Ten were healed, only one gave thanks

The week of Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity for us to pause and give thanks. As you sit around the table and give thanks for the blessings of the year, here is a powerful story from the Bible that illustrates five aspects of giving thanks.

Luke 17:11-19
11 While traveling to Jerusalem, He passed between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, 10 men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  14 When He saw them, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were healed. 15 But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus said, “Were not 10 cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Give thanks

When someone does something nice for you, say “thank you.” Have an attitude of gratitude in life. Give thanks for all of your blessings.

Jesus was delighted to see the Samaritan man who came back to give thanks (vv17-18). Saying “thank you,” “I am thankful for you,” or a similar statement shows that you are polite, will be an encouragement to others, and is the way that a Christ-follower should respond.

Give thanks to God

Giving thanks is more than just being thankful for the people in your life, the health that you have, and all of your blessings. When you think of the people and things that you are thankful for, you should give thanks to God for all of these things. The Samaritan man demonstrated this principle. When he returned to give thanks, he glorified God (v15).

Paul wrote to his friends in Thessalonica, “We always thank God for all of you, remembering you constantly in our prayers.” Psalm 107:1 says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” James 1:17 reminds us, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.” Don’t just give thanks. Give thanks to God. 

Give thanks for Jesus

In the story, we see that the Samaritan man, once he realized that he was healed of his skin disease, returned and gave thanks to Jesus for what Jesus had done in his life (v16). He was thankful for Jesus! But his thankfulness for Jesus got even better. You see, in the Bible when we see Jesus healing people physically, that is always a sign that he can heal them spiritually. The physical healing is never the main point. The main point is that Jesus the Messiah came to be the Savior of the world for everyone who would believe in Him. And on that day, this Samaritan man who was not even necessarily looking for the Messiah realized that this man from Galilee could save him. The Samaritan man put his faith in Jesus (v19).

We give thanks for Jesus our Lord and Savior. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). It is true that if Jesus is all you have, you will realize that Jesus is all you need. Give thanks for Jesus.

Give thanks in everything

The circumstances of life can be challenging. Ask the 10 men in the story. Their skin diseases had caused their lives to be painful. They were in physical pain because of leprosy but even more than that they faced the emotional pain of having to yell, “Unclean, unclean!” when anyone came near them, to warn the others to stay away so as to not contract the highly contagious skin disease. Words to describe the condition of these men would include: discouraged, depressed, lonely, hurting, isolated, rejected, lost.

But in the midst of their suffering, these men had reason to give thanks. Jesus saw them. He came near them. He healed them.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you know that He never leaves you nor forsakes you. Even if there are storms all around you, He gives you peace in the midst of the storm. Because of that, you can give thanks in the midst of every situation and circumstance of life. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Give thanks for all things

I’ll admit it, this is the toughest one. We could summarize the four we have discussed so far in this way: Give thanks to God for Jesus in everything. That’s powerful.

Now let’s add the fifth statement: Give thanks to God for Jesus in everything and for all things. Wow.

Giving thanks for all things is more difficult than just giving thanks in the midst of all circumstances, as tough as that can be. Giving thanks for all things means actually giving thanks for the difficulties. Unless you think I am just making this one up, hear these words from the Bible: “giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). 

In the Luke 17 story, it would be the Samaritan man saying, “I am thankful for my leprosy.” The only way that this makes sense at all is because of Jesus, because no one in their right mind would thank God for a terminal skin disease that caused them to be isolated from family and friends for the rest of their life unless by some miracle they were healed.

But when Jesus shows up on the scene, everything changes. The reason the Samaritan man could give thanks for all things is because he could say it like this: “I am thankful for my leprosy because my leprosy caused me to meet Jesus, and Jesus changed my life.”

We can thank God for everything because we know that God is sovereign and He has a purpose for everything. We may not always know the reason but He does, and we trust Him. We may not be able to see His hand but we trust His heart. We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

God is good. He works all things for His glory. He works all things for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Trust in Him. Give thanks to Him for everything.

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Posted by on November 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Living in the Last Days

Are we living in the last days? Jesus said that in the last days there would be wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, persecution, and much turmoil (see Matthew chapter 24). Jesus had much more to say as well — for instance, the troubles listed above are just the beginning of the end — and many books of the Bible including Daniel and Revelation give additional insights regarding the last days.

