Learning through the storm

As me and my family have dealt with our devastating news, I have been trying to get some amount of good through this. I have been searching for what God is teaching me. What am I supposed to be learning? There are a few modern songs that mention this and sometimes those are great but painful reminders. There is a purpose in this storm. To follow a line from Casting Crowns, to simply praise God in this storm. From another, to be a blessing during this time of hurt and pain. It is amazing how God uses different mediums to interact with us. Take a song for instance, I can hear it many times and sing the words but then one day for some reason, I actually hear and listen to the words. These beautiful heartfelt worshipful words. I am so thankful for Christian radio and the artists who are using these amazing God given talents for His glory.

Obviously there are many ways that God communicates to us. It could be a song or a sermon or Scripture or a feeling. Any number of ways, but I am thankful for all the ways that God does teach us and speak to us.

I have found myself really pressing in to Him recently seeking Him and His comfort. He has blessed me in many ways. He has taken this hurt and pain of mine to remind me and teach me of some very important lessons. Most are basic and fundamental, but if we don’t practice the fundamentals we won’t have a good foundation to build upon. God didn’t have to teach me. He didn’t have to use this time for good. But I am thankful that he makes all things work together for my good. I think of Joseph and his brothers and the famous line he told his them from Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…”

I don’t know what good will come from this or from any tragedy. But neither did Joseph and the eventual saving of the nation of Israel. It is amazing to look back and see God’s hand in things. It is so easy to get stuck in the trees and not see the forest. I get so caught up in this lower story that I take my eyes of the upper story (or as the business world states, the 50,000 foot view). God used Joseph and his story to protect his people from famine and other factors. He built this nation over time to be his people and send along a little boy raised in the house of Pharaoh to eventually lead them out. To one day bring along a humble young man that would slay a giant. Most notably, to send His own Son through that line to save all of us. Praise the Lord!

This is something God has really been teaching me a lot about recently. That there is an upper story going on that is beyond my small, pea-sized understanding. It doesn’t make it any easier. But it does remind me that there is this giant unimaginable God in control of everything. He is bigger than the tragedies that surround us. He is bigger than our afflictions. Our hurts. Our pains. He is greater than highest of mountains. He is not confined by insurmountable odds. He spoke this world into motion. He intervenes in our daily lives. His presence is imminent. It is near. God is here! God is with us! The next time you look in a mirror, as crazy as this may sound, tell yourself that you are a temple that God dwells in. 2 Corinthians 6:16 says, “…For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” God is in you. God is with us and we are in Him.

During this time, it is so easy for me to worry and get anxious. No matter how many times I see myself doing it and tell myself to stop, I still worry. Thankfully, by the grace of God, He has hidden a powerful verse in my heart. That is Philippians 4:6-7, “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I have really had to remind myself of that the past few days. I have had to remember that it is simply out of my hands. This battle is too big for me. I can’t heal her. I can’t make her well. I can’t take the pain away. No matter what I say or do, I can’t. I can’t… So I trust this battle to the only One greater than it. Whether He decides to do a miracle or not, that is up to Him. But only He can. I can say all the fancy words and phrases until I am blue in the face, but it won’t help. I don’t trust those words or put my faith in words, I put my faith and my trust in the One that those words point to. I trust this great battle to God. God, I can’t do this. I can’t beat the odds. I trust her and this battle to you.

At the same time, God has brought me back to the basics. Essentially, do I believe? Yes. Simply yes I believe. But to be honest with you there was also a light bulb moment that God had to bring me back to. As I read from His Word, I felt this simple question reverberating in my being. I had to make a choice at that moment. I had to not listen to what this world says or throws at me, lay logic down and worship God who is beyond all comprehension. I went back and in moments of utter joy and strength I just kept saying “I believe.” I believe what God has done. Can do. Will do. I believe who He is. What He has said. To go back and say different truths about God and who He is was exhilarating. It was an amazing spiritual high. It sounds simple but as the devil attacked my belief, God used that to strengthen it.

Lastly, God has used this time to remind me of something He taught me several months ago. That is during the dark times, while we will want to focus on the storms and the hurt and the pain, I need to focus on Him. The One is above it all and sees all and is transcendent. The One who needs nothing. Who is great and who is good. I want to focus more on Him and His attributes. God is reminding me and teaching me more about Him. To know and understand more of God, well, nothing compares to that. I want to know more about who God is. A. W. Tozer writes in “The Knowledge of the Holy” that one of the most important questions we face is what do we think of God. God never changes and will never change, but what we think of Him vary at times.

