The Beauty of Our Suffering

OCTOBER 31

I’ve learned that avoiding suffering isn’t the goal in life. That took about ten years to figure out. Then I realized suffering on some scale or another was inevitable in my life. That’s when I began to realize the goal wasn’t even to survive suffering, but to accept it… not embrace it, necessarily, but to accept it. I wonder if I truly believe that God really is working on me in the midst of my suffering? I think I must believe this to be so, otherwise, well – I might just go crazy. So where does that leave us? I don’t know about you, but for me, I’ve learned how to enjoy really simple things like how good an ice cold coke tastes on a hot summer day. And THAT only took me another ten years to figure out.

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We will suffer. It IS. . . unavoidable. I now understand that God wants to work within me, especially in the midst of my suffering, whether my suffering is great or small. He wants to be affirmed in my suffering. He longs to strengthen and restore me in my suffering. He wants to be glorified in my suffering in order to establish me in His great glory and his grace. Christ has already experienced the pain of our suffering. All that remains is for His true nature, in all it’s beauty, be revealed to us within our suffering.

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God’s Beauty can be seen even in the smallest of ways. . . especially in the midst of my suffering

When I approach my suffering from this standpoint, it no longer consumes me. In fact, from this beautiful vantage point, my suffering suddenly seems quite small and well worth my temporary pain and anguish. God’s Beauty can be seen even in the smallest of ways. . . especially in the midst of my suffering. Today, despite whatever pain there may be, I will experience the Beauty of Suffering. And amazingly, this brings me incredible comfort and Joy.

Peace, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

1 Peter 5:10

10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

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The Domesticated Ministry

OCTOBER 30

Josh at Bethleham

Josh at Bethleham

Josh at Maggido

Josh at Maggido


[Dedicated to my nomadic brother, Joshua Gutteridge, for his courage and commitment to “Going”. I admire him greatly. Joshua is currently the Pastor of a church in Peoria, Illinois. For now. His status may have changed by the time this actually travels through cyber-space and posts. I’m not kidding. . . he is that fast.]

"His FIRE, contagious; His Spirit...unbending."

“His FIRE, contagious; His Spirit…unbending.”

We get so entangled with where we are it can be difficult for The Lord to move us onto the next assignment. We have forgotten that at our very core, we are a nomadic people. It is in our nature to roam – we are ascended from Abraham, after all… but we will wander aimlessly about in the desert without the wise guidance and direction of God’s Holy Spirit. There is a time to wander with direction, a time to get where he points without hesitation and there is a time to settle and stay where God has brought us until He orders us to pick up our stakes and get moving again.

It’s hard to walk away from a ministry especially when we’ve been asked to settle there for so long. We’ve come to identify so strongly with a particular group of people or one place or even task – that we find ourselves finding our entire purpose, meaning and identity wrapped up in the place we now are and the tasks we’ve been doing so long. It’s hard to separate since we can no longer remember what it’s like not to be where we are doing what we’re doing. We’ve long forgotten that it was God who brought us here to begin with and we can’t even remember how He did that. We forget how much we never wanted to come here – how great of a step of Faith it truly was – the many victories and heartaches God brought us through both arriving here AND staying here. But the season has ended and yet… We’re not packed and our tents are still pitched… partly because we can’t imagine leaving, now and partly because we’ve built our own personal monuments and castles out of blood, brick and mortar around those tents. My brother sometimes lacks caution, but never conviction. And when it’s time to move on, he’s gone. Joshua’s only concern: where do you need us next, Lord? And he’s been blessed with a wife willing to support his decisions to move their family and following him wherever he feels led to go. I’ve never seen a guy that can move out of big cities so fast. It’s amazing. It’s also courageous. Leaving a place you’ve made friends and called home can’t be easy. You’re stepping away from something established and into the unknown. But he has the nomadic mindset. . . every home is always temporary. For me, personally, well. . . I just don’t do “unknown” very well. I like to know what to expect and what I’m walking into. That gives me control (or the illusion of it) over my own ministry and my calling.

