Keeping it real

Would you like to see the weedy patches in my garden? I thought not.

There is a new trend on social media to display our less-than-perfect living spaces and gardens. This concept and practice evolved from a backlash against the depressing notion that we cannot attain to the perfection of our neighbors’ lives, as portrayed by only showing the good and not the bad.

This trend has also morphed into an ugly fad of “keeping it real” by picking apart and pointing out flaws in people. It has become popular to pick out the flaws in formerly respected historical figures, national leaders, and even our church leaders.

People aren’t perfect? What a surprise! Continue reading “Keeping it real”

That’s life! Four opportunities in trials

Life is made up of ups and downs. But some still seem surprised when they hit the speed bumps, when the curve ball comes their way, when the bottom drops out.

A study was just released about success and failure in children’s lives. When they are told that problems are to be expected and that failure is a part of the process of growth, they do better.

If that is true of kids, it is also true of adults.

Here are four opportunities that the trials of life afford us.

#1. Experiencing the goodness of God

Some people ask why God allows bad things to happen. Successful people, spiritually speaking, see God’s goodness in the midst of tribulations. Christians see the divine hand guiding toward the goal.

Paul could see it, too.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT).

In bad times we discover our true friends. This is no less true of God.

#2. Learning patience and forming character

The body’s muscles are strengthened by resistance. Our spirit develops, in part, by dealing with the push-and-pull factors of life. They require more of us. They cause us to read deeper into our inner reserves and seek the power of God.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3).

Some people get bitter, others better, when trials come. The difference? The bitter don’t have God, but the better know how, through the will of God, to make trials their tools. They become stronger, more pure, with more peace and joy,?because of these things!

“I need my pain,” said Captain Kirk in one of the “Star Trek” films. Christians need their pain, too, as a part of their character formation.

#3. Letting God’s light shine through

In the midst of a world that complains, insults, murmurs and seeks desperately for a way out of sufferings, Christians shine brightly.

Whether Daniel in the lion’s den, Paul and Silas singing and praying in the deepest dungeon, Peter and John leaving the Sanhedrin and giving thanks that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ, the Lord’s people discover in each trial the grace of God and stand out in the midst of the lost.

We have been called into the light (1 Peter 2:9) to be bearers of that light, so that pagans “will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” (1 Peter 2:12).

No difference is greater in this world than how people respond to hardship. Disciples take it as their chance to shine for God.

#4. Embracing reality

The more we accept the reality of this life as it is, the more prepared and better equipped we will be to live according to the will of God. The person who seeks a life without difficulties and suffering has yet to understand the objective of human existence.

Our time on earth is not to be spent in a search for comfort and freedom from problems. We seek God’s kingdom and his way of doing things (Matthew 6:33).

Jesus promised us much in this life, and every bit of it “with persecutions” (Mark 10:29-30). And in the world to come, eternal life, he said.

To his son in the faith, Paul said the same, in order for Timothy to avoid getting disillusioned with his service to God and the saints. “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

So besides the normal difficulties of life that everyone suffers, Christians will also suffer persecution. And they bear up with joy, for they know that all this has a reason.

In the end, they will be with God forever, where there will be no pain, no suffering, no death, no ups and downs. Only constant joy.

Of all the opportunities, this is the greatest of all.

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For Real

by Barry Newton
The midnight intrusion seemed surreal. For as long as people could remember, the sun had risen and set. Once again darkness had embraced the city when the sound of pounding on a door revealed someone demanding to be heard — even in the darkness of night.
Opening the door, the young man found himself confronted by his future father-in-law, Lot. Lot recounted how he had invited two strangers into his home. But they turned out to be no ordinary men. When a mob had threatened, they had struck it with blindness.
Because of the evil in Sodom, the two men warned, “YAHWEH is about to destroy Sodom.” Lot encouraged him to join his own family in fleeing Sodom in the darkness. But this future son-in-law thought Lot was joking.
What’s real? The church youth group sat listening to their teacher speak about the importance of living for Christ. Yet for some, the message seemed remote. For them their reality revolved around dating relationships, sports, exams, and who was wearing the latest.
What’s real? Driving home from lunch early Sunday afternoon, she briefly commented on the morning’s sermon. Sunday afternoon faded away into another week of the same old routine. This Christian couple was pleasant enough, but you could not distinguish them from their non-Christian neighbors. Their reality revolved around work and family. And of course, they would attend church on Sunday.
If you have begun to read through the Bible in this new year, undoubtedly the biblical message has tried to leap from the page into your heart: What God has done, is doing, and will do is real! Repeatedly the scriptures advise us to live intentionally for the Lord, placing God at the center of our decision making.
Many years ago a young man thought that God’s message was a joke. Quite literally, his reality went up in smoke.