Sunday, November 30, 2014

On Whom the Axe Falls

Carl and Pete prepared themselves for Thanksgiving. They knew what to expect, how it would happen, even who would do it. Clifford had explained everything to them and answered most of their questions as thoroughly as he could. Of all things, Clifford was honest, as honest as a butcher could be.

It was late in the day, the last day, and they were the only two left. They huddled in the back of the pen and gave thanks—for a good life, for good friends, and for the opportunity to provide celebration at the table of some loving family.
Clifford reached in and took Pete. Pete gave the obligatory squawk. He flapped his wings hard in a useless, though expected expression of struggle. But Pete wasn't really struggling. It was all for show. He had settled it days before and with strong resolve he was going willingly.
Carl was now alone. Something hot suddenly filled his throat making it hard to swallow. He was next. He wanted to cry but fought hard against the urge. The trembling within his heart spread quickly until he shook uncontrollably. He kept telling himself this was okay and would be over soon. But Clifford never returned. The minutes that were clicking off much too quickly suddenly slowed to a stop. Darkness came.
What does this mean? Why was he still here? Clifford came back in. He looked at Carl and shrugged, the quota had been met. Carl knew this had not been his day. He was alone. Everyone else who had been there the night before was gone. Only he was left. Why him? He’d never know. What could he do? Obviously nothing. He didn't know what to think. Should he be happy or sad? Regretful or glad?
He chose thankful. It covered everything. Thankful didn't require understanding or explanation. It just required a heart willing to be grateful for all things.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Caught in a Downward Spiral?

A downward spiral is a set of circumstances that create a nearly irresistible force to take us lower and deeper into our distress. Like an airplane that has lost its ability to maintain flight and begins to tumble to the earth with little chance of recovery, something has interfered with the expected and normal operational capabilities.

Downward spirals are typically the product of a bad decision. In the air, the pilot has demanded something from the airplane that it is not capable of doing. It stalls or the engine quits and the free-fall begins. In our lives, the spiral begins when we start making choices that contradict the expectations of faith. We demand something from life that life is incapable of delivering.

Often in the distress of being entrapped by this downward tug, we make choices that create results that only increase the speed at which we tumble. The faster we fall, the worse decisions we make. 

We, then, create a life that isn't capable of handling our circumstances.
Trying to maneuver through health crises without hope.
Watching the news without a Biblical world view.
Seeing our grandchildren grow up without us having confidence in God’s
Allowing temptations access to the inner sanctuary of our hearts without using
                  God’s way of escape.
Worrying about things we have no control over instead of praying.
Wanting things from God without knowing who He is.
Trudging through life without acknowledging God’s lordship over us.
Living by the impulses of our fleshly desires and expecting God’s blessings.
Believing our actions affect no one but us.
Grieving our loss without Heaven’s perspective.

God gave us a code to live by that makes our lives work as designed. Trying to live our lives by a different code not only will create the irresistible force to tumble us downward, but it will drive us further and deeper into despair and away from God’s intentions. The only hope is to look to Him for help.

If you are caught in the downward spiral today, I submit to you: Phil 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Waiting on God

The challenge of waiting upon the Lord is dealing with the stuff that goes on in the meantime. Without specifics, we generally set a time schedule for God to respond. Though strong in the beginning, the strength of our faith wavers as the hours of that schedule click off. After a while, we begin to doubt His faithfulness. Like the father who brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus and after the disciples couldn’t do anything he challenged Jesus with the words if you can do anything…Nothing’s happening so I question if anything can happen.

According to our expectations, if God worked on our time table rather than His, there would be little lapse between us asking God for intervention and His help. Like calling 911. We have an emergency, we call and help is on the way. In minutes somebody shows up.
But when we turn a matter over to God, he fits the answer into a larger picture that involve things other than just what we thought was the problem. His response is higher than our need.  His perspective is far more encompassing than our limited view.

First of all, we see one issue—say a diagnosis. God sees our limited faith. We want Him to fix the problem that’s been found. He may want to build our faith. He’s not being cruel, just more aware than we are of what’s really important.
We don’t do good at priority lists. We number things by what seems to be yelling the loudest. God sets things in order based upon what’s best.

