Pain is My Friend


Paul asks the Lord Jesus over and over to take away the thorn that tormented him. Three times, Paul pleaded for this torment to be removed from his life, but our Lord tenderly said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Long-suffering through tragedy, illness, or fiery trials is tiring and causes the body and soul great strain. But Jesus gives us the same promise that He gave Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” There are five key words in this passage that if the meanings are truly understood they make this verse explode with boundless application to our situation. They are: grace, sufficient, power, perfect and weakness.

  • Grace defined means joy, good-will, merciful kindness of our God and increased faith.
  • Sufficient is explained with possession of unfailing strength, defense that wards off trouble; satisfied and content.
  • Power is demonstrated through ability and resources rising from the numbers of others.
  • Perfect makes its mark with execution and resolution.
  • Weakness is clearly classified by lacking strength, feebleness of health or sickness of body and soul and one who bears trials and troubles.

My father has been fighting feebleness of health, sickness and great difficulty for many years and the crucible came to a head for him in these last 36 days spent in the hospital. Not to mention that his family has been battling, defending and trying with every prayer and physical might to ward off death from this side of heaven.

But in Jesus’ gracious words of tenderness He said, “Jim, my merciful kindness is providing you unfailing strength, for My ability has executed a resolution to your demise by bringing eternal health to your feeble illness; for it is time you are complete and you thrive in health and perfect good will; this perfection is only possible when you are completely in My presence.”

Yes, indeed, God does provide the grace, the power, and the perfect for our great time of need! And in my father’s case, heaven was the answer! ID-10016542

For those of us left behind, the promise still stands. For Jesus encourages us with “My children who are still on earth, My joy and increased measure of faith is yours; you will possess satisfaction and contentment with My decision; for you will also demonstrate supernatural ability to stand joyously in this trail of pain, because I am sending you people in great number to comfort you; you will lack nothing of strength – instead it will be my love through them that will replace the loss; and My love is the greatest of all that can make you strong.”

Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pain is our friend when we have God on our side, for He is merciful and kind. His will is sovereign and He is able to do all things beyond what we ask. We love you, Jesus. For without You our weaknesses would be the termination of our soul; but in You we can claim from the hill tops, “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place” (Psalm 31:7-8). 

Written in memory of James E. Sizemore.

Your Life is a Wilderness, Your Response is Your…


“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me’” (Exodus 8:1).

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We might think that God called the Israelites to leave Egypt and worship Him, so they could sing some songs to the Lord, live peacefully in the wilderness, and experience joy in their freedom, but this was not what God meant when he said, “worship Me.”

When we read about the journey the Israelites took through the wilderness with Moses, we hear them grumbling, see their struggles, and watch them suffer. They did very little singing. What was God’s purpose in calling them to the desert to worship Him?

Worship in the KJV and the NASB is replaced with the word serve. The Hebrew meaning for serve is to make oneself into a humble servant. God’s definition of worship for the Israelites was to work out their salvation as they learned to free themselves from Egypt’s defiled influence and give themselves fully to God.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The goal was to mold each person into a Godly servant who knew and proclaimed with certainty that God is their Lord! And indeed, we see God do this very thing!

Every day in the wilderness, the Israelites learned to totally depend upon God for their daily provisions, for His constant guidance, His unfailing grace, and His disciplined hand. They grumbled for food and water, and God provided. He may have been angry, because they did not trust Him; but his unfailing grace provided. He tested them; disciplined them, and directed them through the Law. This was boot camp, people! Not a vacation! All of this was to help each one work out their salvation – making God their Lord! Those that obeyed learned this lesson! Others not so!  This is exactly what worship is all about; it is not a Sunday morning experience singing a few songs, even though this happens, this is more of a celebration of our weekly and daily obedience to God, not our one time a week ‘worship’ to God. Living a life of worship is often a boot camp experience! It is a struggle most of the time.

What pleases the Lord most is when our every day life marks the learning of this very truth: the Lord is our God. He is sovereign; and while his grace is enough and his salvation sure, we often venerate ourselves instead of him by failing every test he presents to us day-to-day.

Understand this, when you are in a dispute with your spouse, it’s a test whether you will show God’s grace for that person or not. When your child takes your patience to the limit, God is teaching you to discipline them in love and with self-control. When your finances cause you great concern and you don’t know where the provisions will come to pay, save or give, it’s a test to trust God for his timing and delivery. When you experience success, this is training you to give God glory and stay humble as you continue to uphold His fame – not your own.

