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Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Cruelty of God

"I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?"
— C.S. Lewis

I love this quote, and it has everything to do with the discourse happening in my head and with my family these last few weeks. We have been bombarded with opportunities for deep intercessory prayer - dear friends who are suffering so much after a horrible accident with their son, another college friend who is watching his premature baby fight for his life, and then a choir member who struggles to recover from a simple outpatient heart procedure that went terribly awry.

Each scenario flirts with tragedy. Each day is a roller coaster of hope and despair, alternating viciously with huge drops and violent twists upward. It's too much to bear, but as we fall on the mercies of a God who promises to never leave us, He still seems to be so far away in this time when we need Him the most.

It's cruelty to get one's hopes up, only to have them shattered . . . at least that's what we've come to believe. The question looms so large that it threatens to block out any redeeming thought ... "How can God perform miracles one day and then pull those miracles out from under us the next ...?"

We are left feeling foolish for praising God in a seemingly false victory, and our faith is threatened as we struggle to believe in any future possibility of healing.

It seems like a mean-spirited set-up, to be completely honest. God seems a bit cruel at the moment, if we are transparent enough to admit it.

Job was.

He lost everything. His family, possessions, and health. And did he ever have something to say about it! I'm reminded of his journey, and I'm also remembering the conclusion of his discourse with his family, his friends, and then with God Himself.

Job also praised God in calamity, and things just got worse. Job also felt what we are feeling now, and yes, even went so far as to say that God was being cruel to him ...

Job 30:17-- "You have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me."

The largest part of his story was spent dealing with the tragedy, with the accusations, and with the aftermath and thoughts of the unfairness of it all. It's easy to see God as cruel when you are in the middle of a living nightmare.

But to accurately see God, we must do our best to put our perspective and faith outside of our storm. We cannot look at the chaos and properly see Him for who He is. This was Job's problem and is now ours. In our humanity, we take our struggle and place it as our point of perspective. And from this point we see cruelty and sin abounding more.

But this cannot be. We know His grace abounds much more! Therefore we must place our point of perspective in the person of Christ, living in us, who reigns over sin and disease and tragedy. He is our Savior! He is our Deliver and Comforter! And He draws us continually to Himself, bringing us to the point where we, like Job, can eventually say "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you!" Job 42:5

And with this renewed view of God, Job found healing, and we start to see the cruelty of God for what it actually is ...


His ways are above ours, but His heart is immense in its love towards us.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Putting Away The Cross

The above picture is a picture of our Church's garden, where TeenFire has our Crucifixion Scene each year on Good Friday.

I took this picture this morning. It has rained almost every day since Good Friday, and I'm waiting on a 3-day stretch of sunshine before I take the crosses back up to our Church attic for storage. We don't want them to warp and mildew.

Standing there, looking at this scene, a quiet realization hit me.

This is what so many of us do. We play the scene, put on the drama, learn our lines, and revel in the Easter moment.

But then we take our Cross . . . and we put it away. Back it goes to its storage cabinet in the corner of our closet called tradition.

This is why our churches are full on Easter Sunday. The visual effects are moving. The communion we take feels cleansing. The story is inspiring.

Why, then, do we move on unchanged?

I'm starting to see the dark side of tradition. Ritual was never meant to take the place of Relationship. Ritual is meant to remind us of the Relationship!

But instead, we place our own Cross away, keeping it in its place, to bring out when it suits us.

But this must NOT happen.

The Cross doesn't go away. God sees it every time he looks at us. He sees it when He discusses our offerings with His Son. He sees it when we lay our burdens at its base.

And He calls us to carry it . . . daily.

"He said to them all, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory..." Luke 9:23-26

"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost..." Luke 14:27-28

"Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.'” Mark 10:21

"For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame -- who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body...." Philippians 3:18-21

Are you following Christ? He doesn't give us any luxury at all to follow two paths. We must do as He says, if we are to follow Him.

Do not set your mind on earthly things.

Keep the Cross upon your shoulder, and keep moving forward.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Bottom Line ...

It doesn't make you more attractive or happy, and it won't bring peace to your life. It can't strengthen your ministry or repair your marriage. It doesn't help the poor or feed the hungry, and it certainly won't make make you become more selfless. It won't bring you closer to God, enable your maturity and, regardless of what most believe, it can't even keep you safe!

It won't get you to Heaven, or keep you from Hell. It doesn't pick you up or give you courage in a trying time. It can't love your family or help you forgive those who treat you spitefully, and there's no way it can coincide with kindness.

It tears you down, limits your gifts, destroys your talents, and ravishes your soul. It feeds on your uncertainty and in spite of our best effort to coddle it and keep it fed ... it always wants more.

It doesn't enrich you in anyway. Fear is useless ... unless you give it value.


Here's why ...

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26, NIV).

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28).

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 11:23-12:10).

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

“…put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1)