Archive for May, 2012

From Tragedy to Triumph:  Facing Life when We Lift Our Voice in Pain and Suffering

By Will Honeycutt

In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God that was immune to it?

I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross.

These powerful words come from the late John R. W. Stott who is now RIP (Rejoicing In the Presence!).  Dr. Stott, though I never met him, had a tremendous impact on me and my life and thinking.  His book, The Cross of Christ, and more particularly the chapter “Suffering and Glory,” from which the above quotes come, did more to give me perspective on suffering, and I believe a healthy one, than any other book I think I have read.  Why?  Because our God, mystery thought it is, is the God who did not remain in heaven in the comforts of his glory, but took upon himself human form and flesh and with a body of flesh and blood came to the “vale of tears” to experience death.  We all know the “passion” of Christ in terms of his Passion Week; those last days before He died.  We also know of the brutal scourging and crucifixion He went through at the end of that week.

We appreciate the sacrifice He made for our redemption, and truly, the cross of Christ, as Stott indicated, makes God a lot more accessible to us in our suffering.  He is not the aloof Being who remains in the heavens and looks down upon us in our suffering and pain.  I remember talking to a young man in the hospital when I worked in mental health who said that God is like the kid with the magnifying glass hovering over an anthill, burning us and enjoying it.  How did He come to this conclusion?  Why would he say such a thing about God?  Because he did not really understand the biblical God and the cross of Christ.  Even if the metaphor had truth in it, and that God delighted in our suffering, like the kid with the magnifying glass, the God of the Bible would still be the one that became an ant and suffered with us.

But what I want to reflect on is how Jesus was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” as we learn in Isaiah and this is referring, I think, to his entire life, not just that last few days, or particularly the crucifixion.  Let’s not limit our understanding of our suffering Savior to Passion Week.  Let’s walk with him through a few of the times in his life that he, like us, most likely suffered emotionally due to life’s stresses, hardships and tragedies.  I think if we do this, we will appreciate that our God, in human form and flesh, identified with our pain and suffering throughout his life.  This realization over the last few years has given me a deeper love and appreciation for my Savior and a confidence that when I talk to Him about my suffering, he really does understand, and not just because of the cross.  I have come to the conclusion that the more deeply I understand the suffering of Christ, the less often I will question the love of God.

Our Lord’s suffering began when He chose not to embrace His divine prerogatives and position, and, as John says, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  What a shock this must have been for God, in all of his holiness and splendor,  Who is of much purer eyes than to behold iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13), to plunge headlong into this dark and depraved world filled with sinful, prideful, greedy, self-absorbed, lecherous, drunken, rebellious people.  To experience suffering that comes from an evil that was not even His own making!  This world causes us loss, pain and suffering as well, even when we are making the best of choices and living rightly, as did Jesus.  For 30 short years Jesus endured this sick depravity in a way that we never could understand.  That is love; to intentionally intersect with corruption to bring redemption to the fallen.  Jesus’ suffering was not because of his own sin, but He still shows how to graciously endure pain as One who was the very definition and source of the Right and the Good.  He took on him what he never deserved.  If Jesus, who could not be accused of any sin suffered in life as He did (and this means much more than what He endured on the cross as we will soon consider) how can we, sinners by choice, expect any better?  As good a life as we might live, we still sin, but Jesus suffered deeply, though morally perfect and free from sin.

Another thing is that Jesus was born of a virgin.  You may not think this is necessarily suffering, but consider this.  Our Savior took to Himself a situation that was of great scandal and ill repute.  It would be an utter shame in those days for a young, unmarried girl, such as Mary was, to be pregnant!  It was a shame and honor culture, so we can imagine that Jesus was not necessarily welcomed into the family.  Consider why Mary, a young pregnant woman due to deliver anytime, was on a 100 mile trek on a donkey’s back to give birth to her first-born child in an animal’s feeding trough, amidst the dirt and feces.  Where were her parents?  Where were Joseph’s?  Why do we not hear of Jesus’ grandparents having anything to do with him and the family?  Could it be that the couple and Jesus were rejected?  These scandalous, embarrassing and terrible conditions were embraced by our Savior, who would, in a sense, never live it down.  We see indication that the scandalous events surrounding his conception and birth were never forgotten when the Jews called him one “born of fornication” (John 8:41).  This tells us that people in His time were as skeptical about Mary being pregnant while a virgin as many are today.  It wasn’t any easier to believe  then than now; that’s why Jesus got the reputation of being a bastard child.  Jesus loved us enough to embrace ridicule and shame; He identified with us.  Who hasn’t been hurt by name calling?

Jesus was born into poverty.  His family was not one of means as indicated by the offering of turtle doves, rather than sheep or goats, given by his parents.  Paul says, explicitly, that he “became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9).  I have never experienced the pain and deprivation of abject poverty, but I have seen it, and the suffering it can cause.  Jesus chose to embrace poverty rather than wealth and renown when he came to earth.