Every day is a day in the wilderness for us. Every day we are to work out our salvation as we learn to free ourselves from our sinful nature’s defilement and fully give our everything to God. We are in this wilderness to worship the Lord and serve Him as priests. Each circumstance, every person we meet, all the good, the bad, the ugly are opportunities for us mold our life after God; this brings God the worship He desires! When we confess Jesus as our Lord and work out our salvation with fear and trembling we conform more and more into His image. God always working doesn’t miss a beat at an opportunity to teach us; His will for us is to worship Him for His good pleasure. His good pleasure is to see each one of us totally trust Him.

I love what Andrew Murray says in his book, Teach Me To Pray: “I am saved to serve.” God saved the Israelites to serve Him. And He saved us to serve Him, too. To work for Him! To worship Him! To be like Him! The best way we can serve our God is work out our salvation becoming more and more like His son, Jesus! His heart imitated in our life is worship! 

Our life is a wilderness, our response is worship, and the result reveals to others God is Lord over us!  In your wilderness choose to “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only…making the most of every opportunity…” (Luke 4:8; Colossians 4:5).  When we see our life as an opportunity to learn God’s lessons, we will live intentionally, not superficially.

40 Days of Parenting Lessons – Day 7 Marked by the Choice of No


There was a time when I served an idol that brought me great misery. It exhausted me as I gave into its demands of servitude. I describe a glimpse of this time of idolatry in my book, Deep and Wide, Chapter One, “The Victorious Parent”:

Driving from ballet to baseball, I sat at the red light which seemed to take forever to turn green. Overwhelmed with all that I had to do that day, I laid my head on the steering wheel and said aloud, “How did I get myself into this state of constant busyness?”

My daughter of eight years at the time replied, “Because no is not a part of your vocabulary.” It was as if the angels sang loudly, “Told you!”

…most good well-meaning parents shelter or at least try to keep from their children obvious evils. However, there is another evil that tempts parents today. It is subtle. It appears to be “good” and “profitable” for our children. It is hard to escape at times. Its clutches clamp down tightly and demand servitude. Liberating ourselves from this temptation without guilt blighting us is like climbing up Mount Everest with lead rocks tied to our backs. The pull is strong and the unwarranted regret dogs us if we don’t partake of it in our life. At this time in my life, I was grappling in the clutches of this tantalizing pull…

As parents we want to give our children everything! We even think that giving them what the world has to offer is what a good parent does. Yet God’s word is quite distinct when it comes to what the world offers vs. what the Lord has to give; God is also quite definitive when it comes to what our response should be.

God clearly instructs us through Paul, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons also. You cannot share in the Lord’s table and the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21). Trying to eat at both tables is impossible, because we are conflicted – both tables have diverse goals in mind.

Did you know that the devil and his demons do not present themselves as these little red monsters with pitchforks? Instead they appear as light and camouflage themselves as good. Often the plethora of activities that we can put our kids in is the devil’s way to lure us away from teaching our children about the Lord; it robs us of time and energy as well as the rest and fellowship we can enjoy just hanging with the family. The devil’s ways separate the family, while the Lord’s ways unite and pull the family together.

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On the front of my book, Deep and Wide, you see a picture of a family looking out into the deep of the ocean. They are holding hands communicating unity and love. The deep of the ocean represents seeking things above instead of things of this earth. This family is not just marked by all that they said yes to for their children. Their true mark is also seen by all they said no to. Saying no in a culture of so many saying yes is a bold stance to take; it is not popular. By standing in the path of “no”, you will feel challenged often; I did! This is where focusing on God’s will instead of man’s is crucial. I am glad that I learned early in my parenting to say no. If I had continued down this path of saying yes to every activity for my children I wonder where we would be as a family. I wonder where my children would be as followers of Christ! I’m glad in this case that I followed the Lord’s instructions.

1 John 1: 15-17 clarifies what our response to the world’s “opportunities” should be: “Do not love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you do not love the Father. Everything that belongs to the world – what the sinful self desires, what people see and want, and everything in this world that people are so proud of – none of this comes from the Father; it all comes from the world. The world and everything in it that people desire is passing away; but those who do the will of God live forever.”  Jesus called the devil the prince of this world. If you are being pulled in many different directions, and your family relationships are suffering as a result, know this – it is not God’s will. And opposite of God’s will is the devil’s will – there is no in between. Not desiring the world is our instruction. To show that our love is not for the world, we must actively prune our schedules from the temptations that threaten God’s bond –  the family.