Friday, April 22, 2011

Sweetness in Suffering 4/22/11

Mountain View

“A mountain view can literally take your breath away. Getting a clearer view of God can do the same. Here at the Warming House, you’ll find truth that will help you know and understand who God is and how He feels about you. What you find here may cause you to live your life a little differently. "

Suffering. It’s something none of us desire for ourselves. We question why it’s allowed to exist in this world and we want to know who to blame for it. It can make us angry, frustrated, impatient, and it can hurt like hell.

Bonfire Memorial at Texas A&M
- The Warming House

As we approach Easter Sunday, I’ve been thinking a lot about the suffering of Christ in His final week on earth. His suffering is something that really resonates with me this year. You see, during the past two years my husband and I have been severely damaged by betrayal, vicious persecution, slander, heartache, and loss. Three separate and extraordinary crises occurred during this season of hardship, and the healing process was hindered by the fact that we didn’t have time to process one crisis when another came crashing down on top of us. As I stomped my feet, whined, and moaned before God, He graciously did something that helped me tremendously. He tenderly reminded me of the suffering of my precious Savior. 

In my vehement dislike of adversity and my desire to run away from it, God reminded me that Jesus Christ did not run from suffering. He intentionally chose it, pursued it, embraced it, and endured it.

Statue of Jesus at site of
Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial

He was spit on, slandered, beaten, flogged mercilessly, hated, persecuted, betrayed, abandoned by those closest to Him, unjustly condemned, and nailed to a cross. He knew heartache and what it meant to be physically weary, weak, and frail. On the cross, He experienced rejection, humiliation, total frustration, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, desperation, uncertainty, bewilderment, confusion, insecurity, loneliness, oppression, torture, and abuse.  As He became our sin, God poured His full and complete wrath out on Him – a terrifying thought. Christ bore it so that we wouldn’t have to. (2 Cor. 5:21) Our natural inclination is to avoid suffering. His natural inclination was to embrace it. By embracing it, Jesus equipped Himself to be the exact kind of leader we need. He gets it. He’s been there. He knows what we’re up against.

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death . . . For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement, for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:14-15, 17

He also knew suffering was necessary in order for Him to break us from the claws of sin and put us in good standing with God. The movie, the Passion of the Christ, depicts Jesus, broken and beaten, crawling up onto the cross. The soldiers didn’t drag Him kicking and fighting. He willingly dragged His battered body up on it and laid Himself down. Knowing His heart, I imagine that’s exactly how it happened.

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” John 10:17-18

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” John 12:27-28

God also reminded me of Christ’s perfection. Jesus was perfect in His faithfulness and obedience to God. He never did anything wrong – ever. He was utterly blameless and lived a selfless life doing only good things.

‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was in his mouth.’” 1 Peter 2:22

"For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God." 1 Peter 1:18-19

It is impossible for me to say the same about myself. I am a sinner – imperfect in every way. Am I better than Christ? Do I deserve better treatment in this life than He received? The thought of Christ’s holiness and the unjust treatment He endured on my behalf, soothed the frustration chafing my soul about the injustices against us.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

Suffering wasn’t the end of the road for Jesus. When He said, “It is finished,” it was not a cry of defeat but a shout of victory. God’s plan for the redemption of mankind was finished. Christ’s purpose on earth was finished. The pioneers of the Christian faith had been trained. All was complete. Three days later, Christ rose from the grave and moved on to glory!

“He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even to death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Phil. 2:8-11

The power of God that brought Christ back to life now lives in those who follow Him. That power is big enough to resurrect not only your life and your relationship with God, but also your damaged and broken heart. Those who share in His suffering, also share in His eternal glory. (Romans 8:17)

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.

God specifically used the pain in my life to help me understand in a brilliant and vivid way the gravity of Christ’s sacrifice. It is difficult for me to comprehend how anyone knowingly walked head-on into that kind of suffering (and worse) for me. As I took my wounded heart to God and shared my struggles honestly with Him, He gave me insight that left me feeling deeply and passionately LOVED! He is the sweetness in my suffering.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." 1 John 3:16

Happy Easter!

Join me by the fire for conversations about how to nurture your family and create a warm and inviting home for family and friends.

This portion of my blog is dedicated to nurturing home and family. Today I want to make you aware of some precious families who are in extreme crisis. Let me start by sharing some statistics.

