Monday, December 29, 2014

Eyewitnesses of His Majesty

            Who is Jesus? It is the most important question you will answer in your lifetime. If Jesus is who Christians worldwide and the New Testament claim he is, then whether you choose to follow him will make, not just a temporary, but an eternal difference in your life and the lives of people around you.

            The first disciples of Jesus were amazed by his life, his teachings and especially by his resurrection. The apostle Peter summed up Jesus’ life nicely with this phrase: “Jesus went around doing good!” But for Peter there was more to Jesus than just goodness. The things Peter saw in Jesus made him realize that Jesus was more than just an ordinary man. This was confirmed for Peter in a remarkable event where he, along with James and John, saw Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah. This had to be the most amazing thing Peter had ever seen and he tried to express his joy, saying: “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter rightly realized that Jesus was a very significant figure in Israel! What happened next must have blown Peter’s mind – “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.’” Peter spent the rest of his life doing just that – listening to and following Jesus, the son of God.

            Here is Peter’s remembrance of this event from years later: For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.  (2 Peter 1:16-18) Eyewitnesses of His Majesty! That is a life changing event, for to see Jesus clearly also makes you see yourself and all those around you clearly. After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Peter and John were arrested and threatened to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. Peter’s response is what one would expect from someone who had seen the majesty of Jesus – “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!” (Acts 4:20) Peter and John, along with the other disciples continued to speak about the majesty of Jesus and the whole world changed!

            We live in a world that is desperate for change, a world that is desperate for Jesus! Yet Jesus chooses to allow the saving message about him to be spread by witnesses who have experienced his life changing presence personally. When we have been eyewitnesses of his majesty, we will never stop telling anyone who will listen about the amazing things we have seen and heard. If enough witnesses are telling the story, the world will change again!  

- Kenny Payne

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

God's Good Gifts - Love

The story of Christmas is a love story. No matter which of the lead characters in the story you look at, all were motivated and challenged by love.

            Mary was all set to begin her life as the wife of Joseph and, no doubt, had dreams of the way her life would unfold. Gabriel’s announcement to her that she would become the mother of the Messiah was a shocking surprise. Quickly Mary decided to accept the will of God for her life and all the changes it would entail. For Mary, love complicated her life. She had to tell her parents about the encounter with the angel and the news of the pregnancy. That was, without doubt, an awkward conversation. Then she had to figure out a way to tell Joseph. Imagine asking someone to believe a story that you could hardly believe yourself! Though love was complicated, Mary said “Yes” and she learned the invaluable lesson that love cooperates.

            Joseph was devastated when heard that Mary was pregnant. He learned in that moment that love can create a heavy strain in a life. He hurt so bad that he could not continue his plan to marry her, but he cared too much to harm her, so he decided to divorce her quietly. He was torn by the strain of choosing from two bad options, and no matter what he chose he would not find happiness! It was after reaching this painful decision that he dreamed of an angel bringing him a message strikingly similar to the claim of Mary. When he awoke, the strain dissipated and his decision changed; he took Mary home as his wife and he agreed to raise the child of God! Joseph learned that love cooperates.

            God remained on his heavenly throne as his son became flesh and dwelt among us. In sending Jesus, the Father allowed the creator to become the creature, with all the limitations that entails. But the Father did not personally suffer the limitations of humanity, rather he suffered the separation of the trinity – what had never been divided was separated. It must have been a painful experience on either side of the divide! The father entrusted the son to a young woman and her husband who had no previous experience in parenthood. That was a risky venture, to say the least. God proved the truth of the meaning of love – love gives! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son!”

            Jesus willingly left divinity behind and became a man. No one can fully understand that statement, except Jesus. Paul tries to explain what it was like with these words: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8) Thirty years after the long awaited birth of Jesus, that baby born in Bethlehem became a powerful prophet who said: “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) It’s what love does. Nothing else comes close!

This Christmas – and everyday – thank God for his amazing love. And then show it to others…

- Kenny Payne

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

God's Good Gifts - Peace

            Isaiah prophesied that the coming messiah would be called “the prince of peace!” Christians claim that phrase as a great description of Jesus Christ. Jesus, through his sacrifice on the cross, made peace between God and sinners who are willing to accept his grace. “For God was pleased to have all fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20) It is a staggering sentence – peace through his blood shed on the cross – for out of the violence Jesus suffered he created peace!

            The reason for that is actually quite simple: Jesus decided to stop the hatred and violence by refusing to return evil for evil! Rather than defending himself by destroying his enemies, he surrendered to their evil plans and offered himself as a sacrifice. The decision to take the violence into himself, and return forgiveness for hatred, created something new in the world.