It is never easy to wait upon the Lord when we’ve made God a list and then demanded His attention to our need. It is faith when we pray believing God is aware, hears our cry and will respond…in time and according to what’s best.
Faith is trusting Him as we wait, knowing He is good and will do what is best when it is the best time to do it.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:14)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hanging on in Between

Vance Havner called it “The Great Not Yet.” It’s that collection of time sandwiched between our need and God’s answer. It’s the realm of the unknown. We know we have a situation, have asked God for help but don’t know what He intends to do. We have neither a yes or no, only a not yet.

I remember how worry used to work in my Mom. Between the rise of her concern and the resolution, everything imaginable would run through her mind. And for some reason most of that was worst case scenario stuff. If there was a hint of doom, even a small percentage of possibility, that doom took on a life of its own. Worriers struggle with that.

Having limited or no answers drives us to imagine what if’s. What if he’s lying in a hospital without clean underwear, what if he’s crumpled up in a ditch after a horrendous car crash, what if he’s developing some dreaded illness from being scratched by his cat…these are the kinds of  things my Mom worried about. However, to her credibility I did do all of the above. But going there without evidence is merely giving into the suspicions of the smallness of God.

If God is in the beginning and the end, He surely is in the middle. If He’s in the right now, He will be in the not yet. The God who is faithful in big things is also faithful in small things. The grace that covers us for salvation also covers us for life.

Paul had to remind the Philippians not to worry but instead to pray. Prayer is our expression of faith that God is there, listening and intent on answering. Prayer does not put God on a time-table. It does not obligate Him. It tunes us into His faithfulness. It reminds us of His presence. I pray and trust. That’s the extent of my abilities to bring about change. If I think my worrying can bring change then I’ve lessened the significance of God in my life.

My Mom struggled with that. I’m trying not to.

Monday, July 28, 2014

But God: the Words that Change Everything

One of the harder responsibilities of a faith-based relationship with Christ is to have a solid understanding of and firm conviction in the two words: But God.

These are the words that help us define faith not in terms of what it is, but how we express it in our lives. Faith exposes whom we trust and what we anticipate by that trust. It speaks of an expectation founded upon a confidence that, beyond how things appear, there is a God without limitation who can bring about any outcome He so orders. Based upon His faithfulness, He then calls us into the privilege of living in the realm of anything being possible until we reach the point when those possibilities would conflict with His planned outcome.

Which means: the opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings is probably, nearly Biblical. If we take the idea of what Yogi Berra meant as being true, then we know until she’s on the stage there is room for possibilities, change, things can still happen to affect the outcome. Until she shows up we know there is still hope.

Paul says, we hope for what we have not seen, not for what we have seen. We live in the interlude of what is going on and how it will be resolved. From the beginning of the opera to the final song much can happen, much can change. It is our period of hope.

The mantra during the period of hope is But God. All the details may be on the table, the cold and hard facts, but God…  All the signs and implications point to only one conclusion, but God… All the plans are laid out and bare with nothing looking promising, but God…

When we stand on But God, we are placing our trust in infinite possibility. Until God is finished, nothing’s over. Until God is done, the plan is still cooking. Until God says, “That’s it, come home,” we stay and fulfill a life of faithfully following the God who loves us and has given Himself for us.

Join me on the pedestal? There’s room for all who will stand upon the promises of God’s faithfulness and will declare, “In light of all that’s going on, the greater truth by far is BUT GOD!”

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Collateral Damage

Before the age of “smart bombs” there was always a calculated risk to sending a missile into a populated area. If you were lucky or good, you might actually hit the target. But because the ordinance you sent carried an explosive more powerful than what was necessary to take out the target, the circle of destruction would typically be much larger what was aimed at. Hence, the term collateral damage entered the picture.

Collateral damage is the residual effect of an explosive spilling over from its target to the surrounding area. Within that area could be structures or people that will be hit but not targeted. Everything that gets caught up in the moment that isn’t the original target is collateral damage. Smart bombs have minimized that risk but it is still a very real danger.

Collateral damage can also happen in life. Someone may hit the car behind you and push that car into the back of yours. You weren’t the original target but you were caught up in the wreck as collateral damage. A neighbor’s house catches fire and before the firemen can put it out, embers have spread to your house and now it’s burning. Again, collateral damage.

Your friend experienced a tragic loss. Empathy for him overwhelmed you and you have been caught up in the sadness and anger at the events surrounding him. What happened to him is now affecting you. You are collateral damage.

