How God Uses the Worst Things Imaginable

IMG_0402“Our greatest ministry comes out of our deepest pain.”                                                                                   ~Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Life

There’s a joke about three young boys bragging on their fathers one day in the school yard. The first one says, “My dad owns the bank and  we have a million dollars!” The second chimes in with, “Yeah? Well my daddy owns a big company and WE have a million dollars, too!” The third boy, whose father was a pastor at the small local church, thought for a moment and then finally blurted out, “Awwww, that’s nothing! My daddy owns HELL ‘cuz he said the deacons gave it to him!”

Whatever the deacons were angry about with this third’s kid’s pastor-dad, chances are it constituted both a trial and an opportunity for him, as these things do for all of us. Trials, tests, and troubles are “equal opportunity employers” and hit each of us throughout life and every time one comes we have the opportunity to let God do His wonderful work in our hearts and behaviors. How will we react? Will we let the character, nature, and attributes of Jesus shine through us as we react to the anger of others, a cancer setback, or a relational meltdown?

In every situation there lies the hidden struggle of control-surrender, hope-despair, and sometimes even life-death. If we’re consumed with our own needs and wants, it’s all too easy to miss the bigger picture God has in mind for us and to disregard the admonition from The Book of James to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).”

In my new song Mercy in the Fire the chorus sings, “There’s a mercy in the fire and there’s a promise in the pain/There’s a wonder in the weakness when we find His strength again/In every trial, test, and trouble hides the purpose He desires/And the gold will be revealed as we find mercy in the fire (Words and Music by John Chisum, Copyright 2015 by Donnaluv Music/ASCAP All Rights Reserved).” The mercy we can find in the fires of life, if we take time to look for it, is nothing short of the presence of Christ. The ultimate purpose of every trial is to reveal “Christ in us” (Colossians 1:27) and to reveal more of His love and power to us, in us, and through us as a testimony to the world of His overcoming power.

God uses the worst things imaginable in order to bring us to completeness and maturity in our faith (see James). He doesn’t cause them, but He uses them. Trials are always on the menu in the cafe of life, but our loving Father is discontent to let them destroy us if we will only trust His higher purposes to reveal His goodness, faithfulness, and loving presence through everything we go through. Remember – there’s always mercy in the fire, no matter how hot it gets.

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

Widening The Circle of Suffering

circles“I am happy to suffer for you now. In my body I am completing whatever remains of Christ’s sufferings. I am doing this on behalf of his body, the church.”    Colossians 1:24 God’s Word Translation

Donna and I were hiking in east Tennessee today. The weather was nice, mid-80’s with moderate humidity. We were talking about a sign I saw in a Nashville area coffee shop recently that reads, “People are going to hurt you. You have to decide which ones are worth suffering for.” As we managed the occasionally rocky and steep climb back up the path, we were discussing just who we would suffer for.

We named each other, for starters. Good married people begin there and work out. Our daughter made the list, of course. A few in-laws and friends later we were out of specific names of people we would choose willingly to suffer for. I then remarked, “That’s a pretty small circle of suffering. I’m glad Jesus’ circle of suffering encompassed all of humanity for all of time, including us.” We then spoke of missionaries, especially, that wonderfully selfless breed of people who intentionally widen their circle of suffering to include people groups and communities they have no familial connection with for the sake of the Gospel. The world has been changed by missionaries.

Not five minutes later, we passed a young lady on the path with a t-shirt that read, “Pray for Nigeria.” She had a beautiful dark-skinned girl with her, obviously not her own. Since I will be in Lagos next week for a worship tour, I spoke to her and questioned her about the country I’ve come to love. Turns out, she and her husband are missionaries in Jos, a city in northern Nigeria fraught with danger and Christian persecution, where they help young women there find freedom from human trafficking.

I’m just going over to sing. Maybe it’s time to think about widening my own circle of suffering. What about you?

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

 

My Sorry Sacrifice

lamb“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

Funny how I always want to justify myself before God.

Whenever I run past the bounds of His love and will for me, I immediately feel it and want to atone for my actions. My first thought is, “What can I do to make Him happy with me again? Should I beat my back with a scourge or crawl up a thousand concrete steps on my knees? What will make me feel better about myself?”

Turns out, this is nothing but my human pride desiring to justify itself and be able to earn God’s approval. Impossible. Can’t be done. Will never happen. Only Jesus could ever do it, and, thankfully, He did.

Now the truest form of repentance is doing nothing when I sin except confessing it and believing deeply in the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf (1 Jn 1:9). To drag my sorry sacrifices (“Oh, God, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry”) does nothing to eradicate the guilt I feel.

Only a fresh surrender to the total grace and forgiveness Jesus has already extended to me brings a sense of release from my guilt and a beautiful sense of belonging to Him. Try it next time you blow it. It’s awesome to feel loved even in the midst of the complete inability to justify yourself or provide a spotless lamb. God already did that for us. Praise Him!

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

 

 

The Pursuit of Purity

“The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgement; but the sins of others appear later.” I Timothy 5:24 (NIV)

We can all list names of men (and women) whose sins were found out. Internationally-known Christian leaders who had invested their lives in building the kingdom and then who were discovered in moral failure have often left many people wounded, even devastated, and besmirched the faith to the watching world. Perhaps you have known pastors or leaders in your own community who were “outed” for one thing or another with much the same effect.

The truth is, we will all be outed one day. Paul tells us in this verse that all of our sins will be known one day, whether before or at the judgement. I’m pretty sure he meant the sins of all of us, every last one of us. The effect of this knowledge, at least for me, is the desire to be as pure as possible, but how?

Purity is a co-op between me and God. It is my job to pursue purity, but His to purify me. The connection between hope in God and purity is obvious in I John 3:2-3, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” God has provided the hope in Christ and this hope works in me the will and desire to be as He is, pure.

The good news is that “if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father” (I John 2:1). I have sinned, you have sinned, but we have an Advocate, One who stands in on our behalf before the judgement seat of God pleading our case and providing forgiveness, freedom, and purity in God’s eyes. It is this knowledge that inspires in me the desire to be whole, holy, and pure, whether you see it or not.

In the meantime, I pray often the ancient Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God; have mercy on me, a sinner.”