Jesus’ “step” father, Joseph, died.  We don’t know how, we don’t know when, but it seems that Joseph is not on the scene very long after Jesus’ 12th birthday, when the family made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover.  We do not know how long Joseph lived, but he does not appear in the Gospel narratives beyond this story, and he is not present at the cross since Jesus has to commit Mary to John to care for her.  At one point Jesus’ beloved “father” Joseph was taken from him, and this loss of a parent, a caring parent, is something many have experienced.  Jesus is no stranger to this kind of suffering.

This tragedy in life led to Jesus having to help his single mother raise his siblings.  It appears in the Gospels that Jesus was never really respected or accepted by his younger half siblings.  They called him crazy and such, and this no doubt emotionally affected Jesus and added to his “sorrows.”  Having to take on adult responsibilities and help a single mother raise younger siblings.  I am sure that someone reading can identify.  Jesus knows this kind of hardship.

Having to stay home with a single mother and help raise ingrates is probably why Jesus did not begin his public ministry until he was thirty.  This is kind of late to start a Rabbinical ministry, which is usually preceded by an apprenticeship with another Rabbi.  This, as far as we can see, Jesus never had. He was thrust into a ministry, which would not get a whole lot of recognition, later in life, only to live three more years, or so, and die at a relatively young age in a most miserable way, falsely accused of crimes he did not commit.

Jesus took on homelessness as well.  He told would be disciples that “the son of man has nowhere to lay his head”   He was dependent on others to feed and care for Him, and probably needed handouts to make it through the day at times.  Yes, he could create food, as with the fish and loaves, but remember, he chose not to exercise His divine powers most of the time so he could experience life was we know it more.  He loved us and identified with us in our need.  He suffered thirst, and hunger, and was often sleep deprived.

Jesus had a relative, named John (who baptized Jesus).  He may have been a second cousin, because Mary and Elizabeth, whose pregnancies overlapped, were cousins themselves.  After Jesus and John met at Jesus’ baptism, there seemed to be a real bond between them.   Jesus hailed John with words like “there has never been a greater man born from woman.”  He obviously thought a lot of John, and respected his ministry.  It must have been very hard for Jesus, emotionally, when he got news of John’s tragic and seemingly senseless death.

As you may recall, John was beheaded by a reluctant yet cowardly king because the king just wanted to save face and please a woman.  He even respected John, but was a weak man, and went through with the brutal execution; the violent removal of his head.  This tragedy apparently hit home with Jesus because Matthew tells us that when news of this horrible situation came to Him, He departed to be by himself.  Now, yes, Jesus could have prevented John from being beheaded, and it is easy to think that God could have intervened to prevent this.  But remember, Jesus did not come to make our lives easier; he came to experience the evil that our sin had created in this world in its full force to identify with us in our suffering.  Jesus experienced personal tragedy when he lost a respected and beloved family member.

One might conclude that Jesus did not love John or his disciples, to have allowed such a tragic event to occur when he could have prevented it altogether.  We deal with tragedies that do not make sense to us, when people are torn from us in their youthfulness and prime.  God had used John greatly, as we know, but he died, tragically, before we might think was a good time.  In His wisdom, God knew of this, in His wisdom, which He does not necessarily reveal to us, He has a plan.  We cannot even see what immediate good this horrible death led to, as it is not recorded.  John’s disciples, who came and respectfully buried the body and reported the death to Jesus, no doubt suffered from this tragedy in their lives.  So we are tempted to ask, did God not love them? How could God allow these disciples, who no doubt loved and depended on John, take John away like this?  That is an unanswered question, but we can be sure that God’s, Jesus’, love was not absent in this situation.

One of the things we need to realize is that suffering like this occurs because of human sin and depravity, even the tragic events that did not stem from human choice, necessarily, because the whole creation was, as Paul said, “subjected to futility” into the “bondage of corruption” and thus now “groans and labors with birth pangs” (See Romans 8:18-25) until the final redemption when the curse is reversed, and God “wipes away all tears from our eyes” (Revelation 21:4).

Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” and this must include these life situations and events, some of which we can all identify, and some of you may be able to identify with all of them.  The man of sorrow is one who is no stranger to suffering; One Who embraced this futile world, wrapped tightly in “the bondage of corruption,” full on when He came to it.  He did some healings, but not everyone was healed, he raised some from death, but not all were raised.  He came to be with us, to learn obedience through the things that He suffered; He came to embrace the human condition and show solidarity with us in our sufferings and thus bring a sense of hope for redemption.

Jesus’ suffering continued.  He dealt with unbelievers who rejected Him and He wept over this; it wasn’t easy for him.  He dealt with dense disciples who never seemed to learn the things he was trying to teach them, he dealt with the betrayal and denial of close and personal friends, as well as their abandonment in His time of need.  He also suffered through unanswered prayer when He asked if there could be an alternative to the “cup” of suffering He would endure.   In anticipation of His death, He was overwhelmed with great sorrow.  He was brought to trial falsely and accused of things He had not done and His words were deceitfully twisted to criminalize Him.  So if you have been betrayed, thrown under the bus, denied and “lied on,” falsely accused and mistreated, you have Someone who has been through it too, and can sympathize with you in your sorrows.