It’s hard enough to deal with our own issues but when we carry the burden for others, sometimes what they go through affects us powerfully. Paul said we are to bear one another’s burdens, thus fulfilling the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2) We enter into the arena where others hurt and help them carry the load. It is a demonstration of love.

Paul went on to say in Romans 15:1 we who are strong are to bear the weaknesses of those without strength… Which means, though we may be touched and affected by their hurt, we must remain strong to provide what they are unable to provide for themselves. They need our strength in their weakness, they need our hope in their despair, they need our faith in their doubts, they need our comfort in their loss, they need our confidence in their future.

Collateral damage should be expected. You can’t walk through life with others and not get some of what they are carrying sloshed on you. But when you do, don’t fuel their sorrow. Feed their faith. Pray for them and with them. It is God who is at work in them, both to will and to work out His good pleasure. (Phil 2:13) This bomb didn’t drop on them without God’s knowledge. And because He knew he also has intentions. Let Him work out His best for them and help as necessary.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Being a Duck

When the boys were growing up and were being affected by what others were saying or doing, I’d repeat our mantra: be a duck.

Ducks, ducks and more ducks

A duck is designed to float. His feathers repel the water. If he absorbed the water he’d sink. So whenever water gets on him it just beads up and trickles off. He can paddle around all day doing his duck thing and enjoying the pond. Then, when he steps out on dry land, he is barely moist.

Without the ability to repel the water, even waddling down to the bank would be quite dangerous. If he slipped in, he might sit on top for a few seconds, but soon the water would start soaking in and eventually it would take him under.

A sponge, on the other hand, is designed to absorb. You don’t want a sponge that repels water. The goal of being a sponge is taking in all you can until you are saturated. Good sponges soak in what splashes around them.

We can’t stop the messages we hear every day that make us feel inferior, sad or rejected. They may come from a friend being unkind, a magazine telling us a lie about our appearance, a commercial hinting at things a real man should do or memories of things our parents told us growing up. There is no end to the messages, but there is a choice in how we deal with them.

Each statement we hear can either stick or trickle off.  If we’re being a sponge, what we hear will absorb.  We’ll carry it with us and even take in some more. Soon, we’ll become saturated with these unwanted messages and begin to see ourselves defined by the excess.

If we’re a duck, they’ll puddle up and trickle off. We heard them but refused to allow them to stick. No excess. No absorbing messages. We’re free to paddle on, defined by the joy of being a duck.

Today, I choose to be a duck.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Getting Untangled

Oliver is a funny kid. At 18 months he has a well established personality and preferences. His mind works in strange and mysterious ways. He’s a thinker. But let the driving wheel from his parents’ wii game get tangled up with his foot and the frustration comes out. 

My son, Jody, was videoing his daughter, Emma, making some presentation when in the background Oliver is on the floor struggling to get his foot out of the steering wheel. In a desperate moment of frustration, he lies down and yells.

Ever been there? Captured by a moment where something had a hold on you and it wouldn’t let go. If so, you understand how a trapped animal feels. You sense freedom all around you but can’t get to it because something is holding you back.

Hebrews says we are to lay aside the sin that so easily encumbers us so we can run the race unhindered. What is the sin? Honestly, sometimes it’s an attitude or action against God’s intentions. We have stepped into disobedience and walked away with residual clinging to our feet.

At other times it’s the refusal to let go of stuff that attaches to us because of the actions of others. Words they’ve said. Hurtful things they’ve done. Rejection they’ve caused.

Both require forgiveness. The first by letting God take away the stain of what we have perpetrated against Him. The second by us letting go of our hurts and disappointments by forgiving those who have perpetrated against us. Either way, we have to shuck off what has entangled us and that can happen when we take the matter to God.

How did Oliver come out? He got up and waddled over to his daddy who pulled off the wheel. He wanted his freedom back. To get it he needed help to become disentangled so he could live unencumbered. Once the wheel was off he could resume conquering other mysteries that fascinate the attention span of an 18 month old.

If you are stumbling today, see what’s got you tangled up and take it to God for release.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

For Those Who Are Broken

I always wanted to be a pristine vase, a treasure sitting on the shelf, perfect and without blemish, useful for holding beautiful flower arrangements to enhance the moment and decorate the table. But I have cracks. I didn’t want the cracks. I never asked for the cracks. But there they are.

