Tag Archives: suffering

Nail’d It!

Recently, I have been watching a captivating show on Netflix called “Nail’d It!”  According to the streaming service’s website, the program is described in this way: “Home bakers with a terrible track record take a crack at re-creating edible masterpieces for a $10,000 prize.  It’s part reality contest, part hot mess.”  Here is what happens during each 30-minute episode: three amateur home cooks, with limited time, resources and experience try to copy baked goods worthy of Pinterest created by professional bakers with unlimited time, resources and experience.  The facsimiles never quite match the originals, but that is what makes the show so delightful.  The home bakers work so hard and fail so often, incurring the good-natured ribbing of the diverse panel of judges.  Yes, the end-products are woefully awful in comparison, but they are also delightfully ambitious.

This show appeals to be because it turns a particular cultural fascination on its head – capturing perfection through a post on social media.  There are millions of selfies that go unposted because of some imperceptible flaw that the sole picture posted does not contain.  There are hours devoted to staging furniture and furnishings so that uploaded photos of real estate are displayed in the best light.  We rarely expose our sub-par efforts, let alone our failures, to the scrutiny of public opinion.  Unless it is perfect, we are left to assume it is without value.  Social media has created a cultural expectation of quality where ‘good’ is rarely good enough.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15

I think Paul would have a tough time adapting to our culture, replete with social media’s expectations of perfection.  When he wrote to Timothy, he encourages him to give his best effort and, therefore, never feel needless shame.  He did not say that Timothy should cover the façade of life’s messiness with a veneer of superficial perfection, pretending that he could master every aspect of life and ministry.  Perhaps there is a blessing in knowing that we cannot do everything perfectly, but that we can always do our best.  Life is not expected to look like a magazine photo-shoot.  Life is often troubling to look at and imprecise, and that should be okay.

One of the more redemptive aspects of “Nail’d It!” is that the judges place a value on presentation, but they also value taste.  If it doesn’t look pretty but is delicious, the judges may still declare that entry the winner.  Mastering the fundamentals of baking counts for something.   Mastering the fundamentals of life and living counts, too.  This is true when it comes to relationships, service, ministry, faith, communication, compassion and about a million other things.  There is something deeply biblical in that.  Life does not always look pretty but treating the ingredients of life and living properly will, at worst, make it palatable.  Handled properly, it may even be delicious.

The cake with the elevated teapot is not the norm.  The photo of the beachside sunset is not typical.  The brochure with all the smiling faces is probably not real.  But the simple cake, the salt air and the full spectrum of human emotions are what life is composed of…and often times it is delicious.

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Making the Grade

My family and I missed church on Sunday – skipped church, actually – and did something else that morning.  We all still got up early, donned our ‘Sunday best’, shared breakfast together and drive to the Matthews Arena on the campus of Northeastern University.  It was there that we remained for the next four or so hours, along with the other friends and family members of the 2019 graduating class of Boston Latin Academy.  After a regal processional, greetings from dignitaries, speeches and special presentations from students, and addresses from the Suffolk County District Attorney and the school’s Headmaster, we finally saw our son (and brother and grandson), David, receive his High School diploma.

While it may sound like boasting, the truth is that my children, including David, are (extremely) bright.  That being said, education has not come easily for David.  In second grade he was referred to and treated for dyslexia at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Professions’ Speech, Language and Literacy Center and shortly after that was diagnosed with ADHD.  Still, despite these difficulties, David showed sufficient aptitude to warrant acceptance into one of Boston Public School’s exam schools.  Throughout his time at BLA, David experienced academic highs (honor roll and advanced placement) and lows (a month-long drudgery called summer school).  As I watched he who has become a young man graduate from High School, my thoughts brought me back to the frequently frustrating times we endured together over the past 13 years as a result of homework or clinic work or parent-teacher conferences.  Those frustrations seem to have disappeared as I witnessed him hide behind his diploma, victorious.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.  James 1:12

The Bible says that those who withstand the trials that test us will be awarded the prize.  I witnessed that, first-hand, on Sunday.   I’d like to think that David’s days of testing are through (I’d like to think that about myself as well), but I know that for all of us, each day brings with it their challenges.  There will continue to be peaks and valleys along his path, but now he has evidence that hard work pays off and perseverance has its rewards.  He has tasted victory, and I hope that will whet his appetite for the next chapter (pursuing a BS in computer science at Fitchburg State University).  I could not be prouder of David than I am right now…he is an overcomer!

