ALL things work together for good.

Romans 8:28

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Recently, my life has been filled with a series of events that have been very heavy and discouraging in my own life. From struggles in ministry and leaving a community, to my imminent move to Santa Barbara, to my grandmother being put in hospice care, to my grandfather struggling with illness, to heartbreak and a feeling of betrayal by a friend, it’s been a rather long line of experience of personal pain and hardship.

It’s in the midst of this time that I have been greatly comforted by God’s continued presence and reminder of His love. In praying for peace and to have joy, God has given me a deep peace which surpasses all understanding in my circumstances and that has been good. In reflecting on the blessings… in the things that are good, that are true… anything worthy of praise… I have come to see the value of friendships and how my friends in their love, prayer, support, prayer, encouragement, and listening has been such a comfort and such a reminder of God’s presence and ever faithfulness to care for me with those that come as His hands and feet… made in His image. They have been praying and pointing me to Jesus Christ and His work! It’s in reflecting on His goodness, His sovereignty… in that preaching of the Gospel to myself to hear and be reminded of His love, that the words in Romans struck a chord.

I was talking to some friends about the above text in Romans 8:28, and my friend pointed out an interesting thing. The thing that he pointed out was the word “all”. His point was this… that for those that love God… that have this relationship, all (everything)… ultimately works together for good! Even the hard things, the painful things, the negative things, and the bitter things. The fact is this… God allows and His sovereign control and will is moving even thru the stuff that is difficult, seemingly impossible and painful at the moment. Ultimately, He is in control of and allowing what transpires to happen and it will be resolved ultimately for His glory and good purpose. Isn’t that amazing? Everything… ALL things work together for good…

Do my times of sadness disappear, my moments of disappointment, hurt, or pain go away immediately? NO. But knowing He is sovereign brings such comfort because in the grand scheme of things… these things are small… yet to Him they are important too. It is in these times of hurt and pain that one feels the pain and it weighs heavily on me. It does not go away, and it is important to see that God is in these moments of hardship… in control. He is ever present, ever faithful, ever good and loves me despite my weakness, my bitterness, my anger, my frustration and my failures and lack of love. He allows me to be a wreck and to be hurt and to be angry and to be weak and bitter… not hiding behind a facade or thin veneer of performance and acting as though everything is fine, but allowing me to simply cry and be weak and to be in need of Him. Even these things are in His control working to bring about His good.

In reflection, this isn’t a post of deep theology or exegesis. I just want to share that God has reminded me of His constant love and presence through it all. As these doors in my life seemingly are closing and there are painful moments, God has opened other doors to guide me through my life. As doors in ministry have closed, other doors have opened as well! My life has been a mix of these… but one thing I always know… in these times is this: all things work together for good. Thank you, Lord for your love and your Sovereignty in my life!

“Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)”

Winter has come back again
Feels like the season won’t end
My faith is tired tonight,
And I won’t try to pretend,
I’ve got it all figured out,
That I don’t have any doubts,
I’ve got a busted heart
I need You now
Yeah I need You nowHold on to me
Hold on to me
Don’t let me lose my way
Hold on to meI am the wandering son
Enough is never enough
I keep chasing the wind
Instead of chasing Your love
I’m screaming out Your name,
Don’t let me fall on my face
I’ve got a busted heart
I’m in need of a change
Yeah, I’m desperate for graceHold on to me (Hold on to me)
Hold on to me
Don’t let me lose my way (Don’t let me lose my way)
Hold on to me

Broke Your heart a thousand times
But You’ve never left my side
You have always been here
For me

You never let me go
You never let me go
Don’t ever let me go

Hold on to me (Hold on to me)
Hold on to me
Don’t let me lose my way (Don’t let me lose my way)
Hold on to me
[2x]

Winter will come to an end
Soon the season will end
I surrender tonight
You meet me right where I am

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The journey of discipleship (Mark 16:1-8)

The journey of discipleship (Mark 16:1-8)

On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the annual Rose Bowl football game. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California 30 yards away from the Georgia Tech’s end zone. Unfortunately he became confused and began running the wrong way. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, overtook and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team.

This was during the first half. Everyone was wondering what Coach Nibbs Price would do with Roy Riegels in the second half. During half-time Riegels sat alone in a corner, wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, put his hands in his face and cried like a baby.

