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Life Lessons - Consider them pure joy

Coming Fall of 2012!

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Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3

We hear so many stories about lessons learned and a life of hard knocks. For those that go through them, some can view them as cruel or mean, while others look back on them with the fondest of memories. Not a fondness of what happened at the time, but what was learned from them. We often will fail to acknowledge that those difficult times and lessons were usually a result of, or the consequence of, our own disobedience, not a punishment from God. Sometimes it can be hard to grasp the reasons for these lessons when we are “in the moment”, but once the clouds of doubt and hurt clear away, we see something amazing hidden within the silver lining of them. That is if we take a moment to set aside the bitterness, or embarrassment, or pride that is blocking our vision and try to understand the lesson we hopefully just learned from.

There is something heart moving and endearing about hearing a story from someone who has “been there” and lived through it. I remember sitting and listening to my grandparents talk about their lives growing up in South Dakota in 1920’s and the hardships and challenges they had faced and learned to overcome, never regretting a single one that they faced now that it was behind them. I remember sitting in a restaurant with an older gentleman that that I had never met before, listening to him tell me stories about his days in World War II in the Pacific Theatre of the war. I had started up a conversation with him after seeing his cap that had his unit and service time displayed on it. I had simply started by thanking him for his service and I ended up with a pocket full of story treasures as he began telling me about the war and his memories of it. The stories were twenty years before I had been born, yet it was as if I was there with him as he shared each story. Some were funny, some were amazing, some terrifying, and many were extremely sad, but he shared each one with pride and conviction.

With over twenty years under my belt as a Christian, I can say I have heard many speakers of different talent and experience preach a lesson, many on the same Bible topic, but I cannot think of a more powerful sermon than one that includes a personal story that relates to the Biblical lesson they are preaching about and tied in to a scripture or two from God’s Word.

In Matthew 13:10, after telling a large crowd the parable of the sower, Jesus’ disciples asked him “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He answered their question in verses 13-15 when he said, “This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”

Jesus shared with his own disciples that sometimes the truth can be standing right in front of us, or in our case, in the form of God’s Word, yet we cannot see it or understand it unless it is put into terms that relate to our lives. Often as Christians, our hearts can become calloused to God’s Word, where we become so used to hearing it and reading it that it becomes distant and impersonal, making us almost “hard of hearing” and “nearsighted” to it. When that happens, we loose sight of how it can apply to us personally or impact our lives. But then someone tells a story that reveals how God was working in their lives, helping us to see God’s gentle and wise hand at work by referencing scriptures that support the parable of the story within it. God’s Word suddenly comes alive and our eyes can once again see well enough and our ears can hear well enough that we can once again feel it in our hearts, enabling us to turn back to God to be healed and to draw close to him.

So I hope you enjoy these “life lessons” that I now consider as James put it in James 1:2 “pure joy” now that they are behind me. You will find them filled with a variety of styles that include humor, insight, laughter, sadness, wisdom, warning, and most laced with enough embarrassing stupidity that you will wonder why God allowed me to remain alive today to even write them. Perhaps it is simply so you don’t repeat them.

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