If you’re not careful, your ministry will domestic you to the world you were originally brought into minister God’s Grace to. Are you still nomadic? Can you move at a moments notice if God asks you too? And if not, what are the monuments and idols keeping you tied down? Think about what might not happen if you cannot faithfully pull up stakes, pack up your tent and go. You may have arrived at your final resting place and are firmly where God needs you but understand that even if your location remains the same eventually God will bring you into a new season of responsibilities that will challenge the definition of who you think you are and what you may believe it is that you are suppose to be doing. Always be prepared to move AND be just as content to stay… whichever the case may be, know that either case will challenge your patience and faithfulness to His Perfect Will. Sometimes, staying can be just as painful as leaving. And often, it is within that pain when we finally understand how right we were to stay OR to go. Peace, SAG


Today’s Scripture:

Genesis 12:1-4

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

In the Eye of the Beholder

OCTOBER 29

IMG_6914God never looks at the outward appearance. He looks beyond what normal eyes can see to search deep into the depth of a person’s heart. And aren’t we glad? Or… are we? But God also sees what may be there even if it has yet to fully blossom and develop. God sees spiritual potential before we even know He’s checking us out.

 

I’m not much to look at but God sees something in me. I can spend hours explaining how imperfect my heart, soul and mind are but that’s really a waste of breath. And God will have none of it. He’s too busy searching my inside appearance, looking for anything He might be able to work with. And somehow. . . He always seems to come away with something useful!

What a great gift to accept and embrace this Truth: that He sees qualities in me which merit His love and enduring patience to keep pushing and encouraging me forward into His Will. When I walk in that I walk in strength. I no longer need to be approved or validated by man – the only validation that I need I’ve already received through the cross of Christ, my Lord. So how am I leveraging His validation? Am I squandering it with my own self pity and selfishness or am I using it as best I can to help others come to realize and embrace that they, too, can be validated and redeemed through the cross of Jesus Christ? There is much more we are capable of but it begins with an understanding that Jesus Christ sees qualities we hold, great qualities which He desires to use to accomplish great things.

Peace, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

1 Samuel 16:6-7 

6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.”

7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

“HELP WANTED/APPLY INSIDE: PROPHET” (Uh. . . no thanks)

OCTOBER 28

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Do I have the Faith to call out the Lord’s Name, so confident that I know He will answer? I mean… truthfully? I have the verses memorized – usually – I pray the right prayers – I can speak a good spiritual game, given the experience and and years spent in His service and ministries. But at the end of the day, with His Name on the line but my face staring down the mockery, scorn and uncertainty in the face of an un-repenting, non-believing mob of people… does my faith have the strength to stand out alone to call upon God in this instance to do, say or move in the manner I thought He spoke to my heart? Can it hold up under that crush of doubt and contempt? Or will it once more wither away, wilt or water down God’s very direct and distinct words in the hopes of soften God’s coming wrath and scorn?

For all the marbles in the world, I wouldn’t want the prophet job. I see that “Help Wanted – Apply Inside” and I just keep on walking, man. Being a prophet sucks. You gotta tell people they suck. Then tell them a whole lotta pain is coming their way and they better get right, THEN… right about the time the masses are bending down NOT to pray but to pick up stones to impale you with – you gotta give them the final “by-the-way-you WILL most certainly die if you don’t repent” tag line right as the first stone goes whizzing past your head and your running for your life! Not my idea of a great job opportunity.