We’re not football players, but have you experienced failure on your journey of discipleship? If we’re honest, we fail our God more times than we can count on the journey of discipleship. We visited websites that we weren’t suppose to, gossiped about a brother or sister in Christ, yelled at the wife instead of loving her as Christ loves the church, and fall into unspeakable sins.

Is there hope for us when we fail in our journey of discipleship?

In Mark 16:1-8 it tells us that there is hope for those who have failed on their journey of discipleship. In this passage you will hear three points: faithfulness ending in failure, hope offered, and what are we to do in light of hope being offered.

Faithfulness ending in Failure

We have now reached the end of the gospel of Mark. All along we have seen that the gospel of Mark is about the journey of discipleship. The women demonstrated their faithfulness to him on this journey.

The women were faithful to Jesus from Galilee all the way to Jerusalem. They ministered to him while he was in Galilee (15:41); they followed him to the cross and saw the crucifixion (15:40). They saw where Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus (15:47) and rose early in the morning to go there to anoint the body of Christ with species. They saw the empty tomb (16:5-6). They were faithful to follow Jesus, where as the crowd, his family and the religious leaders rejected him. His male disciples fled and denied Him. The women were the last hope that someone within Jesus’s crowd would continue as faithful followers. That was not to be the case, despite their faithfulness they failed to carry the message that was commissioned by the young man to “God and tell, His disciples, and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you.’” Their failure is highlighted through the word ‘fled’ and their silence.

They “fled” in 16:8 because trembling and astonishment had gripped them. Instead of faithfully proclaiming the message, they fled in fear. Mark is trying to paint a picture of the women’s failure through the word “fled”. This word was used in back in 14:50 when the disciples fled and again with the young man (14:52), two examples of the failure through the use of the word “fled”.

They not only fled the scene, they also said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. Their silence jeopardized the second round of discipleship. Faithful to follow Jesus but failed to proclaim the message. Is that us? Faithful to attend seminary but fail to proclaim the message of the good news. Faithful to your husband and wife but fail to proclaim gospel. Faithful to ministry to the saints but fail to proclaim the message of the good news.

Hope Offered

We have seen the failure of the women at the most pivotal point in their journey of discipleship.  Now let’s move to hope offered. The young man commanded the three women, “Go, tell His disciples, and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you.”

Please notice the words, “just as He told you”. Where did Jesus say that He was going to meet them in Galilee after his resurrection?

Jesus told them that he was going to meet them in Galilee after his resurrection back in Mark 14:28. In that context, Jesus spoke of his violent death and prophesied his disciples’ future failure and their future abandonment of him. Jesus knew his disciples would fail, but he offers them hope, that in failure there is always a new beginning. There is always the next round. After the resurrection, the scattered disciples would be regathered in Galilee.

The journey of discipleship started in Galilee. Jesus called his disciples when he was walking along the Sea of Galilee in Mark 1:15. He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of Men.” (Mark 1:17). On way to Jerusalem, one by one the disciples abandoned Jesus.

The disciples fled and left him at his betrayal and arrest. Peter denied Jesus three times. What about us? Have we fled and left him? Have we denied Jesus? When homework and projects are piling up, is Jesus the first to be let go? When work and play time consume us, is Jesus the first to be let go? The prayer life, the quite time, and Bible reading all go to waste side until “the busy moments” in our lives are over and then we will get back on the road with Jesus. Oh, how we in our own ways have fled and left Jesus.

Here in this statement, “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you” hope and restoration are offered to those who have failed, fled, and left Jesus in their journey of discipleship. The resurrected Christ will meet them where it all started. It is the promise of a new start, back to the point of origin, Galilee. It is a new beginning: a new iteration of the trip of discipleship. All can get back “on the way” to follow Jesus.

Don’t miss what the young man said, “But go, tell His disciples and Peter,” Is this not redundant? Is Peter not a disciple of Christ? Why did the young man say “go, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus will go ahead of them to Galilee?”

The disciples fled and abandoned Jesus. Peter denied Jesus three times. In comparison Peter’s failure was worst than the other disciples. It is in this redundancy that we get this principle: Forgiveness and restoration are extended to those who have even experienced the worst of failure.

On this journey of discipleship for us there will be failures. There will be moments where we’ve ruined our God, our faith, and ourselves. In those moments hope and restoration are offered. Just as Jesus extended restoration and hope for the disciples in the phrase, “I will go ahead of you to Galilee” and the young man echoing Jesus’s statement does the same thing, then likewise, when we fail in our journey of discipleship, hope and restoration are offered. Hope and restoration are offered to the murders all the way down to those who tell “white lies.” The promise of a new start is extended to all. Jesus is waiting for you in Galilee, will you meet him there?

