Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Year in Review

After two years of locusts, 2013 was the breakthrough year.  It was the year that confirmed God had indeed been working behind the scenes.  It was the year that I learned by keeping my eyes on Him, I could get through the troubles better than I went into them.  It was the year that I learned what to do in future times of trouble.  I learned that oftentimes the action that feels the most natural is not the right thing to do.  I learned to recognize the voice of evil in those discouraging thoughts.  I learned a little something about perseverance.  And I learned that through it all, God is right there, supplying what I lack myself.

Every day, my prayer was from Proverbs 3:5-6:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight."


In two years' time, my head and heart have been through this verse every way possible. 
     -TRUST.  Believe what you can't see, or what you can't see yet.  It may look, on the surface, like nothing is happening, but you have a God who is working mightily behind the scenes.
     -Trust with ALL your heart, not part of it, and not some of the time, but with everything in you.
     -Your "own understanding" is horribly limited and flawed.  You see the tip of the iceberg.  Don't draw important conclusions about life based only on what you see and understand right now.
     -Defer to God in EVERYTHING.  Weigh decisions against God's Word.  Is this something you need to handle, or let God take care of it?  Do you need to pray, and wait, for direction?  Do you need to confess something that day that you handled that you should have left to God?


 As 2014 draws near, I can't help but wonder what it will bring.  Personally, I'm hoping that it's a year of moderation, not the extremes of the last few years.  But whatever it is, it will be perfectly designed by God to nudge me in the direction He has for me, and in the end, it will be very good.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Justice or Mercy?

I forget how that saying goes exactly... something about when you sin, you pray for mercy, but when someone else sins and you get hurt from it, you pray for justice.  Still, when we get hurt from someone else's missteps or deliberate stabs at us, we might find it hard, but still do-able, to pray for mercy for them.  However, today's events really made me stop and think hard about all this.

I think most people have heard by now about the little two year old boy in Sioux Falls, South Dakota who died today.  He was the victim of one heck of a beating, courtesy of the mother's boyfriend (allegedly).  You can read the details here

After being in critical condition, the little boy died today, and I started praying for justice.  Actually, I'll admit that was not my first reaction.   Then I started wondering if mercy wasn't what I should be praying for.  What's right?  Praying for mercy for that low-life, or justice for the little boy whose life was taken, and so violently? 

Do you pray for mercy for someone who is so dead in their own sin that they can't see the one thing they need desperately?  Of course.  Even when they commit a heinous crime like this?  I can't logically see how the reason could change, but I'll be the first to admit I find praying for the person who did this to be one of the most unpalatable things I can think of at the moment. 

I've been pondering this most of the afternoon, and have come to the conclusion that the right thing to do is probably to pray for both mercy AND justice. And that somehow, this person who is the epitome of evil can have his heart changed and his soul saved.

Monday, September 2, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough

Revelation 3:15-18  "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' -- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked -- I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see."

Seems like the worst position to take with Christ is "lukewarm" -- if He feels strongly enough to say that He will "vomit" the lukewarm out of His mouth, that's cause for alarm if that's your situation.  Since so many of the people around me are lukewarm, it bothers me immensely.  I spent a good portion of my life lukewarm as well, and I thank God that He saw fit to show me how much I need to rely on Him, and He did so through some extremely difficult circumstances in my life - not once, but several times, each time changing me in ways that would never have been possible apart from Him.  While I would never have chosen those periods of crisis, I treasure the work He did in me during those times.

The Bible passage goes on to say, "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire."  The process of refining gold in a furnace results in the removal of impurities. Is He saying to go through our life's difficulties under His direction, and He will remove our impurities?  I think so!  Going through a crisis without Him will either produce a negative change in us (bitterness, anger) or no change at all.    But done under God's direction, and handling our difficult circumstances according to God's word, we will certainly be spiritually refined.

Since I'm still quite far from perfect, I can assume there will be more "refining" circumstances in my future.  But since I've been through a few of them already, when the next one comes, I can go into it with the assurance that God will indeed bring me to the other side of it, and much better than I was.  And that's of great comfort when the ride starts to get rough.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sometimes when things get dark and you can't see your next step, it's a good reminder to wait on the Lord to shine His light as far ahead as he wants you to go.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fear, Life and Baseball

I just finished reading R. A. Dickey's book, "Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball."  Being a baseball fan, familiar with R. A. Dickey from his time pitching for the Minnesota Twins, and knowing he was a Christian, I was anxious to read his story.  It was a good book, and I wasn't disappointed.  The best part though, was reading how chronic fear dominated his life, and how his faith interacted with that fear.

I can't imagine anything so challenging as dealing with anxiety in a very public way, as he did.  Any failures he had were out there for everyone to see, and trying to learn to forgive himself for any shortcomings seem almost impossible when there are booing fans, critical sports writers, and other players standing in line for his job.