And then, finally, came the suffering we know best, His scourging and crucifixion.   But think on this.  Jesus became a victim, and even though He allowed it and chose it, it did not diminish the reality of the physical pain he endured when evil men would take his body and do with it as they pleased.  Jesus was violently molested and abused, so He knows this horrific experience as well.  Those of you who may have had to endure a senseless outburst of violence or molestation, or both, have Jesus to come to, who experienced the same.

But Jesus’ story, although of one tragedy, loss and pain after another, is not only this kind of story.  It is one of ultimate triumph because he came to deal with death and put an end to it by embracing it.  Like Frodo could only overcome the Ring of Power’s dark and deadly grip by bearing its burden, carrying it up a mountain and, by great sacrifice and risk, destroying it, so it is with Jesus.  He endured the burden of the full effect of a sinful and fallen world, with all of its darkness, pain and suffering, to eventually overcome it by carrying it up a mountain to destroy it!

Hebrews puts it best.

14 Inasmuch then as the children (we humans) have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham (we humans). 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (full satisfaction) for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being put to trial, He is able to aid those who are put to trial. (2:14-18).

Hopefully, you will remember that “put to trial” means not just dying on the cross, but experiencing the full force of a world wracked with pain and suffering throughout His entire life.  Jesus did not choose a cushy life, when He could have, but rather one of great sorrow and grief.  Hebrews also tells us that because of this choice and His experience He is able to identify with (literally “sympathize” which means “suffer with”) us and we can come boldly to Him and find “aid” and “grace to help in the time of need.”   His suffering is what makes it possible, for Him to identify with us in ours, and for us to even talk about ours to Him.  When we appreciate His true “sympathy” we are better in position and perspective to “hold fast to our confession” and not lose faith when we are put to trial and face great times of need in our lives, because we know that “He was in all points put to trial as we are yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

But as our tragedy became His, His triumph will be ours!!  For those of us who know Him, even in the midst of the tragedy of death, we “sorrow not as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) because He has “begotten us again unto a living hope, by [His] resurrection from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).  We can trust that in the end, all will be put to rights and sorrow and pain will be swept away.

I was encouraged, recently, when re-reading Genesis.  In the beginning, when our first parents chose to disobey and partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they, as we know, brought evil and death into God’s good world, and where there is evil, there will be pain and suffering and tragedy.  Tragedy hit the first family immediately and hard as Cain murdered his brother out of jealousy and anger.  But thankfully, by the end of Genesis, the precedent for the rest of the human story is set; God will turn human evil into good for salvation.  Joseph, who suffered much, acknowledged evil, but told his brothers that what they “meant for evil, God meant for good” (Genesis 50:20).

No matter what evil we may face, and the suffering that it leads to, God can and will eventually bring good out of it. This is vividly displayed in the life of Christ, who came to live amidst the painful consequences an evil not of His own making, and we will suffer in this world because of the evil of others as well, to deliver us from its enslavement by defeating it at the cross, and then raising from the dead to give us hope and promise that tragedy will give way to triumph to those of us who believe.

I began this blog with the words from Stott; I end it with them as well, agreeing with Stott, that Jesus is

The God for me! He laid aside His immunity to pain.  He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.  He suffered for [and like] us.  Our sufferings become more manageable in light of His.

I added the “and like” because, as we have seen throughout this discussion, Jesus knows all of our suffering, because he drank of it fully because He loved us.

Blessings in Christ,

Doc H.


The Difficult Questions

Posted: May 29, 2012 by andreacaresse in Uncategorized
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It has to be one of the most difficult questions… where answers just never seem to do it justice.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do we experience such tragedy?  If God loves us, why does He allow such difficulty?  I won’t begin to say that I have the perfect answer to these questions, or that my conclusions will rest all concerns in your mind.  But what I will write has come from my own experiences, and from seemingly useless tragedies in my own life… and from them I have found some reasons “why.”

When tragedies strike our lives they can be devastating.  It’s so easy to fall into a pit of desperation as we struggle to grasp the reasons behind terrible events.  Perhaps it’s the sudden loss of a loved one, a dear friend diagnosed with an incurable disease, a trusted individual who suddenly walks away, or even a physical and personal assault on your life and body that leaves you feeling empty inside.  When these things happen, the first questions we ask are: “Why, God?” “Why me/them?” “Why now?” “What possible good can come from this?”

