Why is there Suffering? Overcoming Evil Spiritual Warriors Love emerges through Crisis
Slaying at Wedgwood Baptist Church
Life on the Line
Slaying of Cassie Bernall
Growing through Suffering
The gift you already have!
When there aren't any Answers left! Through Hard Times
Who are the real heroes?
The Loss of Her Husband
The testimony of Serena Koh
Escape from Abuse
In 1 John 3:8 we read that: "the reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work".
This is not metaphorical - it is reality.
We may hear people ask the question: "how can there be a God when there is so much suffering in the world?" God's answer is this: He sent his son into the world to overcome the works of the devil. The real question to be asked is as follows: "How many people are willing to join with Jesus in this purpose? Are you?
Jesus called the devil a liar and murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). As servants of the living God, we are called into this mission of destroying the works of the devil. Lies and murder are the outcome of warped attitudes such as:
These are the core of the evil works we are called to join with Jesus in combating... first in our own lives, and then in servant-hood to those around us. God will cause these needs to come across our path as we live out our lives as effective Christians (2 Cor 10:6).
Opposite to these ways of the devil are the ways that Jesus modelled, ie:
Humility and obedience
Love and unity
Acceptance and reconciliation
Truth which sets us free to worship God.
Is a spiritual stocktaking in order?
Do we need to check that we are in fact moving away from the devil's attitudes? That we are moving forwards under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit?
As we respond to God in this way we are moving away from disorder... and moving on as a part of God's answer to the question of suffering.
From the very beginning the reason Jesus came to earth was to "destroy the devil’s work" (1 John 3:8). Yet Jesus came in the most defenceless form... that of a baby. God entrusted the saviour of the world to a family in a total dependant way. Amazing!
Well the devil tried -
Firstly through Herod, when he had all the boys in Bethlehem who were under two murdered - in an attempt to kill Jesus (Matt 2:16).
Secondly he tried to destroy Jesus morally and spiritually in the wilderness. He attacked Jesus in the very areas where Adam and Eve failed: in pride and ambition, in abuse of authority, in abuse of the Scriptures for personal gain, in trying to displace God as the centre of our worship.
Thirdly a crowd tried to throw Jesus over a cliff, but they couldn’t harm him (Lu 4:28).
The devil couldn’t lay a hand on Jesus - until it was in the timing and purposes of God... when Jesus laid down his life in our place to secure our salvation.
So how was Jesus life protected in these critical times?
By obedience -
The obedience of the Magi in not going back to tip off Herod (Matt 2:12).
The obedience of Joseph in dropping everything at once, and going to Egypt in response to the instructions given to him in a dream (Matt 2:13).
The obedience of Jesus to the Scriptures, in the wilderness (Matt ch 4 and Eph 6:10-18).
In John 17:10 Jesus included the following in his prayer:
"All I have is yours and all you have is mine" (John 17:10)
In a nutshell, this thought encapsulates the basis of Jesus relationship to Father God. Yet the Scriptures also tell us that:
"it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus," (Eph 2:5)
In other words, we who are in Christ, have also been brought right into the position of John 17:10! Can you imagine that? We need to ask the Holy Spirit to confirm this truth to us. And for what purpose? You can find an expression of the answer to this question in 1 Peter 1:1-2. Please look up this Scripture and meditate on its application in your life.
So we are called into Jesus service as a part of the glorious Church - tasked to continue destroying the works of the Devil. Wherever we go, we are to turn on the light of Christ and cast out darkness.
And as with Jesus, we enjoy the protection of God because we are his own dear children. This doesn’t mean there won’t be suffering. There will be suffering. But by faith and obedience we can walk with Jesus in triumph in all the circumstances of this world. For further reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9 and 2 Kings 6:11-18.
In Zechariah 1:8-10 we read:
In this vision the horse may be metaphorically understood as representing faith. If we can imagine ourselves riding a powerful responsive horse... we can see the advantage this would provide for a warrior. So in Kingdom work, God would have us mount up on faith and take up the weapons of warfare he has already provided (Eph 6 and 2 Cor 10:4). This leads us to an effective position of advantage in prayer, faith and intercession.
What about those who have never heard the gospel - will they be lost? Have you ever been asked this question?
We can be absolutely certain that there is no end to what God will do to take the gospel to every person. The boundaries of resistance to this expression of his love are not from God.
The following story of the slaying at Wedgewood Baptist Church in 1999 is a testimony to this. A testimony to the love of God ~ and how far He will go to take his gospel to every person...
In reviewing this story we have cross-checked the accuracy at the source of this account - and received the following affirmation in prayer:
Wedgewood Baptist Church Shooting
By now almost everyone has heard of the tragedy that took place on Sept.15th 1999 when a gunman entered Wedgwood Baptist Church and killed 7 people and injured 7 others before taking his own life. That morning had been the day of "See You at the Pole," when students gather around their flagpole in the morning to pray for their school and nation. What the media hasn't reported however, is how God has been so evident, both during and after the shooting. He has done amazing work.
