Internet Archive bookmarks for: despond

Monday, August 10, 2015

Living with Urgency for the Kingdom of God

Paul lived his life with an urgency for the Kingdom of God. From his calling in Acts 9 he lived a life of urgency in what God called him to do. He did have a time of preparation which are often called the "lost" years in the desert after his conversion. But even there, it is believed that Paul shared the Gospel. His life was committed to proclaiming the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. In the book of Acts we see Paul often on the move never staying longer than two years in a place. His mission and focus was clear: share Jesus the Messiah to all. This urgency doesn't mean, he didn't stop to enjoy the time with other believers. He certainly did! He also experienced a lot of trials, tribulations and suffering. But why would Paul live this life of urgency? First, as said before, he knew his calling. (See 1 Corinthians 9:15-16) This calling was directed by the Lord. He was often in prayer, in Scripture and in fellowship with others which the Lord used to direct Him. He also depended on the Holy Spirit for every move. Second, he knew the time was short. He knew that he would not be around for ever. Life was short and he wasted no time. (See Ephesians 5:15-16) Third, He knew what it meant to be lost without Christ. He had grown with religion but didn't know the power of the living Christ. Paul was moved by the love of Christ towards those who had yet to believe in Him. (See 2 Corinthians 5:14-15) It moved him with urgency. Finally, Paul knew the return of Christ was imminent (see 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). Christ spoke of this urgency and preparedness we ought to have before His coming (see Matthew 24:44-51; 25:1-13). Paul understood and lived with this expectation.

All these reasons are good enough for me and I hope are enough for you to live a life of urgency and not child's play. All of us who have been saved by Christ are called to serve Christ regardless of profesion. Our calling is to make disciples by sharing the Gospel of Christ. (See Matthew 28:19-20) This is urgent. It isn't a trivial pursuit or an added task to our lives. It is our priority. It should be marked with many !!!!!

Let's live with an urgency for the Kingdom of God.


Thursday, August 06, 2015

Who has Your Heart?

There have only three times that I have moved. The first time happened when I was ten years old. We left El Salvador to come to America. I remember our departure. The feelings are somewhat nostalgic. This move opened a new life for me and my family. The best of it was the fact that the Lord called me to follow him. My life changed forever.
I remember this tree in El Salvador. In front
lived my best friend Toño in a bedroom made
of mud.

The second time was when I was a young married with two young children, and we moved from California to Arizona. The purpose was for me to go to  Bible College. I knew God had called me to serve him and I needed formal training and we moved. The memories of that trip remain vivid. We drove through rain and arrived at midnight to the home of a Christian man that we only knew via phone. There we spend a week until we found a home to rent. The two years we spent there for unforgettable. We experienced financial strains, marriage difficulties and church problems. It wasn't easy but the Lord kept us in Him. After my graduation we headed back to California where I continued to prepare myself . I went to seminary and graduated. We served in church planting for over six years. After many trials and suffering, I decided that it was time to focus on my family and went on to teach in public schools as a teacher. For over twelve years I taught in several schools. I reached a point where I thought I would never be involved in full time ministry. My life had reached a crossroad and I decided to move a different direction. It lasted ten years. My wife worked as a nurse as we raised our two children. After our grown kids had taken off, we enjoyed our time by ourselves. Our life was comfortable even though I experienced job losses. But God was at work in me. In my heart. Through a series of circumstances He led me to himself. He showed me that the purpose of life was not to live for me but for Him. One of my biggest struggles in my spiritual walk with Him was understanding His sovereignty. Well, not understanding but accepting it. As I read Scripture with new eyes and heart, the Lord showed me His greatness. He is sovereign. I don't need to have all the answers to my life's problems but I do need to completely rely on Him. The more I read Scripture, He showed me that life here is short and eternity out weighs everything. It was during this time when God lead us to the church we are now. This brought more conviction to my heart that I was to follow God's calling. I prayed daily for three years. My requests were specific.  I didn't want to take any chances in making a path for me that God had not led me to follow. God answered clearly.

