Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Blessings of Suffering

Yes, the title is correct, this message is about the blessings we get from the suffering we go through. No one wants to hurt, no one wants to feel pain, but it is something that many times God uses to bless us. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. God's blessings many times mean that we go through suffering so that we can be a blessing to others.

I remember the story from a number of years ago about a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention who's son developed AIDS from a blood transfusion. He immediately became a pariah in the Baptist Church - he was suddenly an outcast. People then didn't know as much about AIDS as we know today and they treated this man and his family as lepers. They were rejected and despised. They suffered horribly. But because of what they went through they are much better equipped to minister to others whom the churches have rejected and despised for numerous reasons. They understand the pain of others in ways much more intimately than they ever could have before. In God's way of thinking the pain they went through was a blessing because now they can better help others - their reward in Heaven will be great.

In my last message "Comforting the Grieving" I spoke about the pain I went through losing my little sister to cancer. I also talked about how now I can minister to others who are suffering from the loss of a loved one, something I could never have done before. In God's way of thinking the pain I went through was a blessing so that I was equipped to comfort others.

The rejection and abuse the churches have heaped upon me in the past 28 years has wounded me deeply, but it has enabled me to reach out to others and empathize with them when they have become disillusioned with, hurt, abused and rejected by churches. They saw the emptiness and lack of love in these churches, they saw people who were focused on everything but loving and helping their neighbor. Because of what I have been through I understand their pain and can help to comfort them, encourage them and build them back up - to show them the love and compassion of the Lord.

Back in 1988 I was at a church retreat in Prescott, AZ and during that weekend I asked a couple of the pastors to pray for me. I remember one of them praying "Lord, I pray that you will give Cliff a new heart to replace this severely wounded one of his". I told him "No, Jim, I don't want a new heart. I want some of these wounds healed, but not all of them because that way I will be more sensitive to the wounds in others." I don't really think I knew what I was saying then, I believe it was the Holy Spirit speaking through me - but it was for the greater good, so I could better minister to others because my heart would be very sensitive to their pain.

Believe me, I am no glutton for pain nor am I a masochist. I don't like suffering any more than anyone else. But when I look back upon what I have been through I can now see why God ordained that those things happened that way. Yes, He ordained that I go through all that, and many times He was the one sticking a knife in my heart. You don't believe that? Then you haven't read the Bible. Job 5:18 - For He inflicts pain and He gives relief; He wounds and He heals. Isa 30:26 - .. when the Lord binds up the bruises of His people and heals the wounds He inflicted. Most people see where it says that He heals but they totally miss the part that says that He wounds. The sons of God know that He wounds, children don't.

Our knowledge of God and His ways is comparable to a grain of sand in all the oceans of the universe, we know virtually nothing about Him and His thoughts and ways. The pain we go through that we think is from the evil one may very well be from God to bless us in the way He views blessings. We do not grow spiritually except by suffering nor do we mature as Christians unless we go through intense afflictions.

Romans 8:18 - "I do not consider that the suffering of the present is worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us". The glory can mean the love, compassion and mercy of the Lord that will flow through us to others because of the suffering we have been through. It can also mean the spiritual maturity that will result from our afflictions.

Now, lest you think I am a saint who praises God every time He wounds me, let me me very open and honest with you. There have been literally thousands times I have screamed and yelled at God in the last 28 years, times that I have complained bitterly, times that I have hated Him, despised Him because of the horrible suffering He was sending upon me. He was testing and trying me in the fires of afflictions. The pressure He was putting me under was absolutely horrific. Most "Christians" judged and condemned me for hurting and feeling angry at God. But as a 22-year old guy told me in 1986 "He is a big God and He can handle your emotions". So when I see people who are wounded, hurting and angry at God (the anger comes from the pain of the wounds that God has inflicted upon them) I simply comfort them, show them the love and compassion that so-called "Christians" won't. I let them know that God can handle their emotions and that He is not going to condemn them because of how they react to pain that He is inflicting upon them.

How do you get and refine gold? You pulverize a piece of rock then sift the gold out of it. You put the gold over intense heat for a long, long time until all the impurities are burned off. How is a diamond made? It is a lump of coal that is put under enormous pressure for eons and eons. The more pressure it is under and the longer the time, the purer the diamond. So also it is with us - the hotter the fire, the greater the pressure, the purer we will be. Yes, pain can be a blessing when we are able to see it from God's eyes.

