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The Problem of Pain and Suffering

The Cross of Christ taught us that the God of the Bible understands our pain, and that He is on our side to restore all things. While other religious philosophers teach humankind to begin working hard and exerting effort to reach God, Christianity teaches an all-powerful God who saved us by descending to earth and suffering our pains, providing a solution to the pain problem. Believe in Him. He understands. He heals.

Someone once said, ?Peace is not the absence of problems, but the presence of God in the middle of them.? Let?s make today the day we analyze and understand how to react and move forward when problems come close to our lives and our families. The great reality of problems and blessings is that both come unannounced. Let?s find the solutions together.

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Faith and Religious Practice

Her strength was at its limit, and the shoving was more than she could withstand; somebody bumped her unaware, and she fell to the ground. Jesus was now within arm's length, so she reached out toward His passing figure. The thought flashed through her mind: If I can only touch the hem of His garment, something wonderful will happen! So placing all her strength in that last effort, she stretched out her hand until she touched the Master's garment.

Then the miracle occurred. She instantly knew deep inside that she was healed, and it felt more wonderful than words could describe! There was perfect comfort where a moment before the ever-present pain had held her in its grip. She sat there reveling in gratitude and joy. Now the crowd had stopped, and Jesus turned and extended His hand to her and helped her to her feet. That hand was an invitation to the beginning of a new life with a promise of fulfillment and happiness for all her future years.

Jesus had given life to her dreams.

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Camera Roll

I am reminded of a poem my good friend Kate wrote. The poem compared marriage to a stained glass window - so many happy, shining, colorful moments, and yet between them can be found such harsh, rough darkness. The poem ended by posing the question, What is more important in stained glass - bright light beaming through brilliant colors, or dark mortar melding, welding all into one?

So much of my Christian walk has followed this same stained glass pattern. There have been shining moments, for sure - mountain top experiences where I saw the hand of God, felt the Lord's unmistakable leading,... What I have a lot more of are ordinary days. So many bland, habitual times - going to church week after week, blessing the food and family devotions, fighting for just a little time to daily talk with God. But I have come to believe that these humble habits are the mortar of my faith. I won't be doing any foundational building of my faith during a crises, because I'll likely be barely holding on at all during that time. But I will be holding on regardless, precisely because I took the time to strengthen my faith before the challenge came.


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Connecting With the Story

A story does not endure the test of time unless the listeners find themselves within the story. This is why biblical narratives have lasted for thousands of years and why they are still relevant for our lives today.

Many years ago the story of Sarah (Mrs. Abraham) took on personal meaning when God used her life to teach me a valuable lesson. One morning during my worship time, the thought came, "You are like Sarah." That unexpected and surprising thought drove me to study her story more deeply. In the process, I learned to appreciate her life as God showed me things that she and I hold in common.

God revealed that answering my own prayers is not in my job description. I am to wait for Him, trusting He will answer my prayers to the best of my good as well as in His perfect timing. Over the years, Sarah's story has remained with me as a strong reminder that God is in charge of everything and I need to allow Him control of my life.

What Bible story or character do you most relate to?


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Judgement on Babylon

Two groups are specified as being seduced by Babylon in the final crisis. The first are the kings of the earth, portrayed as committing adultery with the prostitute Babylon (Revelation 17:2). The second group mentioned are those who dwell on the earth, who are spiritually drunk with the wine of Babylon?s immorality (Revelation 17:2, 8; cf. Revelation 14:8). This is the general populace? not the world?s leaders. While the world?s leaders commit adultery with the prostitute Babylon, the rest of earth?s people are intoxicated by her deceptive teachings and activities, enticing them to worship the beast (Revelation 14:8; 18:3). When people are drunk, they do not think soberly and realize too late the nature of their bad decisions and actions.

Both groups are equally deceived and have put themselves under the control of Babylon for political and economic benefit. Revelation tells us that the world will once again be united at the time of the end and religion will dominate in the way it did during the Middle Ages. The time will come when the world?s people will realize their bad choices and turn against Babylon; but just the same, it will be too late.

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The Seven Last Plagues

Yes, His servants may safely trust in Him alone, without fear, looking unto Jesus, pressing on in obedience to His requirements, leaving everything that is joined to the world, whether the world opposes or favors. Their success comes from God, and they will not fail because they have not the wealth and influence of wicked men. If they fail, it will be because they do not obey the Lord's requirements, and the Holy Spirit is not with them....