Prophets gotta be fast, too. As a kid, I wasn’t slow but I wasn’t super fast. I had bursts of speed but never had stamina and prophets got be both speed and distance runners! When you tell people they’re gonna die for how they’re behaving, they tend to chase you until they can chase no more. Nobody likes the party pooper. But Elijah… well, he had some weak moments, too… I always had Grace for those guys (and God did too) because you get all wound up and excited and your like “Yeah God! We got this! THIS is gonna be EPIC!” and the moment comes and you stand your ground and then… the dust settles and it hits you – the gravity of the situation you may be in. Because prophets see not today, they transfix on tomorrow and when given time to think a prophets greatest asset can become his worst liability: imaging what could be in store for them. God have them the one message – He’s typically a God of “One message at a time” and a prophet left to his own imagination without any clear message, well, even I can picture that worry-fest forming rapidly. But the prophets pay-off for standing firm in Faith to both deliver God’s direct message then having the courage and trust in God to remain where he stands facing down a pissed off group of people – often times “holy” and (making matters the absolute worst) indignant religious people… when the prophet has that kind of courage and faith in Him, His reward is simple: the prophet has a court-side seat to the Moving Power of God. In his heart, the prophet longs for the people to repent – most prophets, not all of them! – but he rejoices to see people suddenly broken and repenting and calling on the Name of the Lord! But the prophet sheds little grief when those stone hardened hearts refuse to hear the Words of The Lord and that Power is not abated but flashing with no temperance. It takes a special kind of courage, as well, to even be near that type of all consuming Power when it falls upon the wicked. Prophets didn’t have a fancy wardrobe I’m guessing, but it had to be extensive… I’m sure they went through a lot of tunics from the fire-singes and ripping they went through… prophets invented the tear-away jersey, had to.

I love Elijah. Frustrates me sometimes but he couldn’t see what I get to read – he was living in the moment, message to message. I would’ve fared far worse. Like I said, I would’ve kept walking past that “Prophet-Needed/Apply Inside” sign. But I think we all have that courage, that trust and that incredible Faith that is “prophet-durable”. I believe we ARE called to be prophets, in our own ways and in the the unique opportunities and surroundings and circumstances God brings into our lives. God wants to see us deliver His Truth about sin but our message is already so much more beautiful in context then Elijah’s messages ever were because our message is singular in context and embodied with Hope and Grace. It’s not repent or else… it’s repent because… it’s not turn or be dead… it’s your dead but you can live… Christ makes our prophetic words from His Father so simple: “that because my Father Loves you He sent me, His Son, to die for your sins because my Father wants you to live today…”

Don’t be afraid to call something sin. To be afraid to be called a hypocrite. We don’t have to water down the Grace of God and the Salvation of Christ… God doesn’t long to Bring down the full might of His Power to consume those who won’t repent… though, He sure could if He wanted to…! No, God wants to bear down the enormity of that Power and consume those who believe with the full weight of that Power in His Glory and His Grace! And watching that consuming fire cleanse and heal a broken soul is just as incredible of a heart gripping pulsating moment as calling down God’s Power to consume a horde of evil, God-Hating un repenting people so against God they call Him “enemy”.

Be the prophet He calls you to be and be so boldly, without fear. And watch what His power will do before you – through you and even TO you. It’s a ride and a rush and believe me… those are ring-side seats you wouldn’t want to give away for all the money in the world! Peace, Sean G.

Today’s Scripture:

1 Kings 18:36-40

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.

37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.”

40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

When God Stirs

OCTOBER 27

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I think about it all the time. My restless heart wants to leave behind the crap and the garbage and the many insignificant complaints and gripes that I tend to lose myself in. I’m so angry that I cannot be a better man. But God reminds me that, one… I am human and two, that there is still time. So I suppose that if He still has confidence in me then perhaps I should idle back a bit and just take it as it comes – all of it, even the frailties and short-comings within my own character.

My greatest weakness is a weakness to be bold mixed with a somewhat lazy spirit. My greatest strength lies inside my deep affection for Christ and Love for the Father. That, and… I care. I care what happens, to you – to me – to the guy down the street. But there are times when laziness reigns pushing that care out the window or onto the floor.

I am wrestled to the ground by God’s Spirit and I resist the urge to fight back. Though I might win, I certainly don’t want to find my hip knocked out of joint. So I stay there, pinned to the floor, and for once try my best to shut up and listen to what He has to say. The focus is before me but there are details – things that aren’t fun doing but must be done, before we get to where God has all the good stuff. Every great endeavor of The Lord, every great commission of God will always begin with a great awareness of what must be done, the great burning desire to see it through and great preparations before stepping into His field of work. Don’t let your spirit stay idle when God stirs your soul.

