Saturday, November 7, 2015

Continuity Through the Ages

My great-uncle was a WWII Night Fighter, and in my quest to learn more about him, I discovered a group of similar veterans who had gotten together a few years back to share memories and fellowship.  A DVD of some of the speakers was given to me, and it was fascinating to listen to these men and what they went through.

One particular man, Bob, was a young lad of 21.  He was very sure he was going to be killed in the war, and was very distressed about it.  He tells how he opened his Bible, and the first verse he saw was Psalm 46:1 - "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" and he knew instantly that whatever was going to happen, he was at peace with it.

What a feeling - the same God who sustained Moses, and David, and every other hero of the Bible was right there in a very personal way with Bob, and is right here with me, and you, in times of trouble as well.  What a deep feeling of continuity throughout all of time that we have - through the One who is, has been, and always will be.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Shooting, Shooting and More Shooting

It's no surprise to anyone that our society is becoming more and more agnostic/atheistic.  Some people see this as a good sign, others, not so much.  As I see it, there's a direct correlation with this tendency and the social situations we see now.

I never remember a time in the 1960s or 1970s where I feared getting shot at school.  I wasn't afraid to send my kids to school in the 1980s or 1990s, although the increasing disrespect showed to teachers, administrators and school employees in the later part of this time was disturbing.  Now, you can't even go to a movie or shopping mall without wondering if it'll be the last thing you do.  And if you do make it out of these events alive, will some person consumed with rage attack you on the way home?

We've had more and more children growing up without knowing God - what He commands from us as far as behavior and right thinking are concerned, and what He offers us in times of trouble and fear. Many parents are raising their children without the greatest asset they'll have in their young lives - a relationship with the God who is all-powerful and who loves them fiercely.  Let's face it, at some time or another we will all encounter really difficult or devastating situations in life that we can't do anything about - and sometimes things feel hopeless.  And ARE hopeless without God.  We've got kids growing up not knowing that the God who created the universe and every grain of sand in it, knows them intimately, loves them completely, and is intensely interested in every facet of their lives.  How can that not give a child a sense of self-worth unparalleled by anything the world has to offer?

I believe there are a lot of troubled youth and adults on this earth, who know no other way to deal with their unhappiness except taking their rage out on other people - whether its bullying, aggression on the roads or taking it to the ultimate extreme and taking lives.   Where there's less and less God, there's more and more evil.  And I hope it's not going to get worse before it gets better.

Friday, May 15, 2015

When the Answer You Need is not the Answer You Get

     I've been dealing with a chronic pain that has made my life miserable at times over the last year.  It has often impeded my ability to do the things I want to do, and after five months of striving for effective treatments, today I got the answer: the situation is likely permanent and there isn't anything the doctors can do about it.

     I am keeping this in perspective - I can think of a ton of things that doctors tell patients every day that are way worse than my situation.  But there are going to be some challenges ahead, and while thinking about dealing with them, I thought about Paul, asking the Lord to remove his thorn.  God said, "My grace is sufficient."

     Well, I'm glad and grateful to know that I follow a God who is all-powerful, and despite what any doctor tells me, if He wants to remove this thorn, He will.  The scary part for me is if He says, "My grace is sufficient."  I know, in my mind, that His grace WILL be sufficient.  My heart, however, is not fully on board yet.  I can't see the details of how His grace will be sufficient.  But maybe that's not necessary.

     I listened to the car radio on the way home, and a song came on.  I didn't catch the name, or the artist, but the song said to listen to the Voice of Truth, and no other voices.  And that the troubles we have will be used to bring glory to God.

    The thought of my troubles being used for the glory of God had not occurred to me.   Will God fix me, despite the depressing prognosis, and bring glory to Himself in that way, like the blind man in John 9 -

As he (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."*

Or is God going to ask me to bring glory to Him by trusting Him, even if He decides to leave me with the thorn?  Time will tell.

*NIV, from

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My Odds vs. My God

"You have a 90% chance of getting past this with no further problems."  Those words from my doctor were quite reassuring! I suddenly envisioned 100 sick people lined up in front of me, and then 90% of them getting up and moving back to their regular lives like nothing ever happened.  It felt reassuring... until I realized there were still 10% of those sick people there, still having problems, and each of them had probably felt pretty good about their odds as well.  It was a very shallow reassurance after that.

It was during a recent hospitalization that I desperately wrestled with odds, looking for that elusive peace about my situation.  Needless to say, I didn't find it.  Looking back, I realized that I'd never find peace among probabilities and statistics.  Though I wasn't looking in the right place, the One Who Gives Peace redirected my efforts.

Did Christ give me a divine assurance that I would have a complete recovery?  No.  Did He whisper in my ear that things would improve?  Not at all.  He simply asked if I'd trust Him through this, one baby step at a time.  Yes, I can do that. 