The Broken Vase

They distort my smooth finish. They distract from my flowing curves. They draw attention away from the purpose for which I was made. To some they devalue me.
On the day I fell, in the time it took for me to roll off the table and hit the floor, I imagined the end had come. My usefulness was over. All that was left was for the broom to whisk me into the dust pan and from the dust pan deposited into the trash can. A lot can go through your mind in a short space of time.

But instead of the briskly strokes of the coarse straw, gentle hands carefully picked up each broken piece and placed me again on the table. I was complete but undone. Glue was applied to my jagged edges and meaningless fragments rejoined to make me whole again.
Soon after the glue set, I was back enhancing the table, holding the flowers, beautifying the moment, but now there is more. Now I live as a testimony of how brokenness can be healed, how regret can be rescued, how usefulness can be restored. Each crack tells the story.

I will never be pristine again. Who needs pristine when you can be used to tell others the answer to the prayer for wholeness. I show the scars of grace, the evidence of mercy, the glue of love that holds me together. And in this I will rejoice!
My broken life demonstrates the compassion and purpose of One who declares me worth the effort it took for restoration. My cracks are not a reflection of my faults. They are a message of hope to all who are shattered.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ragamuffin Faith

I guess it’s the romantic in me but I want happy endings. I’ll watch a movie or read a book or deal with a problematic life situation anticipating the moment all the loose ends to get tied up and the crisis is resolved. That’s why I don’t particularly like Nicolas Sparks novels/movies because one of the main characters is going to die. That’s not how I want the story to end.

The movie Ragamuffin: the Story of Rich Mullins, just came out. I enjoyed Rich’s music back in the 80’s and 90’s. In fact, the boys and I went to a concert in Las Vegas a couple of years before he died and considered it one of the best we had or have ever attended. The variety and quality of the music was incredible.

But the movie was about his life—a very hard, emotionally dysfunctional, substance controlling life. He had a father who pushed him away and gave him haunting, negative messages that he could never get away from. He became a binge drinker, who even after a concert would go back to the hotel room and waste himself.

His brother, being interviewed in the extra material on the DVD, said he had been questioned about all the smoking, drinking and cussing in the film. He said that was Rich—always fighting his demons.
Yet, in the midst of all the emptiness that surrounded him, he wrote some of the most incredible songs—Our God is an Awesome God, Give Your Praise to the Lord, Hold Me Jesus.

As I watched the move, I kept waiting for the happy ending. The moment when he fully embraced how much God loved him and broke free from the chains. It never came. He died still struggling. I’ve yet to get over that. I wanted him released. I wanted the testimony of victory. I wanted the power of God to overcome. I wanted that for him and wanted it for me.

You see, often, we who struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness and love, try to live out our hope of a happy ending in the lives of others. Somehow, our gnawing disappointments get soothed when we vicariously see others resolve their struggles. After watching Rich, I’m still waiting.

If I cannot embrace the truth, maybe seeing someone else do it can give me hope that one day my happy ending will come. That what God has done for others, He’ll do for me.

So, I will repeat what I have told myself thousands of times: God loves me, I am forgiven, He has accepted me, He doesn’t create junk, He will accomplish what concerns me, nothing can separate me from God’s love for me.

A Ragamuffin is one who desperately trusts God whether or not they ever get their happy ending. Today, I declare myself a Ragamuffin.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Living with a Target on Your Back

When we were kids we sang Oh be careful little eyes what you see…be careful little hands what you do…be careful little feet where you go. It was quite catchy back then but had a powerful message—the result of living an unguarded life always ends in disappointment.


This week we discovered another significant pastor admitted moral failure. Although only a few of the ramifications have been announced—disqualified from leading his 20,000 member church—many more are churning in the background. His personal life as well as his ministry are now ship-wrecked. Major restoration is the only hope.
So many scriptures come to mind that speak of temptation, trials, testing, refining. James speaks of how Satan creates a lure to attract us to sin. He also prowls about to attack us. It’s as though we live with a huge target drawn on our backs at which the enemy chunks his darts. All of his attacks are designed to destroy the work of God within us or through us.

But I also realize how faithful God is to make a way of escape. Joseph had that moment to decide if he wanted Potifer’s wife or wanted to maintain his integrity before men and holiness before God. He ran. That moment is our gift from God to overcome the temptation.
No temptation comes to us that is beyond resisting. Jesus proved that. To guarantee our victory over sin, with each temptation is a way of escape if we choose to use it. We can say no. We can walk away. Choosing not to use the way of escape is evidence that the desire to sin has established a stronghold in our heart.

