Tag Archives: Discipleship

Writers Wanted for Discipleship Website

To all Pastoral and Ministry Leadership friends,

As many of you know, earlier this year HGIM developed a gospel presentation booklet called ‘Learning2Live’, which presents the gospel in terms of.

  1. God created life.
  2. Sin gave way to death.
  3. The good news is there is eternal life available in Christ.
  4. In the end, everyone either gets eternal life with God or eternal death separated from Him, based on their acceptance or rejection of the gospel.

We tried to make it informative and easy to understand, as well as cutting out any cheesiness that many tracts tend to use. We wanted to offer a straight-forward gospel presentation

The booklet is currently at the printers and will be available for order through Heart of God early in 2013.  As a companion to this booklet, we are building a website that will have further articles and videos explaining the Christian faith and lead new believers into the discipleship process.

I am now asking for your help. We need to get the website up and running soon so that the booklets can go out as planned, and I am seeking people willing to help us out and write articles to be featured on this site.

In my current planning stages, the articles will be divided into 4 categories:

  • New Life – Understanding the Gospel
  • Living Up – Your relationship with God
  • Living In – Dealing with yourself
  • Living Out – Dealing with others

Submissions Needed:

We are looking for articles written on the following topics, though will take other submissions fitting one of the four categories as God leads you to write:

New Life

  • John 3:16 Explained
  • Why did Jesus have to die?
  • How can I know I’m saved?
  • Eternal Security? (Romans 8:38-39)

Living Up

  • Getting started in personal Bible study.
  • Personal prayer life
  • Finding a good church – specifically, what are some characteristics to look for
  • Receiving God’s Forgiveness

Living In

  • Your New Identity as a Child of God
  • Baptism – What is it? Why should I?
  • Continuing Repentance – the ongoing process of turning from self/sin and toward God
  • Overcoming your past

Living Out

  • Becoming a Servant
  • Reaching out – How to share your new faith
  • Forgiving Others
  • Dealing with persecution

We also invite any articles that fit into the above categories that are explanations of particular scriptures to encourage new believers or that may become “Life Verses” for them to hold to and be strengthened by.

There will also be sections for “Men’s Interests” and “Women’s Interests,” and though I don’t have a list of articles we are requesting in this area, if you have something to contribute to one of these areas, please feel free.

Submission Guidelines:

We are asking for all submissions by December 31,2012. Articles should be sent to singram@heartofgodinternational.org. Here are the basic guidelines.

  • Limit articles to 1,000 words or less (use a word counter).
  • Articles must be non-fiction but may include “parable-type” examples.
  • If personal experiences are included, change the names and locations to protect the privacy of others involved.
  • Cite each scripture used. All scriptures quoted will be published in the English Standard Version for copyright purposes and website consistency.
  • Carefully and properly cite any commentary or other sources included in your article as footnotes (not included in word count).
  • Submit each article in .doc or .docx format for easy copy/paste publication.
  • Submit a personal bio, written in third person, no longer than 150 words, along with a small photo (100×100 px) to be included with your bio on the website.
  • Your article must be proofread and ready for publication although HGIM reserves the right to edit to insure uniformity with our Statement of Faith.  (See http://heartofgodinternational.org/about/beliefs/)
  • By submitting your article(s), you release HGIM to publish your work with the understanding that you will receive no compensation or monetary benefit from publication. Please contact me if a formal release is needed or your preference.

If you plan on writing an article please send me an email to let me know which topic(s) you are taking on (even if it’s not one listed above), so that I can mark it on this page as ‘in progress,’ to prevent duplicate submissions.

Here are a few sample pages from the booklet itself. Sorry for the annoying watermarks.

(For those interested,  a Haitian Creole version is currently in the works, and there are plans for a Swahili and Arabic translation soon, though these will not have the website linked.)