With recent world events, people are keenly aware that we are living in the last days. We don’t know when all of the prophecies of the Bible will come to completion, but what we do know is we are closer than we have ever been. Chronologically, we are at least two thousand years closer to the end than were the first-century Christians, and those followers of Jesus lived their lives fully devoted to Christ because they knew that the end could happen at any moment.

When you realize that you are living in the last days, you will do things differently.

1 Peter 4:7-11
7 Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer. 8 Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

You will pray differently (v7). You will have a seriousness and full devotion to prayer. You will pray for the spiritually lost to be saved. You will pray for boldness to stand for Christ. You will pray for strength to endure. You will pray for others around the world. You will pray for God’s will to be done. You will not spend time on meaningless ritualistic prayers. You will not neglect prayer. You will be disciplined for prayer. You will pray differently.

You will love differently (v8). You will love others with unconditional love. Your forgiveness of those who have offended you will be so pronounced that that kind of love will cover over a multitude of sins. You will truly set aside hate and lust. You will demonstrate Christlike love to others. You will even love those who call themselves your enemies.

You will show hospitality differently (v9). In the first century, showing hospitality was vital. It was an important part of the culture on a daily basis when friends and family came to visit you, and it was even more important when travelers from out of town needed a place to stay for the night, such as those who were experiencing persecution for their faith in Christ. Today, people need to be shown hospitality also: a new neighbor, a recent widow, a new kid at school, that person you have “just been meaning to catch up with.”

The Bible tells us to show hospitality without complaining. That’s how Jesus would do it. When He got tired, He retreated to a quiet place to pray to the Father and recharge. It’s OK for you to do that too. But don’t neglect opportunities to show hospitality. You never know how those opportunities will impact lives for eternity.

You will use your gifts differently (vv10-11). People use their gifts and talents for a host of reasons. If you believe we are living in the last days, then you will concentrate on using your gifts to serve God and serve others. 1 Peter 4 describes two categories of spiritual gifts: speaking gifts and serving gifts. Speaking gifts include teaching, encouraging, words of wisdom, and words of faith. Serving gifts include helping, showing mercy, meeting needs, and giving.

What gifts has God given you, and how are you using them? Use them to serve others, glorify God, and advance His kingdom.

You will live your life to glorify God (v11). If you believe we are living in the last days, you will not seek to glorify yourself, institutions, governments, or any other worldly group. You will seek to glorify God. Your life will be lived to point people to Jesus. You realize that our time is short. The time is now to share the good news of Jesus with a lost and dying world. Live your life to glorify God.

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Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Uncategorized


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With the time you have remaining, how will you live?

Every moment is precious. No one knows how long they have to live on earth. Every day matters. Every moment matters. The things that happen in a moment can impact lives for eternity.

We recognize this reality when we are on a mission trip. For the few days that you are on the mission trip, you are very conscious of the fact that your time is limited in that nation to share Christ, serve others, and fulfill your mission. Every moment on that mission trip matters. Every conversation is an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus. Every action is an opportunity to demonstrate the gospel in actions.

You do not know how much time you have left on earth.

With the time you have remaining, how will you live?

The apostle Peter wrote to a group of people who were experiencing religious persecution. Some of their friends had been put to death because of their faith in Jesus. Sound familiar? Like modern days?

1 Peter 4:1-6
1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve—because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin— 2 in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will. 3 For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the pagans choose to do: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 4 So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living—and they slander you. 5 They will give an account to the One who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was also preached to those who are now dead, so that, although they might be judged by men in the fleshly realm, they might live by God in the spiritual realm.

Live your life focused on Christ. It is very tempting to make your human desires the top of your priority list. Jesus was tempted to do that too, but in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed to the Father, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus did not live for human desires but rather for God’s will (v2). Follow His example. Live your life focused on Christ.

Live your life being finished with sin. Now I will go ahead and tell you that sin is not finished with you. But if you have been saved by grace, you are forgiven of your sin. And your attitude toward sin should be, I am finished with you. In the past you may have participated in many sinful activities (v3), but with the time you have remaining, live your life pursuing holiness and Christlikeness. Live your life being finished with sin. Let Jesus help you overcome temptation. He suffered and died for you so that you could be finished with sin.