Sin cannot establish a stronghold with a glance, or an invitation, or a suggestion. Sin can only establish a stronghold when it has weakened our desire to resist. This takes time and thought. In other words, we see it coming and don’t get out of the way.
Temptation is never irresistible in itself. It becomes irresistible when we take delight in whatever it is offering. That delight can make us blind to the consequences.

If we will be careful what we see, touch, and where we go, we may keep ourselves from sin by not allowing the temptation to become irresistible. Anyone can give in and anyone can resist. I wish that pastor had done so. I hope I do so. Even now, I'm feeling another ring on the target on my back being drawn.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Making a Mess

I’m messy. I’ve always been messy. I can’t open the hood of my truck without getting grease on me. When I’m building things in my garage, I make a mess. Sawdust, scattered wood, tools, coke cans litter the floor. I can’t create without mess.

Wood Work Shops photos

Okay, blame my mother for not disciplining me to clean up after myself. Blame me for being lazy. Bottom line: I don’t let cleanliness interfere with creating.
Solomon said, Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox. If you want the advantage of the ox, you’re going to have to deal with (well) his messiness.

Sometimes God gets messy with us. Since faith is developed by trials and tests, things have to get messy for us to learn to trust Him. Nobody learns significant lessons of truth simply by taking notes in a Bible Study. We haven’t learned anything. We’ve simply noted something significant.

For those truths to become a part of our lives they have to be worked in. Like reading a book on working out and noting the importance of certain exercises but never going to the gym and doing what we read. God doesn’t grow us by information any more than a coach can strengthen us by lecture.

I can check out projects in books or on line all day. But if I'm going to make something that had only existed on paper, things are gonna get messy. Growing faith gets messy. But we won’t grow without it. Just be sure and clean up after you’re done.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why Can't I Feel God?

Forgiveness is the means by which God removes the hindrance of our wrong choices. Those wrong choices are like debris between two magnets. God has established a permanent, attracting relationship between us and Him that can only be minimized by the junk we allow to interfere with that attraction. Like magnets made for connection, God has programmed us to want Him and desire to walk with Him. It’s what Adam knew in the Garden before the bite.

Interesting Facts about Magnets

Whenever we chose some other activity, attitude or advice for how we live, contrary to God’s intentions, debris settles between us and God. It diminishes the sense of the attraction. God is still drawing us to Himself but we have lost interest in the drawing and become obsessed with that that is hindering the connection.
To reconnect with God, John said we must we confess our sins. If we do He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The cleansing mechanism for removal of the junk between us and God is forgiveness. Confess means calling it what God calls it. Acknowledging its interference in our lives and asking God to remove it.

When God removes that interference, the magnets reconnect. It’s automatic. The power of their attraction never went away, but the debris blocking the energy kept them separated.
David sensed the debris in his live and said wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. He had lost the power of his connection with God. By that confession, God cleared the obstruction and reconnected with His child.

The debris was gone. God removed it. He chunked it into the deepest caverns of the ocean. He separated it from David forever. The hindrance was gone. In God’s eyes it was as if David had never sinned in the first place.
That same freedom awaits us today. What a great day for reconnecting with God!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Let It Go

No one starts out to become bitter. Bitterness shows up when we fail to handle our disappointments. Something happens that we wish hadn’t and we’re Disappointed. If we can’t let it go, it turns into Discouragement where we live fearing it will happen again. Discouragement turns into Disillusionment where we become obsessed with always feeling Discouraged. Disillusionment becomes Defeat where we live with no hope of ever being free from this Disappointment.

Category Archives: kudzu

Bitterness is like a seed planted in our soul from some painful event that will grow into a plant that overcomes our life if not removed.
Kudsu was introduced into the South to help prevent erosion on bare hillsides. It is a fast growing ground cover plant. Only problem it grows like crazy in America and has literally taken over huge sections of southern states.

It seemed innocent enough when first introduced but soon it took on a life of its own and took over. Bitterness does the same thing.
Esau’s dad recognized his son’s tendency toward bitterness and stated a blessing over him to deal with it. Isaac said: But it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck. Esau was bitter toward his brother Jacob. He had good right to, but right or not bitterness comes with consequences. He was consumed with anger to the point of intending Jacob’s death.

