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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #39 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 11

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 12 each day this week.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter. Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 12.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, and to be joyful in hope! Whew!

The eleventh critical imperative is —11. Believers are to BE PATIENT IN AFFLICTION (v. 12)!

Ok. Truth time. I don’t care for affliction. Whether it is criticism (deserved or undeserved), athlete’s foot, heart surgery, or a devastating loss in tennis — I don’t really like affliction. None of us do. But we are guaranteed suffering in this world. [For a discussion of our poor theology of suffering, take a look at our post found here.]

Here our critical imperative is to be patient in affliction. Why “patient”? Because I (and, I presume, you) want suffering and affliction O-V-E-R! We want to move on to a state of non-affliction! Right now. And it may be that Paul has in mind affliction over which we have no control. We can’t stop it or avoid it or somehow ignore it. So, we have the option of being patient IN it. And that’s a great reason to drop to our knees and . . . pray (which will be our next critical imperative).

Today’s Challenge: How would you fill in the following blank? “Right now, in my life, I am going through the following affliction: _____________________. And I can’t stop it or avoid it or ignore it. BUT, I can, by God’s grace, be PATIENT in it.

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Want to Be Pulled Out of Your Pain?


“I would have pulled Joseph out. Out of that pit. Out of that prison. Out of that pain. And I would have cheated nations out of the one God would use to deliver them from famine.

I would have pulled David out. Out of Saul’s spear-throwing presence. Out of the caves he hid away in. Out of the pain of rejection. And I would have cheated Israel out of a God-hearted king.

I would have pulled Esther out. Out of being snatched from her only family. Out of being placed in a position she never asked for. Out of the path of a vicious, power-hungry foe. And I would have cheated a people out of the woman God would use to save their very lives.

And I would have pulled Jesus off. Off of the cross. Off of the road that led to suffering and pain. Off of the path that would mean nakedness and beatings, nails and thorns. And I would have cheated the entire world out of a Savior. Out of salvation. Out of an eternity filled with no more suffering and no more pain.

And oh friend. I want to pull you out. I want to change your path. I want to stop your pain. But right now I know I would be wrong. I would be out of line. I would be cheating you and cheating the world out of so much good. Because God knows. He knows the good this pain will produce. He knows the beauty this hardship will grow. He’s watching over you and keeping you even in the midst of this. And He’s promising you that you can trust Him. Even when it all feels like more than you can bear.

So instead of trying to pull you out, I’m lifting you up. I’m kneeling before the Father and I’m asking Him to give you strength. To give you hope. I’m asking Him to protect you and to move you when the time is right. I’m asking Him to help you stay prayerful and discerning. I’m asking Him how I can best love you and be a help to you. And I’m believing He’s going to use your life in powerful and beautiful ways. Ways that will leave your heart grateful and humbly thankful for this road you’ve been on.”

– Written by Kimberly Henderson of Prov. 31 Ministries –

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2020 in suffering

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 8)

“A needle in my eye?!! You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“No,” said the specialist. “You have the beginning of macular degeneration in your right eye.”

“So what does that mean, Doc?”

“It means that there are small capillaries developing in your eye that are leaking blood. Wet macular degeneration is a chronic eye disorder that causes blurred vision or a blind spot in your visual field. It’s generally caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into the macula (MAK-u-luh). The macula is in the part of the retina responsible for central vision.”

“So, what’s the treatment?”, I asked.

“We give you an injection every four to eight weeks directly into your eye.”

And he did. As you can imagine, the first injection was terrifying, but they numbed my eye and all I felt was a bit of “pressure.” The injections are working and I won’t need another one for about three months.

Now whenever my wife and I talk about an unpleasant situation and we say, “Just stab me in the eye,” it takes on a whole new meaning.

Temporary suffering will keep me from losing my vision in my right eye.

We are thinking about the challenge to FOCUS our eyes on Jesus. And there are distractions that keep us from doing so. Distractions from the world, ourselves, and our archenemy, the devil.

Let’s think this morning (and in a later second post) about a major source which can blind us in our keeping our eyes on Jesus — suffering. In his excellent book, Why a Suffering World Makes Sense, Chris Tiegreen helps us who suffer from a poor view of suffering.