When we’re in those moments, and those tragedies strike, it’s easy to forget that God has control.  We can’t imagine why God would allow such things, so we wonder if He could even stop it.   The difficulty lies in understanding that God does allow bad things to happen, but for an ultimate good.  “How can anything good come from this?” you ask… and this is an understandable question; don’t feel shame from asking it.  God knows we are human and have only our earthly viewpoint, and He knows how much we can handle. (Psalm 103:14)

Like everyone else on this fallen earth, I have experienced many tragedies in my life.  When evil would strike, a few years ago my response would be nothing but fear, confusion, doubt, and anger.  “God, why won’t You do something?  If You can stop it, why don’t You?” would be my main cry.  Not many years ago such tragedies would rock my faith foundation to the core.  The main reason for this is that I simply did not trust God.  I wasn’t sure if He really had my best interests at heart, or if He even really cared.  I say all this because trusting God in all circumstances is so extremely vital, especially in tragedies.  If you don’t trust God and believe that He has your absolute best in His heart, then you will never find peace in tragedy.  Even when we do trust and have absolute faith in Him, difficulty can cause us to lose our focus and doubt His goodness.  But if we never trust Him, we will never reach beyond those feelings of doubt and our hope will never rise amidst calamity.

When I heard about this week’s topic of “tragedies,” one example immediately came to my mind that I knew I must share, and that is the story of Tanner Cox.  In 2005 one of my cousins, Tanner who was only 10 years old, was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of brain cancer.  He underwent operations to remove the largest mass, but there were three more tumors still present and he began chemotherapy.  For two years he battled this disease and underwent treatments that took a major toll on his little body.  Throughout his journey, he inspired others by his faith and endurance.  His joyful spirit became known to all who interacted with him: family, friends, classmates, community members, local motorcycle groups, doctors and nurses at St. Jude’s, dolphin trainers at Sea-world through Make-A-Wish Foundation, celebrities like Vince Gill, and even the Yankees baseball team (his very favorite).   His family did everything in their power to make his story known so that prayers would be lifted on his behalf.  They maintained a website for updates and at every opportunity asked for prayer.  His condition appeared to be improving until one check-up revealed that the tumor was growing again.  Despite intense chemotherapy treatments, experimental medicines, and thousands of prayers, Tanner passed away two years after the diagnosis.

What good could come from this?  It may be hard to understand… but because of Tanner’s life, and because of his faith (and that of his family) the Gospel was shared countless times.   There are dozens of stories in those two years of people watching Tanner and his reactions and becoming inspired to learn more about his faith.  Many accepted salvation in Jesus Christ because of this boy’s testimony.  At his funeral, literally hundreds of people came.  All day during visitation a line stretched around the building to pay respects and show support for the family.  On the police escort to the cemetery, the police gave Tanner’s convoy a memorial solute as it passed by… even though he was only a civilian, and no one in his family was on the force.   Tanner made an impact; other lives were impacted by his.  A twelve year old who died of one of the world’s rarest forms of brain cancer made a tangible impact on the world around him the few years he had.

Even though Tanner’s story had a seemingly bad ending in our world’s standards, it in truth is producing a good outcome, because his life’s impact is not over.  Tanner’s physical body is the only thing that passed away. His soul is alive and thriving in Heaven celebrating in the presence of God’s glory.  Likewise, his testimony and example are still stirring in the hearts of everyone who hears it.  If you have read this, his story has impact you.  We may never know how many lives were changed by Tanner, but we know for sure that many came to salvation and are now living a more satisfying life, not to mention are now destined for Heaven instead of Hell.   Tanner and his family may not have seen what impact his life trial was having on others at the time, and likewise, we may not know this side of eternity what the purpose is behind tragedies in our own lives.  But when God is in control (and He always is), all things truly do work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

From other trials in my life, especially those that have affected me more personally, one of the biggest, but hardest, lessons I’ve been able to learn is that there really is a purpose behind everything.  Our God isn’t a god of confusion or chaos; He is the God of order and intentionality.  It took me a while to understand this and accept it.  It took going through seemingly “useless” tragedies and then seeing incredibly great blessings come from them years later.  Goodness that I could not possibly have anticipated down the road.  Now when devastation happens, I am still in shock (that will never truly go away), but I know that there has to be a purpose.  This give me hope amid despair.  And I know that God has all things in His control, and I know I can trust Him.

When you trust someone, it isn’t based on emotions or feelings, but on the experienced and demonstrated character of the individual.  Either by words, actions, or behavior, they have proven themselves to be trustworthy.  Throughout Scripture God has proven that He can be trusted.  Even when His chosen people turn their backs on Him, He is consistent and follows through on His promises.  Throughout history people change, but God never changes.  He is constant.  He is the most trustworthy Person you will ever know. There may be days and events where you don’t feel like trusting God, but that doesn’t mean He can’t be trusted.  Our feelings have no impact whatsoever on God’s character.  Don’t just take my word for it, the Bible is full of testimonies of God’s trustworthiness: Proverbs 3:5-6Psalm 22:3-5Psalm 56:3-4Psalm 37:5-6Isaiah 26:4Psalm 111:6-8Psalm 31:14-16Psalm 118:5-9Psalm 91:1-4.  And these are only a very few of the numerous passages that describe God’s faithfulness.  Especially in the Psalms we can find a reflection of our own hearts in times of tragedy.  The author of these poems experienced great trails and we can read how he cried his heart out to God when he experienced pain…  And we can also see how he rejoiced when God answered his cries.  God may not answer us in the time and way that we expect or desire, but He is always there holding onto us.  You can trust Him.

