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Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”                                                                                            Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
John 11:38-42 (ESV)

Have you ever given thanks to God for not answering your prayer, for ignoring your request, for making you wait?

Jesus didn’t come when they wanted him to, instead he waited, delayed. He ignored their implied request to heal Lazarus, one of his best friends, he let him suffer and die. Nor did Jesus book a redeye flight to be there as soon as possible for Lazarus’ distraught and grieving sisters. It took him four whole days to show up, which meant he missed even the funeral.

When Jesus finally got there Lazarus’ two sisters said aloud what everyone else thought, “If you would have been there our brother would not have died” Luke 1:22&32). Ouch, no gratitude here, only accusation, confusion, and silently screaming “Why?” The Son of God who could have intervened didn’t; the Omnipotent who can, didn’t; what he did for others he didn’t do for his friends. Why in the world would he refuse to do what was obviously needed, use his power to heal, and instead responded with inactivity that said, “No?”

“Open the tomb! You’ve got to be kidding! Martha is right, there will be a stench. In fact, this whole situation stinks. He could have and should have done something, but he didn’t. And now he stands there and is thanking God! – this guy is unbelievable.”

Out of all the times in life when we are told, “No,” being told, “No,” by God is the most confusing, especially when our requests feel legitimate,  unselfish,  about good outcomes, and are out of deep desperation. We expect God to at least care as much as we do.

What if Jesus would have acquiesced, had come in a hurry, had healed Lazarus, had kept him out of the grave, had said, “Yes,” to their requests and did things the way they had wanted him to. They would have known him less. They would have been condemned to a life of desperate calls for Jesus (God) to hurry, to fix, to bail out. They would have been stuck with an “Ambulance Jesus.” They would have continued in the same old fears. They would have been deprived of a glimpse of who he really is, “The resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26).

It is a great scene, isn’t it, when Jesus tells four-days-dead-and-decomposing Lazarus to “Come forth!” and then instructs them to take the burial clothes off him (John 11:44-45). Can you imagine the amazement, the joy, the awe? It would not have happened without Jesus waiving their initial request, without Jesus willing Lazarus to die, without Jesus waiting for days before showing up.

We think the best thing is when God answers our prayers the way we think is best, but it infinitely better when God responds to our petitions and requests, no matter how desperately we feel, the way he thinks is best, including him saying, “No, child.” How thankful I am that he not only knows what is best but also does what is best, undaunted by our expectations, frustration, desperation, pain, and confusion.

To God be all glory. Love you Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV).

It was not what he was hoping to hear, “My grace is sufficient for you.” He wanted the fix-it grace, the grace that makes it go away, the grace that makes weakness, pain, and suffering disappear.

“Why others and not me?” The healing, delivering, restoring power of Christ had worked through Paul countless times, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them” Acts 19:11-12 (NIV).

If you had to choose between deliverance from pain and strength to cope with pain, which would you prefer? If you have physical limitations or handicaps would want restoration or grace to bear it? If as a parent (since it is Mothers’ Day) are both at the end of your wit and your rope what would you ask for, sufficient grace or fix-it grace? Dumb questions.

Paul did ask for fix-it grace, because there is nothing wrong with asking for healing, deliverance, restoration, and permanent change. Our Heavenly Father has given us the green light to ask away (Matthew 7:7-11, James 1:2-6). Paul didn’t just ask once, but twice, and again. Then he got a clear word, a definite answer from God, “Your thorn in the flesh will stay, your weakness will not be taken away, your pain, struggle, and frustration will not just dissipate, but you will receive sufficient grace, for today, and tomorrow, and every day after that.”

It can knock you for loop, when God grants you sufficient grace when you asked for fix-it grace, when God hears your request but responds to it differently. We see little purpose in pain, suffering, sickness, limitations, handicaps, frustrations, trials that last, and … It is easy to get confused when the God of love for whom nothing is impossible doesn’t fix it and instead hands us the cup filed with sufficient grace. It is tough drinking water while others are sipping champagne.

Many criticized God and Christ and walked away at this intersection of receiving sufficient grace while asking for fix-it grace. But Paul didn’t, after hearing, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” he adjusted himself to Christ’s answer, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV). We’d much prefer for God to adjust himself and acquiesce to our requests than the other way around.