In our ordeals, we are not simply thrown to the wolves of life, some of us victorious and some not.  There's a perfect plan, tailored for each one of us with our ultimate victories in mind; this plan will include elation, devastation, and everything in between.  And there are blessings in it all - and speaking from my own personal experiences, the blessings during the low points are far greater, richer, and deeper than they've been in the good times. 

I'm not concerned with odds and probabilities at this point.  In return for redirecting my trust from statistics to He Who Controls It All, I got peace.  I don't need to know what's going to happen, how it's going to happen, or when it's going to happen, because I know He Who Has The Perfect Plan, and He will sustain me through it all, and use it to my good.

When the bottom falls out of life, there are three things of vital importance to remember:

1) God knows it all.  He sees things you cannot.  He's got the whole package of information about your trouble; you don't.

2) God is powerful enough to do anything.  He doesn't play the odds - He makes the odds.  And there is no situation in which He is helpless.  If He doesn't wave His awesome hand and make your situation go away, there's a reason.

3) God loves us far more than we can understand or comprehend.  Sometimes in looking back at our past troubles, we see how God's love was manifested in allowing those unpleasant circumstances; some times, we'll have to wait to see it.  But His love is present through all of it.

Considering those three points together, when the Lord of All Life asks us to trust Him in our given situations, we have to have confidence that He knows what He's doing, and that He'll never ask us to walk through it alone.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Valleys and Mountain Peaks

I have learned more from my valleys I ever did from my mountain peaks.

I have learned that I can do a lot of things that I never thought I could do, as long as I'm not trying to do them apart from Christ.

I am learning the art of perseverance, and that it can't exist apart from faith and trust in God.

I am learning that more is accomplished in prayer than by any other means.

I am learning that I don't need the answers to all of life's questions ahead of time.

I am learning that my life and my spiritual journey affects other people's lives and spiritual journeys, and theirs, mine.  Some of the most profound moments in my faith life have come from people who will never know their impact.

I have learned that just because I can't see what's going on doesn't mean nothing is going on.

And most of all, I am learning to thank God in all things, *especially* in the valleys.  The deeper the valley, the more imperative it is to be thankful.  And the most important thing to be grateful for is God Himself, who will carry us through our trouble, and richly bless us on the other side of it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One Year Without God

When I first heard a radio interview with the "pastor" who decided to go one year without God, I was disgusted from the start.  Pastors are supposed to respect and follow God's teaching - like "pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (Deuteronomy 6:16.

Every pastor I have ever known has not only desired to be obedient to God, but has put a relationship with Christ above everything else, as it should be.  I have to wonder what kind of pastor engages in willful disobedience against God, and would sacrifice what should be treasured.  That he has done all of this so publicly makes me wonder what the real motive was, and the sincerity of the faith he started with.

What came to mind when I heard this story was an old saying, "Feed What You Want to Grow." Conversely, Starve What You Want to Die.  This man deliberately killed his own faith.  I don't get it, but I guess he got what he wanted.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Did God Fail Me?

Lately I have realized how very quickly life can take a major turn, and without advance notice.  People prayed for me while I was sick, and I recovered.   But sometimes people pray their hearts out, and there is no recovery.   What does that mean?  If I, or anyone else, die before reaching a ripe old age, or ends up with a lesser quality of life than I planned, does that mean God failed me?  Did He not hear the prayers?  Does He not care?

I know of someone whose mother had a major health crisis and was desperately and gravely ill.  This person prayed and prayed and prayed.  His mother died.  He now refuses to acknowledge that there’s a God, and hates Christians.  Did God fail his mother?  Did God fail him?

If you look at God as a genie in a bottle, then I guess sooner or later you’re going to be disappointed.  God is not here to take direction from US.  We are here to take direction from HIM.  He’s not here to please us; we’re here to love, obey and please HIM.   He can get along fine without us, but we’re in trouble without HIM.   I think too often people put themselves at the center of their universe, and expect God to be orbiting around them, answering their prayers just exactly how and when they desire.  In reality it is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of it all who should be (and is) in the center of it all.  He knows best, and we don't always know His reasons.

Every single one of us is assigned a number of days (Job 14:5).  Some of us have many days; some, few.   Our numbers were assigned with a reason and a purpose.  To be mad at God because our days are up is ridiculous.  In the case of the person mentioned earlier, well, his mother was going to have to die at some point.  We all do.  Would there have been any number of days that would have been satisfactory to him?  

What does God owe us?  What do we deserve?  Well, as someone who has known God’s word and deliberately disobeyed (plenty of times, unfortunately), I thank God that I have not gotten what I deserve.  I don’t want what I deserve!  In all fairness, God should throw up his hands in disgust and say, “Fine.  Have it your way.  Good luck.  I’m tired of messing with you.”  Instead of getting what I deserve, I got mercy and grace, and will get the same as I go through the number of days I have left, whatever that may be.

So, God did not, and will not, fail me, no matter what the future holds.  And He won’t  fail you, either.