Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Strange Gift

I hope you’re doing well and enjoying the summer! I’m having a wonderful visit in Scotland and this week in Northern Ireland! I’m so thankful for God’s many gifts to me in this new season. =)

However, I still remember what it was like living in the season of suffering. This week I want to share something I wrote almost ten years ago. While I am so very thankful to no longer be in a season of suffering, I am also thankful for God’s wisdom in taking me through that season. He gives us gifts in every season of our lives. It’s just that some of them seem more strange than others.

Jesus is the greatest gift of all! And whatever brings us closer to Him can be considered one of His gifts to us.

I hope this post will encourage you today.


The Gift Of Suffering

Have you seen the movie The Ultimate Gift? It’s about a wealthy man who dies and leaves his grandson a series of strange gifts. The grandson just wants to know how much money he inherits, but he can’t find out until he receives all the unusual gifts - such as work, problems, giving, etc. Too often I’m like the grandson, waiting for God to give me the “good stuff” while being frustrated with His “strange” gifts. Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.” It’s taken a long time, but I’m finally learning to see suffering as one of God’s gifts.

God’s Word says a lot about suffering. Once I started paying attention, I found it in almost every book of the Bible. Suffering isn’t just part of living on earth; it’s also part of God’s plan. He uses it for our good.

I know it doesn’t feel that way. Suffering feels painful, depressing, hopeless, devastating…. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to live with broken health, waiting for years for answers and healing. I’ve felt the agony of losing people I love. I’ve been misunderstood and mistreated by others. I’ve experienced all these things and more. Suffering hurts. Yet, Jesus promised His followers they would suffer. He knew that ultimately it would be for our good, and He filled His Word with encouragement for those who are suffering.

Suffering produces character, maturity, and hope (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-4).
Those who suffer for what is right are blessed (1 Peter 3:14a).
Suffering allows us to receive God’s comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God uses hardship and suffering to train us for holiness (Hebrews 12:7-11).

Even with these verses, sometimes it’s still hard to accept suffering as a gift. There are three specific benefits of suffering I’ve experienced that have enabled me to receive this strange gift with gratitude.

1) Suffering has given me a desperate dependence on God’s Word.

When my life was mostly problem free, it was easy to think I was pretty spiritual and had all the answers. Once suffering hit, nothing made sense, and I realized how desperately I needed truth. Psalm 119:92 says, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” Only God’s Word can give me the understanding about God and life that I need to endure trials and hardship.

There were days when, desperate for answers, I opened my Bible and read, and read, and read…until finally I found the answers or encouragement I needed. The Psalmist wrote, “My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:50). God’s Word holds precious promises that bring great comfort. Through suffering I’ve discovered the riches of God’s Word, sufficient for every day and every need.

2) Suffering has produced deeper fellowship with Jesus.

In Philippians 3:10, Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings….” Through suffering I’ve learned more about who Jesus is, what He’s like, and how He works. I’ve wrestled with questions, doubts, and fears. Before I went through painful trials, I believed God was good, loving, faithful, sovereign, etc. Now, I know He is.  I’ve experienced God’s grace in every situation and found that He is enough. Beyond that, when every source of happiness this world offers was stripped away, I discovered the “inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8) that comes from simply knowing my Lord. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s only through pain that Jesus can open our eyes to the pleasure He alone offers.

3) Suffering has taught me to keep an eternal perspective.

It’s easy to be comfortable and at home in this world, until we experience suffering. Then everything changes. For me suffering has been a needed reality check. It’s made me ask questions like: Why am I here? What is my purpose? What am I living for? I understand now that God created me and put me on this earth for Himself and His glory, not for my comfort or happiness. 1 Peter 4:1-2 says that the one who has suffered doesn’t live for himself or herself anymore, “but rather for the will of God.”

I only get one life. I’m thankful for the gift of suffering that changes my perspective and keeps me from wasting my life on selfish pursuits, when eternity is what really matters. Paul said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Life now contains suffering and sacrifice; eternity contains rewards and glory. Understanding this has changed the way I think, what I desire, and how I live. Suffering helps keep my eyes on heaven, my true home.

I don’t like it, I often complain about it, but I don’t doubt that suffering is a gift from our loving heavenly Father.

In the end of the movie, The Ultimate Gift, we see the purpose of all the gifts that were so hard for the grandson to accept. They prepared him to receive his inheritance. God has a purpose too. He knows what we need. Sometimes suffering is the most precious gift we could receive. In the end, we too will understand how God used it to prepare us for our inheritance.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Friday, June 9, 2017

Unexpected Ways - Guest Post (Maneras inesperadas – Mensaje de invitado)

I apologize that this post is a little late. I've been traveling and lost track of what day it was. =)

Anyway, this week I have a special treat for you - a guest post from my mom! Enjoy! =)


Unexpected Ways - by Jan Harris

In 1971 my husband Jim and I bought our first house in Kansas. It had real hardwood floors, a huge, fenced back yard, and we could walk to church. We enjoyed our small church. We made good friends there. The Bible teaching was solid and helpful.

Yet I felt there was something missing in our lives.

Every Sunday we would be inspired by the sermon and walk home determined to live better Christian lives that week. But by Tuesday, or sometimes Monday, or sometimes even Sunday night, we had broken all our resolutions and found ourselves back in the clutches of selfishness or pride or….

