Posted in My Journey

God Is My Rescue

As many times as I cry out to God, he is always there. He listens to my pleas, he answers me in the stillness of the night, and when I am most vulnerable, he sends someone to comfort me. The fiery trial remains, but through my prayers I feel him listening to me; I feel him reassuring me. His word renders my troubles as a fleeting wind. He provides the perseverance I need to move forward. He supplies the strength I need to overcome adversity:

“I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.” (Psalm 6:6-10)

Nothing is so great that God cannot intervene on our behalf. His power is beyond measure, and through it, he sustains all things. Therefore, how hard would it be for God to rescue us in our time of need? For I can say, nothing in this lifetime is greater than the crown set aside for us in the coming age. The treasures of this world will rust and wither, but our treasures in heaven will be without end.

No matter what I suffer in this life, God is my rescue.

Posted in My Journey

My New Book Is Here!

I am pleased to announce God Is Love: Comfort Through Trials is now available for download. All royalties go toward supporting Looking to God Ministries, an organization dedicated to spreading the Word of God through outreach programs, literature and preaching. Below is the Preface to the book:

I grew up Catholic. That means I was baptized into the Catholic Church. It also means I received my First Communion and my Confirmation in the Catholic Church. In all that time, I knew God existed, but I had a different idea of who he was than what I know of him today. I thought he was old. I thought he was distant. And I thought for a good portion of the bible that he was very angry with people.

It was only after I hit my twenties that I began to question God’s nature. I did not question his existence because I knew he was alive, well, and looking after us. I did not need a degree to understand that. All I had to do was look around at nature and I could see God there. For me, it never made sense to think God was dead when all I saw were the seasons changing like clockwork and the animals following a pattern of behavior. No, what I questioned were things like, “How could God, who supposedly loved so much, care so little for people that he would allow them to suffer?” And I wondered, “What kind of God was he if he would cause that suffering?” Because allowing something to happen was one thing, but to actually cause it?

So for a long time I searched for those answers. I was part of a cult for a number of years and learned about a god who was more interested in the letter of the law, than of the spirit of the law. Throughout that entire time, God was still an angry god who would punish Christians who sinned and would reward Christians who obeyed. Jesus was a passing notion, an emissary, delivering a message of the coming of the kingdom of God.

It was then that I had stopped attending church. My disillusion with organized religion was just the beginning. I simply felt no one had a clue who God was and why suffering existed in the world. For twenty years, I laughed at people who would put their faith in a god who did not care for their well-being.

Soon, one January morning, I began to read the bible. I had made a resolution that I would read the bible in its entirety strictly for its literary value. Little did I know what would happen to me. I began seeing a god who ruled all creation. I began to see a god who looked after his creation. I saw God love human beings so much that he would give his only son as a sacrifice so that he could save them from the penalty of sin, which is death. Then I saw my life unfold before my eyes.

I returned to a church, and as quickly as I had returned, a year later, my oldest son took ill. He spent a month in the hospital having suffered an autistic shutdown. That month was when God revealed himself to me. He showed me why people suffered. He taught me trials were good. And he took care of my family throughout the ordeal.

If you are looking for answers, read God Is Love: Comfort Through Trials knowing I was looking for answers, too.

Posted in My Journey

The Reward of Our Trials

When I think about of all that has happened in my life, of all those times when I could have failed miserably, and of all those moments when one decision could have altered my future permanently, I am thankful. God could have allowed one of those fleeting instances to change my life irrevocably. But he did not. Instead, he looked after me. He watched over me. And he protected me as I went on my way. Why?

That question, why? is a big question to me. Why would God spare me the pain I would have otherwise experienced had I endured certain trials?

The Apostle James talks about trials this way:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

James is saying, trials offer opportunities to grow in faith, in that no matter what happens to us, God will give us the patience to endure whatever trial comes our way. Saying it another way, God will provide the help we need when we suffer.