I tend to personalize many of my writings with the experiences that I have been through. I have no doubt that the Lord wants it that way so that people can intimately relate to the intense feelings that I sometimes convey, feelings and experiences that they themselves may have had and not understood, and been judged and condemned by others because of those emotions. The Lord put me through those trying times so that I could use them to help others better understand why they may be going through great suffering, as well as, of course, to humble me, to mature me and prepare me for His service.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Comforting the Grieving

As God's judgment continues to be poured out upon this nation it is going to get worse and worse - many will be killed in the catastrophes that are going to hit our land. Many families are going to lose loved ones - husbands, wives, children, parents, brothers, sisters and friends. The Lord will call many of us to reach out to those who have lost a family member and we need to know how to help them. But this message is also for the present time, for those who are going through grieving now or know someone who is. I am not a psychologist, and what I share with you is from my own personal experiences, how I learned to help those who are grieving.

When I lived in Tyler, TX I was a remodeling contractor and did much of my work through realtors. Many of them I grew close to as dear friends, some of them I loved as sisters that I never had growing up. One of those was Pam who I kind of adopted as my little sister. The Lord bonded our hearts together and I loved Pam very, very dearly - she was my little sis. I knew her for about a year when she was suddenly diagnosed with stomach cancer. Pam fought the cancer bravely and with every ounce of her strength for a year, but it killed her in October, 1998.

I have never known such pain, I was devastated. I cried several times a day for many, many months afterwards. I didn't know that such a darkness and emptiness existed. It was the darkest period of my life. What made it even worse was that God forced me to go through it all by myself, He would not allow ANYONE to reach out to me, to comfort me, to be there for me. Instead, I had to be there to help others who were also devastated by Pam's death. God made me go through the depth and darkness of grieving all alone, there was no one there to comfort me, no one. And I grieved to depths that I didn't know were possible, I didn't know such pain existed. But what I learned from this was how to give to others who are grieving what I needed but was not allowed to have. I knew how badly I needed someone to be there for me and with me, I felt the pain so deeply in my heart. What I didn't get I now give to others because I know how desperately they need it.

About eight months after Pam's death I volunteered at the Hospice of East Texas Homeplace, an inpatient facility for the terminally ill. I was there almost every Saturday and Sunday for almost a year helping the nurses, the patients and their families. I saw much pain, much grief while I was there, the same kind of pain that I had been through, and I was able to offer some little bits of comfort to a few of the people.

The things that help people who are grieving are simple things like hugs, a shoulder to cry on, someone to just be there with them and let them know you hurt for them. Never tell them you know how they feel, because you don't. I could tell them that I understand the pain, and when they looked in my eyes they knew that I did because they saw in my eyes that I had been through intense grief myself and that I could empathize with them.

There are other things you can do such as bringing them flowers, having them over for dinner (inviting then into your home is much better than inviting them out to a restaurant for dinner because most of them do not want to go into public places soon after the death of a loved one, they want privacy as opposed to being in public), going to visit them at their home, calling them to let them know you care and sending them sympathy cards and letters. Don't try to cheer them up because they cannot be cheered up at this time - just be there for them. But don't expect anything from them because they are emotionally incapable of giving it. Just let them grieve, let them cry, let them be angry at God (He's a big God and can handle their feelings and their anger. He's not going to be angry at them for it).

Telling them trite little phrases like "God needed them more than you do", or "they are with the Lord now", or "God called them home because......" are usually not comforting. Never tell them that grieving lasts for such and such a time and then you get better, because that is a lie. It also puts pressure on them to "get through" the grieving process in a specified period of time. Each and every person grieves in their own way for their own period of time, there are no rules for this, no set times. It has been thirteen years since Pam died and there are still times that I cry for her. Yes, the memories of her are precious to me and most of them are happy because she was such a joy to be around, but I would be lying if I said that the grief is gone, because it has never completely left me. So don't expect people to grieve for a specific period of time (like some books say) and then "get over it". Don't expect anything at all from them.

Yes, ministering to the grief-stricken is a very difficult thing, it hurts to see someone in so much pain, it brings back pain from your own losses. But being vulnerable and letting those who are grieving see that we ourselves have suffered loss and that we still hurt from it lets them know that what they are feeling is okay, that it is normal for what they have been through. It lets them know that they are not alone and that they are not going crazy, that others have been through similar pain and have survived through it. The pain that I still feel from losing Pam is obvious in this message. But in order to help others we have to be transparent, we have to leave ourselves open and vulnerable. That's the way Jesus was, open and vulnerable. Two of the most important words in the Bible are "Jesus wept".

