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OUR NEED FOR PAIN

There is no tougher dilemma in the Christian life than the problem of pain. It could be the pain of broken relationship, the pain of rejection, or the pain of insults. Or it could just be plain old physical pain. Nothing tests the faith like pain.

It was physical pain that became a life's work for a man named Dr. Paul Brand. Perhaps nobody studied pain like Dr. Brand.

I became acquainted with his work through the writing of one of my favorite authors, Phil Yancey. He and Dr. Brand wrote several books together including, In His Image, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, and The Gift of Pain.

Dr. Brand died in 2003 at the age of 89. I want to read a little bit from an article in Christianity Today about him:

"Born to missionary parents in the mountains of southwestern India in 1914, Brand attended London University, where he met his wife, Margaret Berry. The two surgeons returned to Vellore, India, to teach at the Christian Medical College and Hospital. While working as the school's first Professor of orthopaedics and hand research, Brand pioneered surgical work with those suffering from Hansen's disease, a bacterial infection more commonly known as leprosy. He was the first surgeon to use reconstructive surgery to correct deformities caused by the disease in the hands and feet, and developed many other forms of prevention and healing from the disease.

"Before Brand, it was widely believed that those suffering from Hansen's disease lost their fingers and feet because of rotting flesh. Instead, Brand discovered, such deformities were due to the loss of ability to feel pain. With treatment and care, he showed, victims of the disease could go indefinitely without such deformities.
It was on this issue that Brand's work with Hansen's disease met with his theological reflections on what he viewed as 'the most problematic aspect of creation: the existence of pain.' Pain, Brand believed, was not antithetical to life, but a requisite for it. God designed the human body so that it is able to survive because of pain,' he later wrote."

Dr. Brand's research helped him form a theology of pain. He compared the body's need for pain, to alert it to danger, to the soul and the spirit's need for pain to alert it to danger and help it to survive.

You see, as Christians, we believe, that our trials, our pain, our deepest hurts, have a purpose beyond our comprehension. This dovetails nicely with what we find in the opening pages of the book of James.

(From a sermon by Daniel Darling, The Purpose of Your Pain, 2/2/2011)

 
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David  Yarbrough
 
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NEVER MIND, GOD

A man was putting a tin roof on his barn when all of a sudden he slipped and began to slide down the roof. He cried out to God to save him. No sooner had he got the words out of his mouth, a nail caught his pants and stopped him. When he stopped, he said, “Never mind, God. I took care of it.”

The problem isn’t that God doesn’t perform miracles anymore. The problem is we’re not looking for God to perform miracles.

 
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Danny Thomas
 
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Bamboo

Once upon a time, in the heart of the Western Kingdom, lay a beautiful garden. And there, in the cool of the day, the Master of the garden was wont to walk. Of all the denizens of the garden, the most beautiful and most beloved was gracious and noble bamboo. Year after year, bamboo grew yet more noble and gracious, conscious of his Master’s love and watchful delight, but modest and gentle withal. And often when the wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would cast aside his grave stateliness, to dance and play right merrily, tossing and swaying and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon, leading the Great Dance of the garden, Which most delighted the Master’s heart.

Now, once upon a day, the Master himself drew near to contemplate his Bamboo with eyes of curious expectancy. And Bamboo, in a passion of adoration, bowed his great head to the ground in loving greeting.

The Master spoke: "Bamboo, Bamboo, I would use you."

Bamboo flung his head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had come, the day for which he had been made, the day to which he had been growing hour by hour, the day in which he would find his completion and his destiny.

His voice came low: "Master, I’m ready. Use me as Thou wilt."

"Bamboo," - The Master’s voice was grave --- "I would have to take you and cut you down!"

A trembling of great horror shook Bamboo…"Cut …me… down ? Me.. who thou, Master, has made the most beautiful in all thy Garden…cut me down! Ah, not that. Not that. Use me for the joy, use me for the glory, oh master, but cut me not down!"

Beloved Bamboo,"-The Master’s voice grew graver still-"If I cut you not down, I cannot use you."

The garden grew still. Wind held his breath. Bamboo slowly bent his proud and glorious head. There was a whisper:

"Master, if thou cannot use me other than to cut me down.. then do thy will and cut".

"Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would cut your leaves and branches from you also".

"Master, spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust; but would thou also have to take from me, my leaves and branches too?"

"Bamboo, if I cut them not away, I cannot use you."

The Sun hid his face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away. And Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, whispering low: "Master, cut away"

"Bamboo, Bamboo, I would yet… split you in two and cut out your heart, for if I cut not so, I cannot use you."

Then Bamboo bowed to the ground: "Master, Master… then cut and split."

So did the Master of the garden took Bamboo… and cut him down… and hacked off his branches… and stripped off his leaves… and split him in two… and cut out his heart.

And lifting him gently, carried him to where there was a spring of fresh sparkling water in the midst of his dry fields. Then putting one end of the broken Bamboo in the spring and the other end into the water channel in His field, the Master laid down gently his beloved Bamboo… And the spring sang welcome, and the clear sparkling waters raced joyously down the channel of bamboo’s torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted, and the days went by, and the shoots grew and the harvest came.

In that day Bamboo, once so glorious in his stately beauty, was yet more glorious in his brokenness and humility. For in his beauty he was life abundant, but in his brokenness he became a channel of abundant life to his Master’s world.

