Random Thoughts - gcsundra
Every once in a while I feel like I've got something to say; random thoughts, if you will. My daughter says one writes to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside. If that's true, then if I feel like I've got something that just has to get out then I'll try to put it here. Whatever it is, I hope it brings something positive to your day. Thanks for visiting.

-greg

JESUS STORIES

"Today would have been Chad's 24th birthday. Almost three years have passed since Jan 1, 2013. It is not a true statement that says, ''time heals all wounds.'" (1) 


I regularly get together with brothers and sisters in Christ where we share what we call "Jesus Stories," recent examples of where we see Jesus actively involved in doing remarkable things in our lives and the lives of others. It's a conscious effort to open our eyes to the ways in which Jesus works to reveal Himself and His love in a broken world where our days can be difficult and filled with distraction.

Our stories often contain details of physical healings, freedom from addictions, restoration of relationships, personal declarations of dependance upon Christ for His saving grace, and other truly remarkable exhibitions of Our Lord's loving hand reaching down to touch us in ways that only He can. Lives are made whole and set straight because Jesus has intervened into our needy and broken realities.  These are true Jesus Stories, stories that are so incredible that they are often only heard of from a distance. But we are living week to week to see these same stories manifested in our own lives and in the lives of those near to us. In many ways, we are like Job who declared, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." {Job 42:5}

Stories like these never cease to move me. I am reminded of a God who continues to care deeply and move in significant ways within our daily circumstances that He might get our attention and that we might hear loud and clear the inaudible words, "I love you. Let Me enter into your journey."

Yet despite these extraordinary stories, I find my mind continually returning to a place deep within my heart that has come to know God and His love through quieter and more subtle Jesus Stories. Yes, stories that take place in the midst of situations that may not soon see miraculous healings, joyful reunions, and remarkable life-reversals, at least not in the sense that they shout for our attention.


"You just learn to live with the loss. You learn the deeper things of life and that God's ways are not always our ways. It is a hard truth to swallow. We don't know what the end of the story is, it isn't finished yet." (1)


Our lives can be filled with such gut-wrenching experiences that bring us to a screeching halt in our life's pursuits. We are brought to our knees in desperation ready to cling to any sign of hope, if only for the moment. We quickly lose sight of the bigger, long-term picture and we can't see past our very present reality.

Everywhere I turn, a too-young friend battles cancer or another debilitating, life-altering illness and spouses and scores of children must learn to live with a new reality. A wife loses a husband of 50 years, leaving a very real and sorrow-filled void. A husband and father is lost in a grievous accident; a wife and young children are left to move forward. A child, brother, friend is lost to another tragic and preventable accident; family and friends are forever changed. Another, fallen victim to a savage and cruel act of violence; loved ones are left to make sense of the senseless. A child, brother, friend is gone in a moment through the desperate cry of suicide and lives will forever bear the scars. Children, spouses and others that we love lash out at and reject everything and everyone that was once held dear; we walk in the wake, never the same. Devoted servants of God, through ill-founded choices of trusted Christian brothers and sisters, are left broken and questioning; daily decisions to be made that can forever influence the state of their hearts.

Add your story here. Like Solomon and Paul, we know these are experiences which aren't exclusive to a few. (Ecc. 1:9-10; 1 Cor. 10:13) In the quietness of my heart and the depths of my spirit I know that God is just as active writing very real Jesus Stories, perhaps of a different nature, yet every bit as life-defining.

In these Jesus Stories, I find a loving God who has entered into the midst of my friends' deepest sufferings. He walks within their journeys that are marked with questions having no simple answers. He stands beside them in the depths of valleys that know no end. He shines His comforting light in their darkest of nights.