I may have avoided certain trials, but I cannot tell you how many times I have felt alone, broken and upset, only to find God there, waiting to help me. He never leaves us. He is there always, hoping that we would come and give of our hearts to him in prayer. All God wants is a relationship with us. He offered his son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sins. Everyone who believes Jesus is the son of God will have salvation. So how difficult is it to understand that God loves us more than he loves anything in this universe?

When I think about trials this way, it is then easy to accept the truth that God allows suffering, because no one suffered more than Christ did on the cross. And although Christ’s suffering was not a trial for him, his whole purpose for coming was so that we who suffer would have hope—hope for a future—hope for eternal life. James confirms this when he says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

Friends, continue to love God as he loves us, unconditionally and without end, for as we love him this way, our trials will then be as steppingstones toward our reward, which is the crown of life.

Audio transcript:

Posted in My Journey

Our Trials Have Meaning

I once attended a church whose pastor believed trials are not from God. I actually had a lively discussion with him in terms of proving God uses trials and persecutions to build a Christian’s faith and love for God. It was not until some time had passed that I realized the pastor believed in the prosperity gospel.

The prosperity gospel convinces Christians that God wants them to be healthy, wealthy and happy in this lifetime. I will not revisit this topic, as I have already written about this before. What I would like to write about today, though, is to make the point that God loves us and that no matter what happens in this lifetime, he will never abandon us. The trials we go through as individuals, and as a church, happen for a reason. We may not know the reason for our suffering now, and we may not know it until we have lived our lives to the full, but God has it all planned one-thousand moves ahead of us. He knows where all the pieces of our suffering fit in the grand scheme of his design. What we have to do is trust him with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our minds. Then, and only then, will our trials have meaning.

Before Moses died, he provisioned Joshua to be his successor. Part of that provisioning included encouraging words that would carry Joshua and the next generation of Israelites to the Promised Land:

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

In the same way, God will not leave us or forsake us. We may have days when we feel we should have stayed in bed and not faced the world, but God will not give us a trial we cannot handle. He has already counted the cost, and he knows we can overcome. We just need to look to him for the courage and strength. Through his son Jesus, we can do all things, as the Apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). And by the power of the Holy Spirit, God brings into remembrance the words we need to move forward, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

Whatever you may be going through, whatever trial you may be facing, remember: God is always there listening, whispering; he will never abandon you (Psalms 16:1). You are very important to him, and no one can prevent you from drawing closer to him. His purpose for all of us is for us to rely on him fully, perfectly and without hesitation. He is our God, our creator and king.

No one can take that away from us.

Audio transcript:

Posted in My Journey

Renewing the Spirit

I was sick in bed a couple of days this weekend with a cold. With all that went on these past few months with my son, I was not surprised this happened to me so soon. I was running back and forth from hot to cold, home to the hospital, eating on the run, sleeping a few hours here and there that I had brought my immune system down so low. I find it funny how that happens with our physical bodies. For a while, all I was doing was functioning on adrenalin.

As Christians, we similarly need renewal to carry us through the day. Sometimes that renewal needs to take place when we are in the throes of trials.

The Book of Psalms is replete with examples of those wanting to draw closer to God. King David was no exception:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10 ESV throughout).

For those unfamiliar with David’s history, he uttered those words when he was at the lowest point of his life. He had just committed adultery with Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and the prophet Nathan came to David to tell him God would bring calamity to his household. Instead of fleeing from God, David drew closer to him in prayer. He recognized God’s spirit was as only a flicker of light in his heart, instead of the burning inferno he had raging within him when he first became king. He asked God for the renewal of his spirit.

We also can ask God for that renewal. Prayer, bible study, meditation and fasting are our tools to seek God with all our hearts. And it does not take long for him to respond to our request:

“You who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners” (Psalms 69:32).

As long as we seek him during our low moments, he will continually be by our side, encouraging us, taking care of us, and protecting us. Because, more than anything else, God wants to give us life, and should we desire him, how much more will he want to give us his spirit?