Live your life fearlessly because of Christ. When you stop wild living, people may slander you (v4). They will give an account to God (v5), so you don’t have to worry about them. Even though others in the past have lost their lives because of the gospel (v6), you are fearless because of Christ. You realize that the worst thing that could happen to you from extreme religious persecution is that you could die, and if that were to happen, you know that you would go to heaven because of your faith in Jesus Christ. With that confidence you are fearless and you will have maximum impact for Christ. You will serve, love and share the gospel every opportunity you have, in the same ways that you do on mission trips.

With the time you have remaining, how will you live?

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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Reason for Your Hope

Christians have hope when no one else does. They have hope in this life and hope for the life to come. Their hope is not just rooted in optimism or the power of positive thinking, Their hope is anchored in Christ.

In your heart set apart Jesus as Lord. And always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the HOPE that you have. Do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

honor Jesus as your Lord

Jesus is the Lord. He is the Lord of the universe, the Lord over all. The question you must ask is this: is Jesus your Lord? That is, is He your Savior? And does He direct and guide your life? When you honor Jesus as your Lord, you follow His teaching. You obey His commands. You delight to do His will because you know that it is for your good and His glory. When you follow Jesus as your Lord, you will have hope: eternal hope and hope for daily life.

 13 And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.
     17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm. (1 Peter 3:13-18 HCSB)

What does honoring Jesus look like?

  • Be deeply committed to what is good (v13)
  • Realize that you are blessed (v14)
  • Do not fear what the world fears (v14)
  • Endure suffering the way Jesus did (vv16-18)

always be ready…

So here is how the process goes.

  • You display genuine hope, even when life looks hopeless
  • People notice
  • People ask you why you have such hope — what’s the reason!?
  • You give the answer — Jesus! 

Amazingly simple process, right? It applies to the teenager who has hope in Christ when life is difficult and to the martyr across the world being persecuted for her faith. God gets you ready to share. He gives you the words to say and He empowers you with His Spirit. The word translated “defense” or “answer” is the Greek word apologia. In a technical sense, you are engaging in Christian apologetics, giving a defense of your faith.

But don’t be intimidated by the terms. What God is saying is that whether you are debating an atheist on the campus of an Ivy League university like Ravi Zacharias has done or whether you are having a cup of coffee with a friend talking about your faith, you should always be ready when God gives you opportunities to share the reason for our hope — tell them what God has done in your life.

The gospel in three phrases, straight from 1 Peter 3:18:

  • Jesus died for your sins
  • Jesus will make you righteous
  • Jesus brings you to God

do this with gentleness and respect

Every person that you talk to was created by God, created in His image. They are worthy of you showing them respect. They may be hostile toward your message. They may mock or slander you. They may even persecute you for your faith. But no matter what they do, you should respond with an attitude that honors Christ, one that shows that He is your Lord. Do not yell. Do not lose your cool. Do not be overwhelmed. Answer them with gentleness and respect.

And when you do, they will really see that your hope is in Christ!

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Posted by on November 7, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Life You Were Called to Live

God has an incredible plan for your life. Will you follow in the way of Christ? This is the life you were called to live.

1 Peter 3:8-12
8 Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing. 10 For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, 11 and he must turn away from evil and do what is good. He must seek peace and pursue it, 12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil.

be a blessing

Everywhere He went, Jesus was a blessing to others. And He calls us to be a blessing also. When we are a blessing to others, they are glad to be around us. They know that we have their best interest in mind. In 1 Peter 3:8-9, we read some characteristics of those who are a blessing to others. Let this list be a self-check-up list for you:

  • be like-minded
  • be sympathetic
  • love people
  • be compassionate
  • be humble
  • not repaying evil for evil
  • not repaying insult for insult
  • speak words of blessing

love life

Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). There is no doubt that all of the events of life are not good, so therefore you will not love everything that happens to you and around you. But if there was one thing that was true of Jesus it was that He was full of life! In 1 Peter 3, we learn two important factors for living a life that you will love:

  • honoring God with your words
  • honoring God with the things you do

Specifically, verses 10 and 11 tell us to keep our tongues from speaking evil and to keep our lips from speaking deceit. They also instruct us to turn away from evil and do what is good. These are truly God-sized tasks: to always say the right thing and always do the right thing. Great news! God will help you. He wants you to love the life He has given you.

pursue peace

Too many people in our world today pursue conflict. They create chaos and discord. They live to stir up trouble. The way of Christ is a different way. A Christ-follower will be a peacemaker. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and we follow Him. We are to seek peace and pursue it, according to 1 Peter 3:11-12. This indicates that our direction will be toward peace and that we will work to resolve conflict. The Lord’s eyes are on the righteous and His ears are open to our prayers, but His face is set against those who do evil. When we pursue peace, we honor Him.