These Jesus Stories are stories of Emmanuel, God with us. They are found in the very presence of a God who left the comforts of heaven to walk with us (Php. 2:6-8), who saw our need and entered into the midst of our lives giving us the very gift of Himself. (John 1:14)

In these Jesus Stories, humbled and broken disciples determine to walk in faith, clinging to the Emmanuel they trust, despite no visible assurance of His presence. (1 Pet. 1:8) When darkness buries them in grief and they can't see the way ahead, they vow, even so, to take a single step in faith believing that the One who said, "I will be with you always" is, indeed, leading them onward. They know not where their journey will take them, but they know to Whom they will go. (John 6:68-69) In the most uncertain of times, they know Him who is certain. (Heb. 10:23)

Everywhere I turn, I hear the stories of brothers and sisters who walk with a Jesus who they have found to be relevant within the realities of daily life. These are the Jesus Stories of those that say, "It is well." These are stories told by those who declare, "He has set my foot on a Rock." (Ps. 40:1-3) They are spoken by those who announce, "He is my Strong Tower." (Prov. 18:10)

These Jesus Stories are lived out by those that choose to say, "I forgive." They are stories that are written in the experience and reality of, "My grace is sufficient." They are Jesus Stories that children of God, in moments unimaginable, testify to the strange reality that "I cannot separate the wounds from the grace; they are entangled."(2) These are the Jesus Stories declared by those who have learned in the journey, "He is Living and True."


"But one thing I do know, is that God is sovereign and in control. He keeps our feet steady. As seasons change, we move ahead, following God's path for our life, and not our own. The love of Chad, remains imprinted on our hearts forever. He was very special.

'Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.'" John 14:27   (1)


-greg

10/4/2015


(1) Thanks to friends Anne & Greg for putting words to their personal Jesus Story.

(2) Words of Aaron Cobb from the midst of his personal Jesus Story.

  • No Comments

THE ROAD TO HAPPINESS

Does God promise our happiness?  I used to think that thought was ridiculous; in no way does He do such a thing, does He? After all, It is our holiness that He is most concerned with, and in our holiness we find our ultimate happiness. That's certainly what I've been taught.

Well, I don't think I'm willing to contradict the role that holiness plays in our happiness, but I do believe that the Biblical framework for our happiness is a little more defined than that. In fact, Jesus Himself seemed to lay out a plan with a definite promise of happiness, not with a list of successive steps but certainly a list of qualities that, if reflected in our lives in increasing measure would lead to increasing amounts of happiness.

I enter into evidence the Beatitudes, "The Happies," as my junior high teacher, Sister Mary Kormanec used to call them. After all, the word "blessed", as it appears in the Beatitudes, means exactly that, "happy."

   Matt. 5:3  "Happy are the poor in spirit...4 Happy are those who mourn...5 Happy are the meek...6 Happy are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness...[and even] 10 Happy are those who are persecuted."

Really? Here we find in Matthew 5, and also in Mark 6, God's game plan, His pathway to happiness. In fact, it is here that we find a new definition of happiness, certainly a happiness that is rooted in values that are quite different from those which we might tend to think lead to happiness. Poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted...not exactly the kinds of things we generally live for, seek higher education in, or generally pursue in any way, form, or fashion.

Perhaps, the key to falling in line with this promise of happiness is to first rethink our own definition of happiness and the things that we choose to pursue with our time, money, energy. After all, the things we pursue say quite a bit about our true values.

What is it that characterizes the Jesus-way of happiness? Do we see a common theme in the happies? I see brokenness, humility, lowliness, a lifestyle of resting in and walking in the Lordship of Christ. Walking in confidence that God is sovereign and can be trusted when we live HIs way, in line with His priorities, finding security in Him and then living accordingly.

What is it that breaks our pride? What is it that breaks our heart? What are the things that we weep over? What is it that brings out the gentleness in our spirit? Are we broken for the things of God, both in our personal life and in the world around us? How badly do we want to reflect the image of Christ?

The answers to questions such as these will go a long way in determining the degree to which we realize true happiness.