A second lesson I have learned more recently, and that is that whatever we experience makes us better witnesses and tools for ministry in God’s Kingdom.  Whatever you experience now will strengthen you later.  Just like a broken bone is stronger after it heals.  When it happens it hurts like crazy and you want to die, but that won’t last forever… the healing will come and you will be stronger from this tragedy.   There have been so many instances in recent years where a friend will come to me and describe a situation they are struggling with or are going through, and I am thankful, truly thankful, to be able to say, “I’ve been there, I know where you are.”  If I hadn’t gone through the storm myself, I wouldn’t have been able to help them through it either.   When we go through tragedy and come out the other side we are then able to help others in the midst of it.  We can empathize and not just sympathize.  It’s one thing to say, “I’m so sorry…” and quite another to say, “I know exactly how you feel right now…”  There have been many times when I’ve thanked God for allowing me to experience heartache.  Without it I wouldn’t have gotten stronger in my faith, and wouldn’t have been able to help my other brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you’re in the tragedy right now, the pain is all you can feel, and I know —  it’s hard… I understand.  But God understands far better than I ever could.  He knows more about your situation than even you do.   He saw it before it even happened, and He sees what will come from it years from now.  Trust Him.  He knows what will happen because of this event, and every other event in your life.  Find rest in knowing you are in His hands, that He loves you, and that He has an ultimate good that will come from this.  Believe God when He says, “I will be with you.  I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5)   Even though you may not be able to feel His presence in this moment, He is always holding you.  He will never let you go.  And He has incredible, good, and beautiful plans for you.  Never forget that.

What Is Worship?

Posted: May 22, 2012 by andreacaresse in Uncategorized

When you hear the word “worship” what do you think of?  A particular style of praise and worship music?  Guitars, drums, v-neck shirts and skinny jeans? What about masses of people in a stadium rocking out to the latest popular worship song?   Or do you think about traditional hymns?  What about hymnals and organs?  Choir directors? Whatever the genre, do you instantly think of music and singing?

Well, have you ever thought of silence?  Of quiet meditation, just you and God? What about service?  When you hear the word “worship” do you ever think of sweating while you clean out your neighbor’s garbage?  What about washing an old lady’s car?  Do you think about simply the way you live your life?  How you speak and act?

Maybe you should.

Today we have the tendency to equate worship with a church service.  We even call the main gathering in churches the “Worship Service.”  We often equate worship with the act of lifting our hands and singing our hearts out to God.  It’s true that this is one form of worship.  There’s nothing quite like uniting with other believers to sing praises to the One True God, Creator of the Universe, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  This is one of the most well-known and enjoyable forms of worship; but this is not all that worship is or could be.

The Webster’s definition of “worship” describes one of the meanings as: “reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence.”   We often express such reverence to God by song and rightly so.  The Bible is filled with passages that describe various kinds of music with instruments and voice as a way to give God glory.  It is right and beautiful that we do this.  But would we also do well to worship God by giving of ourselves in sacrificial service?  Yes.   How interesting that we call it “worship service,” and yet we as a church are often infrequent in our literal acts of the second part of that phrase: service.

Too often the Christian community takes the easier road when it comes to worship.  We will gladly sing and make a joyful noise, but we are less likely to give of our time, money, energy and comfort to God.  Our Savior is equally glorified, if not more so, by His people offering willing hands and hearts to others in need.  I’m thankful that my Savior got dirty and saved lost people… I’m glad He gave of his time and energy… I’m saved because He decided comfort wasn’t good enough and chose to bleed on a cross to remove my sin.

Worship is a way of life.  It’s how we greet our friends and family on a daily basis.  It’s the words we use when dealing with a confrontational stranger.  It’s how we respond to life-changing circumstances and how we thank God even in the hard times.  Worship is a state of being, a constant uplifting of God and not ourselves.  It’s giving God the glory when the world would tempt us to praise ourselves.  Worship is also choosing not to watch that movie, listen to that song, or view that image that is dishonoring God.  It’s making the choice not to indulge in something that debases everything God stands for.  Worship is choosing to run after Christ and not the world.

I can’t discuss worship and not mention the “great debate.”  Many Christians get distracted by musical genres during a worship service.  It’s a shame that we let our own personal preferences cloud what worship really is.  I don’t think God has a particular musical genre that He prefers.  Last time I checked, He created music of all kinds.  “And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” (2 Samuel 6:5)  That sounds like a party!  God’s very creative.  Don’t let your own preferences put God in a box.  And be careful not to make your own preferences outweigh the importance of giving God His due worship with a willing heart.  If that style of music you hear (be it drums and guitars or organs and pianos) is distracting you from praising God, you may need to do a heart check and think about what is really important.  It’s occurred to me, this contention between musical styles is an excellent distraction from the main point: glorifying God.  Hmm… who is “the author of confusion” again?  Oh yeah…

Never forget that God isn’t the only one who sees our worship; others are watching us too.  As Christians we are a light of God’s glory to a world looking for answers. The more we worship God with our lives, the more they will see Him.  The more we lift Him up and not ourselves, the better they can tell a difference between us and the world.  The more we serve the hurting around us, the more likely they will be to actually listen.  The more we unite as one voice to praise, honor, represent, and glorify God, the better witness we will be.  And that’s a worship style that we can all agree on.