Finally, I cried out to God in desperation, “Lord, increase our faith!”

God is faithful.

In a direct answer to that prayer, when Jim’s contract came up for renewal, the committee turned him down. We had two small children, house payments, and no job. I wanted to panic.

As God had planned, that very week our church was involved in a Billy Graham crusade. One of the leaders spent the weekend with us, and we unloaded our doubts and fears on him.

“What’s God trying to do?” we asked. “Jim really liked this job. Why did God give it to him last year, if He was just going to take it away this year?”

What a kind, patient man he was. He took us into God’s Word:
to Matthew 6:34a, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself…” (NASB)
to Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” (NASB)
and to many more promises.

It wasn’t that we’d never heard these verses. It was just that in our worry, we had forgotten to claim them.

“Don’t you think God has a plan?” he asked us.
Well, when you put it like that….

At last we stopped pacing the floor (Jim), and cleaning everything in the house (me), and prayed to God for wisdom, for guidance, and for faith to trust Him.

A couple of days later Jim said, “Maybe this is a good time to move back to Missouri, so the kids can be closer to their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. What do you think about that?”

So it came about that God opened a job for Jim in Missouri, where we lived just thirty minutes from our parents. Where we reconnected with friends. Where we met some veteran missionaries with New Tribes Mission. Where God got our attention and showed us that we could be missionaries, too.

But that’s another story. The point of this story is that sometimes God answers our prayers in most unexpected ways.

Don’t be afraid of that. Trust His love. Trust His wisdom. Trust His faithfulness.

Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the Lord! -Psalm 117 (ESV)


Maneras inesperadas – Mensaje de invitado

Esta semana tengo un regalo especial para ustedes - ¡un mensaje de invitado de mi mamá! ¡Disfrútenlo! =)


Maneras inesperadas – por Jan Harris

En 1971 mi esposo y yo compramos nuestra primera casa en Kansas. Tenía pisos de verdadera madera, un enorme patio cercado y podíamos caminar a la iglesia. Disfrutamos nuestra pequeña iglesia. Hicimos buenos amigos allá. La enseñanza bíblica era sólida y de ayuda.

Sin embargo, sentía que algo faltaba en nuestras vidas.

Cada domingo éramos inspirados por el sermón y volvíamos a casa decididos a vivir mejores vidas cristianas esa semana. Pero, para el martes o a veces el lunes u otras veces incluso el domingo en la noche, habíamos roto todas nuestras resoluciones y nos habíamos vuelto a encontrar en las garras del egoísmo, el orgullo o…

Finalmente, exclamé a Dios con desesperación: “¡Señor, aumenta nuestra fe!”

Dios el fiel.

En respuesta directa a esa oración, cuando llegó el momento de la renovación del contrato de Jim, el comité lo rechazó. Teníamos dos hijos pequeños, pagos de la casa y ningún trabajo. Quería entrar en pánico.

Como Dios había planeado, esa misma semana nuestra iglesia estuvo envuelta en una cruzada de Billy Graham. Uno de los líderes pasó el fin de semana con nosotros y descargamos nuestras dudas y temores sobre él.

“¿Qué está tratando de hacer Dios?” preguntamos. “A Jim realmente le gustaba este trabajo. ¿Por qué Dios se lo dio el año pasado, si sencillamente se lo iba a quitar este año?

Qué hombre tan amable, paciente era. Nos llevó a la Palabra de Dios:
a Mateo 6:34a: “Por tanto, no os preocupéis por el día de mañana; porque el día de mañana se cuidará de sí mismo… ” (LBLA)

a Romanos 8:28: “Y sabemos que para los que aman a Dios, todas las cosas cooperan para bien, …” (LBLA)

y a muchas otras promesas.

No era que nunca hubiéramos escuchado estos versículos. Era solamente que en nuestra preocupación habíamos olvidado apropiárnoslos.

“¿No crees que Dios tiene un plan?” Él nos preguntó. Bueno, ya que lo pones así…

Finalmente dejamos de dar vueltas por la habitación (Jim) y de limpiar todo en la casa (yo) y oramos a Dios por sabiduría, por guía y por fe para confiar en Él.

Un par de días después Jim dijo: “Quizá éste sea un buen tiempo para irnos de regreso a Missouri, así los niños pueden estar más cerca de sus abuelos, tíos y primos. ¿Qué piensas de eso?”

Así que sucedió que Dios proveyó un trabajo para Jim en Missouri, donde vivimos a solo treinta minutos de nuestros padres. Donde nos reconectamos con amigos. Donde nos encontramos con algunos misioneros veteranos. Donde Dios llamó nuestra atención y nos mostró que nosotros también podíamos ser misioneros.

Pero esa es otra historia. El punto de esta historia es que a veces Dios responde nuestras oraciones de las maneras más inesperadas.

No te asustes por eso. Confía en Su amor, en Su sabiduría, en Su fidelidad.

“Alabad al SEÑOR, naciones todas; alabadle, pueblos todos. Porque grande es su misericordia para con nosotros, y la fidelidad del SEÑOR es eterna. ¡Aleluya!” Salmo 117 (LBLA)