We all have things that do not come easy: education, relationships, socialization, coordination, just to name a few.  Fight through those things, persevere and battle with all the strength and resolve you can muster, knowing that they may never be mastered but they can be overcome.  Remember that there will come a day that we will receive the just compensation for enduring the necessary struggles that accompany our successes.  And, after you’ve endured and come out the other side, I hope there is someone there to witness it and cheer for you.

On behalf of my family, we say ‘thank you’ to all who helped David achieve this significant milestone.

Bee Perfect

Last Thursday night, I was captivated by a contest televised on ESPN: the 92nd Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.  Let me say that I am not an advocate for the cultural predilection toward presenting  “participation awards” (the ubiquitous practice of giving everyone on the team a trophy, regardless of the score); both winning and losing has the ability to build character and excellence ought to be recognized.  So, as I began watching the ‘evening finals’, beginning with round nine where sixteen children were still competing, I was very-much looking forward to seeing a champion crowned and the other 15 children cheered as they walked off the stage, defeated but undaunted.

The ninth round of words was perfectly executed – all 16 mastered the words they were given.  Then, over the next 5 rounds, eight participants misspelled their word and exited the competition.  At that point, the remaining eight spellers broke the system, correctly spelling the next 47 words.  It was announced at one point that they were running out of words and, after a few more rounds, all those still spelling would win.  After a total of 20 rounds, the directors of the bee declared all the remaining contestants the winner of the competition.  Rishik Gandhasri, age 13 (who spelled ‘auslaut’), Erin Howard, 14 (‘erysipelas’), Saketh Sundar, 13 (‘bougainvillea’), Shruthika Padhy, 13 (‘aiguillette’), Sohum Sukhatankar, 13 (‘pendeloque’), Abhijay Kodali, 12 (‘palama’) Christopher Serrao, 13 (‘cernuous’) and Rohan Raja, 13 (‘odylic’) all walked away with the $50,000 and the trophy as champions of the National Spelling Bee.

This was not, in any way, a participation award.  It was a pronouncement of excellence, as each one perfectly executed the task before them.  These eight great spellers finished the competition without error and were declared the winner.  The unfolding of this competition reminded me of the words of Paul to the church in Corinth:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:24

These young competitors all expected that there would be only one winner and they prepared accordingly.  They competed to win the prize and they finished the competition in first place.  They won – they all won – together, giving one another High-fives and cheering on one another’s correct (always correct) efforts.   The rules of the competition did not change, only the fact that many finished perfectly, together.

In many ways, I saw a glimpse of the heavenly in the very early moments of May 31st.  The conclusion of the spelling bee reminded me of the concluding moments of life: we are diligently competing for the prize, surrounded by our fellow competitors, when the director of the race, the Lord Almighty, states that all who cross the finish line first will be declared winner.  At that moment, we interlock elbows and all step across the finish line together, all securing the prize.  We celebrate one another, realizing that we are not competing against the other runners, but the course itself.    All those still standing at the end will receive the prize.

One last word to spell:  H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H!

Losing After Winning

It was supposed to be the fastest two minutes in sports, but the Kentucky Derby turned out to be the longest 20 minutes in horse racing.   As a way of providing a quick recap from the race that took place a couple of weeks ago, here is what the stewards of Churchill Downs officially recorded:  the lead horse, Maximum Security, strayed from his lane and impacted the progress of another horse, War of Will, which in turn interfered with two others, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress; because of this infraction, Maximum Security was disqualified and considered not to have participated, and the second place finisher, a horse named Country House, was declared a winner.  Earlier this week, ten days after the race, the owners of Maximum Security filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the disqualification.