            The people around Jesus were not sure what to make of his amazing act of self-sacrifice. His enemies interpreted it as weakness and were pleased to be rid of him (until the resurrection!). His friends did not understand it either and were almost out of hope, again until his resurrection! It is the resurrection power of God that makes the willingness of Jesus to die himself rather than mistreat others such a wonderful gift. After Jesus ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit came to the disciples on Pentecost, they began to understand the full significance of what Jesus had done. The power of peace through loving and praying for enemies was on full display. Listen to their voices as they relate the impact of what Jesus did by choosing peace over hostility:

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” – Peter (1 Peter 3:9)

“Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” – James (James 3:18)

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men, and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’ says the Lord.” – Paul (Romans 12:17-19)

            It takes a great deal of faith to walk the path of peace with Jesus. But we will arrive at true peace – not just the absence of hostility but the presence of love – in no other way. To follow Jesus on the path to peace is the calling of every disciple and the only hope for the world. “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone!”

God's Good Gifts - Hope

            Bombs falling in Ukraine, ISIS in Syria and Iraq, continuing conflict in Jerusalem and Gaza, terrorist groups around the world, peaceful protests and violent unrest in Ferguson and New York City – and that is just the short list of problems that are making headlines and unrest in our lives. It seems that everything is falling apart and there is little reason to hope that anything will improve. Yet if we are honest, while we currently have more access to news from other places at our disposal, the world has always been full of unrest, instability, injustice and war.

            Paul refers to our Father as the God of hope! May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV) As God fills his children with joy and peace because of our trust in Him, we overflow with hope. The despair that is always willing to overwhelm us is pushed back by God’s love and faithfulness. Our faith enables us to interpret the world and all its messes in light of God’s plans in Jesus Christ.

            Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus (and us today) that we need to learn to see not just with the eyes in our heads, but with the eyes of our hearts. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV) He claims that if we can learn to see in that way, we will understand the beauty and power of hope. For Christians, hope does not mean a “wish that is improbable” rather it means confidence in the power and work of God.

And God chooses to do his work through his people – which means we become a source of hope to those around us. Peter recognized this truth when he encouraged us to: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV) Peter understood that in a world where hope was in short supply, people would see the hope displayed by Christians and would want that hope in their lives. Peter wants us to be ready to share our faith in Jesus Christ – he is the reason for our hope!

 Because we live in a fallen world and God’s redemption of his creation is not fully completed, we will continue to see problems that often seem hopeless. However, because we know that God is working to complete the redemption of creation – what Jesus called the “renewal of all things” – we continue to have hope in the face of evil. We are continually told in Scripture to never surrender to the desire to return evil for evil, but rather to do good to those who hurt us, to pray for our enemies! That is precisely where we become beacons of hope. Listen to how John said it: Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 NIV) In our hope, we purify ourselves and live like Jesus. Everyone around us can see the hope in that!

Do more with your life than just curse the darkness, be a light. People need hope!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Give Thanks to the Lord

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16:34)

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
(Psalm 100:1-5)

We are about to enter what is, for many people, the most stressful time of the year. How ironic that Thanksgiving and Christmas – which are both about giving thanks to God and recognizing his goodness – have been commercialized to the point of absurdity and filled with so much activity that, rather than feeling like holy-days, they just feel like a giant blur!

This year you have the opportunity to slow it all down, take a deep breath and decide to use this season to give thanks to God for what he has done and is doing in your life. One of the things that Jesus tried to point out to everyone he encountered is that God is working – always working – to bless the lives of people (See John 5:16-17). God pours out his blessings because he loves and cares for his creation with a Father’s heart.

When we give thanks to God we are acknowledging that we notice the many ways God is working in our world and in our lives and that we appreciate his loving attention.

When we give thanks to God we are declaring to all that we ourselves are not capable of giving meaning to live, or even capable of providing all that we need to sustain life. Rather, we gratefully acknowledge that God is the gracious provider of life.

When we give thanks to God we are also declaring that, just as God has provided for us in the past, we trust that his goodness endures forever and that our future is secure in his love. (Have you noticed what a huge issue “security” is in our world right now?)

When we give thanks to God we join his family throughout the ages in raising a chorus of thanksgiving to the one who is so generous and loving towards us all. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Whatever else may be happening in your life currently, it is happening in the presence of your loving Father, who is good and whose love never fails, but endures forever. For that we give thanks!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Reverent Submission of Obedience

It is historically safe to say that there has never been any other human being like Jesus. The early church was insistent that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. That was, and is, a difficult concept to understand! They claimed it because they were completely amazed at the life, words and works of Jesus.

            The writer of Hebrews says this about Jesus: During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him… (Hebrews 5:7-9 NIV) I love that phrase, “he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Reverent submission is exactly what God is looking for in the lives of all people who seek to follow Jesus.

            Yet too often we offer something besides reverent submission. Many choose “irreverent rebellion” – the path of the prodigal who seeks to navigate through the world on the basis of being obedient to their own desires. This path is marked with heartache and tragedy, but even with all the evidence saying this is a bad road, everyday many people walk this path. Irreverent rebellion is a crowded road, but it only leads further away from the will of God in our lives. The sooner you realize that irreverent rebellion will never become the basis for a meaningful life of faith the better, so you can take the off-ramp of repentance and begin making your way home.

