Tag Archives: suffering

Recap of PLM Conference: Fix your eyes on Jesus

I just returned home from the Pure Life Ministries annual conference which was such an amazing experience and encounter with God.    Some 480 men and women gathered in Florence, KY to worship the God who has the power – and the desire – to set each of us free from the chains that ensnare us.    It’s an amazing thing to be in the presence of such testimonies and witnesses to God’s redeeming love.

I wanted to take a moment while it’s fresh on my mind to write down a few of the things I took away from the great speakers who shared over the last few days.   I hope this helps me to better apply what I’ve learned and to edify you.

Steve Gallagher referenced the proclivity within each of us to gravitate towards either law bending or law keeping.   He stressed that when both are right with the Lord and walking in the Spirit both are a blessing to the Church.   We need the law benders to upset our status-quo and breath fresh wind into our sails and we need the law keepers to remind us of God’s holiness and demands upon the Christian to obey him.

Steve then did a beautiful job referencing each of the seven churches in Revelation 2 &3, showing what happens when these natural tendencies of ours (law bending or law keeping) cease being surrendered to God.   One thing in particular that stood out to me was pointed towards law keepers, or those of us who can easily become satisfied with having a form of godliness but none of it’s power.    How easy it is to play church and appear to be doing all the right things while our heart is far from God.     I know all too well how easy it is to do this, and how easy it is to fall into a delusion that all is well in doing it.

Dave Leopold built upon this foundation laid by Steve (unbeknownst to either while preparing their messages).  He spoke of how we toil in our own way rather than God’s way.  Building a ministry isn’t always the same, he said, as building God’s kingdom.

Dave’s longing for himself, and his prayer for us, is that we may all prove that we have been with Jesus.  May our very lives – both inner and outer – be evidence that we have spent much time at Jesus’ feet.   Jesus does not desire us to be mere messengers of his message, but desires each of us to become the message.   When he has conquered us, he will send us out to conquer the world in Jesus’ name.

I loved the illustration he shared of the sun.   When we lay out in the sun, we are changed.  Our face let’s the world know that we have been out in the sun.   Likewise, as we spend intimate time with the Son of God, the world will know it.

Dustin Renz shared a powerful message on suffering.   I think he is exactly right that we do not teach or understand suffering within the church.   And yet, the life of Jesus himself as well as all of scripture is full of calls to suffer, even promises that we will.   Dustin shared the following points:

  1. We need to learn to expect suffering.   Jesus promised that we would know trouble in this world.   In fact, the very call to follow Jesus is an invitation to lay down our lives and die.
  2. Suffering shapes us and fits us for service.    James reminds us to consider it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds.   These are preparing us for service.
  3. Learn to endure suffering.   Imagine if Paul had given up after being ship wrecked, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, starved, left to die?   The loss to Christianity would be extraordinary!    We must endure to the end.  Far too often we give up too easily and we have not even come close to experiencing the sort of suffering Paul and countless other Christians have endured.    How many potential testimonies, not to mention our own, are lost because we give up too soon and run back to our sin?

Glen Meldrum shared three snares of the soul which will trip us up time and time again if we are not mindful of them.

  1. We don’t treat sin like sin.   Numbers 33:50-56, God insists that Moses and the people, when they get to the promised land, must drive out the wicked inhabitants and all their idols.    If they do not, they will be “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides” and trouble you all the days you dwell you there.   Jesus was serious about sin, warning to cut out the eye of the hand that causes you to sin.    Whatever is keeping you from Jesus, get rid of it!   Even if it’s something “good.”
  2. Not being very careful to love the Lord (Joshua 23:11-13).    We must be very careful to love God!   Make it your purposeful pursuit in life to spend time with God and nurture this relationship.  No one follows Jesus by accident.  None of us default towards loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.   Our sinful hearts are easily distracted and get caught up in so many other things that we lose sight of our walk with God.    Be careful!
  3. Idolatry rises up in our hearts.   Things like bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, sexual sin, pleasure, and more become the gods we cling to to.  We become what we worship.   The destruction happening in marriages is from hell.   Satan hates God, and his work is to destroy the image of God in us by replacing it with his own image.  How does he do this?  By causing us to have other gods.