Sufficient grace is never cheap grace; it is not lesser than fix-it grace. When God gives us the cup of sufficient grace it is because that is exactly what we need. Paul recognized that this sufficient grace kept him humble, it kept him much closer to Christ, it made him depend on power far greater than his own, and realized that Christ shines through women and men who embrace and live out of his sufficient grace.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Fill in the blanks (find possible answers at the bottom):

  • When you get yourself a puppy you will have to ________________________________________________________
  • When you get drunk you will ________________________________________________________
  • After you buy a car you will ________________________________________________________
  • If you leave the windows down on that car and it rains overnight, you will ________________________________________________________
  • If you grab a strange man or woman’s butt thinking it is your wife/husband you will _______________________________________________________

Now you don’t have to get a puppy, get drunk, buy a car, marry, or grab things, but if you do inevitable things will happen. This is not only true about things we can choose it is also true about things we don’t chose.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life were as benign as inadvertent grabs or windows not rolled up? Wouldn’t life be awesome if it were as cute as puppy? Yes, it would be, but it isn’t. As a son of an alcoholic I can’t tell you how quickly funny went out of being drunk. Having clocked my fair share of miles on the road there is nothing funny about losing your cool, road rage, endangering others.

Why did Jesus teach his disciples to pray, And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” Matthew 6:13 (NASB)? Because we will encounter evil, we will be enticed to choose evil, we will be both the object and the source of evil. We will encounter evil that poses as cute and funny. We will be tempted to buy things we shouldn’t, to anger that excuses itself, to words that are bitter, wrong, and wound. Evil and the temptation to do and be evil is inevitable, inescapable in the world we live in. It is never just someone else’s problem it always is also our own.

Evil always tries to start a chain reaction, even as it inflicts it tempts, it suggests that the best way to get back at evil is with evil, to answer anger with anger, hate with hate, wounds with wounds, bitter with bitter, always in kind. But the will of God is absolutely clear whenever and however evil touches us, be it small superficial scratches or having been keyed from head to tail and down to the metal, to the bone, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” Romans 12:17 (NASB); “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people” 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NASB),Avoid every kind of evil” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (NIV).

If we need to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” then it is obvious that we need God’s help for evil to be defeated, for us to respond correctly to it, and to not be a contributor to and perpetuator of it.

Now that you have made it the end of this pastor’s note take a minute and reflect, take responsibility for yourself, and reach out and take God’s hand to help you deal with, cope with, evil in and around you, and pray, “Heavenly Father, God, please forgive me my sins, as I forgive those who have sinned against me.  And don’t let me yield to temptation, but deliver me from evil” Matthew 6:12-13

To God Be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. This weekend go and worship at a nearby church with others who seek to live out the above.

Puppy: Clean up messes, find things chewed up, be bitten, have that tongue put slobber on you in laces that ought not to be slobbered.

Drunk: lose control, say stupid things, do stupid things, be stupid, hurt someone sooner than later.

Car: See lots of other cars like it on the road, buy gas, get a scratch on it, run into numerous idiots who should never be allowed on the road, be one of those idiots.

Windows down: Pronounce yourself an idiot, drive sitting on several towels and still get your posterior wet (so bring an extra pair of pants), drill drain-holes because obviously you can’t trust yourself (maybe not).

Butt grab: (could also the sneak up from behind kiss): For answers ask my wife she has experience with this, get laughed at for a very looong time – basically for the rest of your life, get slapped, turn very red.

 

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If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small. Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve. Proverbs 24:10-12 (NLT)

70 years ago, on January 27, Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp was liberated. 1.1 million people were murdered there, not because they had been convicted of some crime deserving death but because they did not fit Nazi ideology, and most of them because they were Jews. In order to pull of mass murder on that scale the Nazi leadership had brainwash, intimidate , and silence most all of Germany. Think about it, how else do you slaughter millions of human beings without any large scale opposition? How do you keep it out of the media? How do you manage to keep an entire country from crying out against it? It really is an old play book, cooked up in hell a long time ago.

You have to have great slogans, “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” (work liberates) hung at the entrance of concentration camps. A little hard work never has harmed anybody, has it? “For God and country.” “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest). “A woman’s right to choose.” What fool would challenge God and patriotism? Who can deny that God is the greatest? Who doesn’t endorse the freedom to choose? Great slogans ease the conscience; mollify the urge to think for yourself. You want people to love the slogans regardless of the truth.

You have to intimidate, sow fear to point that people are glad that what happens to others does not happen to them. You have to exploit what every kid learns on the school playground – to be afraid of being laughed at, being ostracized, to be called names, to be bullied, of being hurt. Terror works, fear is powerful. You have to be willing to belittle, shout down, embarrass, defame, lie, betray, hurt, and kill in the name of the cause. Sowing fear can’t worry about being clean, getting dirty, embracing violence, a “few” dispensable lives.