Be a blessing. Love life. Pursue peace. This is the life you were called to live.

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Posted by on November 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Why Does God Allow Tragedy and Suffering?

With the recent deaths of three teenagers in our community, many people are asking very important questions. One of the questions they are asking is, “Why?” They are asking, “Why did God allow these tragedies?” Another way to ask the question is, “Why does God allow tragedy and suffering?”

In response to this question, here is one helpful article by renowned Christian author and teacher, Lee Strobel.

[The following message was delivered by Christian author and apologist Lee Strobel, just days after the deadly theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. He originally delivered this message at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.]

Lee writes: 

It was the worst mass shooting in American history – 70 people shot by a gunman, 12 of them killed, while they were watching the midnight showing of a new movie just 21 miles from where we’re sitting. There are no words to describe the anguish being felt by those who are suffering today; our heart and prayers have – and will – go out to them. There are so many tragic stories, so much pain. And many people are asking the question, “Why? Why did God allow this?”

This has been a heart-rending summer for Colorado. First came the wildfires, which ravaged the houses of hundreds of our neighbors – and prompted many of them to ask the question, “Why?”

And those two tragic events are on top of the everyday pain and suffering being experienced in individual lives – maybe including yours. There’s illness, abuse, broken relationships, betrayal, sorrow, injuries, disappointment, heartache, crime and death. And perhaps you’ve been asking the question, “Why? Why me? Why now?”

That “why” question goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the 21st Century didn’t start any better. There was 9/11 and now the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why all of this if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Several years ago, I commissioned a national survey and asked people what question they’d ask if they could only ask God one thing. The Number One response was: “Why is there suffering in the world?” Incidentally, I did find an interesting statistical quirk – people who are married were much more likely to want to know why there’s so much suffering. I’m just sayin’.

But if you’ve never asked why our world is infected with pain and suffering, you will when they strike you with full force or they come to a loved one. And Jesus said they are coming. Unlike some other religious leaders who wrote off pain and suffering as just being illusions, Jesus was honest. He told us the truth. He said in John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world.” He didn’t say you might – he said it is going to happen.

But why? If you ask me point-blank, “Why did God allow the gunman to spray the Aurora movie theater with gunfire just two days ago?”, the only answer I can honestly give consists of four words – “I do not know.”

I cannot stand in the shoes of God and give a complete answer to that question. I don’t have God’s mind. I don’t see with God’s eyes. First Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

So when you ask about specific individual events and want to know why this particular thing happened, we won’t get the full answer in this world. Someday we’ll see with clarity, but for now things are foggy. We can’t understand everything from our finite perspective. And frankly, the people suffering from the Aurora tragedy don’t need a big theological treatise right now; any intellectual response is going to seem trite and inadequate. What they desperately need now is the very real and comforting presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. And I’m so grateful that so many churches and ministries of this community are helping them experience that.

But for us, let’s focus on the big, overarching issue of why God generally allows suffering in our lives – your life and mine. Friends, this is important: even though we can’t understand everything about it, we can understand some things. Let me give you an analogy.

Once Leslie and I were driving from Chicago to Door County, Wisconsin, which is that thumb-shaped peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan. We were driving up the highway in the dark, when it started raining heavily and we hit dense fog. I could barely see the white stripe on the edge of the road. I couldn’t stop because I was afraid someone might come along and rear-end us. It was frightening!

But then a truck appeared in front of us and we could clearly see his taillights through the fog. He apparently had fog lamps in front, because he was traveling at a confident and deliberate pace, and I knew if we could just follow those taillights, we’d be headed in the right direction.

And the same is true in understanding why there is tragedy and suffering in our lives and in our world. We may not be able to make out all the peripheral details of why — they may be obscured from our view — but there are some key Biblical truths that can illuminate some points of light for us. And if we follow those lights, they will lead us in the right direction, toward some conclusions that I believe can help satisfy our hearts and souls.

What are those points of light? Let me go through five of them that I’ve personally found helpful whenever I’ve been prompted to ask the question, “Why?” The first point of light: God is not the creator of evil and suffering.