Before The Shooting
Our pastor had prayed that God would do whatever it took to expand the ministry of Wedgwood Baptist Church. Our church is one that is used as a model of how NOT to pick a location, because no one in the world can find it. Now almost everyone in the world knows exactly where it is.
Evidence of God's Control During The Shooting
What God has done since the shooting
The faith of those who died has been multiplied many times over - "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world." (Romans 1:8).
Dear friends, we live in a fallen world where chaos will occur (see Romans 8:18-28). The question is not: "will those folk over there be lost" but rather, are we hearing the call of God:
'who will work with me to take the knowledge of my love expressed in Christ throughout the world'
(see Matt 28:18-20)?
Student affirmed her
belief in God, and then was Slain
Littleton, Colorado - She walked into Columbine High School on Tuesday morning, 20th April 1999 as a promising student. She was carried out more than 24 hours later a victim of a senseless shooting.
Accounts of the final moments of Cassie's life echo with the history of early Christendom, when a profession of faith could be a fatal act. Her story is being told and retold in the church basements, rec rooms, and parish halls where so many of the young survivors of the Columbine massacre have spent the last few days clinging to one another and to their deep religious faith. In her death, Cassie has become both symbol and prophet, her martyrdom seemingly foretold in a poem written after church services last Sunday. It was discovered on her desk by her younger brother, Chris, Tuesday night when it became clear that she would not be coming home.
More than any other image from this scene of carnage - more than the flowers deep as the snow in Clement Park, more than the blue and silver ribbons on every lapel The most affecting is the sight of trapping young men and gracious young women on their knees in prayer everywhere one looks in this prairie suburb at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
"We loved Cassie and we will miss her, but we know she is in a better place," said Ryan Long, who belongs to the youth group at West Bolles Community Church, where Cassie Bernall was an active member.
Crystal Woodman, is a youth group member who with Cassie, did outreach work among Denver's homeless population. She was hiding with Cassie in the library during the rampage that claimed the lives of 12 students, one teacher, and the two presumed killers, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, both Columbine students. When she heard the exchange between the gunman and Cassie, Crystal was certain of what she was witnessing: Her friend was laying down her life for Jesus.
Of the 200 members of the youth group at West Bolles Community Church, 40 attended Columbine. Among them is a shared certainty that God is using the victims as a vehicle to spread a message of faith. To that end, the teenagers are eager to speak about the circumstances of Cassie's death in hopes of bombarding the secular - some might say godless - media with a religious interpretation of this week's tragic events. Some have even appeared on MTV, which McPherson puts among the corrosive cultural influences that contribute to the hardening of the hearts of so many young people. The spiritual life of so many of Columbine High's teenagers is evident in the crosses they wear around their necks and the bracelets asking WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) that they wear on their wrists. Theirs is the largest school-based Bible club in the school district. But it is not only the children who are finding solace in religion.
Cassie's parents, Misty and Brad Bernall, issued a statement last night celebrating their daughter's spiritual courage.
The Bernalls appealed to parents to become more involved in the lives of their children. They urged teenagers to find their way to church. "Don't let my daughter's death be for nothing. Make your stand. If you are not in a local church group, try it."
There is nothing sanctimonious about the faith of these teenagers. They were actively engaged in the world around them. Cassie had told friends recently that she intended to cut her long blond hair so that her silky locks could be made into wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy. At Cassie's funeral on Monday, several pews will be filled with members of Victory Outreach, an inner city store front church in one of Denver's roughest neighbourhoods.
Cassie and her friends shared dinner every few weeks with the prostitutes and drug addicts who make up that congregation. John and Stephen Cohen, brothers who also are members of the youth group, will sing a song for Cassie and the other fallen students at her funeral. The boys said they had completed the guitar music some time ago but had been waiting for inspiration for the lyrics. They found it this week. The song is called: "Columbine, Friend of Mine."
The last assignment Cassie completed on this earth was a reading that was to have been discussed at a youth group meeting the night she died. The book is called "Seeking Peace." In a chapter entitled "No Life Without Death," the author quotes the Gospel of John:
This story ran on page A1 of the Boston
Globe on 24th April 99.
Feedback from the Chaplain to the Denver Broncos
This has been a week for the ages. We live about 2 miles from Columbine High School, and I can't even begin to tell you all that has happened here for us personally in the past week. Alot.
None of our friends in the school, and we had several, died. But, they are all hurting beyond belief emotionally. Everyone of them has stories that are moving. Three of our baby-sitters were Juniors there, one of them was a son of one of my dear friends who taught me in the counseling program nine years ago. What I can say for sure, and this is Our Amazing Father, is that this has been the closest thing to a revival that I have ever witnessed in my 39 years of life.
