Month: May 2017

Why Do I Suffer?

There are three questions we are always asking about suffering.

Even when we don’t realize we are asking them, we are indeed asking them.

Why am I suffering?
Where is God as I suffer?
What am I to do about my suffering?

We’ll look at the first question today and the other two tomorrow.

Why am I  suffering? I used to tell people not to spend much time asking this question. I have since changed my mind. I do think we should ask why we suffer, we just need to ask with some better perspective.

For example, Galatians 5:7-10 explains why there is a great deal of suffering. It is the life principle of sowing and reaping. It is the principle of consequences, of benefits and losses.

You know how this works. If you want to gain weight, you eat more food. If you want to lose weight, you eat less food. If you want to gain physical health, you exercise, do cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening exercises, pay attention to nutrition, and work on stretching exercises for better flexibility.

If you don’t want to be a proper weight, if you don’t want cardiovascular health, if you don’t need physical fitness, then …

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4 Ways to Experience Flourishing AND Suffering

Flourishing! Suffering!

We normally think of these conditions as being incompatible. I can flourish OR I can suffer. That is a mistaken way to understand flourishing. This misunderstanding is part of the fuel for what is called the Prosperity Gospel (also called the Health and Wealth Gospel or the Name It and Claim It Gospel). This biblical misinterpretation assumes that you can only flourish when you are NOT suffering. You can only flourish when you are healthy and wealthy. This is NOT the Gospel.

The Bible is much more thoughtful, and the Gospel is so much deeper than this false either/or claim.

Instead, let’s think in terms of both/and. How can we understand life when it has BOTH flourishing AND suffering?

Here are four forms that flourishing and suffering can take.* I believe you will find all of them described in the Bible, as well as experienced in your own life.

ONE: Flourishing in spite of suffering.
This simply indicates what we all experience. We can have both at the same time. Suffering is not strong enough or great enough to separate us from the love of God. The presence of God is with us as we go through struggles …

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Suffering for the Sake of Others

Yesterday was Memorial Day: A day of remembering those who died while serving their country. Veterans Day (November 11) remembers all who served in the military, not only those who died.

This post does not celebrate war. It does celebrate the greatest of all sacrifices – to give one’s life for the sake of what is loved. On Memorial Day, what is loved are people. At times, what is loved and sacrificed for may be enduring values. Sacrifice may be for the love of a group of people or for a nation. Today, we remember soldiers who died so that others may live free. I referred to the movie Saving Private Ryan in our Get Real series. It is a vivid story on this topic that you may want to watch.

Some suffering is done as a thing of love and beauty. This is suffering that is willingly embraced and endured for the sake of others.

Of course, Jesus is the supreme example of such suffering. His suffering was a sacrifice. His suffering was redemptive. The sacrifice of Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. He died. The sacrifice of Jesus was redemptive. He died so that others would live. See …

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Make it Count, Make it Matter

5 Insights About a Life of Purpose

The Purpose Driven Life (it now has a new title: What on Earth Am I Here For?) sold about one billion copies and was translated into 453 languages, including Martian. Well, that is an exaggeration, but not by much! It has sold 40 million copies and has been translated into more then 50 languages.

Why was that book so popular? What made it so attractive?

The answer is simple: PURPOSE.

You were made for purpose. You want purpose. When you don’t have a good purpose and the right purpose, you will have a weak one, a misguided one, a self-centered one, and ultimately, a bad one.

Ephesians 2:10 has been referred to more than once in The Flourishing Project. It needs to be repeated again. Here it is in The Message version:

God does both the making and the saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Here are five insights about meaning and purpose from this short verse:

1. You do have a purpose.
Everyone does. …

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8 Ways to Deeper Friendships

What’s on your bucket list? What’s in your bucket? I hope your bucket is full of friends. If there is one single predictor of your future happiness, it is the quality of friendships you enjoy.

In February and March we did a series on relationships called Life Together. Relationships are about as important as it gets. Life is full of relationships. It matters whether they are good or bad. The better your relationships (family, work, church, neighborhood), the happier your life.

There are 14 Proverbs that offer advice and commentary on friendship. See Proverbs 12:26, 17:17, 18:24, 22:24, 27:6, and 27:9 for a sampling of that advice.

1. These Four Mindsets Make for Good Friendships.*
You need profound self-awareness about your capacity for friendship. You need to be highly intentional about pursuing friendship. You need to be wisely strategic about building lasting friendships. You need to be deeply surrendered, for friendship always asks something of you.

2. First, Be a Friend.
If you want to have friends, then be a friend. To be a friend, you must value friendship, desire friendship, take initiative to have friends, and choose to be a friend.