Posted: May 17, 2012 by ericrasberry in Uncategorized

Being a man is one thing, being a godly man is something totally different. 

I want to give you my honest opinion about what God has taught me over the past several years about godly manhood.  Being manly can mean several different things to people; it can mean big muscles, or a big truck, or a big grill on your big deck, or a big office, or a big TV in your big man cave!  However, there are somethings that are not always thought of as manly; like empathy, compassion, humility, sacrifice, loving confrontaiton and so on.  Don’t get me wrong, I want a big truck and a big grill and a man cave someday but they cannot be how I define my masculinity. 

I believe that the truly godly men are not remembered for what they own, or drive, or wear but how they impacted the people around them whether they knew them or not.  Men whos character continues on earth long after they are in the presence of Almight God.  Accomplishments are wonderful and if you work hard for something then I believe you should get recognition for your work, but what good really are those accomplishments?  Are they accomplishments that start of your shelf, then move to the guest room, then move to the closet, then move the attic, then get sold for a nickle at a yard sale?  Or are they lasting impressions on friends, co-workers, strangers, siblings, even parents.  Are they examples of grace and forgiveness that emulated for years and years, are they lifestyles that other Christian men ask the Lord to give them.  Will your personal standards, life verses and quotes be a clear representation of how you live?  Will those things resonate in the minds and hearts of the guys you do life and ministry with or the young people who watch your life?

Are there godly men who have lots of big toys? Yes.  Is there a problem if they are only remembered for the toys they had? Yes! 

Here is the bottom line.  As men who have chosen to die to ourselves and surrender our lives, ambitions, successess, failures, hopes and dreams to Christ we should be inexplicably focused and motivated by eternity.  Everything we do must revolve around the truth of our eternal destination and the eternity of the people we come into contact with.  Colossians 3:2 gets rigth to the heart is says, “Set your mind on things above, NOT on earthly things.”  Here are some of those “above” things; truth, nobility, righteousness, love, admireable things, excellent things, praiseworthy things (Phil. 4:8).

Be a man that speaks the truth of Christ always.

Be a man that demonstrates nobility and respect.

Be a man that is righteous and pure in thought and action.

Be a man that loves the way God loves.

Be a man that admires a lasting legacy and lives to leave a great one.

Be a man that pursues excellence.

Be a man that lives each day as an act of praise and worship to your Heavenly Father.

Be a man.

The Power of a Princess

Posted: May 17, 2012 by liftyourvoice1 in Godly Womanhood

Genesis 2:18, 22-24 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” … And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

This weeks topic has been a tough one for me to discuss. Being a man I know very little about being a woman. It is just my nature not to know as a man. But, one thing I do understand is the affect or power a woman has over a man. You ladies have a power over men that many of you do not realize. There are so many ways that a woman can affect and or have power over a man. Now I’m not saying she is leading a man, I don’t want you to hear me wrong. But there are aspects about a woman that greatly affect a man. I thought it best, that as a man I should share some of these with my sisters in Christ.

As I discussed last week a Godly man is a warrior. As warriors sometimes we like to think that we are impenetrable. The truth of the matter is we are weak from time to time and we do sustain wounds. These wounds can come from anywhere and they weaken the warrior. Now, a true man of God will look to God as his main source of strength and healer of these wounds. But, one way a woman has an effect or power over man is in the way she can impart strength and healing to him by just being there and saying kind words to him. Ladies, a man wants to defend you, he wants to fight for you (if he truly is a man that is, if he’s a little boy leave him be), but sometimes men want to be fought for as well. Sometimes men need that extra push from a woman.

The warrior must be able to slay a dragon under his own strength(with God’s help) but with a woman there a man feels extra strength. For a man hearing kind words of encouragement, or that she’s proud of him means so much. When a man hears that from a woman he cares about (be it a girlfriend,wife, mother etc) he feels as though he can conquer anything.

I cite my own parents as an example. My mother is truly a godly woman and a strong one at that. My father is a pastor and the church being full of fallen men and women has a tendency to over look and abuse my father’s love, leadership, and care for them. Often times they will say things that will tear him down and beat him up. Dad sometimes likes to put on that he is impervious, but it hurts him. I have seen my mom see this and seen how she will pull my Dad aside when he feels weak and encourage him. The strength he gains from this is amazing. I have seen Mom help hold my father up through many a hard time. They do it for each other, but the power and affect my mother has over my father is clear. Dad values her opinion and her encouragement.

This is a powerful aspect of woman hood. It is part of why God made her. Man is to lead and be a warrior, but he needs that help sometimes. He needs that encouragement, sometimes that extra push from a woman that he loves. This is part of being the helper. A warrior needs a princess to fight for, but also a princess that will fight for him in turn. One who will be there to help give him extra strength when he needs it.