It's still pretty fresh, but oh my, the services have almost all given clear testimony of the gospel, four of the kids who died knew Jesus, and spoke well of Him, and almost everyone of the kids in the hospitals is speaking about faith, Jesus, glorifying God. Our little community is hugging, praying, going to church like never before. You have to remember, Rick, this is Colorado. We don't go to church here, at least to be fashionable. And as I said, it's way too early to tell, I really believe for at least the kids at the school, they will never be the same.
At Cassie Bernall's memorial, the kid who testified of her faith in Christ before she was executed, 150 kids came forward to receive Christ, and several parents and a few teachers. At Rachel Scott's funeral, something of the same proportions. I have had the humbling opportunity to visit nearly everyone of the kids in the hospitals. Oh my, what courageous young people I have met. I am changed from having gone, and I've been down there for the past 5 days. 4 of the kids are facing near certain life time paralysis, which has made them sad to be sure, but not without a fervor to live. All of these kids had friends that died, because obviously, they were in the line of fire, and I had two incredible chats today with Sean and Patrick about what it's like to think you are going to die, and what it's Like to lose a buddy. I'm telling you, different kind of stuff.
Most of The time I've been down, I've had players go with me. Kind of my secret way of getting to go minister to the families. They wouldn't let me in without my entourage, you see, but now that the relationships are kind of in place, I can go without my cover anytime I want now. Sneaky guy, right! Anyhow, one kid, Lance's parents learned today that he had buckshot in his heart, something they didn't know till now; Pray it flows in the small veins, not the main artery, as this will determine whether Lance has permanent brain damage or not. I don't fully understand it, but I had a doc explain it to me a while ago, that it literally will go one of two directions, and where it goes will be everything to this kids recovery. I could go on.
We are planning an evening with the entire student body next Saturday night, the 8th, to have 50-75 of my men and their wives meet and hang out with the students of Columbine. No media, no speeches, just a lot of hugging, crying, probably a few laughs and some good old fashion interaction. I'm thinking it could be good. Haven't had an athlete yet, who was going to be in town, say no. Our whole community has clearly been moved, and the best part, Rick, has been a 100% complete reversal on prayer in school. I mean it's bold, it's necessary, and no one remembers what the laws are. Kids are praying, faculty are praying, and they are praying in school. In Littleton, CO. I'm telling you, what God wants, He'll have, everytime.
As we read the papers this festive season we will be inundated with commercial interests trying to convince us that purchasing their product will bring happiness.
But this Christmas we may be able to discover a gift we already have!
Let’s take a moment to look inside our suffering and see if there is a gift God may have for us there…
We can identify three kinds of suffering:
that which is of God as a part of his disciplining and growing of our character;
that which is a sad part of life, like the loss of a loved one; and
that which is a product of this crazy fallen world in which we live.
From this we may see that the nature of suffering can be identifiable:
the suffering to do with God is redemptive; while
the suffering of the world or the devil is negative or destructive.
However our culture sees all suffering as destructive… so in response we tend to do all we can to minimise the situation, ie: drugs, alcohol, insurance, the courts, over servicing in the medical profession etc.
But hang on, in some circumstances we may be experiencing a suffering from God which is redemptive… yet we could be thinking of suing someone that God may have brought into our lives for a higher good?
Or perhaps we may be cranky with crew scheduling for changing our planned trip or time off? Yet perhaps this change was from God… and there was someone on that flight we were meant to meet as a conveyer of God’s grace and peace.
I know this has happened to me on a number of occasions.
Perhaps you feel that your circumstances don’t neatly fit into any of the above. If so the answer is still the same… to draw on God’s grace as your strength for the situation. Not depending on our own strength, but Jesus in us, through the working of the Holy Spirit.
But perhaps we are not recognising the gift of God, in our situation!
Remember Paul’s words:
"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Rom 5:3 and similarly Heb 12:5-12).
How can we "unwrap" a gift of redemptive suffering?
We can pray:
"Lord, thank you for my suffering"... consider Rom 5:3 and 1 Thes 5:18 as validity checks on this prayer.
Remember when David wrote:
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word", and "…It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees." (Psalm 119 67-71).
And we learn of Jesus that:
"He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered." (Heb 5:7).
If you would like to follow this through further, you may like to read Isaiah 30:15-26 in a contemplative way.
Is someone causing you abuse or heartache?
Let’s turn this to good, in prayer:
"Lord thank you for this person…… Help me to see them as your minister to me ~ because they are causing me to depend on you like I never had to before! They are showing me how much I need your grace and your forgiveness in this situation. Thank you Lord that while I may not be up to this, Jesus within me is sufficient! Please strengthen me to grow in your grace as I bless this person in your name."
Here we may find new perspective in the gift we already have.
