RSS

Pains that Come from God

Brother Lawrence, who wrote a marvelous book on Christian spirituality called The Practice of the Presence of God, suggested: “When pains come from God, he only can cure them. He often sends diseases of the body to cure those of the soul.”

To our ears, what a strange idea! God doesn’t send pains of any kind. To our thinking, the Lord is a good and wonderful being who wants nothing but the things that make us happy. Baloney! God wants what is best for us, and nothing less, ever. What is best is seldom painless.

Pain is part of every good thing we do. When we want to learn a new skill, language, or hobby, we go to great pains to study the subject thoroughly, and we enjoy every minute of the labor involved. We discover new aspects of the subject when we fail, and we repeat what broke down with modification until we master the knowledge we set out to acquire. A painful but necessary experience.

God sends us pain in other ways. When we discover in our devotional time that we’ve been far from patient, we set out to master this virtue. Learning to be patient is a pain! We have to put up with slipshod workmanship from others or ourselves. We have to tolerate accidents, delays, failures. We have to bear with so much that we don’t like or enjoy in order to be trained in patience.

Diseases are often part of God’s lessons in life. The reason you’re struggling with cancer is not that your body was invaded by a microbe or disturbed by an improper habit. You combat cancer and its pains so that you will learn the spiritual lesson you haven’t learned in less harsh ways. You’re finally still enough that God’s Spirit can teach you to surrender yourself wholeheartedly to him. Brother Lawrence was right. God frequently allows us to experience a disease so that our souls might benefit.

You see, we humans think that long living is good living, but this isn’t true. To live a long life means we must put up with agony of one sort or another for a lengthier time. Neither the quantity nor the quality of life makes life meaningful. The meaning in life comes from your relationship with God, and to develop the relationship the Lord wants with you may require him to inflict pain, just as a parent disciplines a child properly in order to create an adult who will always appreciate what he or she learned while growing up at home. Taking out the garbage or cleaning up your room may have been a bothersome chore, a pain, but it taught you habits of cleanliness that make life better.

Jesus Christ is the great physician, the one who will heal, but the healing is sometimes accompanied by pain. Don’t shy away from the agonies of life. Embrace them as gifts from God, and study them for the lessons God has for you. Pain is a scalpel in the healer’s hand, and he uses it skillfully to remove everything that harms your relationship with him.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 25, 2012 in FaithLife

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Meaningless Effort

The days in which we now live go in circles, don’t they? Whirling tornadoes of activity. A person labors for a good life. People pour themselves into buying a home, raising children, belonging to groups of good friends, supporting a better community, doing all sorts of positive things. Yet all their labor seems to amount to well-meant but meaningless effort. It’s undone in an instant.

Look at the emptiness all around us. Every morning the news tells us about someone who was so desperate she robbed a bank or he raped a woman. The offspring from not only the ghetto shoot each other over nothing but also those of the middle class home shoot schoolmates. The world isn’t going to hell in a hand basket. It’s already there! A parent’s hope and dream for a child is destroyed, by the child’s own action, or someone else’s infantile deed.

Look at the emptiness. The excitement of so-called reality shows is artificial, unreal, yet they are popular evening viewing. People who seek meaningful relationships keep looking for them in one bar after another, and seldom find their “soulmate.” A lay-off at work is followed by arguments over money at home until home life is under-appreciated. Politicians spout the same causes as in the last election without the admission that nothing was done to improve on the problems, except to make them worse. The whirling circles of life spin the mind and heart until we are disoriented.

How can human effort become meaningful?

Write a self-improvement book. Develop labor saving products. Enter medical school. Clean up university locker rooms. On and on, we could list positive, life-affirming actions that people take. I admit that doing good works will improve the world. Something edifying always builds instead of tears down. Yet these actions don’t change much, don’t make permanent improvements in the world as a whole. A little good is better than no good, I suppose.

But how can human effort become meaningful for all time?