On the flip side of this coin, is the effect a woman can have negatively on a man. When a women compliments a man or encourages him he feels amazing, but when she tears him down (especially if it’s a woman he cares about) it can be one of the deepest wounds ever. I know this from personal experience, but will not get into that today. A woman can be the weak spot in a man’s armor. Because he is looking for affirmation from her, if he does not get it he will feel weak, even if he is truly strong. While it is important for a woman to constructively criticize a man she must realize that what she says will affect that man, sometimes in ways she cannot anticipate.

Ladies, there are so many ways that you have power over a man. There is the positive affect from your kind words, treatment, and presence while we fight the battles of life. There is the negative affect from your not so kind words. There is the affect from your beauty and your modesty or lack of (Which I will not get into right now, a whole book could be written on that one). Each of you Ladies is a beautiful princess, a precious jewel. But, a sharp diamond can cut through steel if used properly. Ladies I wish to challenge you to seek to understand the affect you have on men. Part of being a Godly woman is using that power, that affect that you, and your beauty have on us, wisely. We men were created to lead and to be warriors, but you women were created to fight as well. You fight differently, but it is just as important because without you where would we men be. Remember God said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Part of being that helper, part of being that woman of God you need to be is realizing and using wisely your power to affect men.

Hey Ladies, the World Has Lied to You

Posted: May 14, 2012 by andreacaresse in Godly Womanhood

Society has for some time tried to define what it means to be a woman.  The worldly thoughts concerning a woman’s identity are pervasive and have even made their way into the church and family.  These public misconceptions about femininity can be, have been, and will continue to be destructive on biblical womanhood if women don’t take notice and stand up for the truth.

The last show of Lift Your Voice discussed biblical manhood and one of the points mentioned was the fact that society has warped what true manliness is all about; the same is completely true for women.  In our culture today there seems to be a propensity towards changing the male-female roles.  Culture loves labeling men’s roles as women’s, and women’s roles as men’s.  Why?  It may not seem like all that important of an issue to discuss, but the fact is that these differences were designed by God.  An attack on the definition of manhood and womanhood is in fact a direct attack on God’s divine order.  When the men aren’t the men they should be, it’s extremely difficult for women to be the women they need to be. The two sexes really do complement each other, it’s not two separate topics, but one unified topic of God’s special design for male/female relationships.

To see how humanity has chosen to twist the truth, let’s take a closer look and what society defines as womanhood.  For one, modern role models for women are practically nonexistent.  Young girls have their choice of the following as guides to live their lives:  anorexic and artificial supermodels, sexually promiscuous and in other ways morally corrupt celebrities, feminist activists who promote female dominance, TV and movie characters who warp femininity and make it comical or inferior, male-like bisexual and lesbian characters who struggle with being born female, and the list goes on.   When scrolling through the programs available on television, there are hardly any female characters who exemplify femininity.   We no longer live in “the good ole days” of black and white tv shows when many celebrity examples were good, decent, and edifying.

Not only are our secular examples lacking, but there are very few women leaders in the church itself to look up to for women.   All of the church’s pastors, most deacons, and leaders are men.  Many times the wives of these men don’t have the same calling, so they aren’t seeking to be mentors to young women.  Young girls growing up in the church find themselves looking to the male leaders for guidance and direction.  This isn’t usually the best idea and could be problematic for a variety of reasons.  So even in the church, girls have few options to find role models, especially if their mothers are not godly.

Society tells girls that when they have great bodies and need to use monthly products or take a pill, then they become a woman.  But that’s not being a woman. That’s being an object. That’s just being sexual eye candy. But that’s what society feeds young girls, and girls buy it because it makes them feel good and important, but they aren’t being cherished that way.   So often girls don’t even know what it’s like to truly be valued because they have poor male role models in their lives and so they go looking for affirmation wherever they can find it.  Culture quickly offers artificial confirmation to yearning hearts as long as girls conform to a worldly image.  But this fleeting sense of identity won’t last, because society is ever-changing.

Society also tells girls that they become women when they are in a physical or serious relationship.  Let me make myself absolutely clear ladies: that relationship you are in does not, and never will, define who you are.  If you are broken, a relationship will not heal you.  If you are single and lonely, male companionship will not feed your soul.  It’s satan’s lie to try to convince you that you are worthless without a man.  You are not and never have been worthless.  Period.   I know too many women who have been deceived by this, and I must speak boldly and bluntly on this issue.  Your identity should be found in Christ and no one else.  If you need a “soul-mate,” you won’t find it in another human being, only Jesus Christ can fill that void. Another person is just as fallible and imperfect as you are.  Why do we as people think that another person can heal us if that person obviously can’t heal themselves?  I’m not speaking only about accepting the gift of salvation (though granted that must the first step), I am also speaking of Christian women not giving Christ access to the most inner parts of their heart to take control over.  It’s human nature to want to hold back some for ourselves, but we can’t do this and have total healing – it must be given to God.  So if you’re thinking another person can fix you – STOP.  They can’t.  If you think many possessions, pretty looks, a perfect body, great career, or social popularity will satisfy or give you identity, you’re wrong.  They can’t do that for you either.  And gaining them won’t make you a true woman.