            The other crowded path – and alternative to reverent submission – is “irreverent submission,” which I take to be the practice of legalism. The practice of irreverent submission looks better than irreverent rebellion, at least on the surface, because it does not leave such an obvious trail of heartbreak and tragedy. Yet it is actually a much harder road and it is difficult to find the off ramp because like the prodigal’s older brother you despise the disobedient as a defense against feeling that you have missed out on the wild side of life. Irreverent submission can be defined as righteousness without joy (a false righteousness if there ever was one!). The pride that builds in your heart makes the idea of repentance repugnant. While you can get off this road, it usually takes a major train wreck to make it happen.

            Jesus was remarkable because he did not practice “irreverent rebellion” or “irreverent submission” like so many others, but he willingly and excitedly embraced reverent submission as the path for his life. It lead straight to the cross – an unimaginable horror – but on the other side was glory. His first disciples saw his life, death and resurrection and had to construct new categories for it! God helped them by giving them the category of Son of God – fully God and fully human. It was his obedience that created such an amazing life.

            Now he calls us to reverent submission – a life of obedience to our Savior. 


- Kenny Payne


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mission Creep and the Confusion of the Church

            This week I received a phone call from a lady wondering if I could send someone from the church’s Yard Mowing Team over to her place to cut her grass. She was surprised to discover we did not have a Yard Mowing Team and that we would not be sending anyone over. She informed me that her church had such a team (and I wondered to myself, “Why didn’t she call them, then?”). By the way, while this was the first time I have been asked about the Yard Mowing Team, it is a weekly occurrence for people to call the church asking us to do any number of things that have nothing to do with the mission of the church.

            Mission creep is the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes. Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, only stopping when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs. The phrase began circulating in 1993 in articles dealing with military operations, but since the reality of mission creep is familiar to anyone involved in any organization, it quickly spread to discussions in other fields. The church could be the poster child for Mission Creep!

            Here is Jesus’ statement of the mission of his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV) That is a concise mission statement that allows little room for mission creep. But somehow between the mission statement and the actual practice of the church, there is a large amount of mission creep!  

            The gap between statement and practice, where mission creep spreads like wildfire, got me to thinking about what our mission statement might be if we based it, not on what Jesus told us to do, but on what we are actually doing. Here are some mission creep inspired Mission Statements: 

·         This church exists to keep the bills paid and the doors open.

·         The mission of this church is to provide activities for our members and any of their friends who might be interested in attending.

·         The purpose of the church is to promote a particular social and political agenda (you pick which one).

·         The mission of this church is to oppose certain sins (and other things we don’t like).

·         Our church seeks to be all things, to all people, in all places, at all times.

            While all of the above may have some merit, they cannot be replacements for the mission of the church as given by Jesus. When they are elevated to replacement status, we are not in danger of experiencing mission creep, we are neck deep in it! The only way out is to return to the mission given by Jesus. That mission will remove confusion (and inactivity) and position the church to be a tool in the hand of Jesus to show his love to a broken and needy world.

           Because Jesus has all authority, and he will be with us all the time, we can confidently go and make disciples! That is the mission of the unconfused church.

- Kenny Payne

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Jesus Spoke...

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. (Mark 1:21-22 NIV)


            People were eager to talk to Jesus. They would travel to hear him teach. They brought their children to be blessed by Jesus. They sought healing for both their bodies and their souls. They loved to bask in his mercy and to see him confront injustice. Jesus spoke with power and truth and his words changed lives.

            Jesus taught his disciples to speak, too. He taught them to love Scripture because it is the word of God that will transform lives. He taught them to pray – using their words to strengthen their love for and relationship with God. He taught them to teach – sharing the treasures of God with people using simple words and stories to convey deep and complex truth.

            People recognized that Jesus’ words had authority, and was not like the teaching of the religious leaders. There is great irony in this because the religious leaders liked to point out that Jesus lacked authority – he was not from their schools or institutions! Jesus had a totally different kind of authority.

            Jesus spoke with the authority of someone who knew what he was talking about. His ideas about God were not theories based on a combination of Scripture and philosophy, rather he spoke about God as one who had spent lots of time together!

            Jesus spoke with the authority of someone who lived out what he taught. One of the most devastating things that Jesus said concerning the religious leaders was this: “You must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach!” In contrast, Luke describes his gospel with these words: “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach…” (Acts 1:1). One of the most attractive things about Jesus is that he precisely practiced all that he taught!

            Jesus spoke with compassion to all those who had been beaten up by others or beaten down by life. Jesus spoke with mercy to all those who knew the weight of their guilt and dreamed of forgiveness. Jesus spoke with hope to all those who had given up on life and faith. Jesus spoke with challenge to all those who promoted self over others and thought themselves somehow superior. Jesus spoke with anger to those who degraded God’s temple and robbed God’s people. Jesus, hanging on the cross, looked around at the soldiers who gambled for his clothes, the religious leaders who took pleasure in mocking him, the people who simply bought into the Roman/Sanhedrin story that he was a criminal, and the criminals who were mocking him as they died together, spoke with great difficulty: “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”

            When Jesus spoke the world changed! He empowers his disciples with world changing words as well. Let’s use them!