I have an insufficient knowledge of the rules of thoroughbred racing to posit an opinion about the merits of the disqualification or the lawsuit.  Was one horse’s veering from its path into the path of another sufficient cause to force the forfeiture of the substantial purse and the even more substantial legacy that goes with winning the Kentucky Derby?  I cannot say.  But then again, hypothetically, was my traveling ten miles over the speeding limit, along with everyone else, sufficient reason for a state police officer to cite me for speeding?  Hypothetically again, was my fabrication about a little thing like coffee consumption sufficient cause for people to question my truthfulness?

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  1 Corinthians 9:27 (ESV)

Call it what you will: a competitive edge, a social construct, an ethical dilemma or a way of doing business; if it is unlawful, unethical or ungodly, it ought not to be done.  Those who do these things are in danger of disqualification.  Paul’s advice: stay in your lane.  He tells us the secret to his spiritual integrity – if it takes away from the message we are telling or tarnishes our witness to the gospel, it is not worth the price.  When we step over the line, we risk everything: it is possible that we could also forfeit our reward and forgo our legacy.

The antidote for disqualification is discipline or, as other translations put it, beating our bodies.  We need the Holy Spirit to ride us like a righteous jockey, coaxing us with the crop to continue running on the right track and spurring us on to expend our greatest effort and achieve God’s goal.   We need the Word of God to be a faithful trainer, strengthening us through resistance exercises and building our endurance through running the course.  We need the Church to be a constant companion, challenging us when we are slogging through the mud and encouraging us to finish the race.

We are so much more than racehorses.  We, who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, are children of the Almighty and we ought never do anything that might jeopardize our birthright – the crown of life reserved for the victor.  Trust the Holy Spirit, the Word of God and the Church to keep us on track and finish the race properly.

Unsung Heroes

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”  Abraham Lincoln

Sunday is Mother’s Day, when three out of four of us will purchase a greeting card and over two-thirds of us will buy flowers for our mom (or our children’s mom).  It is the least we can do for those who have given us so much of themselves.  There is something in our mother’s kisses that are more therapeutic than the best medicine and something in her voice that is more comforting than the best psychotherapy.  Mom was likely the first to read to us, pray for us and cry with us.  She made sure, for most of us, that we had a birthday cake on our special day and a new outfit for the first day of school.  It is right and good to honor and remember the ones who endured painful labor and sleepless nights for her children:  God bless Mom!

As I think about Mother’s Day, my thoughts come back to a commercial I recently saw for the Portal from Facebook.  In the commercial, actor Neil Patrick Harris decides to call and celebrate his mother on Mother’s Day using the Portal from Facebook.   He sees that she’s not alone; she has company: the mothers of Serena and Venus Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., Snoop Dogg and Dwayne Johnson among others.   While Neil knows who they are, most people watching the commercial are unfamiliar with the women on the video-chat screen and are given only a clue by Neil’s references – Odell’s mom, Jonah’s mom and the like.  These women, no doubt, have done great things in their own right but are willingly recognized as someone’s mom.  We ourselves may not actually know some women’s names, only that they are so-and-so’s mom.  God bless you, Neil’s mom.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.  2 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)

One of the moms of the Bible who lived a life of seemingly quiet obscurity is Lois – the mom of Eunice, who was the mom of Timothy.  All we know about this woman is what we read in the verse I have quoted.  All we have as a historical record is that a sincere faith lived in her.  There are so many unanswered questions: Did she have hobbies or a favorite story?  Where did she grow up?  How long was she married?  Was she like the Proverbs 31 woman and worked outside (as well as inside) the home?  Was she tall, attractive and wealthy or petite, plain and poor?  All we know is her name, her heart and her grandson.  But, in God’s economy, that is enough.  God has blessed us with moms like Lois.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those who are known by the world only as someone’s mom.  God knows you are much more than that: you are leaders of industry, educators, medical experts, investors, inventors and artists – and then you go out the front doors of your home and do even more.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Sheth’s Table

After last Sunday’s sermon I had a conversation with my wife about its delivery.  It was based on Acts 16:11-24, when, among other things, Paul commands a spirit of divination to come out from a servant girl.  This was done because Paul, according to verse 18, became troubled by her incessant shouting; the word choice by Luke is one of annoyance, that she got on his nerves much more than she got to his heart.  In my message I said that this part of a ministry of compassion, service based upon sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others, but I was wrong: while the servant girl was shown sympathy or concern, Paul was seemingly only intent of keeping her quiet.