Peace, Sean Gutteridge

 

Today’s Scripture:

2 Chronicles 20:17

17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

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Stop And See

OCTOBER 26

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As I walked down the hall from our bedroom back into the living room, I paused. My heart stopped and for a moment I was back in time, seeing eyes I seemed to recognize as they stared back at me. I was looking at my eyes. I was remembering 100 or more plays – all at once – that I’d performed in on a hundred or so different stages. And suddenly I felt so old and tarnished and used up. There on the wall were the two most beautiful set of eyes full of life and passion and joy of the theatre. Looking at not one but both of my children performing in plays, so happy, so full of life, so… naturally gifted at acting.

It might be depressing but… part of having children is the hope that they will climb the mountains we never quite could – or find new mountains to climb that we never even dreamed of. Our children are our hope for a better future and a brighter tomorrow; not so tax reforms and health care might be solved but that maybe we will have produced a better generation of people then we were.

I don’t think about high school much because, well… I think I was an ass. I can’t recall having really impacted anyone’s life for the better. When I bump into an old class mate, I frantically search my mind to see if I did them some kind of wrong. I wasn’t a bad person – for the most part… but I wasn’t a saint. I know that. I was nice but calculatingly cold and distant, knowing there was one person who mattered and it wasn’t you. College was even worse. Add alcohol, ambition and abandonment to no longer desiring to be even good in appearance and I know I left a trail of destruction… but life for the believer isn’t meant to be lived in regrets for regrets get us nowhere, fast.

The beauty of the cross and of Jesus is our chance to throw away our regrets and move into a new life of living and thinking and being. Yet, it’s so hard for us to live in this freshness of God’s eternal Grace. We can accept and perhaps embrace it but truly, we never fully understand the fullness of God’s Grace and it’s many ramifications. Doesn’t it seem just a little TOO good to be true? And that’s because, well… it is. It is in these moments late at night, walking down the hall and catching the joy filled delight in my children’s eyes that my mind switches gears into forward thinking – where I’m not regretting my past but thanking God for my present. When I can trust Him with my future and the futures of my children, I’ve finally begun to acknowledge His Grace and while I may never fully understand it, in this mind-set I can begin to abide within it. I don’t have to understand God’s Grace to walk in it… just so long as I humbly throw myself fully into it’s firm embrace. How can I not praise Christ in this beautiful place? Peace, Sean G.

 

Today’s Scripture:

Psalm 22:25

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 

A Mighty Bulwark

OCTOBER 25

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“Mighty Fortress… a bulwark never failing”

 

Where and when is God your mighty fortress? What troubling times and trying circumstances does God’s immovable force beckon you to hide behind Him from? His strength is your refuge, His Grace… like a cool refreshing breeze that never ceases.

If God is for me, then you had better not stand in my way. For His unfailing Love shall not fail me, it cannot falter nor will it wither in frailty. The force behind the power of this Truth is evident time and again throughout scripture, where God makes plain the enemy that we face. It is an enemy without remorse or any conscious for human life or it’s fragility.

Our spiritual enemy has resolved to show us the black flag; he will give us no quarter; our enemy will not show us any form of mercy. We should be so resolved as well. But in so doing, we should also remember who the enemy is… the father of lies not those he misleads. Show him no quarter and invoke the Name of Christ Almighty… show the ones he has misled the compassion and loving mercy of the same beautiful name of Jesus.

Peace, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

2 Chronicles 20:15

15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.

 

I Have Decided To Follow. . .

OCTOBER 24

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The World moves forward and we cannot stop the direction it heads in. We CAN determine whether we will follow the world or not, however. Are you led by the dogs of demons or will you suffer the indignity which comes from following a good master and true King. Remember, they showered Him with spit just before they nailed Him to a cross.