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Life in the Book of Acts – Part 3

For the last couple of weeks I have been sharing my observations of characteristics and experiences had by the Christians in the book of Acts. If you have missed them, be sure to read part 1 and part 2. And then today, to close it out, here is the final section of the book of Acts, covering chapters 21-28.

The Christians:

  • sought out other disciples while visiting new towns — 21:4,7
  • prayed together, for one another — 21:5
  • prophesied, even women — 21:9
  • were warned of danger in advance by the Holy Spirit — 21:4, 10-11
  • were ready to die for the name of Christ — 21:13
  • shared testimonies and rejoiced in stories of salvation — 21:19-20
  • took on religious vows — 21:23-26
  • caused city-wide uprisings — 21:30-36
  • used personal testimony to share the gospel — 22:1-21, 26:4-29
  • saw their testimonies rejected as false — 22:18, 22
  • were appointed by God for Christian life and ministry — 22:14-15
  • fell into trances in the Spirit — 22:17
  • utilized privileges of earthly citizenships — 22:24-29
  • were visited by Christ, post-ascension — 23:11
  • were plotted against to be murdered — 23:12-14
  • took “pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” — 24:16
  • had the ear of government leaders without exploiting it — 24:22-27
  • professed the resurrection publicly, even in court — 25:19, 26:6-8
  • were found guiltless by governing judges — 25:6, 26:31-32
  • heard the voice of Jesus – 26:14-18
  • believed the Gospel fulfilled Old Testament prophecies — 26:22-23, 28:23-24
  • made life-altering decisions that could have been viewed as mistakes if it wasn’t for God’s directing them — 26:32 in light of 23:11
  • had divine insights — 27:10-11, 31-32
  • still faced the same difficulties through life as unbelievers did — 27:13-20
  • delivered good news through divine insights — 27:22
  • were visited by angels — 27:23-24
  • were protected from physical danger by non-believers — 27:42-43
  • defied pagan superstitions — 28:4-6
  • healed non-believers — 28:8-9
  • used persecution and imprisonment testimonies to share the gospel — 28:17-22
  • welcomed all visitors, even in the midst of trials — 28:30
  • proclaimed the Kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ with boldness — 28:31

So, after reading through these three posts on life in the book of Acts, what stands out to you the most? Has anything been especially encouraging or caused you to open the Bible and see for yourself? Have I missed anything you think should be added to the list? And maybe, if there is there anything in particular that causes you to want pursue God in a deeper walk with Him or seek for a more spiritually empowered life, be sure to share those things in the comments.

Life in the Book of Acts – Part 2

Last week we began looking through the book of Acts at the characteristics that marked believers and the things they experienced as they followed the Holy Spirit in this new life, then known as “The Way.”

As I have continued in this study in my personal time, it became clear to me that two posts would not be enough to contain it all, so this week we will look at Acts 15-20, and will close out the book next week starting with Paul’s return to Jerusalem, his arrest and the journey to a Roman prison.

As I said last week, not all the things I mention here applied to all believers, and some were not repeated again in scripture. Yet it is still helpful to us to know how our God has moved among His church in the past because though times change, He remains the same.

In Acts 15-20, the Christians:

  • Were still seduced by the law — 15:1
  • Did not always agree on the application of some scriptures — 15:2,5
  • Took joy in the salvation testimony of others — 15:3
  • Submitted to apostolic authority — 15:6-11, 19-21
  • Refused to put heavy burdens on new believers/non-Jewish believers — 15:10-11
  • Believed in salvation by Grace alone — 15:11; 18:27
  • Submitted to scriptural authority — 15:15-18
  • Encouraged one another through human means (writing letters) — 15:31
  • Encouraged one another through supernatural means (prophecy) — 15:32
  • Saw ministries split over personal preferences — 15:39
  • Acted contrary to personal liberties for the sake of other’s consciences — 16:3
  • Were sometimes forbidden by God to share to gospel — 16:6-7
  • Received instruction through visions — 16:9-10; 18:9-10
  • Were committed to prayer — 16:13
  • Observed Sabbath rest — 16:13
  • Baptized new converts with water in Jesus’ name — 16:14-15; 19:5
  • Showed great hospitality — 16:15
  • Were followed around by the demonic — 16:16-18
  • Cast out demons — 16:18
  • Upset human economics — 16:18-20
  • Upset local governments — 16:20-22; 17:6-8
  • Were arrested, beaten, and jailed — 16:22-24
  • Worshipped through their trials — 16:25
  • Utilized the privileges they had in earthly citizenships — 16:36-39
  • Upset the Jewish religious leaders, and were followed around and opposed by them — 17:5,13; 18:12-13; 20;19
  • Did not always face controversy head-on — 17:10; 19:30-31
  • Proclaimed the Gospel from the Old Testament — 17:11-12; 18:5, 28
  • Were provoked to action by viewing the idolatry of others — 17:16-21
  • Utilized local culture (art, poetry, folklore) to proclaim truth — 17:23,28
  • Worked to provide for the continuation of the ministry — 18:3-4
  • Were “occupied with the Word” — 18:5
  • Did not take rejection of the Gospel personally — 18:6
  • Were encouraged by God to press on in the mission — 18:9-11
  • Took on religious vows — 18:18
  • Proclaimed the Gospel in established religious arenas — 17:1-2, 10, 19; 18:19; 19;8
  • Strengthened one another as disciples — 18:23
  • Received baptism in the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands — 19:2-6
  • Preached the Kingdom of God boldly — 19:8
  • Were spoken evil of by non-believers — 19:9
  • Spread the Gospel across Asia — 19:10
  • Performed miracles — 19:11
  • Healed and delivered people from demons through inanimate objects that had only touched the believer — 19:12
  • Were mimicked in attempts at power by non-believers — 19:13
  • Were known by name in the demonic realm (for the threat they posed) — 19:15
  • Confessed their false spirituality (witchcraft) and burned the remnants of it — 19:18-19
  • Turned people from handmade idols — 19:26
  • Threatened national idolatry — 19:27
  • Caused riots in whole cities — 19:28-41
  • Preached long sermons (too long?) — 20:7,9
  • Raised the dead — 20:9-10
  • “Served the Lord with humility and with tears” — 20:19
  • Taught the Gospel publicly — 20:20
  • Taught the Gospel in homes — 20:20
  • Expected affliction — 20:23
  • Declared the whole counsel of God — 20:27
  • Expected wolves to come from within the flock — 20:29-30
  • Tried to live like Jesus — 20:35
  • Prayed together for one another — 20:36

(Click here for Part 3)

Life in the Book of Acts – Part 1

Lately I have been spending a lot of time in the book of Acts, just making observations in my journal of the characteristics that marked believers and the things they experienced as they followed the Holy Spirit in this new life.

In this post I share my findings from the first half of the book of Acts. Not all the things I mention here applied to all believers, and some were not repeated again in scripture. Nevertheless, these things are recorded as part of our “family” history. This is the start of the story of the church.

As I share these characteristics this week and next week, I hope you are encouraged to trust more in Christ, to strive for a bolder obedience, and that your faith will increase to see Him move mightily. (Also, if in your own study of Acts, you find anything that I missed, please share it in the comments.)

Here we go.

In Acts 1-14, the Christians:

  • wait on God’s promises, especially for the baptism of the Holy Spirit — 1:4
  • receive power from the Holy Spirit in order to be Christ’s witnesses — 1:8
  • spread the Gospel beyond cultural and national boundaries — 1:8; 11:16-17, 19-21; 12:24; 13:4 to end of Acts
  • are unified together — 1:14; 4:32
  • are devoted to prayer — 1:14; 2:42
  • are filled with the Holy Spirit, both Jewish and gentile converts — 2:4; 10:44-45; 11:16-17
  • are given the ability by the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues — 2:4; 10:46
  • are given the ability to prophesy, dream dreams, and receive visions by the Holy Spirit — 2:17-18; 11:27-28; 13:1-2
  • come under conviction that leads to repentance — 2:37-38
  • sit under spiritual authority (apostles and church elders) — 2:42; 14:23
  • are devoted to fellowship (church community) — 2:42
  • take the Lord’s Supper together regularly — 2:42
  • are in awe of God — 2:43
  • share all their possessions to the point that no one lacks anything — 2:44-45; 4:32-37
  • healed the sick and performed miracles in the name of Jesus (this includes both apostles and non-apostles) — 3:6,16; 4:10, 30; 6:8; 14:8-10
  • were refreshed by the presence of the Lord — 3:20
  • kept getting into trouble with the Jewish religious leaders — 4:1-3
  • feared God more than men — 4:19-20; 5:21, 29; 13:51-52
  • sought God for boldness and received it — 4:29,31
  • continued to be tempted toward sin — 5:1-3
  • still struggled with fear of men — 5:13
  • healed people simply by walking by them — 5:15-16
  • were protected and delivered by angels for God’s mission – 5:19; 12:6-11
  • caused problems for the Jewish religious leaders — 5:26
  • “filled Jerusalem with their teaching” — 5:28
  • rejoiced in suffering and persecution — 5:41-42
  • were continually making more disciples — 6:1; 14:21
  • saw Jewish religious leaders converted — 6:7
  • did not separate the Old Testament from the gospel — 7:1-53
  • were persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and killed for their faith — 8:1-3; 12:1-5; 13:50; 14:5-6, 19
  • used signs and wonders to confirm the Gospel message — 8:6; 13:12; 14:3
  • received instructions from angels — 8:26
  • received instructions from the Holy Spirit — 8:29
  • were physically “transported” from location to location by the spirit — 8:39-40
  • were known by their way of life; called people of “the way” — 9:2
  • were saved through visions of Christ — 9:5-6
  • were led through visions to lead others to Christ — 9:10-12
  • were obedient to the Lord and it was met with the miraculous — 9:10-19
  • enlightened the religiously educated by their faith in Christ — 9:22
  • were reconciled with their enemies — 9:26-28
  • used miraculous means for evangelism — 9:32-35
  • were “full of good works and charity” — 9:36; 11:29-30
  • received faith through prayer then commanded reality to follow — 9:40
  • raised the dead back to life — 9:40
  • were set up with divine appointments for evangelism by the Holy Spirit (even to the point that the lost were seeking out the Christians) — 10:1-48
  • went into trances led by the Holy Spirit — 10:10
  • saw ‘truth in action’ through visions from God — 10:10-17, 28
  • received visions that were very specific; not vague (even to the point that in some instances they confused reality for visions) — 10:30-33; (12:9)
  • always shared a “Jesus-as-the-Jewish-Messiah” apologetic — 10:34-43; 13:13-41
  • followed salvation with water baptism — 10:47-48
  • were criticized by those believers still bound to the law — 11:1-3
  • were unified through revelations of the Holy Spirit — 11:1-18
  • began to be called Christians at Antioch — 11:26
  • received miraculous answers to prayer –12:5, 12-17
  • upset the government by following God’s directions — 12:18-19
  • saw God curse and/or kill those who were against Him — 5:1-10; 12:20-23; 13:11
  • sought God through fasting alongside prayer — 13:3; 14:23
  • rebuked those who stood in the way of the Gospel — 13:9
  • were confused with gods because of God’s power in them — 14:11-13
  • refused to receive for themselves the glory due to God alone — 14:14-18
  • were followed from place to place by those antagonistic to the Gospel — 14:19

(Click here for Part 2)

Rules Don’t Equal Righteousness

What is the essence of true spirituality? What does it look like for someone to live out  in the world the life they received through new (spiritual) birth in Christ?

These questions have been weighing on my mind a lot lately as I have been discussing with others the call of the Christian as an individual and the capacity for great impact by Christianity on the wold.

