“Purpose in Pain”: Thoughts on Brian Dawkins

Everyone that knows me knows I’m a huge sports fan.  Among those is football.  I love playing football and I love watching football.  This weekend was the induction ceremony for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  And I was sitting in a hotel room in Arkansas and happened to turn the TV on and caught the majority of the event.  And at one point I tweeted that it felt like there was a church service going in in Canton given some of the speeches.

The one that really resonated with me with Brian Dawkins.  Dawkins was a defensive back who played mainly for the Philadelphia Eagles (also some time with the Denver Broncos).  His speech got into not just his career but more importantly his faith in Christ as well as the pain and struggles that he dealt with including dealing with depression.

What really stuck with me was when he said the following:

“See there’s a purpose for my pain.  There’s a purpose for my pain.”

Those words stuck with me.  They stuck with me when I immediately heard it.  And they have stuck with me these several days later.  These last five years or so I’ve dealt with pain.  Emotional pain, mental pain, spiritual pain.  It has been a season of my life that has been a tremendous struggle.  There have been more rough days than calm days in these last five years or so.

And so when I heard Dawkins’ speech and he was mentioning those words, they resonated with me.  I need to be reminded that there is a purpose for it.  I may not fully understand the reason for this pain, ultimately the purpose is for me to get closer to Jesus and to point people to Him.  If there’s anyone that knows purpose in pain, it’s Jesus.

If you have not seen his speech, take some time and watch.  It is worth it:

Sunday Devotional: Luke 24:13-32

Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem.  Together they were discussing everything that had taken place.  And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus Himself came near and began to walk along with them.  But they were prevented from recognizing Him.  Then He asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.

The one named Cleopas answered Him, “Are You the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”

“What things?” He asked them.

So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a Prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and leaders handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him.  But we were hoping that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened.  Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb,  and when they didn’t find His body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see Him.”

He said to them, “How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken!  Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

They came near the village where they were going, and He gave the impression that He was going farther.  But they urged Him: “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them.”

It was as He reclined at the table with them that He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, but He disappeared from their sight. So they said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:13-32)

This is one of the encounters that happened following the resurrection of Jesus.  There were two followers of Jesus who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  They were distraught.  They were discouraged.  They had lost their joy, their hope.  And here comes Jesus.  And for the longest time, Jesus did not reveal Himself to the two.  Instead, He makes this a teaching opportunity.  He spends about seven miles sharing about all that was revealed about Himself in the words of Moses and the Prophets (the Old Testament).  And only at the end of the day when they were breaking bread together, did He reveal Himself to the two.

I think we all have those times like the two followers.  We have our struggles and doubts  We lose hope and faith in the midst of hard times and struggles.  But like those two, we need to be reminded again of the truth.  That Jesus is alive.  That He did rise from the grave.  That is has all authority.  And He loves us and wants us to keep being faithful.

This week, let us be reminded of the hope that we have in Christ.  And let us keep being faithful in following Him on the road that we are walking on.

Remembering Auschwitz

Auschwitz Gate

Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp from the Nazis by the Soviet Army.  It was at Auschwitz that over a million people including Jews, Poles, Roma (Gypsies), prisoners of war & others were tortured and killed.  It is one of the most despicable acts done in history.

Auschwitz Sign

I visited the city of Oswiecim where the remnants of Auschwitz back in 2009.  I was in Poland for that summer as an intern as part of my work for my master’s of divinity.  There was a group of us that worked together that took a trip down from Krakow where we were working to visit Auschwitz.

It was an eerie feeling to say the least.  I remember walking through the camp and just feeling sadness and remorse.  My heart broke for all those lives that were lost there.  I was angry at the Nazis for what they had done.  I didn’t say much throughout our time there.  I just took it all in and contemplated.

It was a place that was a stark reminder of the depravity of sin.  It was also a reminder of the hope that exists even in the midst of such darkness.  Even in such a place as this, God was still there.  He was still in control.  Like how the Nazis were eventually defeated, sin will ultimately be defeated because of the work that Jesus did on the cross.

To this day, I still remember my visit to Auschwitz.  It is something that will always be a part of me.  On a day like today, I’m reminded again of its significance.  May we never forget.

Auschwitz

Bastille and Rebuilding

Sometimes the most introspective thoughts can come out of the most random locations….

I write a weekly column for a website run by some friends.  They also have a weekly podcast that I have appeared on several times.  One of these times, there was a song played to open the show that got stuck in my head.  That song was “Pompeii” by Bastille.  It’s a very catchy tune.

The lyrics really got me to think, especially the bridge of the song.  The bridge goes like this:

Oh where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?

Makes you think doesn’t it?  When things are a mess in our lives regardless of the circumstances, it brings us to the point of reflection and introspection.  It also makes us assess where we are in the rubble.  Before any rebuilding can take place, we have to assess the damage.  Sometimes it can seem like a daunting task.  Where do we begin?  It is important to deal with our sins.  We need to confess them to God and ask for forgiveness.

There are those times when we’re in the rubble because of circumstances beyond our control.  Living in a fallen world, there are times when we are hurt when we do nothing wrong.  In those moments, we have to watch our hearts and not be tempted to get angry and want vengeance.  Forgiveness is paramount.

The rubble may look daunting but the awesome thing is that Jesus forgives us of our sins when we confess them.  He also is there to help us through the rubble and rebuild.  That is some encouraging stuff.

Sunday Devotional: Hebrews 4

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:14-16

We all want someone to appreciate and understand what we are going through.  When we struggle with hard times, we want someone can relate to us.  In this passage in Hebrews, the writer is reminding us that Jesus understands.  When he lived on this Earth, he was tempted and tried.  He was mocked and ridiculed.  He was hurt by those he considered his friends.  He felt sorrow and grief.  He knows what we are going through.  Even better, because of the work He did on the cross to be the sacrifice to pay for our sins, we can come to him in confidence that we can receive grace and mercy.  We also can go to him with our needs, with our hurts and know that he will listen and he will care.  What do you need to take to Him today?  Do so and know that He loves you and knows what you’re going through.

Sunday Devotional: 1 Timothy 6

This year, I’ve been going through the New Testament during my quiet time in the mornings.  It usually consists of a chapter (or part of a chapter depending on the length of the chapter) a day.  Today I just finished up the letter of 1 Timothy.  So for this week’s “Sunday Devotional”, I thought I’d look at 1 Timothy 6, particularly verse 12.

The letter of 1 Timothy was written by the apostle Paul to Timothy.  Timothy was a young leader in the church and learned under Paul’s leadership.  Timothy would later become a pastor at the church at Ephesus.  Paul would write to his friend and son in the faith to encourage and exhort him.  1 Timothy was one of those letters.  Paul talked to Timothy about how to lead and minster to the people where he was serving and to encourage him in doing so.

When we get to the end of the letter in chapter 6, Paul is wrapping up his thoughts and instructions to Timothy.  In verse 12 Paul writes “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”  Ministry is hard.  It is a fight both from the outside and the inside.  It is a struggle but it is a good fight.  It is a good fight because it is of eternal importance.  It is a good fight because of the impact it can have in the lives of others as well as one’s self.  As believers, we will get attacked by Satan inwardly through temptation and outwardly from the world.  But we have Jesus Christ, who gives us the strength to fight and to keep fighting.

If you have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord & if you are following after Him, keep fighting the good fight.  It is worth it.  Even when you get beat up, keep fighting.  Remember the calling God has in your life as a follower of Jesus.  Remember Him and how much He loves you.  Take hold of that this week.