This answers the question you hear so often: “Why didn’t God merely create a world where tragedy and suffering didn’t exist?” The answer is: He did! Genesis 1:31 says: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

But if God is not the author of tragedy or evil or death, where did they come from? Well, God has existed from eternity past as the Father, Son and Spirit, together in a relationship of perfect love. So love is the highest value in the universe. And when God decided to create human beings, he wanted us to experience love. But to give us the ability to love, God had to give us free will to decide whether to love or not to love. Why? Because love always involves a choice.

If we were programmed to say, “I love you,” it wouldn’t really be love. When my daughter was little, she had a doll with a string in the back, and when you pulled it the doll said, “I love you.” Did that doll love my daughter? Of course not. It was programmed to say those words. To really experience love, that doll would need to have been able to choose to love or not to love. Again – real love always involves a choice.

So in order for us to experience love, God bestowed on us free will. But unfortunately, we humans have abused our free will by rejecting God and walking away from Him. And that has resulted in the introduction of two kinds of evil into the world: moral evil and natural evil.

Moral evil is the immorality and pain and suffering and tragedy that come because we choose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful and abusive. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

So much of the world’s suffering results from the sinful action or inaction of ourselves and others. For example, people look at a famine and wonder where God is, but the world produces enough food for each person to have 3,000 calories a day. It’s our own irresponsibility and self-centeredness that prevents people from getting fed.

In other words: look at your hand. You can choose to use that hand to hold a gun and shoot someone, or you can use it to feed hungry people. It’s your choice. But it’s unfair to shoot someone and then blame God for the existence of evil and suffering. Like that old cartoon said: “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

The second kind of evil is called natural evil. These are things like wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes that cause suffering for people. But these, too, are the indirect result of sin being allowed into the world. As one author explained: “When we humans told God to shove off, He partially honored our request. Nature began to revolt. The earth was cursed. Genetic breakdown and disease began. Pain and death became part of the human experience.”

The Bible says it’s because of sin that nature was corrupted and “thorns and thistles” entered the world. Romans 8:22 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” In other words, nature longs for redemption to come and for things to be set right. That’s the source of disorder and chaos.

Let’s make this crystal clear once more: God did not create evil and suffering. Now, it’s true that he did create the potential for evil to enter the world, because that was the only way to create the potential for genuine goodness and love. But it was human beings, in our free will, who brought that potential evil into reality.

Some people ask, “Couldn’t God have foreseen all of this?” And no doubt he did. But look at it this way: many of you are parents. Even before you had children, couldn’t you foresee that there was the very real possibility they may suffer disappointment or pain or heartache in life, or that they might even hurt you and walk away from you? Of course — but you still had kids. Why? Because you knew there was also the potential for tremendous joy and deep love and great meaning.

Now, the analogy is far from perfect, but think about God. He undoubtedly knew we’d rebel against Him, but He also knew many people would choose to follow Him and have a relationship with Him and spend eternity in heaven with Him — and it was all worth it for that, even though it would cost His own Son great pain and suffering to achieve their redemption.

So, first, it helps me to remember, as I ponder the mystery of pain and evil, that God did not create them. The second point of light is this: Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good. 

He does this by fulfilling His promise in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Notice that the verse doesn’t say God causes evil and suffering, just that he promises to cause good to emerge. And notice that the verse doesn’t say we all will see immediately or even in this life how God has caused good to emerge from a bad circumstance. Remember, we only see things dimly in this world. And notice that God doesn’t make this promise to everyone. He makes the solemn pledge that he will take the bad circumstances that befall us and cause good to emerge if we’re committed to following Him.

The Old Testament gives us a great example in the story of Joseph, who went through terrible suffering, being sold into slavery by his brothers, unfairly accused of a crime and falsely imprisoned. Finally, after a dozen years, he was put in a role of great authority where he could save the lives of his family and many others.

This is what he said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” And if you’re committed to God, He promises that He can and will take whatever pain you’re experiencing and draw something good from it.

You might say, “No, he can’t in my circumstance. The harm was too great, the damage was too extreme, the depth of my suffering has been too much. No, in my case there’s no way God can cause any good to emerge.”

