Friday, June 11, 2010

Learning to Suffer Well

To use a baseball illustration, most Americans have somewhat of a disjointed view of life with God in the picture. Our view is that adding God to the equation when standing in the batter’s box of life naturally means that hitting the ball should be made easier. After all, God is the giver of life and the source from which all good things flow. If I struck out 100 times out of 150 attempts without God, then adding him should decrease my at bat to strike out ratio.

What I’m learning, however, based on the scriptures is that this is somewhat of a disjointed view of God.

A lot of churches are doing a disservice to Christians today in an effort to bring more people into the church. We preach Christ like infomercials preach the promise of their products. We make shallow promises about how God makes life easier, richer and healthier. We sell unbelievers on how joining the church will make you life better but rarely mention the difficult conversations and pain that it takes to get there.

In an effort to get people to join the church, commit to God and pat ourselves on the back after a Sunday, we summarize that adding God to your life will make the pitcher’s pitches seem like a change-up instead of a fastball.

So you can imagine how shallow we respond as Christians when we’ve committed our lives to Christ and a curveball comes our way. Francis Chan illustrates it well when he talks about how it’s as if we’ve created God for us instead of the other way around.

The more I read the scriptures, the more I realize that a Christ centered, Spirit-filled life actually doesn’t make the at-bats of life any easier. In fact, the pitches get faster, the frustrations become intensified and the suffering multiplied.

This thought isn’t new to the scriptures. It’s just that teaching these scriptures don’t leave the hearers with warm and fuzzy feelings. Just look at II Timothy 3:12, "And all indeed that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” When was the last time that your pastor talked about the blessing in persecution?

It seems to be that the Christian life promises to be harder, sweatier and more challenging. It guarantees suffering, persecution and hardship. Becoming a mature Christian doesn’t mean knowing more about the Bible and leading a small group of 25. It means learning how to respond correctly to life’s problems and frustrations when they arise.

Our responses to the strikeouts at the plate of life are well documented. “I thought this was the ‘blessed life’…where’s God in this? Why are we going through all of this suffering? I thought God loved me?”

These responses are typified in today’s world. It’s natural, it’s justified and it’s…fleshly. It’s time that Christians learn to respond to suffering differently. We need to learn how to suffer well. Consider the Apostle Paul’s words from Philippians 3:10:

10-11I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.

Wow. What a response! Paul wants to give up the good life, the easy life, and the life of easy blessing and head down the road less traveled straight to persecution, suffering and eventual death. That’s the road towards Jesus…and it’s the road that doesn’t get preached enough. That’s having an understanding that in this life, we will suffer and learning that when suffering comes doesn’t mean that Jesus is abandoning us. It means that we are more like Jesus then that ever!

If you are serving Christ, desiring to be more like Him and praying for His will to be done in your life…know without a shadow of a doubt that suffering in some form is coming. But it’s through our suffering that our testimony of Christ’s resurrection power becomes in full view. Because though Christ suffered and died, he was resurrected and lives…and while we may suffer for a little while, be rest assured that suffering will turn to rejoicing.

I want to walk into suffering already rejoicing. I want to learn how to suffer well.

Walking in Love- DD

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Doctrine Does...

There’s little doubt, in the life of a Christian, doctrine should be important and handled carefully. Last week at Heartland Church, I had the opportunity to teach about one of Heartland Church’s key doctrines, the Doctrine of the Kingdom of God and this week, I will take on another.

As I get older, basic Christian doctrine is getting more and more important to me, and as it does, it’s becoming more important to me for all the reasons that I didn’t think it would.

As a younger man, I was of the opinion that only those who have a heart after God become interested in developing Godly doctrine. That is to say, “good doctrine follows a Godly pursuit.” If a new Christian wants to develop Godly doctrine, he can’t and won’t have a desire to develop this until he really recognizes and develops a sacred, holy and reverent view of God

But here’s the truth: the word “doctrine” in scripture is translated as “teaching” and interestingly enough, Romans 10:17 states, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Let’s reverse that scripture to understand it better. The Word of God enhances your ability to hear and hearing enhances your faith ability. As a result, the Word of God enhances your desire to love God more and trust his ways!

That means this: Godly hearts don’t develop good doctrine; good doctrine develops Godly hearts.

Take John 8:31-32 for instance: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 we read, “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

This scripture speaks of someone who went down a path of unrighteousness BECAUSE they didn’t love the truth; the truth being the Word of God. By not loving the truth, good doctrine was impossible to develop and without that good doctrine, that good teaching…it was impossible to develop a Godly heart.

Here’s my two cents for the day:

I think we put WAY too much emphasis on trying to motivate people to love God. We argue with them, we try to come up with creative ways to inspire them, we try leaving them alone and letting them learn the hard way. Tough love. Free love. Crazy love.
I’m of the opinion that Godliness comes out of a life of good teaching, both being modeled and by the scriptures.