The answer was in his father’s blessing. When you get tired of living a defeated life, disconnect yourself from the disappointment. How? Forgive the one who caused the event that produced the disappointment and trust God to turn the pain into joy. Both steps are essential!

One tribe had an interesting punishment for killing someone. The killer had to carry the corpse, tied to his back. He could never get rid of or away from his crime. It was a constant reminder of one moment in time.

Often we carry reminders that haunt us about a past event. Because of how badly we were wronged we justify becoming bitter. After a while that bitterness starts to stink, but we hang on to it anyway. Thinking we’re punishing the one who hurt us, we’re creating our own defeat.

Tired of hurting yourself? Break the connection. Disconnect from the disappointment. Forgive and move on. Let it go.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

So You Think You're Wrestling With God?

Everybody says it’s the story of Jacob wrestling with God. I see it the other way. It was God wrestling with Jacob. Man is not capable of wrestling with God with some hope of controlling the outcome. God was wrestling with Jacob in order for Jacob to realize how much he needed Him.


The wrestling match started after Jacob told God of his fears about reuniting with his brother, Esau, who when last heard from had promised to kill Jacob. Jacob wanted to return home but was afraid Esau would carry out his threat, so he prayed for God to keep him safe. In that prayer he reminded God of the promise to create a vast nation from him, as though he had bargaining chips to throw out on the table.
Then the wrestling began and lasted all night. Remember he’s wrestling God who dispatches His opponents with the word of His mouth. Thinking he has God in a power grip, God simply touches his hip and knocks it out of socket. In desperation, Jacob, now defeated, begs for blessing. The blessing is changing his name to the name by which God intends to complete his work in Jacob’s life. He is now Israel—God will contend. As Jacob, in his own strength and determination, he was far too limited to accomplish what God had in mind. He could contend only so far and usually by trickery. His ability to contend with people lacked the spiritual impact that would fulfill God’s intentions. God wrestled with Jacob so that He could contend for Israel. He subdued one so He could fight for the other.

In his prayer, Jacob asked God to be faithful, which is like asking a Suma wrestler if he is heavy. Of course God is faithful! We don’t make Him so, or declare Him so, He is so! But the greater issue from God’s perspective was could He trust Jacob to be faithful to trust Him as faithful. The test was not about whether God would take care of Jacob’s concerns but would Jacob yield his life, family and future to God’s intentions of how He would take care of Jacob.
The times we struggle with God have nothing to do with Him but everything to do with His desire to strengthen our faith to trust Him more. Jesus proved God’s ability to change circumstances. But why would He do so until He has accomplished His purpose through those circumstances?

The battle today will not determine God’s faithfulness. He’s not being tested. It is designed to give us the opportunity to let Him be faithful in our behalf. Don’t think we are wrestling with our problems. Our problems are wrestling with us to see if we have the courage to trust God to win the battle for us.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Good, Bad, Who Knows

A farmer lived alone with his grandson. One day their only horse ran away. The people came by and said, “Oh, what bad luck.” The farmer replied, “Bad luck, good luck, who knows.” A few weeks later the horse returns leading a small herd of wild horses into the corral. The people came by and said, “Oh, what good luck.” The farmer replied, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows.” The grandson went out to tame one of the wild horses. The horse threw him to the dirt and he broke his arm. The people came by and said, “Oh, what bad luck.” The farmer replied, “Bad luck, good luck, who knows.” The next day the commander of the military came by conscripting all able-bodied young men for war. He saw the grandson and passed him by. The people came by and said, “Oh, what good luck.” The farmer replied, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows.”

the atlantic has an interesting explanation for how pants came

One of our confounding tendencies is to judge our circumstances before they have played themselves out. Our intolerance of unpleasantness rushes us to label matters with good or bad simply based on how we see things in that moment and how the moment feels.
Anyone can take a day and divide it into segments, then evaluate that day by one of those segments. If we like what goes on during that fragment we label the day as good. If we don’t like what goes on, it’s a bad day. Obviously, that’s quite a small-minded approach to life. Allowing one incident so much power over us that it can, in fifteen seconds, ruin fifteen hours of a day is highly irresponsible.

