Suffering Matures Us

In my reading lately, I have run across a common theme time and again. Difficulties in our lives are viewed differently when we claim Christ as our Lord. They are not something to be feared and avoided. They should be seen as a time to draw closer to God.

“Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Suffering and difficulties are the means by which we mature.

A child who is given everything, but is never required to work or wait for what they receive, will undoubtedly become spoiled. Their character will be selfish, greedy and demanding. The same is true of us adults. When life is always easy and we get all we think we want, we begin to falsely believe that we are deserving and entitled. We think we are powerful, brilliant, successful. And then our spiritual life becomes shallow – or non-existent. When we truly desire a relationship with God, then He begins to shape our character. He brings physical difficulties to whittle away our pride and our self. Yes, it hurts when He uses that sharp knife to shape us. Yet, if we persevere, maturity comes. Our dependence on God grows and the spoiled child within us changes into a loving, giving, grateful child of God.

“Perseverance must finish its work.” James 1:4 — Let it do its work in you.

“If only we would believe that we’re in-process and underway and willingly consent to be made. If only we would submit fully to our Maker’s hands as the clay submits to the potter.” David Roper, Growing Slowly Wise

“It is quite useless knocking at the door of heaven for earthly comfort. It’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.” C. S. Lewis

Brennan Manning Blessing:

May all your expectations be frustrated;

May all your plans be thwarted;

May all your desires be withered into nothingness…

That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the compassion of God who is Father, Son, and Spirit.

Amen.

Blind

(Story written by Chuck Murphy, found in his book Christ and the Cowboy. This is a wonderful picture of how God guides us.)

A lot of snow has fallen since I found the blind calf on the rock ledge nearly thirty years ago.

I had made most of my circle starting the calves to the feedlot. It had snowed about three inches the afternoon before, with enough wind to shake it out of the trees and clear the rocks and bare ground. I had ridden out on a rocky point when I saw a lone calf on a rock ledge some three hundred yards away. I rode as close as I could, dismounted, and climbed down to where he was. He had gotten over a rounded sandstone ledge about three feet high. There was a crack in the rock that he could have gotten up if he could have found it. Downward escape would have been to fall about five feet over another rounded edge to the grass and rocks below. The space that he was trapped on was about ten feet by fifteen feet. I could see where he had licked some snow for moisture, and had eaten the few bites of coarse grass at the base of the upper ledge. He was gaunt, dehydrated, and had probably been there for two or three days. His biggest problem was that he was totally blind in both eyes.

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

I knew that my horse couldn’t pull him back up over the ledge, and felt the best rescue effort was for him to jump down and make his way to open ground out the bottom. As I tried to encourage him to jump, I realized that he had no idea of how far it would be, and that he would feel like he was falling off the edge of the world. I maneuvered him to the area above the least rocks and pushed him off. My heart filled with compassion as I tried to imagine the fear of falling into the unknown.

In disoriented panic he scrambled to his feet and tried to escape this monster that had pushed him into this new field of obstacles and hazards. He bumped into trees and large rocks, and stumbled over the smaller rocks and down logs.

It took me several minutes to get back to my horse and ride around the rim to where he was. He had stumbled into a more open park, and I began to talk to him. He moved away from my voice and eventually learned that he could walk slowly without falling by taking high steps. I could have roped him at this time, but his fighting the rope would have been harder on him than falling over invisible hazards. I stayed fifty to seventy-five feet away, moving wide to either side, and by keeping a constant voice reference, I was able to maneuver him out on to an open meadow with no obstacles. From there, we had to negotiate a hundred-foot wide pass in the rim.

Photo by Kerry on Pexels.com

I had switched to some cowboy songs to maintain a consistent sound, and he would move with some confidence. He soon learned that when my voice changed to words, an obstacle was eminent and he would be more cautious. At the top of the little pass we hit a trail used by the other calves. He became more sure of himself, feeling the trail with his feet and turning back when he felt the undisturbed snow on the side. Soon the calves that had already gathered at the feed lot began to bawl in response to my voice. The blind calf perked up in recognition of the sound of his kind. He knew that he had a chance if he could once more get with the herd. When the blind calf heard the cadence of the water pump jack he turned to the tank and drank deeply.

By the time I had the grain in the troughs he was mixed into the herd never to be isolated again.

This is the end of the story as far as the calf, but it has affected my life for over thirty years.

I remember the anguish in my heart as I pushed the frightened calf over the edge of the rock, and think of the anguish of Father God, as he pushes some of His children into frightening circumstances to save their souls.


I love this story. It is so easy for us to see that the cowboy has only good intentions for the calf. The calf need only trust this cowboy who knows how to rescue him.

Yet it is so difficult at times for us to see that Father God has only good intentions for us, His creation. We need only trust our Father who knows how to rescue us. The fall may feel like a plunge into the unknown darkness, but it is Father God bringing us closer to Him.

Christ, the Nearness of God

(The devotional Teach Me To Pray is full of wonderful words from Andrew Murray that encourage us in our spiritual lives. Here is one of my favorites.)

Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. James 4:8

It has been said that the holiness of God is the union of God’s infinite distance from sinful man with God’s infinite nearness in His redeeming grace. Faith must always seek to realize both the distance and the nearness.

In Christ, God has come very near to man. Now the command comes: If you want God to come still nearer, you must draw nearer to Him. The promised nearness of Christ Jesus expressed in the promise, “And be sure of this: I am with you always” (Matt 28:20), can only be experienced as we draw near to Him.

This mean that at the beginning of each new day, we must yield ourselves to His holy presence. It means a voluntary, intentional, and whole-hearted turning away from the world to wait on God to make Himself known to our souls. It means making time to allow him to reveal Himself. It is impossible to expect the abiding presence of Christ with us through the day without the daily exercise of strong desire and child-like trust in His word.