I heard a sports radio host talking the other day about how everything in our life is incentive based and we don’t do anything anymore unless there is a reward/incentive attached to it and our churches operate in much of the same way.

“If you do this, then God will do this.”

This puts the emphasis on you to act a certain way with an expectation that God should do something.

Isn’t that exactly the opposite of what Bible teaches? God did something and because He did something, he has an expectation for us to act in a certain way (devotion, worship and giving glory).

That’s why the on-going dialogue that I am experiencing within myself has been difficult. “Dusty, what if there appears to be no incentive? Will you still follow God’s precepts?”

Let’s stop dangling carrots in front of fellow Christians to entice them to follow Jesus. Following Jesus isn’t a daily Easter egg hunt where you just find goodies at every turn. Following Jesus requires sacrificial living that brings about confrontation, suffering and difficulty.

II Timothy 3:12 says “All who desire to live a Godly live will be persecuted.

You don’t always find the most eggs. You don’t always get the job. You don’t always receive the earthly award. Following Jesus according to sound doctrine is much more about obedience because God is God, than it is about anything else.

As we continue down the path of sound doctrine, let’s study to show ourselves approved because the Holy Spirit is calling us to absolute devotion for the glory of the Father.

Nothing more and nothing less.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Promise to Papa...


Many years ago, you picked up a paintbrush and began painting a stunning depiction of a vision that ran far past even your own lifetime. As I stand here among staff, some of your closest friends and family, my heart is full. My heart is full because I have the privilege of gazing into the picture that the Lord moved your heart towards so many years ago.

As I think about that picture, I’m reminded of the first time that I tried to learn how to ride a bike. I remember the training wheels that helped guide me around the neighborhood that gave me the confidence for future moments where I would ride without them. And I remember all too well, my own father holding my bike and the comforting words as he held it in his hands, with me sitting on the seat and gripping the pedals, “I’m going to get to you started,” he would say. “I’ll hold you up for a little while…but then I’m going to let go”.

And when I first started to ride, my father was by my side, holding me up and steadying my uneasiness, helping me gain the self-belief that I would be able to one day ride alone.

The truth is that you’ve been guiding our hands along the canvas, shadowing each stroke, helping us hold the paintbrush for the picture that you started painting so many years ago. And on January 14th at 6:43am for the first time, you let go of the brush. And I have to admit before you even now, that much like when dad let go of the bike, life is a little bit scarier without your guiding hand.

But I hear you saying even now, “Bikes were meant to be ridden and not guided. You’ll fall…but you will eventually get up.”

And so today we are standing in front of the canvas, admiring the painting and all of its grandeur. It’s a picture filled with the spirit of the Lord guiding many towards a real relationship with their heavenly father, and as we look into it, we know this painting was meant to be finished. While I’m somewhat unsure of how to paint without your guiding touch, you helped to instill the self belief in all of us that as we begin to paint, we will paint well.

There are whimsical colors that must be added. There are strokes that must be gently and eloquently brushed, and so today, I want to commit to you upon behalf of a generation that has called you “Papa” that we will pick up your paint brush and we will continue on...

We will paint with the color of righteousness, choosing not to use the events of yesterday and today as a reason not to fulfill God’s plan for tomorrow. We will remain virtuous and of noble character. We will forgive the offenses that others commit against us, as we have watched you hold little record of wrong against those in your life. We will hold close sacred values that you have modeled:








We promise not to take ourselves too seriously as we work, realizing that we are only vessels. We loved your humility; how you didn’t brag about your accomplishments. We watched you smile and we loved your contagious laugh. We will live life colorfully and vibrantly.

We will not paint at the expense of family, which you have modeled for us, setting aside time to show us the way a husband should love a wife, our Nana, with whom you loved with your whole heart.

We will fashion our brush with strokes of love working hard to treat every brother and sister in Christ equally and loving all outside the body with a spirit of tenderness, affection and humility.

We will spread our colors under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We will be quick to listen, slow to speech. We will pray for answers and listen for solutions. We will work outside of ourselves and ask God to guide every movement that we make. We will not lean on our own understanding, but we will instead, let God lead the way.

We will mentor and teach those coming after us how to seize the brush. We will use each day to fashion strands between this generation and the next to create an echo of the values that you have taught us.

To trust quickly

To love swiftly

To listen wisely

To worship passionately

To pray continuously

We don't know if we will finish the picture. That’s not up to us to determine. But we will spend the time that we have left, painting furiously with all of our might.

Thank you starting the beginning of a beautiful painting. Thank you for guiding those before us and thank you for instilling the values in us, which will help us create future artists working in tandem with the creator who makes all things well unto himself.

We will paint…so that God may be glorified.