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It’s a difficult decision, I know. Nobody wants that kind of humiliation. It is the human condition to struggle with our flesh. So let yourself struggle – and also let your heart be troubled, but take comfort in this: it’s these struggle’s that tell us God’s Spirit IS working in us.

 8 I have set the LORD always

before me; because he is at my

right hand, I shall not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and

my whole being rejoices; my

flesh also dwells secure.

(Psalm 16:8-9)

 This is real security. This is real strength. And this is real living. You don’t have to find your calling or wonder whether you should be doing more for The Lord. You don’t have to travel on mission trips or serve in a soup kitchen or work in the nursery or volunteer at the church. Just set the Lord before you, and let your heart rejoice in His goodness. Then, when you feel Him calling you to the soup kitchen, or to Africa or to the poopy diapers in the nursery… it wherever He says He needs you, your heart will rejoice. For in this condition, the heart won’t mind. You see, at the end of the day, the heart wants to feel secure and it knows that there is never a safer place for it then with the Lord. I never wanted to go to Uganda. I never wanted to be a worship pastor. Funny how things have turned out… for AS it turns out, these are two of the places my heart loves most!

Don’t be troubled by where the world seems headed. And don’t feel grief for your struggles. Our God is too mighty and too great for us to fear anything! Rejoice in that and when you find yourself tomorrow unsure or afraid, draw comfort once more in the everlasting and steadfast Love of OUR God who saves His people from their enemies! Be at Peace today… and with Him, enjoy the direction that you’re heading in!

Peace, Sean G.

 “I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

(Psalm 18:3)”

Today’s Scripture:

Isaiah 25:4-5

4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,

5 like heat in a dry place. You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down.

 

Starving My Spirit and Soul

OCTOBER 23

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When there are burdens so heavy as to crush my soul and I seem aimless in my prayers, not knowing what even to pray, I starve my own spirit and soul in order to expunge the clutter to hear His reply. He will answer and I will know what my spirit seeks and my soul truly thirsts for: clarity found in the absoluteness of His Voice. When I really need answers, I fast. It’s not some formula, I’m just telling you. . . for me, it works. Obviously, one look and you’ll see – well, I don’t fast nearly enough. And it’s NOT because I have all the answers that I need!

There is a Jewish tradition of fasting to begin the week in order to purge the body of all that has been taken in NOT of God, from the previous week. In much the same way, spiritually, fasting empties my spirit of my fleshly desires and all the garbage I’ve allowed to pollute my system. Removing spiritual toxins will better enable me to hear God more clearly. Do I need to fast to hear God speak? No. But when I know that I always DO hear God more clearly when I do decide to fast.

Am I fasting to be through with it, to say “I survived it, Lord, hallelujah!” Or am I fasting to the point where I am able to see that He is my only need and and thus, whatever thought and Word comes forth truly is from Him. This is the kind of fasting God wants and the type of fast that my soul should crave and relish fervently. God will speak to a starving and attentive yet also joyous soul no longer straining to hear but now lapping up each syllable He speaks. When God calls you to fast, let it excite you… and jump at the chance with great eagerness and anticipation! Great things and clear answers will await your starving soul at the end of it! Peace, Sean Gutteridge

 

Today’s Scripture:

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

14 Let all that you do be done in love.

My Doctrine of Belief: Believe

OCTOBER 22

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Doctrine of Belief for the Believer: Believe. Wow. . . that’s deep!

In an honest moment, I am able to admit that my ambition has shrunk. Having said that, now I must admit that my ambition still hovers occasionally over God’s ambition for my life. This is pure selfishness and as the scripture warns it leads only to “disorder and evil practices”.

God’s righteousness is never found anywhere near my personal ambitions. I cling to desires that are foreign to the very nature of Christ. When I begin to let go of my ambition all that is left is an empty heart waiting to be filled with the ambition if God. Let Him place His ambitions there and watch as they become your own. It won’t take long before you’ve long forgotten what it was that you so long desired in place of Him.

Peace, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

James 3:16-18

16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.