3. Next, Be a Good Friend.
If …

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Showing the Way of Flourishing

As we have gone through our Get Real series talking about the life of flourishing, I am reflecting on my own life. In so many ways, I believe I am experiencing that real and eternal, more and better life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10).

I want the people I love to flourish. It is hard (some would say it is impossible) to take people to places you’ve not been. You can only take people to places that you know about. You can only overflow with what you have. You have to show the way you want others to experience (from The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner). If I want others to flourish, then I have to be flourishing in my own life.

It is kind of like being blessed to be a blessing–flourishing so others may flourish. I want you to flourish personally, but I also want you to flourish so others will as well. I want you to show the way.

See Genesis 12:1-3, Proverbs 11:25, and Zechariah 8:13, 20-23 for how this theme was to be a part of the very reason for the existence of God’s people. God loved them so much. But God …

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Bucket List Goals: God Overflowing!

“I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.”

What a poignantly insightful and profoundly sad opening to a memoir by the atheist Julian Barnes (Nothing to Be Frightened Of).

Here is another one, only from G.K. Chesterton: “He who does not believe in God, doesn’t believe in nothing, he believes in anything.” *

Now I will add a necessary insight from C. S. Lewis. Lewis was an atheist. An intelligent atheist. A committed atheist. A disdainful atheist. But he was empty. He had longings and yearnings that simply were not satisfied by his atheism, his secular creed, his literary pursuits, his jaunts into the countryside. And these longings troubled him.

A few times through his life he felt alive, in tune with something beyond himself, touched by beauty, intrigued by transcendence, and Surprised by Joy. That is the name of his autobiography and it is one of the core sources ** of my thinking on what it means to flourish, find joy, and be happy.

Lewis had longings that were unfulfilled, desires that were not satisfied. Eventually they would be, but virtually against his wishes. He describes himself at his conversion as “the most dejected and …

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What’s On Your Bucket List?

The pleasures we pursue are high on that list!

You make choices. Every day. Many of your decisions are automatic and you hardly know you’re making them. Others take longer for you to make up your mind. Some decisions are pretty small in the scheme of things (what restaurant will we dine at tonight?). Others are vast and enduring in their power (who will I marry and what work will I pursue?).

Many of our personal choices have to do with PLEASURES.

Pleasures are those enjoyable experiences that are highly physical in nature. These pleasures involve sensations. To be a human being is to be a human body. You are a physical being with five senses, nerve endings, and chemicals and hormones pouring through your system. That is how God designed us. It is part of the delightful meaning of being human and being alive.

The very strong pleasures that are a part of life are (1) food and drink, (2) sex, and (3) sensory experiences of art, music, and beauty. I will also add one more: (4) stimulants of a wide variety, like alcohol (a drink) and drugs, whether natural or artificial, that affect brain functioning and have physiological …

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5 Ways to Deal With Your Life Conditions

Your gender, race, ethnicity, age, geographical location, socio-economic status, education, marital status, etc. are examples of life conditions. Some of these are fixed, which means they are very hard to change. Others are in flux, which means they are very open to change, often by you.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” We can apply this to our life conditions. The life conditions of others may seem to be “greener.” The other conditions looks better, brighter, and more appealing. It looks that way until we get there.

I talked to one man who had such a bad marriage that whenever he thought about being divorced and single he said it made him smile! That is how negatively he experienced marriage and how positively he thought about divorce. He eventually was divorced, but found out divorce (and life as a middle-aged single man) was not all he thought it would be.

I talked to a friend who had moved out of state (to a much better state, a much better job, a much better etc.). Two years later he moved back to the state he had left. It turned …

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11 Insights on the Way of Flourishing

On Sunday, I used a word of life from Deuteronomy 30. Today, I want to give you a fuller context, additional references, and a fresh insight about The Way of Flourishing.

It would be best if you had a Bible in order to look at these verses in the complete context. I am only going to give you the principles of flourishing here.

ONE: Flourishing is not too difficult. It is not beyond our reach. God gives commands and instructions that are not impossible. God’s instruction are quite possible. (Deuteronomy 30:11-13)

TWO: We are to obey the words of life God gives to us. God makes it possible for us to receive, hear, and follow those words. (Deuteronomy 30:14)

THREE: God gives us the option – life or death, blessing or curse, to flourish or to “flanguish.” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19)

FOUR: We flourish when we (1) love God, (2) walk in the ways of God, and (3) keep God’s commands. There is a clear way to flourish. (Deuteronomy 30:16)

FIVE: There are many other ways that will not lead to flourishing. When we turn away from God, when we do our own thing, when we follow the “rules-way” of our …

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