  • There are 27 million slaves on earth today - more than double the number of Africans enslaved during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
  • Human trafficking brings in 32 billion dollars per year. About 28 billion of this is generated through the commercial sexual exploitation of persons.
  • 1.2 million children are trafficked annually for sex. That’s 2 children per minute.

In the sex trafficking industry, human beings are treated as sexual objects and as commercial objects - nothing more. Their personhood, identity, and human rights are lost and completely ignored. They are threatened, coerced, lied to, forced, manipulated, beaten, starved, tortured, sexually abused by multiple customers, and gang raped. Unprotected sex and forced abortions threaten the lives of these victims. This is an evil unlike anything I’ve ever seen – and something I have trouble wrapping my mind around.

This past week, I talked to Sherry Quam Taylor, the Director of Operations for As Our Own. As Our Own is a ministry that works to break the cycle of enslavement by building stronger communities through their Lighthouse church network and Hope College. They also rescue and provide after care for children born to mothers who are enslaved as prostitutes in the Red Light District in India.

The demand for children in India’s sex industry is high. Children are traditionally taken from their brothel mothers and forced into the slave trade at age 6. As these children grow up, the vicious cycle is perpetuated as their children are also forced into the sex trade.

Sherry told the story of a 22-year-old enslaved mother. As a child, this young woman had purchased snacks on a daily basis from a road-side stand in her community. One day her snacks were laced with drugs. She was kidnapped and woke up three days later in a brothel where she was brutally raped by a dozen men as part of her initiation. Unprotected sex and a dozen forced abortions per year will expose her to disease and limit her life-span to approximately 35 years. She cannot escape her enslavement. This woman eventually birthed a child in the brothel and has courageously chosen to give up her child (the only source of true love in her life) to the care of As Our Own. Her selflessness brought severe threats from the brothel owner – but it also delivered her daughter from unimaginable evil. It has given her daughter a chance to be recognized as a human being, to have dreams and freely pursue them, and to live the life God desires for her. In a conversation with a staff person at As Our Own, this mother wanted to know what would happen to her child when she died. She was assured that her daughter would be their child for life and would be loved as one of their own daughters.

This Mother’s Day, I want to invite you to consider honoring your mother with a gift to nurture the Christian ministry of As Our Own. As you honor the courage and selflessness of your own mother, you will honor the courage and selflessness of the mothers in India. Your gift will help to rescue vulnerable children from a horrific future and break the cycle of destruction in these families.  Families for generations to come will be blessed and forever changed because of your support.  

Click on the As Our Own link in my sidebar to go to a site with the following info:
Here’s a special way to say, “Thanks, Mom!”

STEP 1 :: Give to our Thanks, Mom! campaign to honor your mom by Mother’s Day, May 8.

STEP 2 :: In the donation comments box, tell us what you appreciate most about your mom.

STEP 3 :: Download a certificate for your mom that explains the gift you’ve made in her name.

About As Our Own

The extreme poverty in India places girls at great risk for exploitation, enslavement, and neglect. Girls are regularly abused and degraded, forced into lives of bonded labor, either in organized begging or the sex trade.

These girls will face a dark, horrific future—unless someone intervenes.

God has opened the door for As Our Own to rescue girls before they are exploited, giving us the privilege to care for each one as our own—for life. We are building strong communities through our Lighthouse church network and training strong leaders and pastors at our Hope College, all to break these cycles for girls in future generations.

Your gifts make a lasting difference for these girls. Thank you!

Pinecones and Twigs:
Just like gathering nature’s treasures on a hike through the woods, you never know what you’ll find here – a great read, an inspiring photo of nature, or maybe the latest bargain. Check out this spot at The Warming House for something fun.

While we were in Texas last weekend, we captured these pictures in front of the setting sun. The beautiful glow was actually caused by ash in the atmosphere from distant wildfires.

A Steaming Hot Mug

Stories of Compassion to Warm your Soul from the Inside Out

Submit your stories (150 word maximum) to for publication to this blog. Your stories must fall into one of the following three categories: 1) Stories of a time when you experienced God’s compassion directly or through the actions of another person; 2) Specific things you’ve done to teach your children compassion; or 3) How your church or someone you know has demonstrated the compassion of Christ. Can’t wait to hear (and share) your stories here at the Warming House!

Thank you for stopping by The Warming House. Be encouraged on your journey with the knowledge that God is with you everywhere you go. Until we meet again . . .

Stay warm and cozy,