But if you doubt God’s promise, listen to what a wise man said to me when I was researching my book The Case for Faith: God took the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe — deicide, or the death of God on the cross — and turned it into the very best thing that has happened in history of universe: the opening up of heaven to all who follow Him. So if God can take the very worst circumstance imaginable and turn it into the very best situation possible, can he not take the negative circumstances of your life and create something good from them?

He can and He will. God can use our suffering to draw us to Himself, to mold and sharpen our character, to influence others for Him – He can draw something good from our pain in a myriad of ways…if we trust and follow Him.

Now, the third point of light: The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.

A lot of times you’ll hear people say: “If God has the power to eradicate evil and suffering, then why doesn’t He do it?” And the answer is that because He hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean He won’t do it. You know, I wrote my first novel last year. What if someone read only half of it and then slammed it down and said, “Well, Lee did a terrible job with that book. There are too many loose ends with the plot. He didn’t resolve all the issues with the characters.” I’d say, “Hey – you only read half the book!”

And the Bible says that the story of this world isn’t over yet. It says the day will come when sickness and pain will be eradicated and people will be held accountable for the evil they’ve committed. Justice will be served in a perfect way. That day will come, but not yet.

So what’s holding God up? One answer is that some of you may be. He’s actually delaying the consummation of history in anticipation that some of you will still put your trust in Him and spend eternity in heavenHe’s delaying everything out of His love for you. Second Peter 3:9 says: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”To me, that’s evidence of a loving God, that He would care that much for you.

Point of Light #4: Our suffering will pale in comparison to what God has in store for his followers.

I certainly don’t want to minimize pain and suffering, but it helps if we take a long-term perspective. Look at this verse, and remember they were written by the apostle Paul, who suffered through beatings and stonings and shipwrecks and imprisonments and rejection and hunger and thirst and homelessness and far more pain that most of us will ever have to endure. These are his words:

Second Corinthians 4:17: “For our light and momentary troubles” — wait a second: light and momentary troubles? Five different times his back was shredded when he was flogged 39 lashes with a whip; three times he was beaten to a bloody pulp by rods. But he says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Paul also wrote Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Think of it this way. Let’s say that on the first day of 2012, you had an awful, terrible day. You had an emergency root canal at the dentist and the ran out of pain-killers. You crashed your car and had no insurance. Your stock portfolio took a nosedive. Your spouse got sick. A friend betrayed you. From start to finish, it was like the title of that children’s book: Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

But then every other day of the year was just incredibly terrific. Your relationship with God is close and real and intimate. A friend wins the lottery and gives you $100 million. You get promoted at work to your dream job. Time magazine puts your photo on its cover as “The Person of the Year.” You have your first child and he’s healthy and strong. Your marriage is idyllic, your health is fabulous, you have a six-month vacation in Tahiti.

Then next New Year’s Day someone asks“So, how was your 2012?” You’d say, “It was great; it was wonderful!” And they’d say, “But didn’t it start out bad? Didn’t you go through a lot of trouble that first day?”

You’d think back and say, “You’re right. That was a bad day, no denying it. It was difficult at the time. It was hard. It was painful. But when I look at the totality of the year, when I put everything in context, it’s been a great year. The 364 terrific days far outweigh the one bad day. That day just sort of fades away.”

And maybe that’s a good analogy for heaven. Listen to me – that is not to deny the reality of your pain in this life. It might be terrible. It might be chronic. My wife Leslie has a medical condition that puts her in pain every single day. Maybe you’re suffering from a physical ailment or heartache at this very moment. But in heaven, after 354,484,545 days of pure bliss — and with an infinite more to come — if someone asked, “So, how has your existence been?”, you’d instantly react by saying, “It has been absolutely wonderful! Words can’t describe the joy and the delight and the fulfillment!”

And if they said, “But didn’t you have a tough time before you got here,” you’d probably think back and say, “Well, yes, it’s true that those days were painful, I can’t deny that. They were difficult, they were bad. But when I put them into context, in light of all God’s outpouring of goodness to me, those bad days aren’t even worth comparing with the eternity of blessings and joy that I’m experiencing.”

It’s like the story that British church leader Galvin Reid tells about meeting a young man who had fallen down a flight of stairs as a baby and shattered his back. He had been in and out of hospitals his whole life — and yet he made the astounding comment that he thinks God is fair. Reid asked him, “How old are you?” The boy said, “Seventeen.” Reid asked, “How many years have you spend in hospitals?” The boy said, “Thirteen years.” The pastor said with astonishment, “And you think that is fair?” And the boy replied: “Well, God has all eternity to make it up to me.”