 
Contributed By:
Brad Bailey
 
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As an infantry company commander in Vietman in 1967, I saw Viet Cong soldiers surrender many times.
As they were placed in custody, marched away, and briefly interrogated, their body language and facial expressions always caught my attention. Most hung their heads in shame, staring at the ground, unwilling to look their captors in the eye. But some stood erect, staring defiantly at those around them, resisting any attempt by our men to control them. They had surrendered physically but not mentally.
On one occasion after the enemy had withdrawn, I came upon several soldiers surrounding a wounded Viet Cong. Shot through the lower leg, he was hostile and frightened, yet helpless. He threw mud and kicked with his one good leg when anyone came near him. When I joined the circle around the wounded enemy, one soldier asked me, "Sir, what do we do? He’s losing blood fast and needs medical attention." I looked down at the struggling Viet Cong and saw the face of a 16- or 17-year old boy.
I unbuckled my pistol belt and hand grenades so he could not grab them. Then, speaking gently, I moved toward him. He stared fearfully at me as I knelt down, but he allowed me to slide my arms under him and pick him up.
As I walked with him toward a waiting helicopter, he began to cry and hold me tight. He kept looking at me and squeezing me tighter. We climbed into the helicopter and took off.
During the ride, our young captive sat on the floor, clinging to my leg. Never having ridden in a helicopter, he looked out with panic as we gained ...

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C. S. Lewis recounts that when he first started going to church he disliked the hymns, which he considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as he continued, he said, "I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit."

Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.

 
Contributed By:
Donnie  Martin
 
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Dear Lord,

I have been re-reading the record of the Rich Young Ruler and his obviously wrong choice. But it has set me thinking. No matter how much wealth he had, he could not—ride in a car, have any surgery, turn on a light, buy penicillin, hear a pipe organ, watch TV, wash dishes in running water, type a letter, mow a lawn, fly in an airplane, sleep on an innerspring mattress, or talk on the phone.
If he was rich, then what am I?

P. Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, p. 61.

 
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John Shearhart
 
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“As Christians, our identity in Christ far transcends our identity in our work. We are children of the living God, fearfully and wonderfully made and deeply loved by the Father.” (Boa 1997, 51)

Boa, Kenneth, and Gail Burnett. Wisdom at Work. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1997.

 
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Here is a letter from the book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, by P. Brand. “Dear Lord, I have been re-reading the record of the Rich Young Ruler and his obviously wrong choice. But it has set me thinking. No matter how much wealth he had, he could not-- ride in a car, have any surgery, turn on a light, buy penicillin, hear a pipe organ, watch TV, wash dishes in running water, type a letter, mow a lawn, fly in an airpla...

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Contributed By:
Gordon Curley
 
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A HIJACKING PARABLE

Think of the human race aboard a hijacked jet-liner flying through time. God himself directed its takeoff from the divine control-tower. The initiator of all evil, whom we call the Devil, Managed to get a boarding pass.

When the plane reached its cruising altitude, the Devil produced his weapons, threatened the pilot, and took control of the aircraft and all its passengers.

Thus the plane hopped on fearfully through history from airport to airport until it was caught on the tarmac at Jerusalem, an outpost of the Roman empire, in the reign of Tiberius Caesar, where the Son of God offered himself as sole hostage in exchange for the passengers and crew.

 
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THE BAMBOO SERVANT

Once upon a time, in the heart of an ancient Kingdom, there was a beautiful garden. And there, in the cool of the day, the Master of the garden would walk. Of all the plants of the garden, the most beautiful and beloved was a gracious and noble bamboo.

Year after year, Bamboo grew yet more noble and gracious, conscious of his Master's love and watchful delight. And often when the wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would dance and play, tossing and swaying and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon, leading the Great Dance of the garden, which most delighted the Master's heart.

One day, the Master himself drew near to contemplate his Bamboo with eyes of curious expectancy. And Bamboo, in a passion of adoration, bowed his great head to the ground in loving greeting. The Master spoke: "Bamboo, I would use you." Bamboo flung his head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had come, the day for which he had been made, the day to which he had been growing hour by hour, the day in which he would find his completion and his destiny. His voice came low: "Master, I'm ready. Use me as you wish."

"Bamboo, I would have to take you and cut you down."

A trembling of great horror shook Bamboo. "Cut--me--down? Me...whom you, Master, has made the most beautiful in all your Garden--cut me down? Oh, not that. Not that. Use me for the joy, use me for the glory, oh Master, but do not cut me down!"

"Beloved Bamboo," The Master's voice grew graver still "If I do not cut you down, I cannot use you."

The garden grew still. Wind held his breath. Bamboo slowly bent his proud and glorious head. There was a whisper: "Master, if you cannot use me other than to cut me down, then do your will and cut."

"Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would also cut your leaves and branches from you."

"Master, spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust; but would you also have to take from me my leaves and branches too?"

"Bamboo, if I do not cut them away, I cannot use you."

The Sun hid his face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away. And Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, whispering low: "Master, cut away"

"Bamboo, Bamboo, I would yet split you in two and cut out your heart, for if I cut not so, I cannot use you."

Then Bamboo bowed to the ground: "Master, Master--then cut and split."

So did the Master of the garden took Bamboo and cut him down, hacked off his branches, stripped off his leaves, split him in two and...

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