Tag Archives: James 1

Killing The Wolf That Was Sent To Save You.

There is an Inuit legend that says, in the beginning there was only a man and a woman. Nothing else lived on the earth. So the woman made a hole in the ice and began fishing, and one by one she pulled out all the animals. The last animal she pulled out was the caribou, the animal that feeds the Inuit, and she ordered them to multiply. But as the herd multiplied, sickness came to the herd. As the herd got weaker, the people began to starve. So the woman made another hole in the ice and pulled out the wolf. And the wolf hunted the caribou and began to eat the weak and the sick ones, and the herd grew stronger. And the people realized that the caribou and the wolf were inseparable, because even though the wolf eats the caribou, it is also the wolf that makes the caribou strong.

The first verses of the book of James say, “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. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  Many people read these verses and either don’t comprehend them or uncomfortably skip past them. After all, God just wants us to be happy, right? I heard the televangelist say so. Wrong. God wants us to have joy, but joy is something that comes outside of circumstance, and it comes through faithfulness and maturity. Happiness, on the other hand, is situation dependent. Happiness is external and fleeting, joy comes from the state of one’s spirit and is much harder to destroy.

How many times have we heard someone say, “why would God let this happen?” or “if God loves me, why am I going through this?”  Well, sometimes trials are self-inflicted, but often they are not, and it’s not because God doesn’t love you. It’s exactly the opposite. You see, the human nature is to focus on self. When trials come, they can have one of two effects. They can turn one’s focus even more inward, in which case people become bitter, regressive and self-destructive. The other effect they can have is to cause growth. Trials can build patience, and character, and wisdom in people. They can turn a person’s focus outward. They can teach empathy toward the suffering. They can build understanding of situations. Trials can teach a person to stop listening to Self, and start listening to God. They can teach a person all of those “foolish” practices like dying to yourself and not always seeking pleasure, but becoming the person who seeks the needs of others over your own needs and wants. Why else would some of the wisest, selfless, and most effective ministers be the people in countries where persecution and trials are constant?

We often have the option in the west to avoid trials. We set ourselves up to avoid failure through insurance, 401k, working two jobs so we can invest more money, and most of all, avoiding the Great Commission. When Jesus told his followers to go to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth, making disciples, it was not a suggestion for those who felt like it. It was a commissioning of purpose for everyone who follows Him. If we choose to avoid this commission to avoid trouble and protect our security, then we are content to accept God’s grace that is new every morning, but not to do what He asked us to do. We have traded our Purpose (capital P intentional) for a self-built security that is an illusion anyway. We are content to not grow.

Jesus said “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” Sheep among what? Wolves. The people Jesus was speaking to didn’t know what caribou were, but he just as easily could have said “caribou among wolves”. Being sent out as sheep among wolves sounds crazy, but it wasn’t until after imprisonment and beating that the timid Peter who denied his Lord three times became the fearless lion he was to become. Legend says that Peter was crucified upside down because he said he was not worthy to die the same way as his Lord. I know this is a hard thing to grasp, and some might say it’s crazy, but this is the kind of people God is looking for, and this is what trials, hardship, and persecution produce. So when the wolf comes, let us not kill it, but be aware that it might be there to make us stronger, to produce people of supernatural faithfulness and character and wisdom. To create people that fulfill the verse in 1 Corinthians 1:27, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;”

What do trials produce in us?
What do trials produce in us?
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Does God Hate Me?

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  James 1:2-4  SERIOUSLY???

 

Ten years ago, I was selling investments and insurance. I didn’t enjoy what I did, but I was good at it, and I was honest. Surely this was good enough for reward in God’s eyes. Then things started to turn. The economy turned, and I was working twice as hard for half as much money. I watched as dishonest people reaped the cash, while I struggled to pay the bills.  I had a new baby, but he literally never slept. Never. He would sleep for an hour and a half at night, then take forty minutes to get back to sleep. Rinse and repeat.  This happened every night for nine months. The next child was nearly the same. I was thinking of running for city council, so I asked God whether I should or shouldn’t. His answer was, “whether you do or not, I’ll bless you.” Then my mother died. Funny how God humors you when you’re asking the answer to an irrelevant question. 

Between the constant failure in business and the chronic lack of sleep, I actually began to wonder if God hated me. After all, “Delight yourself also in the LORD: and he shall give you the desires of your heart.” Certainly I was delighting in the Lord, but not really. I was asking God to bless the things I was doing, but never bothering to ask what it was He wanted me to do. There’s a difference. What I was doing wasn’t bad. But sometimes we need to trade what is good for what is best. I was secure in my job, but as I said before, I didn’t enjoy it. I am not the kind of person who drives a Lincoln, or golfs (I have never golfed), or quotes Zig Ziglar. In fact my stomach turns a little when I think of that. But I was secure, and it was going to take some serious discomfort to get me out of that.

As I said, my mother died. That was the last straw, and ironically, it was during that time that I realized God didn’t hate me. I had to travel 2000 miles to get to her funeral, and it allowed me to get far enough away for long enough that I was able to really start thinking about the state of my life and the things I was doing. God gave me skills with photography, not insurance. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should be doing it. I was trading the skills God gave me for the skills He didn’t give me. I wasn’t blessed because the desires of my heart were not God’s desires. Rather, I hoped that His desires were mine. They were quite backwards. (See the last blog, “And Please Give Me a Million Dollars and Huge Pectoral Muscles”.

Fast forward ten years. God has given me amazing opportunities, and I’m using the skills He gave me, and they have taken me places I never, and I mean never, would have imagined. I’ve been published in national newspapers, and had the cover of the Washington Post. My weddings have been published more times than I can count, and I’ve taken pictures of famous people in my studio.  I’ve been to South Sudan, Kenya, and soon Ethiopia. I’m happy doing what I’m doing, and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. God didn’t hate me. He just needed to make it so difficult that He could pry me out of my self-made misery. I’m thankful for that now.  Here’s a few of my favorite pictures that I never would have taken if I didn’t listen.

Tom Berenger in my studio.
Tom Berenger in my studio.
Infrared photograph of a live oak, 180 degree infrared panorama.
Infrared photograph of a live oak, 180 degree infrared panorama.
Old Woman in South Sudan
Old Woman in South Sudan

landman-513sm

Lighting striking over bridge and water
Lighting striking over bridge and water