Thursday, March 29, 2018

Emergency


 

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3

I am the Vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. John 15:5

 

Those are two of my favorite verses. Though neither one is my life verse, they pretty much sum up my faith. Call to Abba and remain in Jesus. If I seek God’s advice and understand that everything, every single thing that I have is a gift from God then life will be a much more manageable prospect.  I live my life every day by God’s grace and by His grace alone. That may sound like hyperbole but it isn’t. Certainly some things are bigger, some challenges, some tragedies, some victories and some joys, are much larger but regardless of size, everything I am or have is powered by God.

          Don’t believe me? Breathe. God. Look around. Can you see? God. Did you hear that? God. Do you have a job? A spouse? A friend? A home? God. God. God. God. Too much? No! Not nearly enough. All things are gifts from heaven. Don’t take my word for it, read James 1:17.

          That’s what I believe and it is how I live my life. Yesterday I had the sweetest reminder that not everyone lives that way. One of our special education students was admiring the cross I was wearing. It is a gold cross with a gemstone set in it. “What does that say?” he asked me. “It doesn’t say anything honey.” I replied. “Oh sure, it says, ‘For emergencies only.’ Right?” He said his sweet voice full of confidence.  What? I thought about those words and turned to my friend Kim, a very faithful believer. “Did you hear that?” I asked her and repeated what our little man had just said.

          Kim and I agreed that while we do not live that way and see the Cross as a symbol of a 24/7 support system and love that never fails, far too many people would agree with little man. “For emergencies only.” God is reserved for car accidents, divorce and the doctor’s office with maybe a financial crisis thrown in every now and then. In other words, emergency situations need a fixer, so try God.

          If you agree with our little friend, take a closer look. God is most certainly with us in our times of need or terror. He is also with us on sunny, gorgeous afternoons when our hearts are being touched by the precious innocence of a child. Looking at God in the good or ordinary times will make it much easier to feel His presence in those emergencies.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Believe It or Not


 

No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. Psalm 25:3

 
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary.  Isaiah 40:28

 

Yesterday morning I read of the death of Stephen Hawking. Here’s what I know about him. He was brilliant and he was an atheist. He is quoted as having said that heaven is “a fairy tale for people who are afraid of the dark.” Now he is dead and my supposition is that he now has a greater understanding of darkness than he could ever have imagined, even with his huge intellect.

           Faith is not about IQ, nor is it about fear of the dark. Faith is about confronting that darkness with a Light that will not be overcome.  Here we come to something that the esteemed Dr. Hawking just could not comprehend. “The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it.” John 1:5

          I didn’t know Dr. Hawking personally, so it would be unfair of me to draw any conclusions as to the cause of his lack of understanding of or belief in a Power, a Being, higher than himself. From my chair, it’s easy to call it ignorance but I can’t help but see it as sad.

          Waiting for him on the other side of death, could have been a body renewed, perfected and understanding far beyond anything even his brilliant mind could have imagined. He chose to deny the existence of God and therefore lost all hope of new life.

          In this same time frame, I’m watching, again from the sidelines, a young man who is struggling to make something out of nothing. He’s on an odd journey that I would never choose. It’s difficult and awkward to say the least but there he is, plugging away, making the best of it but not getting any positive results. Beyond that there’s an underlying frustration and sadness in him.  The first I ever saw of this young man, this is what I heard him say. “I don’t believe in God. I’m an atheist. I just think the whole God thing is kind of a joke.”  Sooo grateful to be on the sidelines and not standing too close to that guy! Just kidding, I love talking to those people.

          Thinking of Steven Hawking and that other young man, this is what I see. Life is hard, on many levels. For me, even in the hard times, I have joy and peace because I know whose I am and where I’m going. My trials are momentary, temporary. (2 Corinthians 4:17) I will not land in unrelenting darkness and I don’t have to walk in it now.  For those two men, I see an arduous climb with no true support system and eternal darkness.  How does that sound to you?

          A life of faith is not without hardship, trial or even tragedy and anyone who tells you it is, is lying to you. It is however, a life of hope and joy. Those of us who believe aren’t searching for answers or meaning because we’ve already found an answer that gives meaning to everything.

          Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary. 

Isaiah 40:28  And He will never, ever give up on you. He will seek you until you draw your very last breath and if you acknowledge Him as your Lord and Savior, He will graciously bring you home.

         

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Jesus


 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

For unto us a child is born, unto to us a Savior is given.. Isaiah 9:6a

 

Due to starting a 365 day devotional at an odd time of year, I am now reading messages about Christmas, as I am simultaneously living out some Lenten disciplines. At first I found it a bit odd but then I realized how truly perfect it is.

          Lent focuses us on the saddest, most difficult part of the story. Of course there is the perfectly beautiful happy ending but for these days we are walking through the suffering, sacrificing part, the bleakness. No fun! Here I am putting it beside the images of Baby Jesus, long awaited Savior, just now a little bundle of cooing joy. Odd? Sure but as I said, also perfect because it’s the whole story.

          Jesus came to us to save us from ourselves. As we walk through Lent we think about all that it entails. Yes, Jesus was God but he was also fully man, a very young man, who suffered, without arguing, for sins we’ve committed. It’s very easy to point fingers at the crowd yelling “Crucify him” and at the ones doing the beating and pounding in the nails. Truly, though, those are our voices, our hands, every single time we sin. This is the story I love to avoid. I’m all for reading the after story, the Resurrection part, but I feel myself slowing down as I approach that section of each of the gospels that talks about the torture. It’s just awful!

          It is awful but Jesus did it all. He didn’t shy away or run and he could have done just that. It was always his choice. (John 10:17-18). When that sweet baby was born, he was destined for the Cross and he knew it.

          Reading about Christmas as I walk through Lent, is helping me to see the whole picture, not to just focus on one half, if you will. The suffering and subsequent joy begin with the joy of the birth. The suffering is sandwiched in between two wonderful, amazing events full of love and beauty. Seeing it this way is giving me a greater perspective on life in general. Think of the times that suffering turns into something beautiful. The pain of a woman in labor becomes a baby. Hard work and long hours become a great accomplishment. Horrible medical treatments become a longer, healthier life. Painful braces become an even more beautiful smile. (That one is for my sweet daughter-in-love, Stephanie.)

          Best of all, the awful, cruel, agonizing, difficult simply to read, let alone endure, suffering of our Savior on a Cross, is the fulfillment of the promise of the Babe in the manger. It is the promise of salvation, freedom and eternal life.

          As you walk through this Lent, maybe you could read a few verses about our Savior’s birth. Side by side, it’s all pretty powerful.