As I write this I realize that this message will offer some degree of comfort to some of those who are reading it because they have lost loved ones and have had difficulty "living up" to how they were supposed to "heal" after a few months and "get on with their lives". If this has helped you then I feel that I have done something worthwhile in sharing what I have been through.

If there are any hospice professionals who read this and have more insight into this than I do, I would welcome your comments because this is to help others in their time of need.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Class Warfare

In my last message I mentioned class warfare, which our liar-in-chief and his cronies are trying to incite with their continual "us against the rich" statements. The violence that is now happening in Great Britain is exactly that - class warfare. It is the have-nots against the "rich". It is those who are extremely jealous of others who have more than they do and they are reacting in anger and violence. These animals think they are entitled to whatever someone else has, even though they themselves have not earned it. It is a mob mentality, the emotions of savages, not human beings.

We will soon see this same class warfare erupt in this nation. If you own a business or live in a nice neighborhood I strongly suggest that you begin to take whatever measures you can to protect your families, property and businesses. The evil ones who are going to loose this violence upon this nation are without conscience or morals and will kill you and your family if they can, they will steal anything and everything of value. They are pure, absolute evil. I promise you that civil war is coming upon this nation in the near future.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

There Will Be No Recovery

In June I posted a message about coming out of the eye of the storm. Now, two months later, we are seeing how the winds are coming from the opposite direction and how they are beginning to destroy our nation. We are so far in debt that it will be impossible to get out and all our fool-in-chief wants to do is tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend - we will not recover from this.

The severe drought has spread to many states and that is going to raise the cost of food, gasoline (ethanol is mixed in gasoline and it is made from corn), clothing (which is made from cotton - much of our cotton crop will fail this year), water (because the reservoirs are drying up), and many other items. Inflation is beginning to rise and will continue to do so until we reach a state of hyperinflation.

Consumer confidence is low and people are not buying as much because they are worried about money and their jobs. Since they are not buying as much as they used to the supply side of the market is not producing as much - fewer jobs are created. Unemployment is "officially" at 9.1%, but that doesn't include the millions who have dropped completely out of the job market because they couldn't find jobs.

The people of this nation continue to believe in an imaginary money tree, thinking that the good times and the "free entitlements" will never end - how badly mistaken they are. When 48% of the people pay not one cent in federal income taxes yet demand more in the way of "entitlements" and services, demanding that "the rich" pay more in taxes, this nation has truly lost its way. We are headed for great civil unrest when there is no more money for "entitlements" because the country has gone bankrupt. Our liar-in-chief and his cronies are doing everything they can to promote class hatred and class warfare.

These days are not somewhere in the future, they have already begun and will only get worse. God has declared that His judgment will destroy this once-great nation, and it will. We are only beginning to see how this country will financially collapse because of the fiscal irresponsibility of our government that has been building for many, many years. Also, we are just beginning to see the great, God-caused, "natural" catastrophes that will be a big part of the destruction of this country - and they will only get worse.

This was a very, very difficult message for me to write, I did not want to do it. My heart is very heavy and there is great sadness within me. But I know that God put it upon my heart so I have no choice but to write it. I wish I could say "God bless America", but I can't - we have too far gone down the path of unrighteousness.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Done In Darkness

"That which is done in darkness shall be brought to light".

Most people associate that verse with evil deeds done in darkness which will, in God's timing, be brought to light - and this is one meaning of this verse. However, the Lord showed me another, positive meaning for this verse. Remember, it is God's word which He uses to accomplish what He pleases and purposes.

There are many of you who are fervent prayer warriors, your work is done in the darkness of your prayer closets and few ever know what you are doing. Few ever recognize you for the spiritual battles that you are doing in secret. Few ever know how much you have accomplished for others by your fervent prayers. Few ever see what you are doing. But God does.

In due time what you have accomplished in your prayer closets will be brought to light and your rewards in heaven will be great. The Lord Himself will greatly honor you for what you have done. So, my brothers and sisters, continue the mighty work you are now doing in secret, for one day your wonderful deeds will be brought to light. For those who fervently pray for me, I thank you very much.