Sunday, November 25, 2018

About Doubts



God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites; ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14

In the course of my faith walk, I have been asked if I have doubts. Uh, yes! There are often follow up questions. What about when this happens? Why do you think that happens? Why does God, a loving God, allow [fill in the blank]? More often than not my answer to the follow up questions is that I simply don’t know. While I love being God’s ambassador, a witness to his unending, enormous love, grace and power, I do not pretend to understand him fully or even semi-fully.  This I know, God is real. His love is real. He is absolutely in my corner and if you will invite him in, he will absolutely be in your corner.

I know that I am saved by grace, by the all-encompassing sacrifice made by Jesus on the Cross. Much like my brothers in faith before me, I have doubts and I take great comfort in Matthew 28:17. “When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.”

These were men who spent three years walking alongside Jesus day after day. They saw him feed thousands of people with a child’s lunch. They saw him heal people nearly dead and restore life to those already dead. They watched as he literally scared the devil out of a few people. They saw him walk on water and one of them took a few steps on that lake himself.  And they doubted.

I was told my child, if he lived, would have brain damage. That “child” is a grown man now with more than one advanced degree, two children (and one on the way) of his own, a lovely wife and a nice career. He is not only alive but actually quite intelligent. My challenge in raising him wasn’t that he was limited, it was that I was. I couldn’t keep up with his questions. Please understand, there was no Google then.  Paul is one of many miracles in my life for sure but still, I doubt at times.

Doubting is a human reaction. When things don’t go our way, we doubt God’s love. When things seem too big, we doubt God’s power. That is normal. It’s uncomfortable at least and terrifying at worst, but normal.

The best moments for me are the ones, in good times, bad times or just ordinary times when I am overwhelmed by the truth of God, his power and sovereignty. Those moments of clarity, of realizing that not only is God who and what he says he is but that he is all of those things for me, are transcendent.

God is God and I am not. I am however, his child, chosen, forgiven, free and dearly loved. Allow the doubtful moments and don’t panic over them. They make the moments of certainty that much sweeter.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Sharing Joy


 
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news
that will cause great joy for all people.
Luke 2:10
Christmas music! I love it. It’s playing in my house now that Thanksgiving is over. It’s been playing in stores for a few weeks now. Technically it shouldn’t be playing anywhere yet. It isn’t Christmas. It isn’t even Advent but the world isn’t so much concerned with those facts, so there’s jingling bells and reindeer paws and ho ho hoing everywhere. Do you know what else there is everywhere? Joy, Jesus, light, angels and hope. Everywhere!

What happens is that all kinds of public places put on “Christmas” music and while five songs may be about grandma’s untimely demise, cookies or bells at least one or two in the mix are going to be about the actual point of Christmas, which is Christ. I love it! All of those people who choose to actively avoid any connection with Jesus are now wittingly or not, singing about him.

Think about it. You’re walking through the crowded, of course it’s crowded it’s November, store and you find yourself singing “Joy to the World” or “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” or even  “Carol of the Bells” and you realize that the people around you are humming or singing along as well.  Happy people, relaxed people, cranky people, tired people, people of all attitudes and all belief systems are singing, wittingly or otherwise about Jesus.

Isn’t that exactly what we need? How wonderful would it be if even one person in each store in the world, one person who has never considered a life with Christ, finally heard the words, “let earth receive her King” and thought, I’d like to receive that King? Wouldn’t that be great! Think about your own town. How many stores do you have? How many are playing Christmas music? Now multiply that by towns and cities all over the world, anywhere Christmas is celebrated. Wow! If even one person in each store heard the message of the coming Savior, that would be huge. Is that person going to keep that message to himself? No! You know that starts the conversation.  “Have you ever thought about this?”

Let’s make that our Advent prayer. Pray that at least one person in every store hears the message of the coming Savior, of the joy of the Lord of hope and receives it in his or her heart.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Such A Mess


 
Lord you are my God: I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago. Isaiah 25:1

What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:4

I just read a quote that says, “God is at work in the mess. That’s the message of the Bible.”  Isn’t that great? If you don’t feel, at least sometimes, like a bit of a mess, please contact me. I really want to learn your secret. Personally I more often than not feel a bit like a mess, a productive mess, a loveable mess but I mess all the same.

I am very fond of the verses in Romans where Paul talks about his behavior. “For I do not do the good I want to do—but this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:19 In my quiet time in the morning, after any time of prayer, I feel pulled together, ready to obey with alacrity, ready to be “good.”  Unfortunately, much like Paul, it doesn’t take long before I find myself doing something I shouldn’t or not doing something that I should. In other words, I’m a mess.