"He has not promised to gratify all the appetites of the body and the humors of the fancy, but to grant all the desires of the heart, all the cravings of the renewed sanctified soul.  What is the desire of the heart of a good man?  It is this, to know, and love, and live to God, to please him and to be pleased in him."      -Matthew Henry

-greg

5/31/15

  • No Comments

THE PRIVILEGE OF SUFFERING

"For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him."     -Php. 1:29 (NLT)


Jesus called His disciples to follow after Him and to enter into His suffering (John 6:35–66). When Jesus called His disciples to the difficult and narrow road, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” My circumstances of suffering are different, but I, too, am called to the difficult and narrow road. Mine is a journey that I alone must walk. But, because of His grace, I am not alone. 

Truth be known, I often feel like Peter when he told Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall [I] go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) I mean, where else would I go? What other option do I have? I have tried to do it on my own; my wisdom and strength continually gets me nowhere.

When speaking of my “suffering,” I use the term loosely; the word “struggles” is probably more appropriate. I realize that we all have struggles that are uniquely ours. Therefore, there is no sense in comparing it to that which others experience. Because it is part of my personal journey, it cannot be dismissed or minimized, even if it is seemingly insignificant to others.

I have grown to believe that walking through my unique and individual trials is a privileged responsibility. My trials serve as a special invitation from God to enter into a place in my relationship with the Father that can be experienced through no other means. I have been invited to walk in an intimacy with God that not everyone knows or can understand, at least until they are invited to walk a similar journey.

Yes, the LORD is good, and He is faithful. That truth does not change no matter the outcome of my trial. There is treasure not only in His faithfulness, but I have begun to believe that the LORD also counts me among His faithful. His invitation for me to join Him in the journey of suffering is a very special privilege. It affirms my adoption into His family (Rom 8:14-17) and confirms my faith (1 Pet 1:6-7).

God invites some of us to walk in deep places that He does not entrust to all. It’s the privilege of suffering, and it leads to a walk of intimacy with our Father that can only be realized in the most difficult of circumstances. Indeed, He invites all to enjoy the privilege of suffering, but He entrusts the privilege to only a few.

My journey is not yours, and yours is not mine. Even so, the invitation to suffering is extended to us both. We are both faced with the option of turning back, and the question remains, to whom shall we go? It is Jesus that has the words of eternal life. Indeed, He is the Word of Eternal Life, and that Word is learned and enjoyed most deeply through the privilege of suffering...for He says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

-greg
11/25/12
  • Rated:

    God's Child

    on January 3, 2014

    Love, love, love this and the words are powerful and true - particularly the lines "God invites some of us to walk in deep places that He does not entrust to all." (paragraph 6) and " My journey is not yours, and yours is not mine." (paragraph 7).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Happy New Year - 2014!

    God is faithful!!

    1/3/2014

WHEN WINTER COMES EARLY

I somehow got on a Rich Mullins kick the other day. Rich was a writer and musician who could express things in word and song from a perspective that revealed a humble acceptance of who he was in light of who God is. Rich was always real about who he was, both with others and with God Himself. I was deeply moved by the life and sudden death of this man who taught me so much about the love of God.

I did a web search on Rich's death and came across this “tribute” song by Andrew Peterson. As I listened to the words and remembered how I felt when Rich died, it reminded me of friends like you who have also lost loved ones recently. Some by tragic means and some by natural means, but in many ways the feelings are the same…someone we love is gone and we are left to wrestle with emotions that at times can consume us.

I am finding that those emotions can come out of nowhere and at totally unexpected moments as I, too, recently lost someone who was important to me when my mother died in October. She, like Rich, had taught me much about the love of God.

One of those lessons that I am reminded of at this time is that when nothing makes sense, when the hurt is unbearable and inexpressible, when I'm feeling alone or that I can't go on, God is still true. Whether I feel it or not, He is faithful, will be faithful, and for that reason, if none other, I can trust the One who is in control. I don't have to understand it all, and I can rest in Him.

But even so, I understand that sometimes we can know all that is true yet be at a place where that doesn't seem to matter much, because, as Andrew sings, "it's still winter down here." The feelings of grief and loss are a natural expression of our deep love for our friends and relatives. We can't be ashamed of those feelings, and we shouldn't try to suppress them. They are part of the grieving process, and they are part of the healing process. Jesus, Himself grieved the loss of His dear friend, Lazarus. So in the deepest sense, even though it may feel differently, we are not alone in our sorrow.

