Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reflections On Sunday

On Sunday we continued part 3 of our Questions for God series asking the question, "Why all the pain in suffering?" In my opinion this is one of the most difficult questions to deal with because it is very philosophically complex and very personal for so many people. The question often isn't "why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?" but "why did my father die when i was only 10?" or "why does my 5 year old child have leukemia?" It would be so much easier to address this question with people I don't know, but sharing with our church on Sunday was very difficult! So, I just confessed from the front end that I still wrestle with this question and that a total solution really is beyond human understanding! My goal with this past week's message was merely to provide some level of clarity and some hope to those dealing with pain and hardship currently. 

Here are a couple of the highlights: 
* Pain and suffering in our lives ultimately flows back to waywardness and folly. This would include the poor choices we've made, others have made, or that Adam and Eve made in the book of Genesis.  His creation at the beginning did not include evil, but allowed for evil based upon the freedom he gave humanity to choose Him! Ultimately, all hardship stems back to the fall. I talked about how it is easier for me to understand how my choices cause pain in my life, but it is more difficult to grasp how God would allow others choices and Adam and Eve's choices to have such consequences. Yet, if I am honest, if were back in the garden of Eden I would have chosen the forbidden fruit just as they did! 
* Secondly, in my suffering I see my need for a savior or my need for help. For example, I have really neglected my dental hygiene over the last 5-6 years. It wasn't until two of my teeth caused unbearable pain that I chose to go see the dentist. Our pain drives us to our knees and ultimately causes us to cry out for help outside of ourselves. We often fight the tendency to self medicate this pain... with relationships, with jobs, with school, with hobbies, with money, and of course with chemical addictions. In the end the "numbing" of the pain doesn't cause the pain to go away. 
* Finally, it is only in looking to the cross of Christ that I am able to find healing, comfort and hope in my pain and suffering. It is in realizing that he who never committed any wrong, never went wayward, never had an evil thought stepped into an evil world and ultimately would bear my sins on the cross so that I can find healing and comfort in my suffering! What a wonderful comfort. Most of you who are parents can remember some time when you saw your child in pain, the natural instinct is to think, "If I could just trade places with them." That is what God did, he traded places and entered into the worst form of suffering in order that we might find comfort and hope. The truth is, God cares so much more about your soul than your body. If you and I surrender to him for his help we will one day spend eternity with Him, where there will be, "no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow." And ultimately we will experience an eternity of pain free living. WOW! 

This was by far the most difficult subject I've ever addressed in teaching. In the end, when it comes to pain or suffering I don't know why God chooses some to suffer more than others. It is beyond my human understanding... Yet, I know that by His grace I will choose to place trust in Him today. 

In addition to the message: 
* We had our highest attendance (aside from easter) with 236 people from our community in attendance! It so great to see a ton of people who are inviting their friends and family to join them. 
* Our volunteers amaze me every week from the street with our parking lot gang all the way to our ushers inside who help people find seats. The band did and incredible job leading in worship this Sunday. it was all around one of the best worship services we've had to date. 
* We had a Family Fun Festival immediately following the worship service. A team of 8 people from Johnson Ferry Church in GA came and served. They knocked it out of the park inviting people from the community, setting up the event and taking down. They enabled our staff and key volunteers to interact with people from the community who came to the event. We had over 200 people who participated, many of them never had been to our church before. Great job team! Praise God. 
* We had another person decide to follow Christ for the first time this Sunday. Just about every week we are having people decide to give their lives to Christ! What a huge blessing this is! 

We are building tremendous momentum this fall. I am so thankful to God for all that He is doing in our midst. I am thankful to our team for their commitment, their prayers and their hard work. There is no way we would be where we are today if it were not for the people who sacrifice their time, money and energy to see this vision go! Thank you for giving, thank you for praying, thank you for serving. Together we are impacting our community and our region with God's love!