Talking to one of the workers in the guesthouse I am staying at, it was explained to me the differences between Catholics and Evangelical Christians teachings in Haiti (at least according to his perceptions). He said that both groups worship the same God, and share the same bible, but the Catholics don’t believe there is any requirements placed on your life beyond faith, so you can live your life any way you want with no restriction. The Evangelicals on the other hand call people to change their actions through lists of restrictions and rules that one must obey to be a believer.

Now, certainly I disagree with the Catholic view as presented to me, as I know Christianity calls us to marked life change. However, though I would consider myself to be Evangelical, I don’t agree with a call to a new set of rules and regulations that one must obey to be a believer either.

I think all of these thoughts floating around in my brain came to a head the other night when one of my good friends posted to twitter: “If the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ happened w/o human thought and moral effort, why did Paul list them and urge the Galatians to develop them?”

Now, I know my friend’s heart was not at all a press for legalistic rules and regulations to  lead us by “works” to that spiritual fruit, although that was my first interpretation of the quote. And as I have not had a chance to talk through the issue with him, I won’t even assume to speak for his intentions. I only quote it hear to say it directed things I had already been meditating on this week to the point of having to sort through this issue.

Upon reading his quote my mind immediately went to Paul’s quote in Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

My fear is that too often in Christianity we push people toward fleshly discipline as a way of maturing them spiritually. However, Paul himself says that never works:

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23)

In fact, as I recently read through the book of Colossians, I made the following notes in my journal (with minor edits here for readability):

Don’t be deceived by spiritual looking actions no matter how universally they are taught or commanded. They don’t carry any real spiritual authority or power, or impart Christ-life to the soul. (Col 2:16-23)

Instead, realize that your life is in Christ who dwells in Heaven, sitting on the throne that is above all thrones. So then, to live “on earth as it is in heaven” means that our lives are lived from heaven to earth (Col 3:1-4), and so, like Christ did, we determine to follow the Spirit as He prompts us to “do the will of our Father.”

The natural outflow of this spiritual obedience as opposed to the keeping of fleshly rules, is that it will put to death what is earthly in us (Col. 3:5-11) and we will put on the heavenly nature we have in us because we are now in Him (Col. 3:12-17) This isn’t supposed to be dead religion that we live in. Instead, it truly is us discovering that we live a new, abundant, and spiritually overcoming life as Christ lives through us.

The reality is that Christ does call us to repentance (Matt. 4:17). He calls us to be holy just as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). And he desires that our lives will be marked by obedience to Him (Matt. 28:20). The question is, what actions on our part will actually take us there.

I am convinced that the quickest way toward a renewed life is not to cultivate rules and regulations that make us look holy or pious, but to in fact, cultivate a spiritual intimacy with God in prayer and learn to walk daily as He leads us, allowing Him to renew us in His image. This does indeed take action on our part. But I find that these actions are more grounded in the New Testament practice of the faith, than most of the modern commands we find in too many churches. So instead of the old Baptist creed, “We don’t drink, and we don’t chew, and we don’t date the girls that do,” we are told, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17), “Walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25), and “Let all that you do be done in love”, on which hangs all the Old Testament law (1 Cor. 16:14; Matt. 22:37-40). These then, should be where the majority of our spiritual pursuits lie.

Or to put it very simply, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17)

Pixelated – Taking a Closer Look at Our Lives

I have a graphic design friend who is a genius at his job. Watching him work photoshop is like watching a master pianist quickly playing his keyboard to create something beautiful. Out of sheer inspiration after seeing him work his magic, I decided that I need to learn to do what he does. Unfortunately, as with most things, it is harder than it looks.

I have come to understand some of the basics of using programs like photoshop – working in layers, and using the different tools – yet it is usually the picture I am trying to create or manipulate that gives me the most problems.