And He will. God promises a time when there will be no more crying, no more tears, no more pain and suffering, when we will be reunited with God in perfect harmony, forever. Let the words of First Corinthians 2:9 soak into your soul: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” That’s absolutely breath-taking, isn’t it?

Finally, Point of Light #5: We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage. 

We’ve all seen examples of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter, to reject God, to become hard and angry and sullen, can cause another person to turn to God, to become more gentle and more loving and more tender, willing to reach out to compassionately help other people who are in pain. Some who lose a child to a drunk driver turn inward in chronic rage and never-ending despair; another turns outward to help others by founding Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

As one philosopher said: “I believe all suffering is at least potential good, an opportunity for good. It’s up to our free choice to actualize that potential. Not all of us benefit from suffering and learn from it, because that’s up to us, it’s up to our free will.”

We make the choice to either run away from God or to run to Him. But what happens if we run to Him?

I started this talk with part of what Jesus said in John 16:33. Now let me give you the entire verse: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. But be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

In other words, He offers us the two very things we need when we’re hurting: peace to deal with our present and courage to deal with our future. How? Because he has conquered the world! Through His own suffering and death, He has deprived this world of its ultimate power over you. Suffering doesn’t have the last word anymore. Death doesn’t have the last word anymore. God has the last word!

So let me finish the story of Leslie and I driving through the fog in Wisconsin. We were following the taillights of that truck when the fog slowly began to lift, the rain began to let up and we entered a town with some lights – things were becoming clearer, we could see better, and as we rounded a curve, silhouetted against the night sky, guess what we saw? We saw the steeple of a church and the cross of Christ. After driving through the confusion of the fog for so long, that image struck me with poignancy I’ll never forget. Because it was through that cross that Jesus conquered the world for us.

As that wise man once said to me: God’s ultimate answer to suffering isn’t an explanation; it’s the incarnation. Suffering is a personal problem; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached, and disinterested deity; He entered into our world and personally experienced our pain. Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives. Are you broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Did someone betray you? He was sold out. Are your most tender relationships broken? He loved and He was rejected. Did people turn from you? They hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper. Does He descend into all of our hells? Yes, He does. From the depths of a Nazi death camp, Corrie ten Boom wrote these words: “No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.” Every tear we shed becomes his tear.

And then the wise man told me this: it’s not just that God knows and sympathizes with you in your troubles. After all, any close friend can do that. Any close friend can sit beside you and comfort you and empathize with you. No, Jesus is much closer than your closest friend. Because if you’ve put your trust in Him, then He is in you. And, therefore, your sufferings are His sufferings; your sorrow is His sorrow.

So when tragedy strikes, as it will; when suffering comes, as it will; when you’re wrestling with pain, as you will – and when you make the choice to run into His arms, here’s what you’re going to discover: you’ll find peace to deal with the present, you’ll find courage to deal with your future, and you’ll find the incredible promise of eternal life in heaven.

As I’ve been saying, all of us will go through pain and suffering. But let me end by going back to this specific tragedy that took place two days ago in Aurora. For all the things it leaves us confused about, one of the truths it clearly illustrates is that life is so fragile and short. These people were going to a movie! They had no clue that this might be their last moments in this world. Friends, in this sin-scarred world, we never know when death will come knocking. Often, we don’t get any warning when a heart attack strikes, or when a drunk driver crosses the centerline, or when a wildfire sweeps through a canyon, or when an airplane loses power. And so the question I’m compelled to ask you is this – “Are you ready?”

One of the first verses I memorized as a Christian is 1 John 5:13: “These things I’ve written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”

God doesn’t want you wondering. He doesn’t want you steeped in anxiety over whether you’re headed for heaven. His infallible, inerrant Word says you can know for sure.

Don’t rely on the fact that you come to church or you’ve gone through some sort of religious ritual in the past. The Bible is clear that we can be religious but not be in a relationship with God. Religious activities and affiliations never saved anyone. Salvation comes from knowing Christ personally and receiving His provision for YOUR sin and YOUR future. It comes from making him YOUR Savior, by asking Him to forgive YOUR every sin, and by asking Him to lead YOUR life.