To Love is to Serve, to Serve is to Love

Shortly before the Passover, Jesus stayed at the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. It had not been too long since Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and returned him to his sisters. Understandably, they decided to host a dinner party to honor Jesus. The disciples were no doubt thrilled, because everyone loves a party.

            Mary had memories swirling in her mind as the meal was being served. “If you had been here my brother would not have died!” she once said to Jesus, as much accusation as statement of faith. She remembered Jesus not responding to her sharp words, but rather crying with her over Lazarus. She remembered the trepidation she felt as Martha warned Jesus not to open the tomb because of the smell. She remembered the struggle in her heart and soul as she wondered if life could really conquer death. She remembered the longest moment of her life – those seconds between Jesus calling Lazarus back from death and Lazarus responding. She remembered the joy of seeing Lazarus alive again and taking him home. She remembered how the time of mourning for Lazarus turned into an incredible resurrection party!

            Mary’s heart was full to overflowing with gratitude towards Jesus for all the ways he had blessed her life and those of her family and friends. Then Mary remembered that she had a way to show her love and appreciation to Jesus. She silently went to her room and retrieved the perfume. She silently began to pour the perfume on the feet of the man who had taught her both the joy and the meaning of life. As the fragrance of the perfume filled the room, tears filled Mary’s eyes and sobs of joy released from her heart. It was an amazing moment.

            Holy moments, however, are not for everyone and it made Judas particularly uncomfortable. So he objected: “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” But Jesus would have none of this and he defended Mary. “Leave her alone, it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.” Jesus said.  Mary loved Jesus and she knew how to express that love appropriately.

            A week later, Jesus wanted to show his disciples how much he loved them. He took a page from Mary’s playbook and washed the feet of his disciples - another holy moment. Judas was there, now with clean feet. The disciples were nervous about Jesus washing their feet, but despite Jesus telling them that they should do this for one another, no one took the towel or basin and washed Jesus’ feet.

            Every since then some Christians have simply ignored Jesus’ command and example to wash one another’s feet. Some Christians have turned it into a religious ceremony where people with clean feet (they know it is happening and come prepared) have their feet washed. Jesus, meanwhile, is still looking for disciples to show his love through their service – to serve is to love and to love is to serve. They cannot be divided. But when they are practiced – another holy moment happens.

The Practice of Service

Jesus said he came, not to be served, but to serve. He was very intentional about giving of himself so that others would be benefited and blessed by his service. Since service, like selfishness, depends on habits to be carried out, I noticed several habits that Jesus practiced which allowed him to do amazing things with his life.

            Jesus had the habit of being genuinely interested in people. He was willing to give time to everyone who approached him. He was kind and practiced the oft neglected skill of listening! This is especially amazing since he had the power to solve people’s problems – but he refused to just solve the problem and send people on their way without engaging them as human beings first. Everyone, no matter their standing in life, was welcomed by Jesus.

            Jesus saw “distractions” and “interruptions” as opportunities to practice service. While Jesus, no doubt, made plans for his days, as well as having a general plan for his ministry, he was not a slave to his plans! Many of the people Jesus healed interrupted what he was doing with their pressing needs, and Jesus paused his schedule to serve them. This is a difficult habit in our culture that says “time is money” and if we, as disciples of Jesus, are going to cultivate that habit we will have to believe that “time is love!” I think Jesus gives us an endless supply of interruptions on which to practice this habit!

           Jesus was willing to look past presenting issues to see the deeper needs of people. Jesus steered conversations, creating opportunities to address people’s deepest needs in ways that made them open to the intrusion! To be helpfully intrusive is a tremendous spiritual gift which frees people to trust and receive help. It stands in marked contrast to people who are annoyingly, but unhelpfully, intrusive. It also stands in marked contrast to the majority of people who do not want to intrude into your life, not out of respect, but hoping that you will return the favor and not intrude into theirs! Helpful intrusion is a great way to understand what God is doing both in the world and in your life.

            Jesus understood that God poured blessings into his life and that his responsibility was simply to pass them on to the people around him. He once told his disciples, as he prepared to send them out to minister without his physical presence: “Freely you have received, freely give!” When you understand that it is not the one who dies with the most toys who wins, but the one who has been generous with God’s blessings, you are well on your way to the habit of serving! Jesus called this habit “storing up treasure in heaven!”

            In Ukraine, I have noticed a phrase that is used a lot when I am busy working in the neighborhood: “God help you!” People say it with a smile and walk on by. I interpret it to mean, “May God help you because I certainly am not going to help!” I wish they would just walk by silently! Jesus understood that he had a part in being “God’s help” for people. Quite simply, Jesus saw need, understood he could help, and made the consistent decision to actually help. That is the heart of service. That is the heart of Jesus.        

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Heart of a Servant

            Talk about a title that makes people not want to read the article! Jesus had the same problem when he talked about his disciples living as servants – since everyone knew what servants lived like, no one wanted to obey Jesus and become a servant. 