In the digital age, colors are no longer blended together like mixing paint. Instead, everything you see on your computer screen is made up of extremely small squares called pixels that are each made to look a certain color, and as your eyes see the transitions from pixel to pixel, it appears that the colors are blended together to create the beautiful graphic you are looking at…

That is, unless you are looking at a graphic that I designed. Then, although it may be difficult to figure out exactly why, there usually seems to be something that is wrong.

My problem in using photoshop is that I cannot get the pixels to blend or run together to create the specific shapes that I am needing to make. Now, you can look at some of my little creations and they look ok, but then some, there is just something off-putting about them. It isn’t that they look bad, or that you can’t tell what it is supposed to be at all, it is just that at the pixel level, something is going wrong.

I think our lives are very similar to digital artwork.

When we look at our lives, it can be like we are seeing the picture on a computer screen. When asked how our life is going, we tend to say that things are going well or that their not, talking about the whole picture.

We also tend to break down our lives’ “whole picture” into different categories such as work, family, school, hobbies, friends, etc. These categories, then, would be like the colors that blend together to make our life what it is.

Now, this breakdown of our lives is usually as far as most of us go. Especially in casual conversation. We may get the whole life question, “How are things going?” But then at other times, we get the smaller color-specific questions, “How’s the family,” or “How’s work going?”

If that’s as deep as we look, though, then what about those times in our lives when everything is going good, yet something still seems to be completely be out of sorts and we can’t quite put our finger on the problem? Work is great, home life is great, and we have some free time to pursue our hobbies, yet for some reason, and we just can’t figure out why, there seems to be something wrong somewhere. These are the times that many of us tend to shut down and stress out. I think the problem lies in that most of us are not trained to do the pixel work in our lives.

You don’t have to look to the pixel level of the picture to see the separation of colors. Pixels are what you have to look at when you must begin to blend those colors together. This is the area where your family life and business life must overlap. This is where we can say things are going well at work, and things are good at home, but there is something in that transition that just isn’t right.

Before I stretch out the analogy too far, let me state my point as simply as I can.

As Americans we tend to look at our lives either as one big general picture, or categorically as the array of colors, but to take a digital pallet of colors and form them into a masterpiece, you can’t ignore the pixel level. The shades of colors must match up and blend together smoothly.

What if your life, no matter how good things seem to be going in each area of it, doesn’t match up? Let me give an example: Let’s say your home life is that of a solid Christian family that serves their local church, is involved in community service and wants to be a force for good in the world. Your work life, on the other hand, is that of a shrewd businessman who uses underhanded business tactics to build your business and keep customers. Although both of those things may be working great for you within their own realm, whenever you try to keep those things lined up with one another, you can’t blend the pixels together to make it work. They don’t match up.

So what do we do?

I think the place to start is to sit down and look at your God-given purpose and calling in every area of your life. If God is the Lord over your life, then He will work things to make you the person He wants you to be in each category of life and the whole picture will be beautiful and glorifying to Him.

If, however, you decide to determine your own life purpose and direction, then each area of your life will become very self-serving and ultimately disjointed. You may end up with a complete picture, but it will be obvious that something is wrong.

Where to start?

Try this. Sit down for an hour or two and make a list of every category of your life and then spend some time in prayer asking God what type of person He wants you to be and how He wants you to lead and serve in that area.

As He begins to give you that direction, if you will walk in obedience as His Spirit leads you, I promise that the pixels of your life will start to smooth themselves out. In following Him, your life will become the beautiful picture it was intended to be.

—————

Have you had a chance to check out the new website for Heart of God International? Here it is. Let us know what you think. 

Why Do Bad Things Happen to God’s People?

 

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” We hear that question a lot. It very well could be the oldest cliche in the English language.

As a Christian, we know the default answer: “There are no good people.” Right? I mean, Jesus Himself told the rich young ruler, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

So then, if there is no such thing as a good person, then the question is not legitimate.

But for the Christian – those who have put their faith in the work of the cross and have been adopted as God’s children – the question changes. We do know that we are “not good,” but that doesn’t change the fact that we are God’s possessions.