But it doesn’t happen automatically. It doesn’t come by attending a great church, or being baptized, or taking communion, or hanging out with a bunch of Christians. It comes from deciding in your heart that you want to turn from your sin, to stop trusting in your own resources, and to accept the forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus purchased on the cross and is offering you as a free gift. THAT is how you gain God’s peace and confidence.

So settle it now! Resolve this today, at this moment, so that if tragedy were to strike, your eternity with God would be secure. I don’t know all the ways God is going to draw some good from this Aurora situation, but wouldn’t it be something if He were starting right now, with you personally, and using this message to bring you into His kingdom at this very moment? Let the pain of that tragedy open your heart to Christ. Let’s take what was intended for evil and watch God start creating something good from it.

Pray with me right now to receive Christ – so that you can know for sure that even if the very worst thing were to happen to you after you leave the auditorium today, it will immediately be followed by the very best thing of all.

Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the unique Son of God. I confess to You that I’m a sinner. In repentance and faith, I reach out right now and receive the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life that You graciously purchased on the cross when You died as my substitute to pay for all of my sins. Please, Lord Jesus, lead my life – because from this moment on, I am Yours. I pray this in Your name.  Amen.

— Lee Strobel article source: Bible Gateway

Here’s a quick review of Lee’s five main points:

  1. God is not the creator of evil and suffering.
  2. Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good.
  3. The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.
  4. Our suffering will pale in comparison to what God has in store for his followers.
  5. We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage.

One final note from me (Derek). If you have just trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, or if you have questions about any part of Lee’s article, let me know. I would love to help you in your walk with Christ, including sorting out all that you may be feeling when tragedy and suffering impacts your life or the life of someone you care about.

And most importantly, I want to make sure that you understand what Lee says at the end of his article, the eternal significance of placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.


Posted by on November 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Christ-Honoring Marriages

For every wedding that I perform, I pray a blessing over the bride and groom near the end of the ceremony. The prayer goes something like this:

Heavenly Father, I pray your blessings upon Joseph and Mary. May Jesus be the Lord of their lives and the Lord of their home. May the Bible be their guide for living and may prayer be an important part of their life together as husband and wife. I pray that their love will be an example of Christian love, the kind that will point people to true love found only in Christ. May the Holy Spirit work in amazing ways to produce His fruit in the lives of Joseph and Mary. Bless their family and be glorified through their marriage. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

ALH Title[4]What does a Christ-honoring marriage look like? The Bible describes Christ-honoring love in 1 Corinthians 13, and it addresses Christ-honoring marriage in Genesis 2:18-25Ephesians 5:22-33 and other passages, including 1 Peter 3:1-7.

1 In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives. Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming. Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:1-7)

The witness of a godly wife

In the first century, many people were coming to faith in Christ. In some families, a wife would come to faith in Christ but her husband remained an unbeliever. The same thing happens in our day when one spouse comes to faith in Christ before their spouse. What advice does the Bible give a wife in such circumstances? The Bible is clear in verses 1-2 that the wife is to focus on living a Christ-honoring, pure, reverent life and let her actions speak louder than words. Rather than preaching sermons at her husband, she is to win him over by the way she lives her life. Her life is to be a reflection of the love, humility, and lifestyle of Jesus, and this will be a powerful witness of a life changed by Christ. Her Christ-honoring life and love may lead her husband to trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The beauty of a godly woman

It is tempting for women (and men, for that matter) to focus on outward beauty. Peter reminds us that true beauty is not found in fashionable clothing, jewelry or accessories. True beauty is what is on the inside of a woman, a gentle and quiet spirit, which are very valuable in God’s eyes (v4). Ladies such as Sarah (Abraham’s wife) serve as an example for women to follow. She was focused on pursuing inner beauty rather than being consumed with exterior beauty. Ladies are to follow her example of godliness and inner beauty, the kind that God produces in your life.

The understanding of a godly husband

A godly, Christ-honoring husband will live with his wife with understanding. That is, he will seek to really understand her. He will understand that even though she may be physically weaker than him, that does not mean she is lesser than him (v7). She is his co-heir of the grace of life. She is truly his partner in life. He should protect her, love her, serve her, care for her, and sacrifice for her. He should understand her needs and seek to meet them. When he does these things, he will keep his relationship with his wife strong, their marriage will be Christ-honoring, and his prayers will not be hindered. His fellowship with God will be strong.

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Posted by on October 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


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