The blurb for Tiegreen’s book is helpful: “Did you know that the number one objection among skeptics and the number one reason for doubt among believers is the problem of suffering? Why did an all-powerful, all-loving God create a world that he knew was destined to fall? What’s in it for him? Why does he let us struggle? Christians and skeptics alike share these concerns. This unique book reveals that there is a point to suffering–and it isn’t about us, our pain, or our confusion. Though they are hard to bear, pain and suffering make sense when we consider what they reveal about God–his mercy, forgiveness, and healing can only be known in an imperfect world. Filling a void in Christian literature, Why a Suffering World Makes Sense encourages readers to let God’s hidden attributes be revealed in their pain, thereby helping them unravel the mystery of who God really is.”

In a sense, there are two kinds of suffering — self-inflicted suffering and suffering given to us by outside forces (Satan, God, the world). This morning let’s think about self-inflicted suffering. Is it not the case that much of our pain in life is caused by . . . ourselves? We overeat, we choose to worry, we take unnecessary risks, we perpetuate conflicts with others, we live with unconfessed sin, we determine not to forgive those who have offended us . . . you get the picture. We cause much of our own suffering. And these choices cause us to focus on our pain and not on the Savior.

If you are experiencing pain right now, may I ask you — Is it self-inflicted? Would you pray with me? “Lord, this pain that I’ve caused myself — would you let it direct my attention to you? I need Your help, Father. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2020 in suffering

 

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Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #17): Chapter 16- “Jesus’ Death”

Chapter 16 of Martin Thielen’s book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? is subtitled What about Suffering? Thielen gives several stories to illustrate both the problem of suffering and the fact that God is with us, in the midst of our suffering.

Our questions of “Why?” do not have a final answer — unless we look at our “crucified God” on the cross. He enters into our suffering. There are various sources of our suffering — human sin, the laws of nature, God’s allowing suffering, the possibility of demonic forces producing pain and suffering.

To the question “Where is God When It Hurts?”, Thielen says He is right smack in the middle of our pain. And Christianity is a religion of the cross. “The cross is the center of our faith.”

MY RESPONSE: C.S. Lewis said that “pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world!” As someone who was a cheerleader in college, I learned a very valuable lesson: don’t stand next to the girl with the megaphone! We need the loudness of suffering to wake us up from the myths that life is safe, that good people deserve good things, that all is right with the world. Although there is much to be thankful for in this world (“This is my Father’s world”), much is WRONG with this world. And suffering can fix our eyes on God instead of the goodness we think we deserve.

Thielen is right to point to the Lord Jesus on the cross as proof that God is with us in our suffering. I wish he had said something about WHY Jesus died. But perhaps that will come in a later chapter. Might I suggest that as we listen to the stories of our non-Christian friends and neighbors who tell us of their suffering, we should be ready to pray for them. And when the occasion is right, to point out that suffering has a way of drawing our minds toward God and the things of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in suffering

 

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Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die! (A Study of John 11) Part 14

Could it be that BELIEF is the major point of the entire episode in John 11? Is it possible that Jesus cares more about our believing than He does our physical survival?

From all appearances, it seems evident that Jesus cared more that Mary and Martha and others would believe in Him as the resurrection and the life than He did about rescuing His friend Lazarus.

Let’s read our section once more . . .

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

We learn in verse 28 that Martha goes back, calls her sister Mary aside, and says, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” (v. 28). Now either Martha was out-and-out lying to Mary, or Jesus gave that assignment to Martha. The gospel accounts are summaries and sometimes leave out some details.

At any rate, Mary goes out to meet the Lord, followed by the mourners who had been with Mary in the house (supposing she was going to Lazarus’ tomb to mourn him).

Mary sees the Lord, falls at His feet, and says exactly the same words as her sister Martha said to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (v. 32).  Again, those words must have pierced the Lord’s soul.  “Lord, if you had been here (and you weren’t), my brother would not have died (but he did!).”

We don’t like process, do we? There is much more at stake here in John 11 than the death of a friend. This tragic event is part of the process of leading others to believe the most important thing any human can believe — that Jesus is the resurrection and the life! And the Lord Jesus is wounded in the process as well. (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in belief

 

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Time for a Great Quote: A.W. Tozer on Being Hurt by God!