Posted in My Journey

God’s Mercy

Next Sunday, I will be speaking about forgiveness (details in Latest News). Given I have written about forgiveness on multiple occasions, including releasing a book last week about the topic, I thought it would be appropriate to condense my thoughts in a sermon.

For today’s post, however, I would like to talk a bit about God’s mercy. I know for some people, evidence of God’s mercy may seem non-existent. After all, there is so much chaos in the world, who would believe God has any mercy? But for us Christians, who look to him for guidance and support, God is not only real, but also the source of our strength, in spite of the trials and problems we may face.

I know in my case, I have had a horrendous few months to the point where it makes me want to go back to the spring when everything was perfect. Life does not work that way, though. We have to take what we receive, grow from it, become stronger, and help others who face similar situations. We cannot pick and choose our trials, God does that for us.

And yet, God will never give us a trial that is greater than what we can handle. Have a look at what the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13 ESV).

Temptation, trial or test, is God’s way of building our faith in him. Even more so, if you read the last part of that verse, Paul is saying, God shows us mercy by providing a way of escape.

In other words, every trial has a way out.

That is how I have been able to endure so much pain recently. I am dropping on my knees, petitioning God for that way of escape. And every time, and it may not be soon, he shows me that way of escape.

I just would like every reader today to know that God is a merciful god. He is a loving God. He will test us, but he will always provide a way out. Know that his will is for us to grow in the light, knowledge and faith in Christ Jesus. Only then will we have the endurance to overcome in order to be perfect as he is perfect.

Posted in Bible Studies, My Journey

God Allows Suffering

Over the weekend, my friends and I participated in a lively discussion about God’s role in a person’s suffering. My friends were of the mindset that God does not allow suffering. Considering all that my son has gone through these past few months with his health, and the automobile accident my wife experienced, I was of a differing opinion.

I expressed that suffering for a Christian is necessary and even welcomed, as it is God’s way to build faith within a person. God did not promise we would not go through trials in this lifetime. On the contrary, he promised that we would (John 15:20). And they would be fiery trials, the kind that molds us into his image and binds us to his spirit (1 Pet. 4:12-13).

The scripture I brought up was that of Job. Now Job, he was a righteous man, and there was a day that the sons of God came before God to give a report of their doings. Among them was Satan. God asked, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8 ESV throughout).

God loved Job, but at the same time, he wanted to test Job to see if his righteousness was true and not self-serving. He could have chosen to do that any number of ways. In this case, God was going to use Satan to bring calamity upon Job.

That does not sound right, does it? How could God do that to someone he loves?

Yet Satan, not knowing it was God’s plan all along, said to God, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (v. 10-11).

And so God said, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand” (v. 12).

In other words, God allowed Satan to touch Job’s life, destroy his property and kill his family, but he could not physically touch Job himself. It was not until later in the book that we find out that God eventually allowed Satan to affect Job’s health also.

From what I see, God is in control not only of Job’s suffering, but also of Satan’s ability to hurt Job. Saying it another way, God allowed Job to suffer.

God has reasons people suffer. For Job, he had to see how self-righteous he was before God blessed him with double his possessions and family. However, the one person who suffered the most in this world, and whom God allowed that suffering to take place, was Christ Jesus. For a moment in time, God had to let events play out while Jesus suffered the humiliation of a criminal, whipped until his flesh hung from his bone, nailed to a tree until he gasped for every ounce of life, and died to the pleasure of the Romans who crucified him.

But, and this was God’s plan all along, Jesus rose from the dead, took his seat at the right hand of the father (Eph. 1:20), and through him, believing in him, Christians have salvation (Acts 4:11-12).

No one on this planet can convince me that God does not allow people to suffer. It is unbiblical and a lie. What is not a lie is that all the apostles except for John died awful deaths, persecuted for believing in Jesus, so that their faith in God may strengthen those who come after them.

We, Christians, are those who come after them.