Suffering: A Story To Share, Accept, and Embrace

Came across this tweet yesterday from a soon-to-be-released book by author K.J. Ramsey:

I wonder how much less anguish we would experience in suffering if the church treated suffering like a story to tell rather than a secret to keep until it passes.

Then this morning our pastor, while focusing on Jesus’ coming to experience human life, categorized suffering into three types:

  1. Suffering we can avoid
  2. Suffering we cannot avoid
  3. Suffering we must not avoid

Both of these thoughts need sharing and dialoguing.

There is power is sharing how our choices led us to suffering we could have avoided. Our focus can be directed to the truth of scripture and the forgiving, unconditional love Jesus came to bring.

There is healing in accepting how circumstances out of our control don’t go unnoticed by God. Our focus can be directed to his sovereignty and the relatability Jesus has to offer.

There is strength in embracing how running from something we don’t want may keep us from what we need. Our focus can be directed on God’s promises and the model of endurance and commitment Jesus completed through his resurrection.

Known: God’s Great Encouragement

(Post #2 in a 4-part series collaboration)

By Frank Welch (bio below)

When I was a teenager, I was pretty confident. I had the great blessing of growing up in a Christian home with my mom, dad, and little brother. There was a lot of love in our house; and I had great friends who also cared for me. But best of all, I knew my Savior Jesus Christ, and that He loved me more than I could ever imagine. During this time in my life, it felt natural to really enjoy just being alive.

However, as I got older and started my adult life I started to see the world a different way. My family is still very loving and I still have incredible friends, but there are a lot more people in the world than just them. There are people across the world who are suffering and dealing with persecution for their faith. There are also people in the world committing a lot of evil.

There are times when I struggle with the darkness in the world. Please do not think too highly of me, but I do not get mad at God for it. It is when I see the way other humans treat each other that I feel a deep sorrow in my being.

Of course, none of this is a secret to God. He knows that I can get discouraged when I see the evil things people do to each other around the world, and even in the city where I live. And when I do, He shows up and helps me find my joy and my confidence again. This is how I know God knows me. He pulls me out of the dark times in my life and guides me back into His light and fills me with a hope that comes from who He is.

One of the best examples that has happened to me recently in life is that I used to struggle with negative thoughts that dragged me down and almost depressed me. To get through that, God guided me to memorize scriptures that give me hope, such as Romans 5:5, 12:12; John 12:46, and Matthew 5:14.

He also led me to create a list of phrases that I say every morning so I start the day in a mentally healthy way. This idea came from a video I watched about a pastor who does this same thing. So, the idea is not originally mine, but it greatly blesses me. Some of these phrases include: “Christ is stronger in me then the wrong desires that are in me,” “I am blessed beyond measure because the Holy Spirit lives in me,” and “The world will be different and better because I served Jesus today.”

God knows I need His love and His encouragement to get through life. He also knows just when to give the encouragement I need. Without God’s encouragement in my life, I do not know how I would have made it to where I am today.


Blogger Bio: Frank serves the students of First Baptist Bradenton. He and his wife Shelby met while studying at Florida Southern College and were married November 12, 2016. Frank can talk all things Marvel.

Why the Eighth Day?

In his message today, our pastor read this verse:

When the eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus  — the name given by the angel before he was conceived. -Luke 2:21

His message had nothing to do with expounding on the significance of circumcision, but a question came to my mind: Why eight days?

So I looked it up, and here’s part of one incredibly interesting article I came across on apologeticspress.org:

Genesis 17:12, God specifically directed Abraham to circumcise newborn males on the eighth day. Why the eighth day? In 1935, professor H. Dam proposed the name “vitamin K” for the factor in foods that helped prevent hemorrhaging in baby chicks. We now know vitamin K is responsible for the production (by the liver) of the element known as prothrombin. If vitamin K is deficient, there will be a prothrombin deficiency and hemorrhaging may occur. Oddly, it is only on the fifth through the seventh days of the newborn male’s life that vitamin K (produced by bacteria in the intestinal tract) is present in adequate quantities. Vitamin K, coupled with prothrombin, causes blood coagulation, which is important in any surgical procedure. Holt and McIntosh, in their classic work, Holt Pediatrics, observed that a newborn infant has “peculiar susceptibility to bleeding between the second and fifth days of life…. Hemorrhages at this time, though often inconsequential, are sometimes extensive; they may produce serious damage to internal organs, especially to the brain, and cause death from shock and exsanguination” (1953, pp. 125-126). Obviously, then, if vitamin K is not produced in sufficient quantities until days five through seven, it would be wise to postpone any surgery until some time after that. But why did God specify day eight?