            That is still true today and is one of the greatest obstacles to the church in our task to share the love of Jesus with the entire world that God loves. There is no shortage of people who want to scream and rant at the world and tell them what they ought to be doing differently! There is a tremendous shortage of people who are willing to wade into the stream of humanity, offering loving service and encouragement, demonstrating the patient love of Jesus.

           But service is not optional for disciples of Jesus. Listen carefully as Jesus gives his personal mission statement: “I am among you as one who serves!” (Luke 22:27 NIV) He also said: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many!” (Mark 10:45 NIV) This is the same Jesus who said: “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” (Luke 6:40 NIV) You will never be fully trained as a disciple of Jesus Christ until you willingly take the identity of a servant – and then get busy serving everyone around you!

            When I was eighteen years old I read “Improving Your Serve” by Charles Swindoll and it was life changing for me. I want to share a passage from that book with you. “I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”

            Well, when it is put that starkly everyone can see the foolishness of claiming to want God without really wanting God! Wanting “the warmth of the womb, not a new birth” is the functional equivalent to thinking you can be a disciple of Jesus without becoming the servant of all. And I, like all disciples, completely understand the unwillingness to humble ourselves and serve others. But I have seen what happens when people actually have the faith to follow Jesus to the basin and towel! And Jesus wants service to be at the heart of the Palo Alto church family. I hope that you do, too.

- Kenny Payne    

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lead Us Not Into Temptation But Deliver Us From the Evil One

            Jesus ended the model prayer for the first disciples with a very nice sentence – “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Jesus had personal experience with this leading and delivering – if you remember – “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1) That seemingly simple sentence has sparked a lot of theological controversy that can be traced in the pages of the New Testament. (It is important to know that the Greek word Jesus used can correctly be translated either test or temptation!)

            James says: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” (James 1:13-14 NIV) James might not disagree with his big brother Jesus praying “Lead us not into temptation…” but he would be quick to explain that God is not really the source of the temptation! When tempted, we cannot excuse ourselves by blaming God!

            Hebrews says: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV) While God the Father may be above temptation, God the Son faced it all just as we face it – yet he did not surrender! He passed the test without falling into temptation! Now he gives mercy (for those who struggle and fail) and grace to help us overcome the test/temptation!  

           Jesus said to his sleepy disciples: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41 NIV) And that gets right to the heart of our testing/temptation problem – we are most often under-prepared and not unified in body and spirit! And then, the fall! 

            But Jesus gives us some amazing help in his simple sentence – speaking to God he asks for two things – leading and rescue! He desires for God to lead us NOT into temptation, but he immediately recognizes that life can never be that easy, so he adds deliver us from the evil one. Do you see the powerful help there?

            We often assume that we are alone when facing the most dangerous tests/temptations (we often work it out so that we are alone!). It is just us and Satan fighting it out. Of course you will lose that one! If God is leading you and then rescuing you it should be obvious that you are never alone when facing the test/temptation! God is with you and he is pulling for your victory. You still have to choose it, but there is help at hand! “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one!” Jesus offers it both as prayer and promise! Claim it…

- Kenny Payne

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Forgive Us Our Debts

            Debt is a huge human problem, it always has been! But things could be very different than they are and lives could be free from the many problems that swirl around debt like devastating tornadoes.

            When Jesus taught us to pray – “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” – what exactly was he talking about? There is an interesting progression in thought and words in the gospels recording this prayer: literal debt – metaphorical debt – sin debt. But when Jesus taught his disciples this prayer he was leading them “back to the future” – mining the book of Deuteronomy for its treasure about how to treat one another in the kingdom of God. Here are some amazing statements about how life could be lived if we would simply pay attention to God.

·         At the end of seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother because the Lord’s time of canceling debts has been proclaimed. (Deuteronomy 15:1-2 NIV)

·         However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord you God and are careful to follow all the commands I am giving you today. (Deuteronomy 15:4-5 NIV)

·         If there is a poor man among you in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8 NIV)

·         There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded towards your brothers and towards the poor and needy in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:11 NIV)

Forgiven debts, generosity towards the poor, openhanded rather than hardhearted people – sounds like a good community in which to live. Of course, a new kind of world will only arrive when we learn to become a new kind of people! When we learn to trust God and love people – then we will see the dawning of a new world.

When Jesus taught us to pray this prayer - “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors” – he was placing us on the threshold of the kingdom of God. If we can manage the faith to both pray it and live it we will become a new people, the family of God! 

- Kenny Payne

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Our Daily Bread

           Bread is such a staple of our daily lives that we almost take it for granted - unless there is none, or it is moldy. I was nearly thirty years old before I took seriously Jesus’ call to pray for our daily bread! Before living in Ukraine and experiencing bread lines, I did not feel a strong need to pray for daily bread since I could just swing by Winn Dixie and pick it up! I said the words – “give us this day our daily bread” – when I recited the Lord’s prayer, but I never felt the power of them. I never felt I had to trust God for my daily bread.