If you are a Christian, your identity is found in Christ, which makes you priceless in God’s eyes!  You are cherished and loved more than you could ever imagine.  Yes you.  If you don’t think God really loves you think about this:  Would God purposely create something He didn’t love?  Psalm 139:13-16 proves that God made you exactly the way you are for a reason.  Psalm 103:3-5 shows just a glimpse of all the love and forgiveness God has for you.  John 3:16, Romans 5:8 and many more show how far God has gone to demonstrate His love for you.  You are cherished by God, embrace that fact.

So what is a true woman? Check out this godly example.

A True Woman of God

Posted: May 14, 2012 by andreacaresse in Godly Womanhood

In the Bible there are many role models for young women.  A few more well-known passages are Ruth, Esther, The Proverbs 31 Woman and others.  Proverbs 31 is perhaps one of the most recognized passages in the Bible that paints a clear picture of biblical womanhood.  It may come as a surprise that for much of my life the significance of this passage was never truly made clear to me.  This sheds some light on how little womanhood is discussed in the church as a whole.  The argument could be made that for the most part, today’s church is broken.  But it is because her families are broken.  Women (especially as mothers) are often the “tie that binds” in families. When mothers and wives give up or lose hope, the family as a whole falls apart. Women are meant to be the caring and tending side of families. When that’s gone, the family unit can’t stay together very long.  Proverbs 31 shows us what a devoted woman of God who loves her family really looks like.  If you haven’t read this chapter yet, do so now.

Proverbs 31 was written by a king about his mother.  She made such a strong impact on his life, he wrote about her teachings of wisdom, and her life example.  Verses 1-9 demonstrate the kind of advice this mother gave to her son; 10-31 describe the kind of woman that this mother emulated, and probably instructed her son to find as a wife.  An interesting note is that verses 10-31 were written as a Hebrew acrostic (the first letter in the first word of each verse corresponds to the letters of Hebrew alphabet in order).  This can symbolically show that a completeness of the subject is being discussed.

Below is a rough examination that may help the modern young woman understand this poetic Hebrew passage.  After reading the original passage, compare it with the following.

A Godly Woman Teaches with Words And Actions

  1. Words: She (his mother) taught him the truth and gave him instruction.
  2. She loves him and asks him to look inside himself (reflection).  She reminds him where he came from and whose he is. She asks him to take a closer look at his life.
  3. She warns him about the devastation caused by promiscuity and loose living, and reminds him of past kings destroyed by such living.
  4. She informs him that kings live by higher standards and should not drink.
  5. She taught him the consequences of choices and ramifications of drinking, and that it affects more than just himself.
  6. She instructs him to give drink as a medicine to those who perish (instead of doing bad with this, do good instead).
  7. She reminds him that others are hurting and are in poverty.  It was tradition to give drink to those who were condemned to death, she reminds him that is it’s purpose.
  8. She tells him to speak up for those with no voice; to help those who can’t help themselves.
  9. She says “Lift Your Voice!” (I couldn’t resist)  and decide by the truth; defend what is right.  Defend the rights of the defenseless.  
  10. Actions: She (a true godly woman) is hard to find and should be cherished more than any wealth imaginable.
  11. She is trustworthy and her husband never regrets opening himself up to her.
  12. She has good intentions and is not spiteful in her purposes.
  13. She seeks out her own work and does it willingly.
  14. She puts forth effort to do her absolute best at home and abroad.
  15. She is self-sacrificing and appropriately gives  everyone their needs.
  16. She makes wise choices, is a smart planner, and uses money she saves (not from debt).
  17. She is a hard worker and does not take shortcuts.
  18. She finds value in her work and doesn’t hurry to get over it.
  19. She does her “woman’s work” with both hands without slacking and does not complain.
  20. She makes an effort to help those in need, she is giving and generous.
  21. She doesn’t worry about difficult times because she has prepared well.
  22. She is clothed in purity and righteousness, never to be put to shame.
  23. She respects her husband and this is known by others.
  24. She is willing to work and make a living if necessary, and will make arrangements to do so.
  25. She is spiritually strong and does not worry about tomorrow or the unknown.
  26. She speaks with wisdom and teaches with kindness.
  27. She keeps an eye on her family and is not idle toward them.
  28. She is worthy to have her children’s and husband’s praise.
  29. She is prized by her husband as “one-in-a-million” and far above average.
  30. She fears God above all else, and doesn’t place her value in charm or beauty.
  31. She is to be cherished, love her and praise her both publically and privately, never withhold how proud you are to be hers.

So when is a woman a woman, and not just a girl?  When she is able to teach wisdom, her heart is focused on God and righteousness, and she is able to put the needs of others ahead of her own.  True women of God are wise, loving, compassionate, submissive to authority, and pure of heart.

It has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with genuine character.