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-5-08-25-amHave you been hurt by God recently?  What makes us think that we ought to be able to waltz through life without any pain, any suffering, any wounds from the One who loves us?  Proverbs 27 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

Your comments?

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2017 in wounds

 

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Time for a Great Joke: Exercise?

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2017 in exercise

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 119): Part 9

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65 Do good to your servant
    according to your word, Lord.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
    for I trust your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
    but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good;
    teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
    I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
    but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
    so that I might learn your decrees.
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
    than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2017 in pain

 

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A Story of a Thistle . . .

Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to us is what we do to ourselves.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 8.33.34 AM

Scrabble as a puppy

Our dog Scrabble is a ten-year-old Shih Tzu (yes, the breed is pronounced like the curse word).  He is a wonderful dog who gets himself into a lot of trouble.  After Scrabble had his morning constitutional in our yard, I brought him back into the house, and reached to pat him on his face.  His beard had about five of the nasty objects you see pictured below.

I reached down to pull out the thistles from Scrabble’s beard.  Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 8.08.14 AMHe wanted no part of it!  No amount of assurance convinced him I was trying to help him.  He began to lick me and even bite at me (after all, I was pulling at his facial hair!).  He did not understand that he needed me to remove those thistles immediately.  I was unsuccessful in pulling the thistles out by myself.  In fact, I was the one getting hurt as Scrabble jerked his head away from my trying to get the thistles out.  And I got stabbed numerous times.

It wasn’t until my wife Linda helped me that I understood what had really happened.  As she held Scrabble down, I was able to cut out the thistles without having to pull them out.  I had assumed that Scrabble had picked up the thistles from the bushes in our front yard as he was exploring.

My wife told me that those five thistles were the ones she had plucked off the laces of her sneakers the other day.  She had put them on the end table in our family room, intending to throw them away later.  Scrabble had jumped up on the couch and picked them up as he looScreen Shot 2014-12-09 at 9.07.23 AMked for something to eat (leftover ice cream in a cup, a piece of chocolate, anything).  He had inflicted himself with the thistles.  His doing what he should not have done brought him pain — and brought me pain.

The Moral:  For me, this episode with Scrabble reminded me that much of the damage done to me I’ve done to myself.  And the Lord, wanting to pull out the thistles of my life, patiently allows me to jerk and shake my head, inflicting pain on Him in the process.  May I ask you, have you got any thistles?

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2014 in pain

 

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What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You! (time for a great commercial)

This commercial cracks me up!  The daughter is THRILLED with her first car — and then it gets CRUSHED by a monster of some kind!  I’ve reproduced the picture of that event below.

QuickTime PlayerScreenSnapz001Let’s face it — no matter how much insurance you have, it won’t cover all the tragedies and calamities that can befall you in life.

That’s one of the reasons I’m so glad to be a believer in Jesus. He has not promised to save us from robbers, thieves, or monsters.

Some Christians suppose that a relationship with Jesus gets them a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, guarantees them a happy and pain-free life, and removes all actual and potential threats from their zip code.  That supposition is a lie and comes from the pit.

Here’s how J.B. Phillips put it:

“Frankly, I do not know who started the idea that if men serve God and FirefoxScreenSnapz759live their lives to please him then he will protect them by special intervention from pain, suffering, misfortune, and the persecution of evil men. We need look no further than the recorded life of Jesus Christ himself to see that even the most perfect human life does not secure such divine protection. It seems to me that a great deal of misunderstanding and mental suffering could be avoided if this erroneous idea were exposed and abandoned. . . . The idea that if a man pleases God then God will especially shield him, belongs to the dim twilight of religion and not to Christianity at all.” (J.B. Phillips, God Our Contemporary)

Questions:

1.  “What you don’t know can hurt you.”  Isn’t it true that what we do know can also hurt us?  Can you think of one example?

2.  Living in a work of hurt, would you agree with the statement by Pastor Stephen Brown that “Sometimes we can serve God better with our wounds than with our wellness?”  Why or why not?

 

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2014 in disasters

 

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