This is a time of hurt and pain. Full of emotion. But God is great and great is His faithfulness. During this time, during your own time, focus on who God is. Remember the things He has done. The freedom He has given. His immutability. His need for nothing. His infinitude. The depths of His love, mercy, grace, patience. His omnipotence. His omnipresence. Look upon that cross and be in awe.

Remember:
Believe
God is good
Trust
Focus on God – who He is and what He has done
Do not worry or be anxious

All things possible

Sorry for the delay since my last post, a lot has happened in those days. I have struggled with being busy with work that I haven’t had much time to write. I also haven’t been able to write something that has weighed heavy on me.

I tried to write for a few days, but I wasn’t able to accomplish what I wanted. My mind was elsewhere. The reason is because I received some bad news. I received news that I wasn’t expecting to hear. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

But it did and is…

The results came back. It was a rare form of cancer. Our hopes were that it was all taken out once the eye was removed. The doctor seemed confident but since it was so rare he had to call in the specialist. The oncologists said it was very aggressive. The very words you never want to hear. You never want to hear cancer but you definitely don’t want to hear it is aggressive. The oncologists examined and did an X-ray and saw an awful site. Her lungs we full of spots. The oncologists didn’t even bother to do a sonogram, there was no point. It most likely was already in the stomach.

This started off as a possible infection… I was not prepared for this… it was not supposed to be cancer…

Then, I was told that she has 2-3 months to live. My family and I searched for answers. Any type of radiation and chemotherapy wouldn’t help. The world had given up. There is no hope.

I am ready for our Lord to come back. With death all-around us and calamity striking everywhere, I want my Lord to end this. I pray He hurries. All over the world, families are grieving, friends are stricken with loss. As my family and I go through this hard process, fully aware of so many others doing the same, we are left with the reminders that this world can never offer or provide in a way that God does. When all seems lost, when the odds are too great, when the mountain is too tall, we have to make a choice. I am choosing to follow the what the Psalmist did. I am lifting my eyes up to the mountains for that is where my help comes from. In this valley of hurt and pain, I lift my eyes up to my Helper. My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121). He watches over us. He is with us wherever we go. The Lord is with us. He has interwoven Himself in every facet of our lives. We so often try to shut Him out. We try to control this life. I remember one of my favorite sayings, “the greatest illusion the world has ever seen is the illusion of control.” I cannot tell you how much I struggle with that. I struggle with letting God be God. I forget that He has this master plan that I cannot see. I know He is doing something, but I don’t see it. I need to focus on God instead of the hurt. That is hard to do and is never easy. It is easy to write those words or say it, but I naturally gravitate more towards worry and anxiety. I pray that I would naturally trust God more, better. that I would focus on His amazing kingdom and His story.

During this pain, it took me a while before I truly asked God what is He teaching me. I don’t want this hardship to be for not. there has to be reason and purpose. Since I have done that, God has been working in me. He has been teaching me. He has opened my eyes. I still hurt. I still don’t know why this happened and probably never will. But, God has reminded me of some amazing stories and principles. He has brought me closer. I also had to do what James said to do in his book, chapter 4 verse 8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” God was always there reaching out for me, pursuing me. But I feel I needed to seek Him, seek His comfort. I wanted to show Him that I not only needed His help but was desperate for it. The word laid it out clearly, seek God and you will find Him. I had to cling to those truths.

Over these past few days, there has been a song that has reminded me that all things are possible. It has reminded me that Our God is big, strong, mighty, powerful, healer and makes all things… ALL THINGS possible. It seems when I need it the most and when I need to hear it and don’t even know, it is played on the radio. The song is “all things possible” by Mark Schultz. I know that some amount of good will come through this. I hope and pray for a miracle in my eternal hope. I believe in God and His amazing power. I trust in Him and His will even if things don’t turn out the way I hoped. The world is filled with evil. Each passing day makes me long for heaven more. I will never give up hope because God makes all things possible. Don’t ever give up. Keep persevering. keep striving. keep trusting. keep hoping. Keep on believing. Keep your eyes on God. Keep on.

I leave you with the words of the song. Thank God for this song and many more like it that reminds us of how great and big our God is.