Only by improving the human being. And this takes a divine hand together with a surrendered heart. God must act to remake the human being, and the human being must cooperate through surrender. This happens every day. People finally realize all their efforts are meaningless, because they are mis-directed. So they give up in a positive sense. They give up to the Lord. They surrender their souls to Jesus Christ, whose Spirit has been prodding them for years to drop their guard and dare to believe. When they surrender, God is able to put new meaning where emptiness used to be. He is able to re-create the surrendered heart and make it consistently good. The divine effort and human effort then combine to remake the world. Even this is not a complete re-manufacturing of a broken world into a good one. There has to be an end made of the vain world, and this God alone can do and plans to do. For the moment, those who find Christ also find an abundant life that’s worth the effort.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 23, 2012 in FaithLife

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Prayer

Oswald Chambers explained prayer by saying, “We are based on the platform of Reality in prayer by the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not our earnestness that brings us into touch with God, nor our devotedness, nor our times of prayer, but our Lord Jesus Christ’s vitalizing death; and our times of prayer are evidences of reaction on the reality of Redemption, so we have confidence and boldness of access into the holiest. What an unspeakable joy it is to know that we each have the right of approach to God in confidence…”

 
 

Tags: , , , , ,

Storytelling Well Done

T. C. Southwell, Children of Another God (The Broken World Series, Book 1) Smashwords, 2010 Format: ebook (97,613 words) Free

In order to research the genre of science fiction and fantasy novels in preparation for writing one myself, I’ve been reading the novels of others. This  book by T. C. Southwell is a good example of self-published sci-fi novels that are readily available today. Southwell has 31 novels available on Smashwords.com. They aren’t all free, but Children of Another God will give you an excellent sample of the genre. I recommend buying more if you like this volume.

Children of Another God tells the story of Chanter and Talsy. Chanter is a Mujar, a race of beings who can assume various forms, such as an eagle or horse, dolphin or human. A Mujar lives a hundred years exactly and cannot be killed for any reason, although they can be imprisoned in the Pits. Humans use and abuse Mujar for their own selfish or terrible ends, yet they hate Mujar because they have no emotional attachment to anyone or anything.

Talsy is an eighteen year old woman who desperately longs for adventure and freedom from the conventional human lot for women who are treated as little more than cattle. When her father captures Chanter and uses him for his own ends, then intends to imprison him in a Pit, Talsy rescues the Mujar. Then begins their complicated relationship which leads to surprising ends and to the potential salvation of the human race, which is not guaranteed by the end of the novel.

Southwell’s storytelling is well-done. The author’s considerable imagination concocts a world, or rather worlds, that reflect a dual judgment on humanity. People are truly evil but are capable of great good, and people can rise above their base nature with difficulty. One reviewer complained about Talsy’s deliberate endangerment of others by her actions, suggesting that this detracted from the story. For me, this was the heart of the story. Talsy represents those who want to be more but are bound to their debased humanity. It takes great effort for her to learn and rise above herself. Kudos to Southwell for telling such a story!

Another reviewer demurred the “blatant” Christian imagery. For me, the Christian character of this book was a pleasure. It was wonderful to see an author who used the Christian gospel as a tool to present the story of humanity and salvation without bludgeoning the reader with a gospel mace. The same reviewer felt that the picture of human beings as a pack of dogs was overdone. As a Christian, I felt Southwell did a tremendous job showing the reader how far the race of men can fall, how horrible its actions can be, when people operate on the level of the flesh alone. I suppose how a reader reacts to the Christian message behind the book depends on where he or she stands in relation to that faith.