Application

We have seen faithfulness leading to failure, hope offered, now let’s move to the application. How do I meet Jesus in Galilee? Let me give you three steps:

  1. The first step is confession of sin. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us of all our unrighteousness. So confess your sin to the Lord.
  2. The second step is once you confessed your sins, realized you have been forgiven. The blood of Christ has washed all your sins away. So often we hang onto the guilt and the pain of our sins. Realized that we have been forgiven and let them go. Don’t let it consume you.
  3. We left Roy Riegels at the corner with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and his hands in his face weeping like a baby, with no hope, during half time.Three minutes before the start of the second half Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.”Riegels never moved. The coach called him and again he never moved. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”Reigels said, “Coach, I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the University of California. I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder and said, “Roy, get up and go on back, the game is only half over.” Roy Reigels went back. Those Tech men will tell you they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.For those who have experienced failure on their journey of discipleship, the resurrected Jesus offers hope and restoration.

    The game is only half over, confess and realize that our sins are forgiven, then get up and go back on the journey of discipleship.

May God bless you,
Dien

Jesus came to die

Merry Christmas from all of us at TemporaryVisitors

None of us chose to be born. It just kind of happened. Similarly none of us chooses to die. In fact, many of us would choose to live forever if given the choice.

This Christmas be reminded of Jesus, the only person who chose both to be born and to die. And not only that, but He rose from dead in victory over sin. And He did it for you and I.

But who is He and why did He choose these things? Whether this is a first time introduction or if this sounds like something you have already heard, I encourage you to read on.

Who is Jesus?
The Son of God who saves us from the penalty of our sins and restores our relationship with God the Father.

What did He do?
God chose to send his Son Jesus to live a sinless life among man and to die for us. In Matthew 18:11 Jesus says that, “the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” God’s love for His people is further elaborated on in the verses that follow immediately after that statement: “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” The apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy says that “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.”

Why did He die?
So that our sins may be forgiven. If we pause to think about it, we are all sinful. And our sin demands payment, one we could not pay on our own. But God sent Jesus to die for us so that our sins may be forgiven, what we know as grace. Romans 5:6-8 reminds us that, “while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He chose to be born and to die so that you and I would know Him, be made whole in Him, and make Him known. He is, according to Hebrews 12:2, “the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” If you have placed your faith in Christ, Romans 5:1-5 says that we have been “justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

While we may have spent the past week worrying about what to get others or felt a bit down thinking about what others have that we do not have, let’s not forget that the greatest gift to man came to earth to live and to die for you and I.

Joy to world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive Her King.

As you look forward to 2012, focus on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith” and “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

Merry Christmas and happy new year,

Bryan

How to magnify Christ, whether by life or by death

If any of you have extra time on your hand, I highly recommend reading just any part of this blog: http://graceandrew.blogspot.com/

Every time I read it, I am humbled and amazed by how much a life–and a death–can glorify Christ. I started following this blog a couple of years ago, when older staff from my fellowship at UCLA asked us to pray for these two alumni. They were in their 20s, married for only a few years, yet the husband was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, reading about their faith in the midst of cancer was encouraging. Now, over two years later, I am convinced that one day, someone is going to collect and publish the writings of Grace and Andrew Mark, and it is going to become a Christian classic. Read any part of this blog, and you will walk away with a clearer vision of your Savior!

When life gives me lemons…

i hope and desire that i would choose to give thanks because those very lemons in the hands of a great chef can create so much more than i could ever do on my own. i will not “go make lemonade” as the saying so often goes. it isn’t about what i can do, rather it is about what has been done. and because of that i can…

“consider it all joy…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-4)

“rejoice always…pray without ceasing…in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

“not loose heart…for momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

i am no great chef, but i know those lemons can make a lot more than lemonade. why settle for lemonade when there is so much more to be gained from something such as trials in this temporary life? in reality these lemons are a gift, and for that i am thankful, because…

“every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above…” (James 1:17)

as you embark on your black friday adventures and all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, i encourage you to take a moment and pause to reflect on the many things we have been blessed with. here’s a great idea if you’d like to give someone a different kind of gift this year.

happy thanksgiving,

bryan