It is so comforting to know that God indeed, loves this hot mess. I even have a t-shirt that says so. I often quote Beth Moore and imitate her twang saying, “God is still working on me.” He is! And for that I am truly grateful.

We all mess up, neglect what is important, stated baldly, we find ourselves in sin more often than we feel we should. That’s okay as long as you don’t let those failures defeat you. God is at work in this mess, the mess that is an individual, an organization, a church and even in nations. As long as we invite him in, God will show up and he will work on us. (Revelation 3:20)

Don’t despair or panic or worst, walk away from God if you feel like a mess. Run into his open and forgiving arms. No matter what you’re facing, doing or feeling today, know this: God is at work and he doesn’t make mistakes. There is light at the end of the tunnel, hope in all circumstances and love to cover it all.

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Game of Chase


 

 
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
if I go up to the heavens you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are
there,
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:7-10
 

My granddaughters Faith and Isabelle are just five weeks apart in age and are both just became teenagers. Somehow this milestone in their lives reminded me of the days when they were just two years old. They discovered a game they just loved. It was their own version of chase. They ran together across the kitchen and straight to the utility room door. They squealed with delight when they reached the door and then ran back again. Every now and then there was a little twist that sent the game in a different direction. That happened when the door wasn’t tightly closed. Two little balls of energy hurled themselves against the door and bam! It opened! Suddenly the hurling and racing screeched (literally) to a halt and the two balls became two sprawled lumps on the floor. Here is where our granddaughters differed greatly.

 Isabelle was immediately offended, first that the door would deceive her and disappoint her in such an ignominious way and then that the fall would actually hurt. In that state she cried, pitifully and someone scooped her up.

 Faith was irritated. That door had one purpose in the game and that was to produce a satisfying thump when she and her cousin landed against it. To swing open allowing them to crash to the floor and not produce the noise was unacceptable. She did however completely enjoy the thrill of falling and watching Isabelle go with her. She was heartbroken when Isabelle cried though and she got impatient at the interruption in the game.

 In that little game our girls demonstrated faith in different ways. They first counted on the door to remain closed and constant, to provide a boundary for them and to participate, albeit indirectly, in the game. They also counted on each other to continue and on the adults in their world to scoop them up if need be.

 Where could they go out of our reach? The game proved that they could not go beyond our ability to save them. If they ran and fell they will be lifted up. They counted on each other and each one came through. The door wasn’t always co-operative and yet they believed each time they rammed their human missile selves against it that it would hold. They were shocked if the door opened and even more so if there wasn’t a willing and able adult standing right there. In those moments Faith ran to find help, “Bisabelle is crying!” She announced with a tone that says, “What are you doing that is more important than helping us?”

 There was no doubt in either of their young minds that boundaries are important and help would come. If they had chosen to, they could have run through the whole house but that opened up more hazards. Once the door swung open, they could have escaped at least as far as the utility room but they didn’t. They waited for order to be reestablished and then they continued the game.

 Watching them I learned that I can run and crash into problems all day long or I can lift my hands to my God who will save me. We are blessed to have a God that provides “doors” that will protect us and one who will also scoop us up when we fall through. We are also fortunate to be loved in a way that will never fail. There will always be a hand to save.

 The girls are older now and not as quick to run to adults for help and quite frankly, as their problems grow, we sometimes can’t truly help them. We, the adults in their lives, have let them down or we will.  Our Father never walks away from our “game.” He never lets us down. Instead He stands firm and nowhere we go is out of His sight or reach. For our part all we need is to emulate two year old Faith and Isabelle’s approach and rely on God’s providence.

 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Run, Dodge, Jump


 

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:14

 
The children in my class love to do an activity called, “Run the Red Carpet.” It’s geared to getting them up, out of their seats for a couple of minutes to help them refocus.  The object is to get down the red carpet in spite of obstacles in the way. There are commands to jump, duck, dodge to the left or right, all along the way. This morning while praying for direction I thought of that little activity.
 
We are called to walk on the narrow path to life in Christ. The path is identified as narrow but not as smooth. I am often bothered by pastors or Christians in general, who suggest that once we’ve chosen to take the journey with Jesus all will be well. Not true! All will be protected (Psalm 91), all will work for our good (Romans 8:28) but all will not be well.

The path we walk with Jesus is full of potholes and obstacles, just like my kiddos red carpet. Jesus said so himself, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33a The good news is that just as the video for the red carpet gives the viewer directions, Jesus gives us direction.

If you feel like you are on the path full of potholes and obstacles, go to the Scripture for guidance. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Jesus was kind of enough to warn us that the path isn’t smooth or necessarily straight. He was also more than kind, more than merciful, very gracious, to leave his Spirit here with us to help us know when to run, to duck or to dodge.

 Stay on the path, no matter how difficult it becomes but don’t try to do it without help.