All in all, if you want to read a valuable book, I recommend this one, but I add a couple of warnings. First, Southwell sometimes drags out an aspect of the characterization or plotting, and this can be a bit tedious. I prefer novels to make their point and move the action forward quickly, but that’s a personal preference. Second, Southwell spent too much time describing a gruesome dissection of the Mujar by men searching for knowledge but succumbing to brutality. The Mujar lived and survived with Talsy’s help, but the detail almost made me stop reading or skip ahead. An author should not do this to the readers. Yet, in the end, I admit the long scene was critical for the storyline. So, if you read it, persevere. You’ll be satisfied when you do.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

God and Evil, and Human Beings

A blog I recently read made the point that evil is the absence of God. I responded to it, and I thought I’d also share my answer in this blog. So here it is…

Evil as an absence of God. This is certainly true. But the presence of God would also be the absence of evil. The two thoughts in tandem explain why human free will is so risky. By acting in an evil fashion, a human takes himself out of the presence of God. He is too holy to tolerate evil in his presence. However, does choosing good automatically bring a person into the presence of God? Perhaps not. It at least allows God an opportunity to admit the human being to his presence, but something more appears to be required: a cleansing. The evil that was chosen must be purged, because it has left a mark upon the human soul. Christ enters to provide this cleansing, along with the Holy Spirit to help maintain the purity and expand it throughout the whole human character. This is a signal of the sovereignty of God. By his trinitarian actions, he restores the human to relationship with himself and makes possible a consistent choosing of the good. Yet this work of deity is not completed until a period beyond human time-bound experience. Until then, we continue to struggle with good and evil.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 3, 2012 in FaithLife

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Courage to Start New Things

It’s time to think about starting things. A New Year is only days away, and we naturally make resolutions. “I’m going to lose weight!” “I’ll pay off my bills faster.” “I’m going to read twelve books in 2012.” We usually keep our resolutions, for a while. But that’s not what I’m thinking about.

The time has come to think about starting new things. The old aren’t working so well. We need new things.

Our habits are bad. We indulge in over-eating, not only during the holidays, but also all year long. We need to start a new thing…eating better. Our attitudes are bad. We demand more than we deserve, such as a larger salary, a larger house, a larger role in the business, a larger anything! Our attitude is wrong. Instead of a “me first” attitude, we have to start a new thing…gaining a servant mentality. Our feelings are bad. We complain all the time about politicians, doctors, spouses, children, store clerks, everyone who crosses us somehow. We feel the worst things. We need to start new feelings going around the community…compassion for others.

As I listen to our society, so much negativity floats in the air around us. It’s easy to fall into the moaning and mourning, the superior smugness of one who thinks he or she has been slighted. Rather than complain and gripe, why don’t we create? If we don’t like the way life is going, can’t we make it go in a new direction? It only takes our will power, our thinking, our plans. Then we can realign our resources and find a new way to act. We can accomplish better things, if we have the desire to do them.

Wait a minute! Isn’t it a Pollyanna outlook to believe human beings are able to achieve and do wonderful things in a whole society?

How do we know if we don’t try a different, and hopefully a better, way of doing things? If the habits and deeds of the past have failed us, why not do something different? It might turn out better. If we don’t like being out of work, why don’t we pick ourselves up and create a new job ourselves or keep looking for another one? Discouragement will come, but rather than allowing it to beat you down, why not make it build you up? Let discouragement become a motivator for a wider search for work. New attitude, new thinking, new ways of doing…this will change where we are right now.

I see a lot of down in the dumps people, when they don’t have to stay there in the ash heap. Okay, so nobody is helping you. Help yourself. Think creatively about the problem that’s weighing you down. A new solution will come, a new life will build. You don’t have to mope and groan. Do something positive to change where you’re at in life.

I’ve heard a lot about bank robberies and store hold ups lately. We always do when the economy sours, and jobs dry up. But I wonder if the people who are so desperate that they have to steal couldn’t come up with a better way—if they put their minds and hearts into creative mode. It’s time to begin new things.

Do you have the courage to start new things that are worth doing?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 29, 2011 in FaithLife

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Holy Spirit and You

Andrew Murray wrote about receiving the Holy Spirit: “Just as the Lord Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to Peter, He is willing to give the Holy Spirit to you. Are you willing to receive Him? Are you willing to give up yourself entirely as an empty, helpless vessel, to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, to live, to dwell, and to work in you every day?”

 
3 Comments

Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Something I read made me think...

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.