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Alpha Ministries, Inc

Church in the Woods at ....

Freedom Ranch

Choices

Dear Saints,

All of us are confronted with a multitude of choices to make daily. Many of them seem small and almost inconsequential while others seem overwhelming and life threatening. What makes life so complicated and hard is not just the choices we make but often it seems we really have no choice at all. Much of our confusion and frustration in life comes from the fact that we are not sure what choices we have, if we even have a choice, and exactly what choice we should make in any given situation. Welcome to the world of a control freak!

Seeking to control the people and circumstances in our life comes from a deep need to make ourselves secure in an insecure world. There is no guarantee that we will be unconditionally loved, accepted, and forgiven in this dog-eat-dog and often hostile world. In fact, chances are that we will be neglected, abandoned, or even abused. Likewise, unless we can control the people and circumstances in the chaos of this world it is impossible to find a real sense of importance, purpose, and competence. Wrong or bad choices seem naturally to lead to a meaningless and unsatisfying life.

Underlying all other choices we must make is the most important and basic choice. It is the choice the Bible urges us to make daily and describes it in a variety of terms. Jesus invites us to take his “yoke” upon us (Matthew 11: 28-30). Paul urges us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God” (Romans 12: 1-2). James tells us to ask for wisdom from above (James 1: 5). Peter calls on us to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5: 6). All these directives (and many more) have one thing in common…surrender. We give up trying to make it happen and let God do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

In the AA program of recovery the 3rd step describes this kind of surrender as deciding to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. Making the choice to surrender all our decisions as well as our very lives to the control and care of God is the foundation and start of a new and satisfying lifestyle of grace in which God, through his indwelling Spirit, leads us, guides us into all truth, comforts us in our choices, reminds us who we are, and produces the very character of Christ in us. As Paul instructed the Philippians 2: 12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. “

The fundamental choice we all must make each day is whether we want to let God control our lives. It is really a no-brainer since he is the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe and loves us so much he gave his life for us. For me it boils down to one simple prayer each morning, “Lord please remind me of who you made me to be in your son and guide me in how you want me to love others around me today”. I really do not have any other choice that makes sense.

John

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Eternal View of Suffering

Posted on 9 July, 2014 at 10:55

Dear Saints;

For years I have continued to share what I call the eternal view of suffering. Because we live in a sin-cursed world in a sin-cursed bodies we know that even we as God’s children “groan within ourselves” while we wait for the redemption of our bodies. Even though we are created in Christ Jesus as brand new persons, we yet live in the same body we were born with. And in that body is the presence of indwelling sin the Bible refers to as the flesh; that is, the sum total of all the conditioning, the habits, coping strategies, and false assumptions left over from the “old man” or person we used to be before we were born again. Paul refers to our natural bodies as, “the body of this death” since the sin of the flesh is what causes our bodies to grow old and fall apart. The wages of sin is death.

Although our Father in heaven knows that where we are going is far better than where we are, and has even prepared a brand new spiritual body reserved for us in heaven; he chooses to leave us here for the same reason he sent his only begotten son into this world. We are ambassadors for Christ with a mission to share the gospel of grace with the whole world. The fact that we yet live in a world that is falling apart, in bodies that are falling apart makes our suffering inevitable. Especially since the “whole creation groans and travails together in pain until now” we are going to have to endure suffering. There is just no place to go where we would be away from suffering.

For this reason we need to learn how to deal with our suffering rather than try our best to avoid it. This is where the eternal view of suffering comes in. We must learn to see our suffering as God sees it. The apostle Paul put it this way, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) Through the eyes of faith we are able to see the things which are not seen by the natural eye...we are able to have an eternal perspective of our suffering.

 

 

The first issue we must deal with is that of surprise. As children of God we must not be surprised when we suffer in this world. Unfortunately many baby Christians have made a deal with God that goes something like this, “God, I am going to do my best to be a good Christian and you, in return, don’t let anything bad happen to me or those I love.” Then they are shocked when the doctor tells them they have cancer or their children get hooked on drugs. Peter warns, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing has happened unto you:” (1 Peter 4: 12) Instead he tells us to rejoice in as much as we are partakers of Christ’s suffering we will also share in his exceeding joy.

 

 

The eternal view of suffering simply means that we are able to see the end result of our suffering at the beginning of our suffering. Living in this physical world of space and matter, we also live in time. However, when we leave this physical world and enter into eternity, there is no time. Right now we can only experience the moment. We can remember the past and project the future, but we can only experience this present moment. Exercising faith in the eternal word of God we are actually able to experience the promises of love, joy unspeakable, and the peace that passes all understanding. Because we have received eternal life in Christ we may also begin to live eternally and see the end results of our suffering at the beginning of it. The end result of exercising such faith is the knowledge that we cannot possibly lose. All things (even our suffering) really do work together for our good. As children of God we may expect to suffer as did Jesus in this world. But just as Jesus was victorious in the end, so are we. Faith in the eternal view of suffering brings hope, a joyful, confident expectation of our future. And such hope or rejoicing sets us free to actually care about and love others like Christ. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost!”

 

 

John

Categories: Suffering