Equality

“It is idle to say that men are of equal value. If value is taken in a worldly sense—if we mean that all men are equally useful or beautiful or good or entertaining—then it is nonsense. If it means that all are of equal value as immortal souls, then I think it conceals a dangerous error. The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine. God did not die for man because of some value He perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered simply in itself, out of relation to God, is zero. As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners. He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is Love. It may be that He loves all equally—He certainly loved all to the death—and I am not certain what the expression means. If there is equality, it is in His love, not in us.   

—from “Membership” (The Weight of Glory) by C.S Lewis
Remember, your value is not in what you wear or what your job is or what you’ve done or what you will do or whether you’re single or married–it is in who God is and what He has done for you.  And THAT will never change.  Isn’t it refreshing to realize that you don’t have to keep up with the Jones’?

Dear Mandie

Dear Mandie,

I know both you and I have been going through the “valley of the shadow of death” lately and I know that you have many things that are weighing on your heart.

I have been praying for you, for your family, for your husband and his family.  If there were anything else I could do, you know that I would be right there ready to go.

I know God has given me your friendship as a very special gift and that this friendship has helped me to make it through hard times, times when I felt alone, tired, lacking in faith. My prayer is that I could be able to help you like God, through you, has helped me.

This song says it all.  This is for you.

Francesca Battistelli, Angel by Your Side

Christ-coloured Glassess

Rose-coloured glasses

Rose-coloured glasses

Sometimes I can’t quite understand how a God that is perfect, all-powerful and holy can look at us, at me, at all.  Let alone not strike me down in my place.  One day I was thinking about this and I started thinking that God has to see us through rose-coloured glasses…no, through Christ-coloured glasses…and the following poem was born.

Christ-Coloured Glasses

When we see the world
Through rose-coloured glasses,
The world takes on a rosy hue—
The people, the events
That we inevitably see
Appear better, brighter in this view.

I wish I could see through
Rose-coloured glasses!
I see evil, sadness, wrong-doing and pain.
I wish I could see past
The darkness veiling
To see truth and hope, without a stain.

Christ saw the world
Through rose-coloured glasses;
He saw straight through to the heart.
He looked past the outer
Shell of a man
To the soul—the hidden part.

And now

God sees us through
Christ-coloured glasses
Christ’s obedience and holiness to veil
All of our dark and ungodly things—
Invisible, even when we fail.

I want to see the world
Through Christ-coloured glasses,
To see God’s fingerprint on man.
I want to see deeper,
Past the façade
To God working, with His mighty hand.

God!  Please see me
Through Christ-coloured glasses—
All of my waywardness to hide.
May I take on the
Characteristics of Christ
And one day walk by Your side!

mec   20 July 2008

Part 2: Christians and Illness

Booker T Washington, Presidential advisor

Booker T Washington, Presidential advisor

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.
–Booker  T. Washington

My friend made an interesting comment the other day.  She said that she felt that a lot of Christians no longer believe that God heals people in this day and age.  You know, as sad as this is, I think she is right.

I think this is partly because people aren’t LOOKING for God to heal these days.  I was talking with my colleagues about the 55 million dollar lottery a few weeks ago and joked that I guessed that I would have to actually BUY a ticket if I wanted to win.  Then I asked them where one would buy a ticket.  They laughed at me because apparently there are places to buy tickets all over the place–but I hadn’t seen them because I wasn’t looking for them.  This is what must be happening in today’s world with North American Christians–they aren’t looking for God to heal so they don’t see it.

How can I say this so confidently?  In my church in just the last year God has miraculously healed at least 2 people (that we know of) from imminently fatal illnesses.  I’m not used to seeing His healing this up close and personal, but I must say it was quite obviously His work.

So now the questions come–why do we who are God’s people have illnesses in the first place?  If I pray and ask for healing, will God not heal me from all of my illnesses?  And so why hasn’t He?

This next comment will NOT make me beloved of the masses, but here goes.

I do not think that God heals every illness of every Christian every time.

And it’s not because we are not ‘prayerful’ enough or ‘obedient’ enough or ‘Christian’ enough.  No, it’s because God wants what’s best for us, not what’s comfortable for us.  I’m sure that if we were different creatures and He had any other way to do things He would.  But we aren’t and there isn’t and He still wants what’s best for us.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2 – 4 NIV

If you look at the early Christians you will see quickly that their lives were not easy or without challenges.  Most of the first Christians were persecuted and murdered–think of Stephen…

55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.  Acts 7:55 – 58a NIV

We are not promised an easy life as Christians.  We are promised that because of Christ we WILL have trouble and persecutions.

22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Matthew 10:22, 23a NIV

Note that this verse does not say you ‘may’ be hated or that you ‘may’ be persecuted–it says the you WILL be hated and WHEN you are persecuted.  Life will be hard as a Christian.

But now that I’ve totally depressed you, there is GOOD news!

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you
will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 ESV

Aha!  That beautiful word ‘overcome’.  My friend reminded me as we talked about these issues that, praise God, we are overcomers through Christ!  What exactly does ‘overcome’ mean?