Our only safety is in being joined to the Lord Jesus Christ. We can afford to lose the freindship of worldly men. Those who join themselves to worldly men, that they may carry out the unsanctified purposes, make a fearful mistake; for they forfeit the favor and blessing of God.    This Day With God  p. 354

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The Problem of Pain and Suffering

I am not always in agreement with what happens to me, but I have hope in the One who is within me.

The key is having faith even though __________ happens. Death happens. Separation from loved ones happens. Divorce happens. Cancer happens. Losing your job happens. Very rarely are you able to control what happens to you, but you can decide how you react. Instead of running far away from God when there is pain, you run to Him. He is big enough to hold all your tears, pain, and anger. You do not have to suffer alone. Nothing can separate you from His love.

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Giving frees us from ourselves. It is a call to freedom. It lifts us out of our old comfort zones and safety nets. We are slaves of things. Giving is the best exercise to feeling the fresh air of freedom, which infuses peace and joy in the heart. Zacchaeus felt this freedom, the rich tax collector, hated by the Jews and despised by the Romans. When he was born again, he said, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold" (Luke 19:8, RSV). To give becomes a part of our spiritual nature received from Christ when we are born again. Being born again, we receive the nature of God, who is love, and the Holy Spirit enables us to give with love and generosity.

To give launches us into the cycle of life and shows us the way in which we should walk. It makes us part of the purpose of creation. Nature is a symphony of giving. The sun gives its heat and light, air gives us oxygen to breathe, water sustains all life on earth, and from the ground come forth fruits. This is the love of the Creator.

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Bailing Water

I don't know what the disciples imagined Jesus would do that night on the stormy sea. I know they were afraid for their lives, I know they woke Him up in desperation.. I think they wanted Jesus to help bail water. I think they hoped He would grab an oar and swiftly row them to shore. But Jesus stood up and shut down the whole storm, and the disciples were terrified (amazed is a good translation).

How many times have I done this? I ask God to simply bail some water in my life, Wwhen all along He has the power to actually stop the storm entirely. I forget this. I underestimate Him. I waste time heaving tiny buckets, when I serve a God who controls the sea. I pray stilted prayers, hoping He can just help me survive, just get me to shore. But I forget I am in life's boat with God who is able to rescue me from my situation entirely!


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The Unforced Rythym of Grace

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light  (Matthew 11:28-30).

The  labor  from which Jesus offers  rest  is not physical labor, but the emotional  anxiety of laboring under a false picture of God?s character, which leads us to believe that His acceptance must be earned. We know this is His point because He offers rest for our  souls, which is psyche in the original Greek text. He?s literally saying, I want to release your mind from its labor.

This is the deeper rest that we really need: the rest of knowing that God loves us and saves us by His grace, not because we have done sufficient work to make ourselves worthy of His love.

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Spending Time With God Through Praise

A few years ago at Thanksgiving time, several church members were asked to take part in a program by sharing what we were thankful for. I was glad for the opportunity to express my gratitude to God because my husband, Paul, and I had much for which to say Thank You.

But as I looked at my gratitude list a question came to my mind. Am I only thankful because of the physical things God has given me? What would I have said the previous year had I been asked to share what I was thankful for? There hadn?t been a whole lot to be grateful for then, or so it seemed!

The psalmist says,  I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth  (Psalm 34:1). He goes on to give reasons for our praise: Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!   The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all  (verses 8, 17?19).

Even in the darkest of times, we can find much to praise and thank God for.

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The Seven Last Plagues

The plagues are redemptive in nature. Just as God sent the plagues on Egypt to deliver His people and take them to the Promised Land (Exodus 7?12), here God sends the seven last plagues to defeat His enemies and deliver His people from those who want to destroy them.

Second, the last plagues are punitive (Revelation 15:1; 16:2). In Revelation 6:9?11, the martyred saints are pictured as crying to God for vindication. Their cry is representative of all God?s suffering people throughout history. Now, with the outpouring of the seven last plagues, their prayers are ultimately answered and God?s people are vindicated.

Third, the seven last plagues are intended to bring rebellious humanity to the realization of the consequences of their choices and actions. In Revelation 13, the people of the world have chosen to follow Babylon. As God withdraws His protection from the world, the seven last plagues are poured out on the earth with devastating effect. Now people are forced to consider the consequences of their choices.

Like the Egyptian plagues, the seven last plagues are intended to disclose the hardness of the hearts of those who rejected the gospel (cf. Exodus 7:1?5). As severe as the last plagues are, they do not move people to repentance. Just as each of the Egyptian plagues increased the hardness of the hearts of Pharaoh and his officials, so each plague coming upon the worshipers of the satanic trinity hardens their hearts into an even greater hatred of God and His people (Revelation 16:9?11).


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