Not so with the subject of another conversation I had later last week among a group of colleagues.  My friend Bob shared some thoughts on Mephibosheth as recorded in 2 Samuel 9.  This man with the unusual name (meaning “the one who shatters shame’) was disabled – dropped by a nurse as a child causing him to be lame in both legs – and disgraced, the grandson of the conquered king.  He was living a quiet and desperate life in a place called Lo-debar (“no pasture”).  At the same time, King David (his dearly-departed father’s best friend and his casualty-of-battle grandfather’s mortal enemy) was wondering if there was anyone in Mo’s family to which he could show God’s kindness.  What David does is truly compassionate.

David asks the sympathetic question: “Where is he?”  There is no regard for why it happened, or how it happened, or when it happened.  There is no concern over the investment or the objective.  There is only a question of how quickly he could help.

David shows a sympathetic spirit: he offers for Mo to dine at the king’s table for the remainder of his life.   The king was not inviting him as a servant but as a son, with no expectations of repayment or reward.  There is only an offer of grace.

Imagine Sabbath-day dinner at the palace: Amnon, the oldest boy, strong and witty; Absalom, the good looking one; Tamar, the princess; Solomon, always talking about something he read; and let’s not forget that Mephibosheth, legs at two different angles, humble and quiet, sits in the midst of it all.  That is the picture of compassion, that kindness that originates in the heart for the sake of alleviating the suffering of another.

And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.  2 Samuel 9:13

We all know that expression of compassion, for we are all Mephibosheth.  God the king made a promise before we were born to care for us.  He searched us out while we hid in fear in a barren land.  And He blessed us with all things, allowing us to dine and recline with Him at His table.  Broken as we are, crippled as we are, humble as we are, we were given more than we deserve.  We ought to remember that the next time we come across someone who demands our pity and concern.  In that moment, may we all act compassionately from the heart, not simply appropriately so as to settle our nerves.

And the Winner Is…

My wife, Jeanine, and I completed our annual quest to view the Best Picture Oscar® nominations before the telecast.  Each year, I have tried to predict who would win with only limited success (currently I am batting .500; 3 right predictions in 6 years).  My prediction will be revealed at the end of this post, but first I want to think about our culture as reflected in these 8 cinematic masterpieces.

This blog is not written by a movie critic; I am a minister of the gospel.  As such, it is unlikely that the Academy is considering my particular demographic in their determination of what is ‘best’.  That being said, I watch these films with the hope that I can gain a glimpse of a deeper truth embedded in these movies.  What I have come to see is that all these films include elements of systemic ‘selectivism’ within our culture:

  • The plot of Black Panther revolves around the divisions our world faces regarding race, asking the audience, in the guise of a superhero blockbuster with spectacular special effects, why wouldn’t the richest nation on the planet use its resources to deliver all the earth from societal injustice;
  • The fact-based Blackkklansman retells the story of a black officer in Colorado Springs who becomes a card-carrying member of the KKK, thwarting the ‘organization’s’ plans for violence, and, in so doing, depicts the hate-filled rhetoric some spewed against those of other races, religions and orientations;
  • The biographical Bohemian Rhapsody is largely the account of Queen front-man Freddie Mercury who feels like an outsider due to his mis-identified ethnic upbringing and his sexual orientation, culminating with him and his bandmates becoming “a group of outcasts making music for other outcasts”;
  • The Favourite, described by one critic as a ‘punk Restoration romp’, is an elaborate depiction of the court and courtesans of Queen Anne in the early 18th century where the women lead and the men waste time and money in hedonistic pursuits;
  • The true story of Green Book tells of an unlikely friendship forged by a black pianist and the white driver/muscle he hires for a road-trip concert tour through the Midwest and South in the early 1960s, enabling segregation, racism and ignorance to cast a dark shadow into the theater;
  • Roma is a slice-of-life account of the interactions between a family and some young domestic workers in Mexico in 1971, telling the movie-goer about the living in a culture of class distinction, male dominance and revolution;
  • The remake A Star is Born is about a self-destructive headlining musician and a young songwriter who fall in love, telling the story of the sacrifices we make (and refuse to make) for those we care about while championing the cause of the ‘unattractive underdog’;
  • Vice, a fact-based and speculation-filled movie about the rise to power of former Vice President Dick Cheney, pulls the curtain back so we can see the machinations and manipulations that those in power are willing to employ when seeking to increase that power.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