All of these messages, though unplanned to be so, beautifully weaved together this overarching theme for me:  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  Pursue Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.   Submit to the love – and the rule – of God in my life.  And pray.   Pray like my life and the lives of others depends on it, because it does!

I’m so grateful for this time of refreshment and revival.   It has inspired me towards a deeper repentance and desire to be of service to God and others in ways that for quite some time I have felt unworthy to pursue because of my past failings.    God reminded me this weekend that he has not altered his feelings towards me nor his call.   I’m grateful that my wife was able to join me on this trip and for work he is doing in her life and ours as a couple.   We are both excited to see what God has in store for us in the weeks, months and years ahead.

 

Who Gets the Glory?

The message this past Thursday at Recovery at Dayton dealt with the avalanches in our life and what we do when things start to cave in all around us.  It’s a powerful message by Mark Beebe and you can watch the whole thing HERE.

One of the main questions each one of us has to wrestle with – and this is true of everyone of us, addict or not – when life throws us a curve is this:

Who gets the glory?

Who gets the glory when an avalanche happens all around you?  Check out this story from Acts where two followers of Jesus get into a pretty big avalanche.  Look and see how they answer the question, “Who gets the glory?”

22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!

Can you believe that?  After being beaten and thrown into a dungeon, Paul and Silas gave glory to God.  Their avalanche didn’t steal God’s glory.

This has been one of the hardest things for me to learn and even harder to practice.  It’s so difficult in the midst of a storm to praise God.  I’m reminded of Job’s words after he lost everything – his family, his land, his home, his livestock – Job declared, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).   That is to say, even if this event and calamity is caused by God Himself, I trust that He is good and I will put my hope in Him and give Him glory alone.  That’s faith!  God, give me faith like this!

Because here’s the deal.  Someone or something is always going to get the glory.   In the midst of an avalanche, either:

  • you are going to get the glory because you will yourself to grit your teeth and get yourself through the mess,
  • your circumstances will get the glory because they will be all you or anyone else ever gets to hear about,
  • your addiction will get the glory because you’ll run to whatever compulsion it is that you think makes you feel safe,
  • or God will get the glory, and you’ll be like Paul and Silas singing praises to Him, trusting that God will bring you through this mess and certainly will not forsake you in the midst of it.

This is a hard lesson to learn and harder to practice.   It’s much easier, and far more recognizable, to give myself, my circumstances or my addiction the glory.  It’s so much easier to blame everyone and everything and to retreat into isolation and indulge in my drug of choice, whether that be porn, a pill, a drink, food or another person or whatever.  It’s downright unnatural and weird to sing praises to God while life is crashing around me.   But that, and perhaps that alone, is the difference between a defeated life and a victorious one.  The difference between an addicted life or a sober one.   The difference between a broken life or a holy one.

I’ve discovered, and Mark shares this in his video message linked above, that the following wisdom found in A.A (Alcoholics Anonymous) helps me tremendously:

One day at a time.

When a disaster happens with my kids or a meltdown occurs between my wife and I or something at work just doesn’t go like I expected or I get that phone call from a family member that someone is sick, or I wake up to find I’ve been hacked and my bank account is empty, I can handle giving God glory for the next 30 minutes.  I can do one day at a time.

It’s when I begin thinking I’ll have to do this all week, or all month, or for the rest of my life that I get paralyzed and feel this is impossible.   But I can do one day at a time. I can focus today on giving God glory no matter what happens today.  I can trust that He will be with me today.  All day.  And tomorrow, by God’s grace, I can wake up and do it again.

When Paul, the same guy who gave glory to God from a prison, had a “thorn in his flesh,” a constant avalanche about him, he prayed that it be removed but heard these words from Jesus:  “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8-10).   One day at a time.  

Who gets the glory in your life?  I pray that when the avalanche comes (and it will come!) you would run to the strong, loving arms of Jesus who has everything you need for today.  His power works best when you come to him in need.  One day at a time.