I will call on Your name
For there’s always a way
When you lead me
And when life knocks me down
I am not counted out
For you’re with me
And you’re with me

Even when it feels like the light is fading
And I’ve lost my way
Still I’m holding on to the One who’s making
All things possible

Even when it feels like my heart is breaking
Hold on, there is strength
Knowing I belong to the One who’s making
All things possible

I know mountains can move
I’ve seen what You can do
In my weakness
So my heart will believe
If I wait I will see
My God doing, what only He can do

My God is strong and mighty
My God is faithful
My hope is in the Lord
For He is able

Growing cold

This is the second part of examining a sermon from John Piper about passion for the supremacy of God. That sermon is from a few posts ago.

Growing cold…What a slippery slope we Christians sometimes find ourselves on. How easy is it to go from being red-hot and passionate about God to making God something He is not. To making Him like a checkbox that we can check off to appease that guilty feeling we can feel when we don’t pray or pray the things we feel we should. Or when we don’t go to church or read the Word. We start to confine God and make Him some type of ritual. We stop being passionate and desirous of God and let the busy-ness of life interfere. We start seeing all that we need to do and stop seeing the thing we need above all. The very thing we are absolutely dependent on to get through this life.

Growing cold towards God??? How can we do that? It is a completely detestable thought to me. Yet for all the talk I have about wanting to be used by God for His purpose; all the various things I try to do like reading the Word; sometimes all of these things I do because of wrong and impure motives. I do to appease my guilt. The very thought of growing cold towards God scares me, yet I feel much of my life is lived in a lukewarm manner. I hate that and I never want to be like that.

I think the hard thing is I feel so close to God in the hard times. It seems like when times are really tough, those are the times where I grow and learn the most from God. I wish I learned as well in the good times. I wish that I would seek God better when times are good in the same way I do when life is hard. I feel that when life is good, I start to get lax in my devotion. I try to take shortcuts or don’t do the things I should do.

When we moved to the Chicago area, we came with such good motives of wanting to be lights in this new place that God has put us. We wanted to be able to create a spark in people, but as time went on and life got in the way, our mission to make a difference faded. We forgot why we are here and focused on other things. The thing for us is we started having to deal with other hardships and pains. One after another after another. We forgot to use our misery as our ministry.

As I look around our city and neighborhoods, I see this coldness toward God. I see this bleak outlook that people have on life and about God. It pains me to see how cold those around us are toward God. It pains me to see people who claim to be believers acting anything like they know God. I, for one, fail God so much. I don’t exemplify or glorify Him like I should. I don’t act with the boldness and courage God gives us. He promises to give us everything we need each day, yet I find myself not being a spark in this dark place.

I never, ever want to grow cold toward God. I never, ever want others to. I want to be a spark for Him. I don’t want to just go through the motions and take up space. These people that I work with, that are my neighbors, that are my brothers and struggling, I want to take what Piper says and encourage them. Remind them. Spark them. But it is hard and it takes time. I am not patient. Or to say it another way, I don’t want to lose my saltiness.

I can’t do any good being cold. I can’t do any good being indifferent to God or His calling or what He has created me to do. I may not know what it is, in fact I don’t, but I know He has me in this place at this time for a reason. I don’t want to be a part of this glacier that is cold toward God. I don’t want to be a part of life that doesn’t live all out for God. I don’t want to refuse to do God’s will one more day. So no matter how small or big the responsibility is that God gave me, I want to make the most of it. I need to make the most of it.

It won’t happen by my strength or power or might. It won’t happen by anything that I do. but by everything that God does through me. I trust Him with this life, this battle, this mission. Not for my glory but for His. I don’t want to do these things because I want to earn salvation or show Him how good I am, but out of genuine love comes genuine faith that leads to genuine acts. So if it means we will be hated, then so be it. it is better to be hated by the world and serve God, then loved by the world and not serve God. For a person who struggles with wanting to be liked by everyone, that is hard. It is difficult, but my God comes first. I have to remember I am not here to please them or this world, I am here to fulfill the purpose God has given me. It will be difficult, but God will help you and me.

I pray that each of us takes our mission, takes where we are at, takes this glacier that we are near and become sparks. It may mean pain and persecution, it may mean death, but I can think of no better thing than to lay down our lives and die for the Gospel. I pray that for you, wherever you are at can spark those around you, whether it is school, your work or your neighborhood.