OVERCOME

  • Succeed in dealing with (a problem or difficulty).
  • Defeat (an opponent); prevail:  “they overcame the guards”;  “we shall overcome”.

Synonyms:  overpower – vanquish – conquer – defeat – surmount – beat
(thanks to Google and Miriam Webster Dictionary)

To overcome does not mean that the obstacle was removed.  Think of this:  you are a military trainee and you have to make it through an obstacle course in a certain amount of time to pass the physical requirements.  Of course (!) one of the obstacles is The Wall–you have to make your way over the 3.7 m (12 foot) wall to continue on through the course and eventually finish.  It will be tough.  But would you get credit for this obstacle if you just ran around it and continued?  Or if you had your friends pull the wall out of the way so you could just run straight through that area?  Obviously not!  You don’t overcome things by having them taken away.  The benefit to you and me is to, with God’s help, climb over our obstacles and continue.  To OVER-come.

Paul realized the meaning of ‘overcome’.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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. 10 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 12:7b – 10 NIV

He knew that to walk through difficulty and hardships still praising God DESPITE these obstacles would reveal God more clearly to the world.

I think Satan uses our obstacles, our illnesses, our trials to distract us.  While our eyes are on this impediment we do not have our eyes on Christ and so we are stuck, so to speak.  We can’t move on or do anything for Christ when we are like this so we are no threat to Satan (just the way he likes us).

I’ve often heard it said that bravery is not defined by one who is not afraid to do something, but rather as one who does something scary or dangerous DESPITE being afraid.  I think we can consider our illnesses and trials in the same way.  One who overcomes is not someone who proceeds successfully through life WITHOUT obstacles, but one who does so DESPITE obstacles.

Christ exalts us to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).  Perhaps this means to take up those things that may hinder us (illness, disapointments, losses) and follow Him, just as He took up His cross for us.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16 – 18 NIV

Does this mean that God doesn’t heal anymore and that we should not bother to pray for healing for our friends, colleagues, neighbours and even ourselves?  Absolutely not!  What this means is that we may pray a bit differently–for God to heal physically if it is His will, but if not (*****see Daniel 3:16 – 18), that He will comfort his child and strengthen them and carry them through their circumstances, according to His will.

And you must pray to Him, believing and expecting, for His will to be done. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14, 15 NIV

God wants us to grow, to be strong, to be like Christ.  He doesn’t want us comfortable, He wants us ready.

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.
–Napolean Hill

Part 1: Pre-quel for Christians and Illness

So I promised on Twitter that my next post would be on Christians and Illness.  Well, I’m finding it a hard one to present properly–it’s a tough topic.  My friend suggested to me that perhaps I should split it into 2 posts, which was a great idea.  I’m not sure that this is exactly what I’m really doing…I think this post is more of a laying of the foundation for the next post.  A pre-quel, shall we say.  Yah.  Let’s give it a try.

So why illness?  Of all the trials in our lives, I think illness brings us to our knees the most painfully because it hits so close to home.  Think of Job.  God allowed Satan to attack his livestock, his servants and his family but his health was off limits.  22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.  (Job 1:22 NIV)

But Satan knows our failings…

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”  Job 2:4,5

So our health is a compelling weakness.

Even Christ had to overcome trauma to his body prior to and during his crucification.  In fact, this was part of the Plan.   8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”  Hebrews 5:8,9  He did suffer more than physically (betrayal, separation from God on the cross, etc) but I think it is evident that he must have suffered greatly from the physical abuse alone.

The suffering is what revealed his perfection to the world.  And he is our example…it’s not too surprising, therefore, that we also will find our health attacked.

Paul showed that he understood this in Colossians.  24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.”  Colossians 1:24 NKJV

Really, to be honest, C.S. Lewis does a great job discussing why Christians have illness and suffering in his fab book, The Problem of Pain, so if you want to dig deeper into this issue and just can’t wait for my next post, this is where I would start.

Alright–3 things to remember:  1.  our health is a weak spot for us and Satan knows this.  2.  Christ experienced severe physical pain himself.  3. Christ walks through every minute of every day, through every painful moment, with you.

Footprints
By Margaret Fishback Powers

One night a man had a dream.
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
one belonged to him and the other to the LORD.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life
there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened
at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it.
“LORD, you said once I decided to follow you,
you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when I needed You the most
You would leave me.”

The LORD replied,
“My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you.
During your times of trials and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”

The Sound of Tears

This morning I got up and went for a run outside.  The weather here has been very snowy, cold and overcast so the blue sky and heavenly sunshine were a joyous sight for snow blind eyes.  Last night I hung out with The Nephews and we had a blast:  auntie got to snuggle with one and hold the hand of the other at various points during the night (for those who aren’t sure, these are the things that make aunties happy).

So, it was with great sorrow that I heard about the tragedy in Connecticut.  If you, like I, live under a rock, then here is a very quick break down of what happened:  a man entered an elementary school and killed twenty 6 and 7 year old children and six adults, after killing his mother at home.  He apparently ended his killing spree by taking his own life.

