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.