force us to change or adapt ourselves to meet that challenge. There are negative-type challenges; relationship challenges, personal financial issues challenges, economic or employment challenges, health challenges, schedule challenges, spiritual challenges, and so on.

Those negative challenges intimated us and make us feel insecure or unsure of our future. Sometimes we just want to “stick our head in the sand” and “let it all blow over”. But the avoidance of life’s challenges is not a helpful strategy. Avoiding challenges tends to lead to negative outcomes too.

A better strategy is; take personal responsibility for the challenge before you, and your role in addressing that challenge head on. Then trust God, and choose obedience every time. The things that overwhelm us never intimidate God. He always has a plan; a plan to give us hope and a future, a plan to redeem us, to restore us, to heal us, and to reconcile us.

God always has a plan because He loves and values you. Many people feel unloved, unappreciated, and unvalued. Many of those who read this article, are feeling that way right now. Yes, you have been hurt, neglected, un-affirmed, etc, but God really does love you and value you; He never leaves you, or forsakes you, or fails you. Never. He is an amazing Dad filled with unconditional love for you.

Easter Changed EVERYTHING!

Easter changed everything. This Sunday is Resurrection Sunday! The resurrection was Jesus’ most significant defining moment. Satan put all of his cards on the table at the cross. And through the resurrection Jesus made a “public spectacle” of Satan’s very best effort (Col. 2:15). Through the resurrection Jesus over came sin, the cross, and even death so that he could give all Christ-followers a heritage of victory (Isa 54:16-17). Christ death on the cross was required for the forgiveness of our sin, but His resurrection from the dead for our freedom and victory.

What a story! A real God sent His real and only Son to died on a real cross for my and your real sin. A blameless man took our well-deserved punishment. He carried our guilt, shame, and pain to the cross so that we could know the love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy of God.

Easter changed everything. All we believe as Christ-followers is based on the actual resurrection of Christ. Jesus made some outrageous claims, including that He would die, and resurrect on the third day. Those outrageous claims make it impossible for Jesus to be just a good teacher or just another prophet.

Jesus could be a liar…if He made those claims knowing they were not true. Jesus could be a crazy lunatic…if He made those outrageous claims really thinking they were true, but they ended up not being true. If Jesus is a liar or crazy either how can He also be a good teacher or great prophet as some have tried to picture Him? On the other hand, if Jesus made those outrageous claims, then backed them up He can be nothing less than Lord. Let me cut to the chase, Jesus is Lord. Not just our Savior….not just our Forgiver….but our Lord and Leader.

With Jesus, our job as Christ-followers is to surrender to His Lordship….truly allowing Him to be our leader. God has delegated everything to Jesus due to “His obedience even unto death”. Jesus came as the “author and finisher of our faith”. He is our example of how we are to live. Jesus demonstrated surrender, obedience, and sacrifice to God. Like Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-6 the Bible says that “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

I am reminded if what Pilate said to the crowd when Jesus was on trial before him. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, but he also knew the religious leaders had the crowd whipped up into a frenzy. Pilate’s question in Matthew 27:22 was “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” The crowd shouted louder and louder, “Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!”

This week, as you are mindful of all the events surrounding the week of Easter, instead of “crucify him”, may Jesus hear our voices shouting “Praise Him! Praise Him!” and even a simple “Thank you, I am so grateful for your sacrifice.” So, what are you going to do with Jesus, who is called Christ?

Jesus is Lord because He fulfilled all of those outrageous claims. Jesus is much more than just a Savior. Surrender your heart and will to Him so that He can be immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine.

What Message Does Your Faith Send?

There is an inseparable link between Christ-following and faith. According to Hebrews 11:1, 6; without faith, defined as being sure of what we hoped for, and certain of what we cannot see, it is impossible to please God. Therefore, understanding biblical faith is a pretty important topic for a follower of Christ.

What we believe is proven not only by what we say, but more importantly, by what we do. Our choices, behaviors, and attitudes verbalize our faith. I do not mean “verbalize” as in speaking, but rather turning our faith from a noun-type faith into a verb-type faith.