            Jesus lived a life of poverty – he owned very few things – yet you do not get the feeling from reading the gospels that Jesus really ever did without. He spoke of “having no where to lay his head” and yet he enjoyed the hospitality of many friends. He did not have a kitchen (or the rest of the house) yet he was often invited for meals in the towns he visited. The times we are told he did without food were times he was fasting. Jesus did not seem to worry too much about where his meals would come from, rather he trusted his Father and accepted the generosity of the people he taught and healed. Jesus learned to be content in whatever situation he found himself – something he also tried to teach his disciples. Surely his prayer for daily bread, and his trust in the Father’s provision, made this carefree lifestyle possible.

            When Jesus sent the apostles out on the limited commission he told them not to take bread along with them, rather they were to trust the provision of God through the people who would welcome them (Mark 6:8-10). When the disciples suggested to Jesus that he should “send the people away” after a long day of teaching and healing, Jesus countered by saying, “You give them something to eat.” The disciples replied that they would have to spend eight months wages to buy bread for such a large crowd. Jesus taught them (and us!) a lesson about trusting God’s provision that day, as he distributed five loaves of bread and two fish to a crowd of thousands! (Mark 6:35-44) Jesus lived a lifestyle of praying for and receiving daily bread from the hand of God, which he then freely shared with all those around him. He taught the same to his disciples – “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:9)

            If we want to fully mature in Christ perhaps we should pray like Jesus – “Give us today our daily bread.” And once we receive it, we should like Jesus, take it, bless it, break it and give it! No one would be hungry in such a world…

- Kenny Payne

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fully Trained

             The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. (Luke 6:40 NIV) With these words Jesus encouraged his disciples to receive the training he was giving them each day. For their part, the disciples were interested in being trained by Jesus, but they were also interested in their own concerns and plans for their lives. Discipleship always creates tension between our personal wills and our desire to follow and obey God. In many ways we resist being fully trained.

But can you imagine what it would look like for a group of people to actually be fully trained as disciples of Jesus? To be fully trained, quite simply, means to become like Jesus in attitude and action. So if we want to understand what Jesus meant by fully trained we simply need to notice what was important to him. I found four things that consistently arise in Jesus life – prayer, service, speaking the good news, and obedience. These practices were foundational to Jesus’ identity, they were also crucial for the completion of his mission.

For disciples these practices are not optional, rather they form the core of what it means to follow Jesus.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
(Philippians 2:5-8 NIV)

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6 NIV)

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. (1 John 4:17 NIV)

Possessing the mind of Jesus. Living as Jesus lived. Like Jesus. All these are powerful ways of saying that it is possible to be fully trained! When disciples accept the training, and then live like Jesus – the world changes! Let’s get trained by Jesus…

   - Kenny Payne

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Honoring God’s Choice, Following God’s Lead

            One of the most divisive issues the early church faced was over this question: “What do Gentiles have to do to become Christians (read: to be saved)?” Luke places this question at the center of the Book of Acts as a testimony to the strong leadership of the early church and the willingness of Christians to follow the lead of God, even when it may take you places you don’t really want to go! 
            After the conversion of Cornelius, those who objected to Peter eating and staying with a Gentile brought up this issue. Peter explained his vision and his actions! “When they heard this they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life’.” (Acts 11:18) Unfortunately, after the mission work of Paul and Barnabas more objections arose. “Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) Of course, Paul and Barnabas objected to this to the point that they were sent to Jerusalem to discuss the issue with the apostles and elders there.

            As Paul and Barnabas were reporting to the church all the details of their missionary journey, some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5) Luke, very modestly, says – “The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After MUCH discussion…” (Acts 15:6-7 Emphasis mine). Having sat through meetings with much discussion, I am painfully aware what that means!

            Then something truly remarkable happened. Peter got up and said: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.” Then Paul and Barnabas told about “the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.” And then James chimed in, “Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this,…” Then he added, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Notice the sources of authority they displayed: the choice of God, the work of God through the Holy Spirit, the words of Scripture, and finally their own judgment. They were willing to follow God’s lead!

            It is remarkable to me that every person in the room that day had believed at some point the Gentiles were unclean and must be circumcised to be saved. But the gospel of Jesus changed their hearts and their minds! CHANGE. That is what is so hard about following God’s lead, because he continually leads us to new ways to spread the gospel and new audiences to share it with. Will we follow?

                                                            - Kenny Payne

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Evidence of God’s Grace

Evidence of God’s Grace
(or How a Great Church Emerges)

             Churches do not grow by accident, but even a strong desire to grow does not always mean growth happens. The story of the birth and growth of the church in Antioch is a great model of how God can use the decisions that disciples make to create a great church family. Noticing the story of Antioch can help Palo Alto live out our story.

            The birth of the Antioch church was not a planned or financed event. Rather it was a result of the persecution that arose at the time of the death of Stephen. Some unnamed disciples ended up in Antioch and decided to share the message of Jesus with the Gentiles living there. “The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” God blessed the sharing of the gospel with the Gentiles because that was his stated will! (See Acts 1:8) Telling the good news about Jesus leads to new disciples because God promises that his word will not return empty! 

            The Jerusalem church heard about the events in Antioch and decided to send Barnabas to Antioch (to help? or to control?). When Barnabas arrived he “saw what the grace of God had done” and joined their excitement! When a church family sees God’s activity in their lives it generates enthusiasm and greater commitment to follow Jesus.