As you pray, let these words come to you with new meaning each morning: “Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.” Wait patiently and He will speak in divine power: “I am with you always.”

7 Keys to Teaching Children About God

Passing on our personal faith in Jesus Christ to children is one of the most important things we can ever do. A recent Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. 

https://www.barna.com/research/evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids/

Sometimes kids can be difficult to teach. They need to bounce. They need to talk about their pets. They interrupt. But put a few tools in your teaching tool belt and the problems will smooth right out.

  1. Teach the kids – not the curriculum. Many times, teachers enter the room with prepared curriculum and are insistent that the class get through the material. I have watched kids sit through lessons as words fly past them. Then the kids get up and go home with no idea of what it was all about. Speak to them, look into their eyes, let them ask questions. If you don’t finish all the material, bring it back for a second lesson. It’s better for the kids to go home with one firm thought, than for them to leave with everything over their head.
  2. Ask them if they have any questions. I often start my lessons this way: “What questions do you have about God?” I am amazed at the deep questions the kids have, that no one has taken the time to answer. “How can God be everywhere at once?” “How can Jesus be God if he is on earth and the Father is in heaven?” “Why is the Bible so hard to read?” “How did Jesus know what was going to happen to him?” These are all very important questions. If you don’t know the answer to something they ask, that’s okay. Just say, “I don’t know.” Then go find out and report back. Kids often feel shy about asking these kinds of questions, so I always let them know how important their questions are. The next time, they won’t be so hesitant.
  3. Give them hands on activities to connect with the ideas. Children are tactile. They need to see and touch – even taste. Let the kids act out Bible stories in mini-skits. They LOVE any kind of costumes. Keep the lines short and simple. Usually when we act out a Bible story, it only takes a minute or two, so we repeat it several times with different kids in different roles. Everyone is excited to try every role at least once! By the end of our time, they know the story very well. Paper cut outs, drawings, water paints, and clay molding all work very well too. Give them a theme and let them get to work. You will be astounded at some of the results.
  4. Respect their individual maturity levels. Some kids are full of deeply thought through questions while others just want to talk about their last soccer game. Don’t push kids. When they are ready, they will respond.
  5. Keep it short. Young elementary kids need a change of topic or activity every 10-15 minutes. Older elementary can maybe go 20-25 minutes, then change up the activity. Get them up and moving. Give them something to create. Watch for signs that they need a change. When the kids lose focus, they are not being disobedient, they are being the kids God created them to be.
  6. Really listen to them. What did they go through in the past few days or week that was hard for them? What excites them? Children often struggle with the death of a pet for far longer than we think they should. If they are still talking about something, it’s important to them.
  7. Teach in small groups. Five to eight students in a group is ideal. Any more than that and some kids will get lost in the crowd. Those are the ones who will most likely choose to stay home when their parents give them the choice or when they become teenagers. And they may never come back.

Children love hearing the stories of the Bible. And they love any adult who will sit with them and share their own stories of faith. I teach children because they pour their love right back to me.

What have you found helpful when teaching children? Let’s get a conversation going and reach those kids for Christ.

Why Are We Here?

We still wrestle with the same problems that preoccupied Plato and Aristotle centuries ago: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? We search for answers, but the signs all seem to say “no exit.”

But the Cross boldly stands against the confusion of our world, a beacon of hope in the midst of darkness and doubt. In the Cross, Christ not only bridged the gap between God and us, but there we find the answers to life’s deepest questions. There we discover our true identity: forgiven sinners who now belong to God. There we discover our true destiny: a glorious eternity with God in Heaven. There we discover our true purpose: to love God and serve Him with all our might.

Celtic Cross in Ireland

Never underestimate what Christ did for us through the Cross. By it our salvation was won, and by it our lives—and our world—can be transformed. What difference does the Cross make in your life?

By Billy Graham in Hope for Each Day, Words of Wisdom and Faith

Is Jesus God?

I have, over a period of several years, run across a number of individuals who are astounded when I make the statement, “Jesus is God.” Their astonishment always takes me by surprise and puzzles me as well.

They all comment, “Jesus is the Son of God, not God.” Where does this belief come from? Is the church purposefully teaching this idea or does it come from incomplete lessons and a failure to check with the students as to the thoroughness of the learning of the lesson?

This is undoubtedly the most important lesson the church, or any Christian, can possibly teach. If Jesus was not God, then his sacrifice on the cross is worthless. If I died on the cross for the sins of humanity, it would undoubtedly mean nothing. The fact that God became a man, then took the sins of the world onto Himself, is the only way that we become clean in God’s sight. It is the only way we become Holy and therefore can enter His presence.

Okay, so is Jesus God or not? Here are a few thoughts on the matter:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

Exodus 3:14     I AM WHO I AM  God giving His name as Yahweh.

John 8:58  Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am.”  Jesus called himself Yahweh (God) and the men he was speaking to knew it. That is the very reason they immediately tried to kill him.

John 17:5   Jesus prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

John 3:13  Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.”

6:33-35   Jesus said “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”   “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.  ” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.”

6:38  Jesus said “ For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”

So you see that Christ himself says that he is God. He says that he has always existed.

Now, we go to a verse that everyone is familiar with at Christmas time, even those who never step into a church or open a Bible. I have said this verse myself so many times that I quit listening to it. Let’s read it slowly and carefully.

Is 9:6-7   For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Did you hear it? The son’s name will be Everlasting Father!

There are many more verses we did not look at today that point to Christ having been in heaven before the incarnation. Let’s resolve to do a better job of teaching about Christ. The number one lesson should be – Jesus Christ is God!