We often hear Romans 8:28 quoted when the going is tough. However to gain a more complete understanding of this verse we need to see it as an outcome of verses 18 to 28. Then we can relate this insight through the subsequent verses... more opportunities for contemplation.
This Christmas season let us pray with thankfulness for all of our circumstances… and ask the Lord to make our sufferings redemptive. Here is great opportunity for reflection and supplication (Eph 5:20 and 4:30 - 5:2).
As we look for God’s redemptive purposes in our suffering we will move from self pity towards grace and faith.
Our prayer of faith can be:
"Thank you Lord for my suffering… please work your redemptive purposes in my life. I may not like it, but please don’t stop doing what you need to do in me."
Here also is a prayer for healing:
"Lord, I give you my body, mind and spirit to be totally united to yourself, in the name of Jesus our intercessor, Amen". (Heb 9:24). You may like to pray this prayer next time you are at communion with the Lord.
And finally, let us be part of God’s redemptive purposes in suffering… by being mindful and compassionate to those around us passing through times of trial.
May growth in the grace of God be our special gift this Christmas. It may be found in tough situations… but let’s unwrap it and give thanks to the giver of life.
A week ago I received an e-mail from Mary, whose husband is languishing under the agony of advancing cancer. "Don’s pain is excruciating. I don’t know which way to turn. The burden is too much. Please pray." To add to their stress, Mary serves as Don’s "nurse", all the while doubling as mom and dad to their four kids, who range in age from 10 months to 15 years.
Yesterday when I visited them, Mary greeted me with red and tear-filled eyes. Ten minutes after notifying Don of my arrival, he haltingly entered the room. Shoes untied. Gaunt. Unshaved. His cancerous right arm seemed awkwardly "pinned" to his side. Faintly, he managed a smile.
While Mary served tea, Don offered, "Dwight, I find myself deeply disappointed. Nothing makes sense any more. So much of what I taught from the Scriptures about God doesn’t equate with what I am experiencing. I am struggling with depression. I am learning something about losing everything for Christ. (Philippians 3:8) All I have left to hold on to are God’s promises."
"Don," I asked, "Do you think that the source of our agony lies in our assumption that if we keep our end of the bargain, (obedience, etc.), God is obligated to keeping His by guaranteeing us health, fruitfulness, a fulfilling job, etc.? When life doesn’t play out that way, we become disillusioned?
"Yeah...Dwight. I think that is our problem."
We then read over I Peter 4:12, 13a: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you..." And we both admitted that we are surprised at suffering when it comes! It is "strange". We feel it is unfair! And we feel we deserve better!
The passage goes on: "But rejoice that you [are now participating] in the sufferings of Christ." Now that seems a bit heavy. When we committed our lives to following Him, we did not anticipate that level of pain...or identification with Christ. And to"rejoice"in it? It is humanly impossible without Divine help.
My friend, I don’t know what trial you may be facing today. Perhaps like Don, you are discovering that there are no pat answers to life’s vexing questions. But one thing we do know with certainty is that in eternity, our good and just God promises to "...wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain..." (Rev. 21:4a) That is our eternal hope.
Question: Today, amidst your "painful trial" are you choosing to trust Him -- with or without the answers? If your decision is "yes", then you are experiencing hope, rather than paralysing despair.
My prayer is that you are having a great week!
Most of us would like to do something noble or great. Perhaps have our names in lights...
We are captivated by outstanding speakers, renown scientists, business tycoons, and athletes who seem to do the impossible. And we sigh because our lives appear to be so routine, pedestrian and unsung.
As I observe the men with whom I am involved, however, I often see nobility and true character being forged in them as they quietly work through extremely trying circumstances. These silent heroes of the faith are, for the most part unnoticed. Little appreciated. Rarely applauded.
One man has a son who is severely ill with a disease that will probability take his life within the next few years. The boys unimaginable suffering permeates the family. But there is a calm grace about the way they are handling it. No whining or grousing with God as they walk through their Gethsemane.
A second man is an executive in a company where the top management steps on anyone who excels or shows any evidence of genius. He refuses however to play the corporate political games that are necessary to garner the coveted positions. Brilliant in his field, he purposely remains understated as he unobtrusively facilitates his subordinates in order to insure their success.
A third friend is enmeshed in an insolvable marriage. Yet I never hear one word of complaint, as he chooses to exhibit compassion and graciousness toward his spouse.
These men probably will never have their names in lights. But in my book they are the real heroes! Heroes who are becoming Christ-like. My guess is that you too have your Gethsemane. You too have your cross. And your cross is not the gold-plated, smooth or shiny model. Rather, it is rugged and bruising, and with you all the time.
How you decide to respond to that cross will spell the difference between a life of crippling bitterness that diminishes your inner spiritual life, or a life of praise that enables you to surmount, and ascend.