For a long time, R. A. Dickey took the mound already on the defensive - with a prayer that everything would go okay, and that he wouldn't get "beat up" out there.  He was going about his business from a place of fear, hoping for enough blessing to get by, and chastising himself whenever it didn't happen.   His journey took the better part of ten years, but the story is enlightening.  And there was a lot of wisdom in the book pertaining to more than baseball.

First, sometimes trying harder is not the answer.  I think it goes without saying that life requires effort, and skills need to be practiced and developed.  But after a certain point, it's going to have the opposite effect in that it takes away from the joy and satisfaction you should be experiencing in what you're doing.

Second, concentrate on controlling what you can control.  We can't always dictate the outcome of our efforts, but we can make doing our best, and being "completely in" whatever we do, our goal.  And in that, we can succeed.  Do the very best you can, enjoy it to the fullest, and leave the outcome to God.

Thirdly, and I think most importantly, is that fear knocks on everyone's door.  As with most uninvited guests, if we open that door, let it in, and make it feel at home, it'll be back frequently.    Dickey uses the analogy of birds of prey circling overhead - we see them, we can acknowledge their presence, but we don't need to let them build a nest.

There's a lot more to this book than the little bit I've touched on here, and it's a great story.  Seeing how Dickey's faith increases and unfolds, as well as seeing him, warts and all just like the rest of us, is inspiring.  This is one book I may read twice.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Cost of Impatience

I have been working on memorizing Psalm 25 - and my favorite part is "For thou art the God of my salvation, on Thee do I wait all the day."  That God provides our salvation is the most basic message of the Bible, and it's what I hang on to most tightly.  However - that next part, about waiting all the day, well, I have a little more trouble with that.

God works in His own time.  Sometimes I don't like that.  No, I can safely say, most of the time God does not work as quickly as I'd like Him to.  I know God's timing is absolutely perfect, and I trust His judgment.  My head knows that, and my heart knows that.  But in a functional sense, I just can't seem to practice waiting with any amount of patience.

The Bible is full of people just like me - people who somehow think God needs their help in order to bring about His promises at the right time.  In Genesis (16) Abraham and Sarah could not wait on God for the child He promised; as a result of their impatience, they created conflicts that still persist today.  Esau couldn't wait for, of all things, a bowl of stew.  He lost his birthright as a result (Genesis 25) and his family was split apart.  King Saul, in 1 Samuel 13, decided he could no longer wait for Samuel to present the offering to God, so he did it himself - expressly prohibited by God.  Yikes.  That one hasty decision was the beginning of the end for Saul.   Each of these decisions brought about permanent and serious consequences, and none of them was an improvement on God's plan.

I could write a few blog posts about my own impatience, and what it has cost me and others over the years.  If I had a dollar for every time I wished I'd thought about a decision a little longer, I'd be out shopping now.  Thank God for the Holy Spirit, whose still small voice whispers to me, "Why don't you sleep on that and see how you feel about it tomorrow?"  Each time I listen to Him, it's been good counsel, and the voice is a little louder next time.  Perhaps, one step at a time, there is hope for me to develop the patience God has in mind.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Idols

 

I listened to a radio sermon today regarding modern day idols – the kind that aren’t so easy to recognize.  Anything that we value more than God is an idol, whether it is a hobby, a person, a pet, a job...  I’ve heard variations on this topic in many radio broadcasts over the last several months as well as in sermons at church, and each time the question is asked, “What is your idol?” I get a pang of guilt and quickly think about something else.  Today, I’m not ignoring that pang of guilt.  I do have an idol.  It frequently gets the best part of me – my most productive time, my largest quantity of time, and when I yearn for something, it’s this: my computer.

Suddenly I see my computer covered in bronze, and sitting on an altar with incense burning around it, and I see how much time I spend bowing down to it every day.  Oh sure, some of the time is actually productive time; the biggest share is working on things I love to do, but certainly aren’t necessary – blogs, websites, genealogy; and a little bit of it is completely wasted time.  But even the things I love to do are taking up an inordinate amount of my time and my attention, and worst of all, my heart.  These things are overshadowing my prayer life and my Bible reading, and my bonding with the One who created it all.

So, what’s the answer?  Unplug this god named Dell and throw it in the pile with the Baals and the like?  Try to put a limit on the time I spend on it?  None of that addresses the real problem, which lies in the heart.  It’s a matter of priorities and keeping my primary focus away from worldly things and on things eternal, the things which truly satisfy for the long haul.  It’s the Ultimate Reality Check – it hurts, but it’s necessary and I’m glad I’m finally facing it.

There.  Now what’s your idol?