Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Called for...Suffering?

"For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly...For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." (1 Peter 2:19,21 ESV)


 "And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23 ESV)


One of the most difficult things one can do is follow one's vocation. Being a follower of Jesus can be anything but attracting or appealing to our fleshly senses.


The first Scripture, taken from 1 Peter, tells us that not only are we to endure suffering unjustly, but goes one step further and tells us that we are called to endure suffering unjustly.


The Greek word used here for "called" is the same one that Jesus used to call His disciples to follow Him.


"God doesn't want anyone to suffer" many people tell me, as my road with God can get difficult and painful. Maybe it is the case that He doesn't desire anyone to suffer, but He does calls us to follow Jesus' example of suffering.


Don't believe the prosperity gospel that is constantly preached in the media. Follow Jesus and everything will be better. All your questions will be answered. Everything will be bright and beautiful.


Right.


As the second Scripture tells us, if we wish to follow Jesus, we need to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily and follow Him.


Cross, as understood in a first century context, is a symbol of death. The disciples understood clearly what Jesus meant when He talked about taking up a cross.


A cross was not a romantic or religious symbol. It was an instrument of torture and death.


God doesn't promise us that we are going to be happy. He doesn't even promise a happy ending in this life.


But He promises His Peace and Joy.


" Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice" (Phillippians 4:4 ESV).


"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18 ESV).


Photo Credit: Baron Brian.























Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Looking for Connections

One cold night not too long ago, I was walking on Mission Street. I was on a hurry, trying to get back home before 7pm.


It was a Thursday night and I was getting ready for the Bible Study.

And then I collided with two young men. Their attire suggested that they were gang members. I simply said sorry and tried to move on.

They kept cussing at me, clearly pissed off that I had disrespected their space. Not looking for trouble, I just kept walking.

I feel God is calling me to make new connections with gang members, hopefully ones more productive than the one just described.

The Thursday night Bible Study is not attracting new members, as the old connections were lost and the ones who attend have simply moved on.

New connections are needed in order to invite more people to the Bible study. But how do you go about doing this? I can't simply walk up to a gang member on the street, greet him or her and ask "can I be your friend?"

Clueless in how to proceed and trusting in God's providence and guidance, a team member and I have wandered the streets of the Mission District, wearing our prison ministry uniform, and hoping that by being simply available we can one day make a connection.

There is some fruits to our apparent aimless approach. We met one OG one afternoon. We are connecting with one program that works with the same population that we work with.

I'm pretty excited about the future of this ministry. I know that God is already opening doors and making new connections. He is already working behind the scenes.

God can bless our meager and feeble efforts. Sometimes we have to proceed to do His work, even if we are not sure how to do it.

Photo Credit: Patrick McCully.