As I write, I am in the midst of packing and preparing for our third move. I won't say this is the last time but I know this isn't up to me. It is time to leave my family, friends and church and follow where the Saviour is leading us. He has a clear purpose for us. The Lord is leading to a specific place, a specific church with a specific purpose. What lies ahead, I don't know. But I know who is leading me. He will lead me by day and by night. He has my heart and all that I am. Nothing else should.

What has your heart? Does He own all of you? Are you ready for Him to lead you wherever and whenever?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Understanding Suffering Through the Life of St. Paul

After having taught the book of Acts, I have learned a lot about the Apostle Paul. One very important aspect of his life was suffering. St. Paul suffered a lot. 
1 Corinthians 11 gives the list of Paul's experiences as an Apostle: 
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city,in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.  (NIV)

And in 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 he writes:
 "Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;" (NIV)

As I studied Acts, I realized that Paul had a different perspective on suffering than most of us. Let's first be clear, Paul suffered for the cause of the Gospel. Most of us when we suffer, is because of an external circumstance that we face or some other struggle unrelated to the Gospel. However, suffering is suffering and we can't diminish the fact that we all experience it.

How did Paul face suffering? In studying Acts, I noticed that Paul trusted the sovereignty of God in his life. He knew clearly what God had called him to do. Paul understood that God was sovereign and His will would be fulfilled in his life in spite of suffering or any other circumstance. God protected Paul on many occassions, especially from death but he still experienced many sufferings (eventually he suffered death under Emperor Nero). Paul trusted God's sovereign will. It is interesting as well, that Paul did not question God during his sufferings. He did ask God to remove a certain "thorn" he had but God denied his request. God's grace was sufficient. Yet, I didn't find any instance where Paul questioned God's goodness, his plan or his sovereignty. 

In my life I have had my share of suffering, and yet in many of those occassions I found myself questioning God. I often asked why He allowed it to happen. Yet, we all need to trust God's sovereignty. Nothing that happens in our lives will be outside of God's sovereign will. God will fulfill His will in our lives in spite of suffering.

Paul also never avoided suffering, he welcomed suffering. This was perhaps the most "shocking" for me. Scripture is clear that trials will come to our lives (James 1) and many come in the form of suffering. Many of us don't like them, but they are part of our growth (there are many specific "lessons" we learn from them) as Christians. Paul stated in Philippians 3:10 that he wanted to partake of the sufferings of Christ even "becoming like him in his death." Why? It is because in the midst of suffering he had fellowship with Christ.

Nothing we suffer is beyond what our Lord suffered. Paul knew that. In that suffering, Christ grace is evident and we share a closeness that can only be experienced through it. Most of us want to avoid suffering, but we ought to expect it (in Acts 14:22 Paul said that we would experience many hardships to enter the kingdom of God). We need to understand that in our suffering God's grace will abound and we share in Christ's suffering. The suffering we experience now does not compare to the glory that awaits us.

Paul understood that "his" life in the body was not to he protected from suffering but to given to God for his service. He wasn't concerned about saving his life. His concern was finishing the task God gave him (to preach the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles). In Acts 20:24 he said, "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." This verse has always challenged me. I have not gotten to the point where my life doesn't matter because I am more interested in fulfilling God's calling for my life.

This is exactly what our Lord said a disciple of His does (see Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35). A follower of Christ loses his life for Him. As His disciples, our concern should not be how to save our lives, protecting it from suffering or any other threat. Our concern should be to give our life for what He has called us. We are all called to serve Him and nothing that we do should take priority over His calling for our lives.

If you are experiencing suffering, you are not alone. Christ is with you. He is your comforter. He will sustain you. You are sharing in his suffering and united in fellowship with Him. Your future is secure. Your destiny is secured. There is a life that awaits you that surpasses all the suffering you experience in this planet. It's a promise for you. Read Romans 8:18-23.