To a greater or lesser degree, these films all deal with what may be the greatest issue in our culture: division based on gender, race, wealth or sexual orientation.  Some do it with great skill (Blackkklansman, Green Book and Vice) while others must be on so high an artistic level that simple movie-goers like me cannot fully comprehend (Roma and The Favourite).  There is hope: the cultural zeitgeist inherent in these films seems to be reinforcing what the Bible affirms – that every human being is of equally incredible worth and that we ought to champion those who take up the cause of protecting and preserving the value of every soul.  As I watch the Oscars® on Sunday night, I will celebrate the stories of Queen Anne, the Duchess of Marlborough, Ron Stallworth, Flip Zimmerman, Don Shirley, Tony Vallelonga, and Freddie Mercury – reminders of the intrinsic value of every human being.

And the Oscar® (if I were given a vote) goes to Green Book.

In Defense of Discipline

For the twelfth time in the last eighteen years, the team from New England has been crowned the World Champion of a professional sports league.  On Sunday night, the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams (13-3) to win the Super Bowl©, causing great delight in this writer’s household and neighborhood.  I completely understand the animus – the hostility – others in regions outside New England feel for the sports fans of greater Boston (after all, this is the second World Championship our rooting interests have captured in the last 100 days, lest we forget the Red Sox’s World Series performance of October).  These are heady times in the hometown, to be sure!

Many have said that, while the Lombardi Trophy will reside at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots won no style points in victory – some have gone so far as to say that this was the most boring Super Bowl in its fifty-three years.  While I understand my opinion might be skewed, allow be to rebut this claim: I concede that if you are a fan of offense, this game (with a single touchdown scored on a two-yard running play late in the contest) was less than spectacular; but football is not one-sided, and the other two dimensions of the game (defense and special teams) were incredible and, with only a few penalties and no reviewed, challenged or reversed plays, both teams made plays worthy of a world champion.

I am glad that the Patriots won, if for no other reason than the shared camaraderie among the diverse demographic over the celebration of the superiority of Brady and Belichick and the best football team evah!  I am also glad that the season is over: there will be fewer people remaining home or leaving immediately after church each Sunday at noon; there will be a cessation of the idol-worship of great (though mostly morally flawed) athletes; and there will be a few weeks before the perceived superiority expressed by some rabid fans over other parts of the country will resurface (when the Celtics and Bruins look to enter the playoffs).  Perhaps in these intervening weeks we can celebrate a biblical truth witnessed by millions watching the big game from Atlanta.

No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:27 (NIV)

What would happen if the followers of Christ were willing to engage the opponent with a similar attitude toward discipline that the players in the Super Bowl maintained?  What if we were willing to take the blows, in accordance with the rules, to advance the Gospel that National Football League endure to move the ball toward the goal line?  As the game on Sunday night vividly made evident, much of the gains are hard fought and much of the actions of the opponent are difficult to defend.  Nearly two hundred years ago, a New York Senator, William L. Marcy, said, “To the victor belong the spoils”; I think a better expression might be that, win or lose, the spoils (the goods or benefits taken from one’s competitor) belong to the disciplined.

Happily, that was my home team this year.  In the end, win or lose, they all played a great game, and that is something to celebrate… and emulate.

Disposable Cups and Dying Embers

Am I the only one who wishes that life would be easier?  Am I alone in longing for simplicity in the workplace – there is a job to do, a way to do it and an absence of obstacles to its completion?  Am I the only one who desires that life was a whole lot less messy? 