            Barnabas left Antioch briefly to go to Tarsus to bring Saul back to Antioch as a teacher. The Antioch church soon had five named teachers who were dedicated to teaching believers how to grow as disciples and teaching unbelievers the good news about Jesus. The commitment to teaching and living as disciples produced amazing results as “great numbers of people” were added to the church family and the disciples were given the name “Christians” for the first time in Antioch.

            When prophets visited from Jerusalem and predicted a severe famine, the church family in Antioch decided to take up a collection for the Christians in Jerusalem and sent their gift by Barnabas and Saul. A well taught church will always be responsive to the Holy Spirit and to the needs of people around them (even people in other countries!). The connection between obeying God and loving and serving people is a strong part of good teaching.

            The ultimate complement for a congregation is when the Holy Spirit can call for some of your leadership to be moved to a different mission! So the Antioch church was told to set apart Barnabas and Saul for a special work. This was 40% of their named leadership/teaching team. Yet they did not object, because they were obedient and they knew they could train other teachers! In the space of a few years the city of Antioch experienced the birth, growth, maturation and deployment of one of the best church families in the ancient world! Are you praying that Panama City is on the verge of experiencing the same thing?    

- Kenny Payne

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Conversion of Cornelius

             Luke tells a masterful story of the conversion of the Roman Centurion, Cornelius, and his family. Interwoven in the story is the account of God preparing Peter for the mission to share the gospel to the Gentiles. It is a story full of surprises and learning. It is a story that all disciples need to learn to live.

            Cornelius was “devout and God-fearing, he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” God paid attention to Cornelius and decided to engage him. In a vision he saw an angel who told him to send for Peter in the city of Joppa. Cornelius obeyed and was eager to learn what Peter may have to teach him.

            Peter also received a vision from God in which he was shown a sheet full of animals and told to kill and eat. Peter perhaps sensing that this was a test, refused to obey God, saying “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” Three times this command and refusal played out and Peter was left wondering what God was trying to teach him.

            When the men sent by Cornelius arrived at the house where Peter was staying it started to become clear to Peter what was happening. However, the Holy Spirit did not want to take any chances with such an important event, so the Spirit said to Peter, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them for I have sent them.” Peter obeyed and went to Caesarea to meet Cornelius.

            Here are Peter’s first words to Cornelius and his family: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you have sent for me?” Peter was changing and growing as he spoke! His knew knowledge allowed him to cross the threshold of a Gentile home. (It did not keep him, however, from still being a little offensive in his speech – I am sure the people understood that until very recently Peter considered them unclean!).

            As Peter was preaching the good news of Jesus to the people the Holy Spirit came upon them and shocked everyone in the room. Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized in water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have!” And they baptized Cornelius and his family. Peter stayed with them for several days. While we call this story “the conversion of Cornelius” it is really more about the continuing conversion of Peter. It is not easy to keep stretching and growing as disciples, but if we are going to follow Jesus we must do it until we are “fully mature as our heavenly Father is fully mature!” Keep growing…

- Kenny Payne

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

What Jesus Does With His Enemies

             Like Jesus before them, the ministry and teaching of the apostles after the day of Pentecost created a strong backlash from the Jewish religious leaders. They wanted to completely stop the work and teaching of the apostles, but could not figure out how best to accomplish that desire. And so they met and discussed it!

            Gamaliel, a wise and revered teacher of the Law, instructed the Sanhedrin with the following words: “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: leave these men alone!  Let them go! For it their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39 NIV) His speech persuaded the Sanhedrin. However, it did not persuade a young man, one of Gamaliel’s students, named Saul!

            Saul chose the path of youthful passion over seasoned wisdom and began persecuting the disciples of Jesus. Just as Gamaliel predicted he found himself fighting against God! (Jesus called it “kicking against the goads!”) Jesus introduced himself to Saul one day as Saul was traveling to Damascus to arrest disciples and haul them to Jerusalem for punishment. Blinded by a great light and confronted by a voice that said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” – Saul asked a life changing question: “Who are you, Lord?” I am sure that he was not prepared for the answer to that question! “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

            For three days (!) Saul waited, refusing to eat or drink, trapped in a world of darkness with the knowledge that his mistaken believe that Jesus was a false prophet actually made him the false prophet! New truth surfaced new questions. Was Jesus as zealous to destroy his enemies as Saul? No wonder Saul was praying!

            When Ananias told him that Jesus would both heal his blindness and fill him with the Holy Spirit, Saul learned a lot about grace! “Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” (Acts 9:18-19 NIV) Saul spent the rest of his life sharing the story of Jesus and his amazing grace that could save even “the chief of sinners!” Our world desperately needs to know that Jesus is offering, not the punishment that we truly deserve, but the renewal that he died to create! Amazing grace indeed…

- Kenny Payne

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Can I Also Be Included?