You have to be good at stripping real people of their humanity. You want people to think that Jews are categorically bad, the infidels are bad, an unwanted unplanned baby is bad, as are liberals, conservatives, environmentalists, homosexuals and all of the LBGTQ crowd, fundamentalists, Christians, Muslims, atheists they are all bad. And it is okay to dislike bad, to hate bad. Getting rid of bad is not that bad of a thing, in fact it might even be good. The less bad people there are the better; you have to be completely out of touch to disagree with that. Bad also doesn’t deserve the same rights as good, does it? Bad and bad people are really more of an issue to be dealt with, personalizing only complicates things. It is much easier to deal with an issue like the issue of slavery, the issue of the Jews, the issue of abortion, the issue of the Middle East Conflict, the issue of Aids, of Ebola, hunger, injustice. Issues are far easier to deal with, they don’t stare you in the eye, issues don’t have beating hearts.

On January 22, 1973 the US Supreme Court legalized abortion, since then 55,000,000 (55 million!) human beings have lost their lives through abortion in the United States alone. They have fallen victim to pills, solutions, suction machines, dismemberment, and the like. Where is the outrage, the disgust, the shame? There has not been one, not a single aborted child that was less than 100% human. There has not been one aborted child guilty or even accused of a crime. The reason they have been so easily and mercilessly killed is that they have been stripped of their humanity (How conditioned have we become to zygote, embryo, fetus as meaning something less than human). They have been called “mistakes,” “inconveniences,” “bad timing,” “accidents,” everything but what they really are – persons, human beings, living images of God. They have been deemed dispensable, we are better off without them than with them. They have been stripped of the most basic human rights and legal protection under the smoke screen of a woman’s right to choose. They have been made into issue to debate rather than people to love.

O that there would be “liberty and justice for all.”

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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It means you’re it whether or not you wanted to be it or not, you’re stuck with it regardless of whether or not you wanted or deserved it. The short end of the stick feels like being shafted, getting a lousy deal. Maybe you remember drawing straws once or twice, I sure do, and nothing good ever came from drawing the shortest straw, it got me stuck with dirty chores, bad dares, and worse.

You can saw off your won stick, that is called stupidity, but even then the outcomes vary wildly. Some seem to get more than their fair share of breaks, of second and third chances, and of mercy, while others just knick their stick and it all comes crumbling down. But what if you just ended up with the short end of the stick, if life just hands it to you? When your health is not good, anything but perfect? When you are not the most beautiful, the smartest, the talented one, or even the funny one? What if your family is lousy or you don’t even have one? What if you are suffering because of someone else messing up? What if nice, kind, and safe is the exact opposite of your surroundings and circumstances? What if your short end is one of pain or abuse, or one of poverty and little opportunity? What if that short end is mean, ugly, dysfunctional, violent?

You don’t have to live long before you become afraid of the short end of the stick. Just a little taste of it lets you know that it bitter, that it stinks. Just a pinch of it is enough to know that it feels unfair, unjust. Just one glimpse of it is enough to sense that it unkind and cruel. So we spend much of our time and energy avoiding the short end of the stick, “Let somebody else have it! Yes sir’ee!”

Hagar was Sarai’s maid, very possibly her slave. She didn’t necessarily pick to be a maid. If you had to pick between mistress or maid/slave what would you choose? I thought so. When Sarai couldn’t have kids and asked Hagar to became Abram’s wife and bear him offspring it was her opportunity to kiss the short end of the stick goodbye. Once she conceived she could not help but rub it in on Sarai who although she was the mistress held the short end of the stick when it came to having children. You can imagine that that these two women did not get along, but when it came to power Hagar still was on the short end of the stick. It got so bad that pregnant Hagar finally just took off because she couldn’t take it anymore. However, God caught up with her and told her something that is tough to swallow, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority. I will give you more descendants than you can count. You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the LORD has heard your cry of distress” Genesis 16:9-11 (adapted from NLT). God asked her to willingly stick with the short end of the stick. The good news was that she wasn’t lost to God, none of us is, he knew her, he cared about her, he knew the child within her, he had plans for her and her child. The challenge was that he asked her to continue holding the short end of the stick. How much trust does that take? I find it encouraging that God uses people at the short end of the stick for his great and glorious purposes.

“If you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you” 1 Peter 4:19 (NLT).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. Please do not misunderstand me to say to submit to mistreatment, abuse, and injustice in every situation and circumstance. Rather we should seek to know, submit to , and do God’s will in every situation and circumstance, which does mean we will not run from all suffering and hardship, nor will we use being at the short end of the stick as an excuse not to act godly, or without faith and love.

 

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We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (HCSB)

They had discovered a spot on my Mother-in-law’s lung. It turned out to be cancer. On the day of the operation the anesthesiologist goofed and ripped her throat, so they had to cancel the operation and she had to recover from that. It was a lousy, frightening thing to happen. But before they rescheduled her for the surgery again they took more scans and discovered another spot on her lung they would not have removed during the first operation, so the second time they were able to remove all of the cancer.