So with these thoughts in mind, this song from Andrew is for the times when you’re feeling “broken and breathless and bent to the ground” and when you’re “listening but don't hear a sound.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-Xm1VjpQvc

And to bring this full circle, Rich reminds us of the source of our comfort when we "wake up in the night and feel the dark." Sometimes we just need to be held, and when we do, He is there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6csWlQ9dfb4

Be blessed my friend...and be real; we are not alone.

-greg
12/02/2011
  • Rated:

    God's Child

    on December 11, 2011

    Beautiful wording "When Winter Comes Early." I feel such a kindred spirit here! Thanks for sharing and for following your heart. Be blessed and share the rest!!!!

A THOUSAND FOR ONE LEAVES THE WORLD SCRATCHING ITS HEAD

Oct. 18, 2011
http://video.foxnews.com/v/1225075618001/opposition-to-israeli-palestinian-prisoner-exchange/?playlist_id=86857

Interesting development in world news today that has left much of the world scratching its head. It seems the life of one Israeli prisoner was given for the life of a thousand Palestinian prisoners. Comments like, “is a thousand for one individual a worthwhile trade?” are echoing all over the airwaves. It is seemingly senseless. It is almost as if the world has never seen anything like it.

But truth be told, this kind of prisoner exchange is not without precedent. Actually, it is a daily occurrence, and people far and wide have always struggled to make sense of such an unfathomable transaction. One Jew for 1000 enemies? How can it be? How can anyone see this as a right and fair exchange?

I can’t claim to make sense of something so humanly ridiculous and am far from capable of explaining something so beyond earthly reason. But this one thing I know. I have personally been touched by one of those transactions, and my life has never been the same.

30 years ago, I was one of those thousands. I was one of those enemies. Indeed, I was one of those prisoners. Yet I experienced a similar walk to freedom, and my freedom, too, came at the costly price of one Jew. I am just one of the thousands, one of the many. And all that can be said is, “How can it be?”

Let me try to explain what I am able, what I do know. That is, there was once a high priest in Israel around the year 33 named Caiaphas.

"Then one of them—it was Caiaphas, the designated Chief Priest that year—spoke up, "Don't you know anything? Can't you see that it's to our advantage that one man dies for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed?" He didn't say this of his own accord, but as Chief Priest that year he unwittingly prophesied that Jesus was about to die sacrificially for the nation, and not only for the nation but so that all God's exile-scattered children might be gathered together into one people." (John 11:49-52; The Message)

At that same time, there was one Jewish prisoner named Jesus.

"Then the soldiers with their commander and the guards arrested Jesus. They tied him and led him first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who told the Jews that it would be better if one man died for all the people." (John 18:12-14, NCV)

50 years ago, there came another man, and that man is me. I was born a prisoner of a sin-life that has touched all men who have ever been born of a woman and a man.

"You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we're in— first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn't sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it." (Rom. 5:12-14, The Message)

2000 years before me, that one man, Jesus surrendered His life, a prisoner by choice, as a ransom for this man, a prisoner of sin, a prisoner by choice, and for many, many other prisoners along the way. Perhaps, even you?

"Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man's sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God's gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There's no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man's wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?" (Rom 5:15-17, The Message)

I (along with many others) have forever been set free from the chains that once bound me. I have been given a future, indeed, a new life through the acceptable transfer of the one prisoner, my enemy, the Jew, Jesus Christ.

"Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." (Rom 5:18, NIV)

A thousand in exchange for the one? It can’t be. Or can it? Since that day 2000 years ago, people through the ages have struggled to make sense of such an exchange. A thousand in exchange for the one? Foolishness.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…" (1 Cor. 1:18-23, NIV)

One in exchange for many. A news story? Definitely. But a new story? Not at all. Unfathomable? Without question.

  • No Comments