            By all accounts, the story that Luke tells of the Ethiopian eunuch is a strange tale. This man is willing to travel 1,000+ miles in a chariot through the desert to go to Jerusalem to worship. Once he gets to Jerusalem he knows that the chance of his being admitted to the temple is very slim – being Ethiopian, he is not a pure Jew and possibly not Jewish at all. If he can convince the authorities that he is either Jewish or a “god-fearer” he still has that verse from Torah (Deuteronomy 23:1) that works against his desire to worship: “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.” It seems hard to imagine a door being more tightly shut on someone who obviously wants to enter!

            And yet he was returning from Jerusalem where he wanted to worship. He was reading from the prophet Isaiah about the suffering servant: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” This passage likely resonated with a man who also had no descendants! The eunuch had found in Judaism the seeds of faith that he wanted to flourish in his life. But he was plagued by a serious question – “Can I be included?”
            A little further in Isaiah he could have read this amazing passage: “Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.” And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant—to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.” (Isaiah 56:3-5) In contrast to the door slamming passage from Deuteronomy, this promise from Isaiah was a welcoming breath of fresh air.

            Phillip began with the Isaiah passage and told the eunuch the good news about Jesus. It must have inspired the man with hope and confidence for when they passed some water, he asked: “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” I am sure that this request brought a smile to Phillip’s lips. No doubt his mind also registered complaints he was likely to hear as he reported this story of his mission activity! But to his credit he baptized the eunuch. And then they went their separate ways – Phillip to Azotus, and the eunuch back to Ethiopia. But as he rode for days headed through Egypt to Ethiopia, he rejoiced the whole way.

            Jesus’ love and forgiveness extends to all. That is surely a reason for rejoicing. Amazing Grace!

- Kenny Payne



Monday, June 02, 2014

Resist the Devil, Cling to the God of all Grace

            Peter was once warned by Jesus: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 NIV) Peter likely never forgot what it felt like to be sifted by Satan. But he also never forgot that, even when we are faithless, God is faithful and remains powerful!

            Peter wraps up his letter by reminding Christians that the devil is a dangerous enemy who must be resisted, but God is full of grace and is all about restoration! C.S. Lewis wrote “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight” (C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letter. 1941, p. 3). An over focus on Satan and the power of evil is actually counter-productive for faith. God is not matched against an equal but opposite force, rather Satan is no match for God and God has no equal! But having said that, the encouragement of Scripture is that we must always resist Satan and not fall for his evil schemes.

            Perhaps the best way to resist the devil is to keep moving closer to God. Peter states it this way: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11 NIV) Strong, firm and steadfast – a great description of what we all want to be, but sometimes can’t seem to manage! Notice that this ability to be strong, firm and steadfast comes AFTER God restores us and grants us these gifts.

            I find it powerful that Jesus warned Peter that Satan was after him (and the other disciples), Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail, and Jesus was prepared to keep up his relationship with Peter after “you have turned back.” Jesus also kept his call to Peter operational. On that horrible night when Peter denied even knowing Jesus, he must have felt anything but strong, firm and steadfast. On his own ability – he simply failed! But he did not have to live on his own ability, rather he could accept the restoration of God – and he did. It made all the difference!

            As an old man with many years experience resisting the devil and trusting the God of all grace, Peter shares his wisdom with us all. Peter’s friend Jesus overcame the adversary, Satan or the devil. Turns out that the roaring lion seeking someone to devour is, in the end, no match for the Lion of Judah, who is also the lamb slain from the foundation of the world! Peter trusted the loving sacrifice of Jesus to make him strong, firm and steadfast. Do you?

- Kenny Payne

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Theology of Suffering

          Most Christians believe two things that are both true, but do not fit well together. The first is the observation that times of trial and suffering are also very generative of growth. The second is that, while they want to grow spiritually, they want to avoid trials and suffering if at all possible. It seems that every one wants to grow, but no one wants to suffer to achieve growth!

Notice these statements from Scripture concerning the value of suffering for Jesus:

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. (Hebrews 2:10 NIV)

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:8-9 NIV)

Suffering served to make Jesus perfect (in the sense of mature, complete) and taught him obedience. While we may all intend to obey, you cannot know if you are obedient until you are in the situations that both demand and threaten obedience. Jesus faced those times of trial and suffering and came through thoroughly obedient!

            His disciples paid attention. Peter claimed to be a “witness of Christ’s sufferings.” Peter knew what it was to place survival above obedience, and he watched Jesus place obedience above survival. Seeing Jesus’ obedience in the face of suffering changed Peter forever. He wanted other people to see and change as well. Listen to Peter’s charge to his fellow believers: But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13 NIV) 

Paul was one who inflicted suffering on those who followed Jesus, but then once confronted with the risen Christ he changed and became an apostle of Jesus. Ananias was reluctant to go to Paul when Jesus called him and Jesus assured him that “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16) Listen to these words from the persecutor turned evangelist: Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24 NIV)

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11 NIV)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)

            No one wants to suffer, but the quickest path to growth is to stand firm in your faith and to learn obedience through difficult trials! It was a blessing for Jesus, Peter and Paul and will also bless your life, too!
- Kenny Payne