We are rarely in the best position to judge whether something is good or bad. We’re too personally involved. Only when we can detach and trust the One who has perspective can we release ourselves from the burden of preference. Only God knows what we’re going through. We don’t. We know the moment. We know how we feel about it, but we don’t know where it’s taking us or how it fits into the larger context of what God wants to accomplish in our life.
Faith requires us to trust He is working all things together for good at all times—not sometimes or under rare occasions. I don’t have to like it, but it will benefit me greatly if I will acknowledge that He is good and His mercy endures forever. He knows the beginning and the end of all things. He knows the why and why not. He defines the good.

When I step aside as judge and yield that role to Him, I’m free to concentrate on remaining faithful.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Waiting for the Rainbow

Looking for the good in things gone bad is hard work. Since we typically go with the flow, we don’t spend a lot of time trying to find the benefit in our problems. Problems, by definition, are undesirable disruptions to our lives. Our goal is to get out of them not analyze them to find value.

At this point in my recovery from the flu I have lost my sense of taste. Surely it will come back but in the meantime I’m trying to look for the benefits. One is drinking soured milk. I have this repulsion to soured milk. I suspect what’s left in the container has gone bad but since I can’t taste it, I’m still using it on my cereal. Of course I can’t taste my cereal either so I’m eating out of duty rather than pleasure.

As you, I’ve heard stories about people who have gone to their doctor with one complaint only to find in examination they had a much more serious situation secretly attacking their life. Had they not had the initial problem, the doctor would not have discovered the more serious problem.

My dad was scheduled to ship out for the Philippines in WWII. The day before, he went to the dentist to get a tooth fixed and while there the doctor thought he could address another problem with experimental radiation. My dad got sick from the treatment. So while his battalion pulled away and headed into conflict, my dad lay in a hospital bed recovering. As a result of the radiation, my dad developed cancer leading to subsequent surgeries and treatment. By surface evaluation the Dentist really messed up. But later he discovered that when his buddies arrived in the Philippines they encountered harsh battle. Most of the men in his outfit never returned from the war. Had he not experienced the problems with the dentist, he very likely could have been a casualty of the war. The bad the dentist did actually turned out to be a blessing for my dad.

It’s hard to think that in the midst of our difficulties God may be doing a special work that makes what seems bad become good, but that’s what He promised.

Paul spent much time imprisoned because of opposition to his work. How bad that must have been! Yet, 
while he was imprisoned, he wrote some of the most important books of the New Testament. God took ugly and made it beautiful.

Somewhere, hidden within our circumstances, is the good God wants us to discover. Look for it. Hold off any final assessment whereby we characterize our situation as bad, hopeless or tragic until we see what He’s up to. Believe in the good. Sometimes you just can’t get there without going through this.

Endure the storm but anticipate the rainbow.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I Know...I Don't Always Want to Either

Ever try to reduce things to their lowest element? Like taking a complicated problem and trying to find out what’s at the core of the issue? American educator, Alexander Meiklejohn, said, “There is, I think, nothing in the world more futile than the attempt to find out how a task should be done when one has not yet decided what the task is.” That’s like heading into battle without knowing who your enemy is. The facts aren’t clear. They’re congested by too much information and not enough clarity.
Boiling water in pot
Paul told the Thessalonians, “to give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you.” For most folks that’s asking way too much. “I can’t give thanks until I’m out from under my circumstances.”  Paul saw circumstances reduced to their lowest element—an opportunity for God to accomplish His purpose in our lives.

If all the rest of scripture is true that God is good and will accomplish what concerns me, then my current circumstance fits underneath those intentions. As unpleasant and hurtful as today is, it still fits within His intentions to bring His goodness into my life.
Faith that is seen isn’t faith. If I have to wait until my circumstances end to give thanks, my thanks isn’t an expression of faith. In fact by that time I ought not to be giving thanks but confessing my sin of rebellion against God’s intentions because of my doubt. I give thanks at all times…in the midst of my circumstances and again at the end and between the end of these and the beginning of the next. I continually express my confidence that God is vitally connected to my life.

If I cannot thank God for today, regardless of today’s circumstances, then how can I thank Him for tomorrow after today’s trials are over? God is not waiting until the last minute to rescue me. He is actively engaged in the whole process of deliverance. I must recognize that. I’m not alone. He has not left me to work these things out by myself. I’m not being punished. He has not forsaken me. He’s not waiting for this to be over to step in and get the credit. He’s my present help in time of trouble.
Give thanks with a grateful heart, not for the circumstances, but because of the circumstances. For God is at work accomplishing great things in your life!