Here is a reality; verbalized faith can be either positive or negative. For many people who claim to know Christ as their personal Savior, the faith they choose to put into action is actually the lack of faith. They choose fear and comfort over trust and surrender. For the purpose of this article, I am only talking about verbalizing a positive faith that demonstrates obedience, love, and surrender.

Turning our noun-faith into a verb-faith sends a message to God. To God, it says we are sincere. It says we are willing to demonstrate our love for him by our obedience to him. It sends a message to God that says, “you can depend on me” to follow-through with the task you have assigned me. It says I want to partner with you to accomplish the plans you have for my life.

Turning our noun-faith into a verb-faith sends a message encouragement to other people. People are watching you. When you rise above conforming to the culture around you and chase after the heart of God, it will always encourage true followers of Christ. As an aside, it will also irritate religious people… I’m just saying.

Turning our noun-faith into a verb-faith even sends a message of hope to our own hearts. Making a choice to chase after the heart of God, even when you don’t feel like it, will transform your heart, and therefore, transform you. Don’t wait to you “feel like it”. Even when you don’t feel like it, making a choice to turn your noun-faith into a verbalize faith will result in renewing your hope and spiritual energy.

Turning our noun-faith into a verb-faith even sends a message of defeat to our giant. Choosing to override your fears and insecurity by demonstrating active obedience sends a message to the giant of your life that says, “I’m not stopping. I’m not giving up. I’m not going to be intimidated. I may fail, but I will get back up and keep coming.” Its just like the story of David and Goliath, David comes across the valley speaking to his giant. Our verbalized faith does the same thing.

The bottom line is that we will never rise to stay above our verbalized faith. As the saying goes, “whether you think you can or you can’t, either way, you are right”. You can experience warm fuzzy moments with God, but you will never be able to maintain a level of faith higher than the faith you are willing to prove through follow-through obedience. Turning your noun-faith into a verb-faith will release the power of God

The Biggest Hindrance to the Cause of Christ in America

There is a difference between being exposed to the gospel and experiencing the gospel. The point is that being a “Christ-follower” is much more than merely calling your self a “Christian” or attending church, or adhering to some religious code. Being a true Christ-follower implies you are actually following Christ, embracing His attitude, and committed to carrying out His mission.

So many people have been exposed to the gospel; they know the details, can repeat the story, know the lingo, know the songs, etc. But, being exposed to the information of the gospel is much different than actually experiencing the gospel.

Jesus said, “If anyone believes on me, as Scripture has said, then streams of living water with flow from within him. And by this, he meant the Holy Spirit, who was yet to come.” (John 7:38) Is that how you would describe your spiritual life; as a spring of living water that flows from within you?

There is a war raging between our flesh and the Holy Spirit that indwells the follower of Christ (Gal 5:16-23). The Holy Spirit wants to give us life to the fullest by guiding us along a journey of discovering and experiencing God. Our flesh is self-serving, self-centered, and is a tool Satan uses to rob us of the life that God wants to give us.

Christians seem to think that operating in their “good” flesh is good enough. If I don’t do “bad things”, go to church, volunteer, give some money, etc… then I’m good. That is not a biblical concept. According to Scripture, our flesh, good or bad, is opposed to God and his activity in and through us. That is what “good Christians” struggle with issues like surrender and obedience.

I’d even go as far as saying one of the biggest problems facing the church in America is people calling themselves Christians but not evidencing their faith by walking out what they say they believe. The greatest hindrance to the cause of Christ is Christians and churches! Not Satan. Not the culture. Not drugs. Not porn. Not gambling. The average church and folks who call themselves “Christians” but who do not live a life as a biblical Christ-follower are the greatest hindrance to the cause of Christ in America.

Churches have become organized and religious, even “Pharisee-ic”, instead of being the place of hope and restoration God intended for them to be. The reason people sit through worship services bored and disengaged, then leave with no intention of applying anything they heard, is because pastors and church leaders are boring, disengaged, and not applying it themselves.

My basic point is that there is a major discrepancy between the what the Bible says about the church and what the average church actually is, because there is a major discrepancy between what the Bible says about Christ-following and what the average church attendee is in reality. Read you Bible and see if I am right.