Friday, October 11, 2013
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
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
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
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
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
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?
Monday, September 5, 2011
At one time or another, we all have days when giving up sounds so appealing; crawling into bed and watching soap operas day after day while the rest of the world goes on without us. Our pastor spoke on this topic last weekend, relating how it is hard to battle something day in and day out without getting weary. We get discouraged, and we get depressed. We want to crawl in a cave and stay there.
1 Kings 19 tells the story of Elijah’s weariness. He had just had a showdown with the prophets of Baal and killed them all. He’d run all the way to Jezreel, and he was exhausted. He was the last survivor of God’s prophets, all alone, and now he was running for his life from Jezebel. And for what? I can just hear his mind working, egged on by fatigue and the lies of the Great Deceiver…
“I slave away all day, day in and day out, and for what? Nobody appreciates me. They don’t listen to me, they wreck the altars, they want to kill me, everything I do is futile… I’m tired, hungry, and bummed out, and I’m done! I’m just going to lay here and die!”
The little broom tree in the desert was the site of this pity party. The angel brought him food and water for sustenance, and let him rest there. But God did not let him get into bed and pull the covers up over his head for long.
Elijah’s next stop: the cave – a good place to hole up and lick your wounds. But God said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah spilled his guts, not once, but twice. He had some fellowship with his Lord, and then God sent him back out to keep working. Elijah *wasn’t* alone, and his work was *not* all in vain. All he needed was a little rest, and some dialogue with God. God had a plan, even when Elijah didn’t see it.
What a good example to follow when life seems like it’s taking its toll. Take care of yourself. Rest, but don’t stay down. Don’t listen to the lies of Satan - have a chat with your Maker instead. Tell Him what’s on your mind. Then get back up and get after it. It’s not all in vain, even if some days it sure seems like it. God’s got a plan.