How can such evil exist in this world?  To take the lives of children?  Of those caring for the children?  Of his very own mother?

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.  Romans 1:28 – 32 NIV

Yes, to murder children one must have a depraved mind.  I cannot conceive of any other explanation.

But what is our response?  As a single person I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child.  In medical literature it is cited as being one of the single worst things for a family to experience.  But as an aunt I can imagine at least a little (I’m too much of a chicken to think about it too much) what it might be like to lose a nephew…

Please let us gather together and pray!

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  Ephesian 6:18 NIV

Firstly, for God’s strength and comfort for all of those involved.  Remember the parents, the siblings, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles, the neighbours, the friends.  Remember the people who happened to be there or who came across this tragedy immediately after it happened.  Pray for the emergency workers (police, EMS, firemen) who had to wade in amongst the aftermath and rationally do there jobs.

Secondly, pray for the family of the young man who has committed these tragic actions.  Remember, he also killed his mother and she likely had parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and friends and co-workers and neighbours.  Pray especially for them as they have to deal with the pain of loss but also the stigma of their relative/neighbour/friend being the cause of such loss.

Thirdly, cry out to God that His Kingdom will come to this earth so that we no longer have to face such pain and terror but that His love would overcome.

Please, make a point of getting your friends and neighbours together to pray.  Pray that those who don’t know God and the mercy He has shown us through His Son would come to know Him (how could one go through this without Him?).  Pray that those who know Him will draw closer to Him.  Pray that those around these families will see God at work.

Remember, God knows what it’s like to lose His Son to madmen…

The Problem of Pain

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”   
―    C.S. Lewis

I’m a runner.  I know a little bit about pain.  I love the Running Room T-shirts that say “My sport is your sport’s punishment”.  Runners are tough and resilient.  They run through pain with every step, every breath, every kilometre. They run in the heat of the day and in the cold of the winter.  Heck, I’ll run outside as long as the temperature, including windchill, is warmer than -25 degrees Celcius (-13 degrees Farenheit).

The reason I started running was because my first degree Black Belt test in Taekwon-do required a fitness test as part of the tests’ three days of torture. I kept running because we had to do the same thing for each subsequent Black belt test.

For the first three years of running I HATED it (I’m sorry to use such a strong word but it is the truth).  If it weren’t for the fact that our Taekwon-do technical director wanted us to be in the best shape for competitions, I would not have continued running.  I dreaded the pain, the thirst, the anguish.  And this was only running 2.4 km!  As I continued running, I started to run further and further, for longer and longer, despite the pain.  Strangely, now I love to run–the exhilaration, the fresh air, the beauty of the outdoors, the quiet time with God. I’m not saying that there is no pain anymore, but just that I don’t notice it as much.  I’ve become accustomed to it. I realize that it has its purpose.

Without pain I could step on a splinter, walk around on it for days, have it become infected, then gangrenous, then have my foot fall off.  Or I could lean on a stove that is hot and not know to take my hand off of it and burn it very badly.  So if physical pain has its purpose, then what about psychological or emotional pain?

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (1st Peter 4:12-13)

Being single has its share of pain.  It can be hard to live in this world and not have times when we feel outside of the laughter or happiness of those around us, or to have our singleness constantly thrust on us through ads and movies that use romance as their platform, or to see our friends “moving on” around us while we “stay” where we are.  But remember–this is our reality in God right now.  We should rejoice in our struggles, as we are told to do.  Is it any different for us than the pain of a single mother trying to raise her child, or for a person with MS who lives with the knowledge of the future that is before her, or for the family who is struggling to get by?  We all have pain and pain should not be belittled, but I pray that the pain in my life teaches me something.

Also, I pray that God can use my response to pain to help others.  Paul, in chains, says the following:

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. (Phil 1:12 – 14, NIV)

We should all pray that as we go through a season of pain that this would be the outcome–that most of our brothers and sisters in the Lord will become more confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear!

RUN!
by Mary

You, Oh God, are great!
As I run through the valley
The light flickers over the greenest greens,
My nose detects the newness of valley life,
My skin feels the delicious touch of the cool air mixed with the warmth
Of the sun’s kiss…

I soak in this heavenly beauty as I run with You.
There is pain in the valley—
my legs hurt,
there’s pain in my side, my back, my front,
my mind rebels and tells me I can’t do it,
my lungs gasp for breath,
my mouth parches for water!

But You are there with me.
Combating my rebellious mind—
If the mind can be bent to obey the will,
then the body will follow.

This training, however, is not to prepare for a marathon
But to prepare me for the race of life:
To teach my mind that it must bend to the will,
To teach the body to endure pain and yet continue,
To teach the heart to persevere,
And to teach the spirit to trust in God completely.

God is moulding me through this valley,
Just as surely as He walks with me through the valley
of the shadow,
He will not stop until I am like Christ!

Amen!