On the eighth day, the amount of prothrombin present actually is elevated above one-hundred percent of normal—and is the only day in the male’s life in which this will be the case under normal conditions. If surgery is to be performed, day eight is the perfect day to do it. Vitamin K and prothrombin levels are at their peak. The chart below, patterned after one published by S.I. McMillen, M.D., in his book, None of These Diseases, portrays this in graphic form.

Dr. McMillen observed:

We should commend the many hundreds of workers who labored at great expense over a number of years to discover that the safest day to perform circumcision is the eighth. Yet, as we congratulate medical science for this recent finding, we can almost hear the leaves of the Bible rustling. They would like to remind us that four thousand years ago, when God initiated circumcision with Abraham….

Abraham did not pick the eighth day after many centuries of trial-and-error experiments. Neither he nor any of his company from the ancient city of Ur in the Chaldees ever had been circumcised. It was a day picked by the Creator of vitamin K (1984, p. 93).

Moses’ information, as recorded in Genesis 17:12, not only was scientifically accurate, but was years ahead of its time. How did Moses have access to such information? The answer, of course, is provided by the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16—“Every scripture is inspired of God.”

Boom!

To read the entire article, follow this link.

As If You Were There

Our Life Group finished a 4-week study last night of Paul David Tripp’s book Awe. Before I discard the easel notepad sheets, I thought I’d share our discussion notes. This will be a refresher if you’ve read the book. If you haven’t read it, these notes may make you feel as if you were there with us and entice you to get a copy. Who knows? Maybe you could get a group together to do a similar study.

From Chapters 1-2 (Humanity and War)

From Chapters 4-5 (Replacement and Amnesia)

From Chapters 7-8 (Complaint and Materialism)

From Chapters 9-10 (Growth and Worldview)

Known

(Post #1 in a 4-part series collaboration)

By Rick Howell (bio below)

Although it has been over 45 years, I can still remember the experience just like it was yesterday. It is even more shocking that I remember because it happened in the context of a relatively frequent occurrence. My friends and I were in a rousing game of hide and seek, which we played at least weekly. This particular moment, however, stands out because of the intensity of the feelings it evoked and the emotional dilemma it created.  I was hiding.  In fact, I was hiding in a perfect spot. When I identified it, I squealed inside because I knew I would never be found.  This was the perfect hiding place.  As I listened to the seeker count down to “0” and heard the familiar words, “Ready or not, here I come,” I was beside myself with anticipation. She was not going to find me! As time passed, my assessment that this was a great hiding space was confirmed. I heard friend after friend discovered, followed by the race to home.  As I remained hidden, my satisfaction grew.  As more time passed, however, I began to wonder what happens if I don’t get found.  And then what was pure joy for so long was no longer fun.  I wanted to be found, and I wanted to shout with excitement as I raced back home.  Never being found was not all it’s cracked up to be. So, I moved from a great hiding space to a space I knew would allow me to be found.

Unfortunately, more often than I want to admit, my Christian walk has been a similar experience. The idea of being known by God is disturbing. Being fully known, my struggles, my doubts, my insecurities, my failures, my inner most thoughts cannot coexist with God loving me. Therefore, I hide. Hiding from God is not easy.  I have to work hard at it…at least to preserve my illusion of hiding. Much like the child who hides her face and believes therefore that she is unseen, I live as if I can control what parts of me God sees and thereby ensure God loves me…or so I tell myself.  But as in the hide and seek game, hiding becomes undesirable. Disconnection from God results in an unbearable loneliness. My need to be truly loved by God is stronger than my need to hide from God. In desperation I remind myself of the truth my Sunday School teachers taught me: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  I embrace my pastor’s proclamation, “There is nothing that I could do to cause God to love me less.”  Fortunately, my difficulty believing this truth does not make it less true.  As I embrace the scriptural promise conveyed by the words from the familiar chorus, I Am Loved, “The one who know me best loves me most,” hide and seek returns to being just a fun kid’s game.

With this assurance, I can take more risks by being vulnerable in relationships with whom I am pursuing more depth and authenticity.  I remember recently sharing, with two dear friends of mine, some thoughts and reactions I had had during a sermon for which I was not proud but which I did want to explore with them.  When they extended grace and patience to me rather than the expected condemnation, I believed I had experienced in the flesh the truth of which I share today.  I allowed them to know me more fully and they chose to love me more fully.  What a beautiful combination. Thanks be to God!


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Blogger Bio: Rick Howell has served as the Executive Director of Samaritan Counseling Services of the Gulf Coast for 20 years. Rick, a Tampa native, holds degrees from Stetson University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Debbie live in West Bradenton. They have two adult children, Breanna and Ethan.