So for us, the question changes. “Why do bad things happen to God’s people?”

And here is where we come into one of the most confusing aspects of the Christian life.

Right now, I have multiple friends who are Christian and living lives submitted to Kingdom work, yet (although very different circumstances from one another) are dealing with major suffering in their lives. Realizing that in times of crisis people’s emotions are heavily involved, this question can’t just be answered appropriately unless we are first clear on the nature and character of God toward His sons and daughters.

If you are born again in Christ, you are not under the wrath and punishment of God.

God cannot pour His wrath out again on a sin committed by a Christian who’s sin has already been dealt with on the cross of Christ. If Christ took the wrath of God for you, then it would be unjust for God to pour out punishment for that same sin again. Injustice is against the nature and character of God.

The truth is that if you are a Christian, all of God’s desires for you are all out of love and intended for your growth toward maturity in Christ-likeness. In fact, is is because of what we know of God’s grace, through the sacrifice of Christ, that we can understand what God means in the Old Testament when He said things like, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

God ONLY EVER seeks good for His people!

So then, back to the question at hand. “Why do bad things happen to God’s people.”

I suspect that the individual reasons for every bad thing that happens are as wide spread as the bad things themselves, yet I think the one thing that is certain in every one of them is this: God wants to use these things to draw you closer and closer to Himself.

The reality is that if God only ever gave you good things, and showered you with every blessing you wanted, you would lose a sense of love for Him and instead hold a sense of entitlement toward His stuff. That is what happens at the fall of man in Genesis 3, and what is repeated in human nature over and over again, as shown by the example in Romans 1:18-32. God will not stand to have spoiled children.

This is the difference between punishment (which Christ took for us) and discipline, which God promises to all that He loves to keep us from being spoiled brats.

 “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?:

‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,nor be weary when reproved by him.For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,and chastises every son whom he receives.’

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons”

(Hebrews 12:5-8).

What God wants more than anything else is for you to grow up into maturity as a child of God, and one that will run to Him when things go wrong or when you fail, rather than running away from Him. That is what this discipline is for. God is training us in righteousness as His children.

That thought, then, brings me to one of my favorite passages of scripture: Psalm 51:3-12

“For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

This passage demonstrates the epitome of Christian maturity: “God, I know that I am a sinner, I have always been a sinner, and my sin is directed against You. I also recognize that You are the only one that can clean me up, forgive me of my sin, and make me new again. God, no matter what that process looks like, don’t send me away. Don’t take your Spirit from me. Keep me close and give me strength to endure.”

That makes a great prayer, and one I wish I remembered to pray more often. However, in my little paraphrase, I did leave out one phrase from the scripture that none of us really want to acknowledge is there. Is is phrases like this that our eyes tend to pass right over because they make us uncomfortable.

“Let the bones that you have broken rejoice.”

What? In God cleaning us up and bringing us back to Him, bones get broken? That certainly isn’t the Christianity that most of us signed up for. And yet, in the context of the scriptures there is beauty in the pain that God will bring us. Broken bones CAN rejoice when they’re broken for a reason. Matt Chandler says it like this: “Sometimes God will crush your fingers to get your hands off of what will harm you. And that’s been true in every book of the Bible, in every year in the history of man.”

So why do bad things happen to God’s people? The answer is always to make us better at being God’s people. To put it very simply, when things go right most of us forget about God and don’t pursue Him, but as soon as things go badly, we pray more, we read the Bible more, and we run to Him more looking for hope. So God delights in sending us blessing but He also sends the bad things to draw us in. Or to use the words of J.I. Packer, “And still (God) seeks the fellowship of His people and will send them both joy and sorrow to detach their hands from the things of this world and attach them to Himself’.”

Christian, no matter what you are going through today, I pray that you will be encouraged. God is not out to get you. Quite the opposite. God is for you, and is working things out for your good (Romans 8:28).