Of course Beverly could also have died from that doctor’s mistake and then I could not have written the first paragraph. But it would not have changed the truth that God really does work everything for the good of those who love Him. I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” …  “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances (Paul was imprisoned) have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel” … “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:6, 12, 21 (NASB, parenthesis mine), is what Paul wrote to believers who couldn’t make sense out of Paul’s imprisonment as well as their own difficulties. He wanted them to know that believers are not exempted from the crap of life, but he also didn’t want them to forget that the benefits of loving God don’t stop when life becomes difficult, unfair, and painful. God knows how to use what stinks, what scars, what is meant for evil and work it for good. Of course we cannot experience that by reading about it, you have to live it, walk through it.

Maybe last Thursday was a tough Thanksgiving Day for you. Maybe it was hard for you to be grateful to God because of the year you have had. Maybe it has been the toughest, most painful, and totally confusing year of your life. It is hard to see the good there, like when the anesthesiologist botched, when we didn’t know the outcome. That’s why I am writing this pastor’s note, so anger, bitterness, lack of answers, and confusion would not keep you or derail you from loving God, from living with hope, from knowing that even death is no match for God and his goodness. Sometimes, when things are really hard and raw, we are just left with God Himself, but that is the greatest blessing of all.

“The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me… But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength … Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:16-18 (NLT).

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 (NLT).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

P.S.  I would love to hear your experience with the truth of Romans 8:28, or your questions, or pray with you if you feel alone. Just call me at email me at dergermanshepherd@gmail.com or call me at 209 852-2040.

 

 

 

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

We prayed and prayed some more when my brilliant and kind younger brother Friederich became mentally ill and suicidal, and then we had to bury him. Two years later my Mama stayed with us for the birth of our daughter Emily. One evening I followed her out on the porch after she said she wasn’t feeling well, she was having some kind of heart episode but refused to go to the hospital. I prayed for her, she went back home, three months later we buried her. My older brother Andreas had a massive heart attack, we prayed for him, he recovered amazingly and returned to work. Two years later he had massive stroke, we prayed for him and he has made huge strides in his recovery, but he is still disabled. This past June, Junior, our little grandson suffered cardiac arrest and massive brain damage, we prayed and prayed some more, somehow he still alive, but still so broken he seems unaware. Our daughter Emily’s spine is deformed by scoliosis and she suffers from debilitating migraines, all of our praying has not straightened her back or cured her headaches. Our son Hansi, our niece Ashley, and our nephew Luke all have type 1 diabetes, and although we praise God for insulin that allows them to live He has not restored the pancreases. And I could go on, as I am sure you could too about members of your own family and maybe even yourself.

You can’t read very far into the New Testament without coming to the conclusion that God both has the power to heal and has healed people, and not just from “easy” stuff but from things like blindness, paralysis, even from death itself. Instantly he made lame men walk, freed lepers from disease, made chronic bleeding stop, fevers disappear, and so much more. Was all that just authenticate that Jesus was really the Son of God? Does God still heal today, and who, and when, and under what conditions? Is it just a crapshoot, some get lucky and some don’t? Are the critics right that all this randomness is just another reason to discount the existence of God? And why does God not unleash more of that power, where it is really needed?

By now you might have guessed that I have not figured this all out, nobody really has. Here is what I do know:

  1. God’s ways are unfathomable, inscrutable, and good.
  2. Suffering puzzles us, and erasing God out of the picture is of no help, but reduces everything, and especially suffering, to mere randomness and meaninglessness.
  3. God does not abandon us in our suffering, even when we feel like he is not responding to our pleas as we think He should.
  4. God knows how to redeem suffering for his purposes and glory.
  5. God invites us to call on Him in our suffering and pain, and we can be confident that He hears and responds to our needs out of His perfect wisdom, His complete knowledge, His immeasurable power, His full justice, His sovereign will, His flawless goodness, and His bottomless love.
  6. God knows how and when to heal us, how and when to sustain us, and how and when to keep us in this life or call us home to Himself.
  7. We can trust Him regardless of what life, others, evil, and even hell itself throws at us and rest in the assurance of that trust. The faith we place in Him, is not misplaced, not empty, or filled with disappointment. Instead it is sure, real, full of hope, overflowing with mercy, grace, and life.

What will I do next the next time sickness, or tragedy, or suffering and pain comes my way, or strikes someone in my family, my church, my neighborhood, or my community? I will go straight to God, my Heavenly Father, who has loved me and claimed me in Christ. I will hold on tight to his good Hand, I will ask Him for healing, for help, for strength, for faith, for peace, for the ability to cope, for His all-sufficient grace to keep me in my weakness, and to be able to accept His will over mine. And I hope I will meet you there.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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