These thoughts, no matter how comforting, are not based in reality: all of us, and all we work with and for, are – to some degree – messy.  We all have unrealistic expectations, unresolved insecurities, and inexplicable weaknesses.  We all have times when we think we are worthless and our situation is hopeless.  That is the time when we need someone to come alongside.  Thankfully, we have someone: the one about whom Isaiah prophesied and the one who fulfilled this prophecy: Jesus.  Recorded in the Old and New Testament is a picture representing the heart of God for ministry.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.  Isaiah 42:3a

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out….  Matthew 12:20a

In the days of Isaiah, reeds and bulrushes were literally a dime a dozen.  They were everywhere and, as such, easily cultivated for a variety of menial tasks.  Therefore, only perfect specimens were used and the bruised (bent, blemished or broken) reeds were discarded.  Ancient reeds were of the same value of a Dixie© cup: I take medication twice daily with the aid of those 3-ounce wax-coated paper cups and (to the consternation of my loving wife) I reuse just one for days upon days.  Christian ministry, according to Jesus, values the people around us that the world sees as replaceable and disposable.

At the same time, fire was essential for existence.  Fire was the only source of heat (for comfort and cooking) and light (through hearth and lantern).  Tending to the home fires was a constant chore.  If one were to neglect the flames or use live or wet wood, it would be easiest to sweep the firebox and start over.  If you have ever camped before, you know the work maintaining a fire demands, especially if one does not have a lighter (invented in 1823) or friction matches (invented in 1826); it would be wiser simply to rebuild and relight dry wood.   Christian ministry, according to Jesus, values the people around us that the world sees as difficult and demanding.

The good news is that God has established the Church to ministry to the bruised reeds and the smoldering wicks.   All around the world this weekend, those who might consider themselves nameless and voiceless cogs in the mechanism of life will gather together to remind one another that they are irreplaceable and valuable.  All across the globe, people who the world would label as difficult and unworthy of the effort will come together and worship the One who equips His people with limitless compassion and patience.

Life is not easy.   Life is not simple.   Life is messy.  But, thank God, we have the Church, the people of God committed to accomplishing His will.  Therefore, there is always a place for disposable cups and dying embers like you and me.

On Purpose

More often than I care to admit or recognize, the disparate portions of scripture that read relating to different parts of my life that (whether it be through sermon preparation, prayer, or devotional readings) intersect to illuminate a truth that my thick skull would not have comprehended had it not been bombarded from diverse angles.  This week, a verse from Proverbs (from a devotional), a verse from Psalms (through our church’s participation in “21 Days of Prayer”) and a verse from Acts (from last week’s sermon) have gotten me thinking.  They all were used by the Holy Spirit to connect some dots, producing a picture of life that includes discernment, disappointment, and direction.

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance….   Proverbs 1:5 (ESV)

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.  Psalm 57:2 (ESV)

[Herod] had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.  Acts 12:2 (NIV)

Initially, God directed me to the above passage in Proverbs and to a devotional where Tim Keller examined the difference between knowledge and discernment as they relate to the pursuit of wisdom.  We must be ever increasing in our learning, gaining factual and practical knowledge from a variety of healthy sources.  We must also seek understanding of this knowledge.  We need to know what the truth is, as well as what the truth means in practice. 

Next, God directed me to the passage in the Psalms, which states the truth that God fulfills His purposes for us.  But what does that mean in practice?  In context, David recited this plea as he was running for his life from Saul.  It means that God uses all our experiences (times of joy and times of sorrow) as a means of fulfilling His purposes for us.  Whether we comprehend God’s rationale for our situation, we must live with the understanding that He has a plan.

This leads to the final passage, which recorded the martyrdom of one the first disciples at the hands of Herod.  Unlike His deliverance of Peter a few verses later, this passage appears to reflect that God did nothing to spare James’ life.  That is what knowledge of the truth would tell me, anyways.  But understanding of the passage tells me more: first, that Jesus secured James’ life after his physical death, delivering him from harm and granting him passage into His presence; and second, His purpose (whatever that may be) for James and the people James know was fulfilled.

Ultimately, the life of faith is found in the confluence of these verses (as well as thousands more).  Whether it is budget meetings or bond hearings, weddings or funerals, winning the lottery or losing a job, God has a purpose for you.  We can get a glimpse of this purpose through studying His word and seeking His guidance.  But, whether we “get” what God is doing or not, we can trust that He will give us all we need to trust Him in the darker hours.  We need only remember that God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.  But that is a verse for another day.