Let’s see – how many awful things have happened this month so far? There’s the horrible blast in West, Texas at the fertilizer plant. Then there’s the bombing at the Boston Marathon on Monday. About two weeks ago, Pastor Rick Warren’s son took his own life as the ending of his lifelong battle with depression and mental illness. With all of this loss of life and tragedy going on, how can we cope with this and live the life of rejoicing that God wants for us? One of my favorite passages in the Bible addresses this directly. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says that we are to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. My joy is not a matter of how I feel, but is something that I do by faith even when I don’t feel like it. I confess – I don’t feel like it tonight. It’s been a long, tough day. I’m feeling beaten up, and am saddened by all that’s gone on the world and in my personal life. But I can, and will rejoice because I know it’s God’s will for me. If my joy is based on circumstances, then most of the time that will be impossible. But when my joy is based on my faith in Christ, then He will work that joy in me regardless of the circumstances or how I feel. Thank you God for being my joy and strength in spite of everything else!!
Somehow I have allowed this blog to be linked to from my church’s new web site. I guess that means I have to post to it more than annually. Yes – this is exactly one year to the day from my last “real” post to this blog! Twitter stuff doesn’t count. In fact, I removed a whole bunch of those this morning. Please be patient with me as I relearn the art (and skill) of communications. My prayer is that something that I post here might be used by God in some way for someone. My life is totally different from where I was one year ago today. I’m in a different state – literally! I’m at a new church, in a new role. Rather than make one huge post to catch up, I’ll parcel it out as it becomes worth telling. Right now, I need to get ready to actually play golf for the first time in a very long time. It will hopefully not be too terribly embarrassing. Then tomorrow our church celebrates its 10th anniversary. Catch up with you much sooner!
Wow – it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything! That doesn’t mean that nothing’s happening. As a matter of fact, it’s probably the opposite. God has been doing all kinds of things, and it would take way too long to even list them. Let me share, hopefully briefly, what God spoke to me through today’s activities.
In our men’s group this morning, we were talking about the example of Job in the Bible. That’s one of my favorite books! Little did I know how that would come into play later in the day. After a very productive meeting about the startup business I’m working on, I got a call from one of the churches I’d had a couple of interviews with. Instead of finding out what the next step was going to be, I was told that they were going to pursue someone else and that I was no longer a candidate. Crushed is probably the most accurate word I can come up with for how I felt. All of the air had been let out of my balloon, and I felt totally deflated.
So what’s the usual first reaction when something like this occurs? Probably to question why a loving God would let something like this happen. Doesn’t He know how perfect I was for that position, and how excited Kelly and I were to be part of that church? I will confess to starting down that road. It hurt. A lot! And I was feeling pretty worthless and useless. Now, I do know from past lessons on this subject that when God closes a door, it’s because that’s not the one He wants us to go through. I learned that the hard way too. So how to deal with this setback, in a string of generally negative things happening?
The answer was in looking at Job’s example. He started off great in handling his trials. Then he started to feel sorry for himself, and that God was the source of his problems. His friends gave him some pretty shabby advice, and he started to give in and go along with them. Thankfully, God called him to attention, and spoke truth clearly to him. Job finally heard and saw God for who He really is; not the author of the troubles in our life, but the one who unconditionally and eternally loves and cares for us. What a revelation!
Now, you would think that Job had negotiated with God for a solution to his painful health issues, and the return of all the wealth he had lost. Not the case at all. His surrender was simply to God as He is, and not for what He could do for Job. Whether God would be gracious to Job both physically and/or financially was not on his mind. He now knew God, which was much more that just hearing about Him (Job 42:5-6). The fact the God restored him far beyond what he had before is after the fact.
We need to remember that God’s love for us is independent of the circumstances we find ourselves in, and is totally trustworthy and continuous. As we allow God to change our hearts so we can really see and know Him, then how we view our circumstances will change. If our circumstances change, God still loves us. He may allow us to persevere in difficult conditions, or He may move to make them better, but He loves us through all of it. We just need to keep our focus on Him and not the circumstances.
I’ll admit it – I love the Super Bowl. Not so much the hype and hoopla, but definitely the game and the commercials. And getting together with friends and/or family for a special afternoon of football, food, and fun.
Two things really struck me this year, and they fall along the same path. First, in watching some of the pre-game interviews with current and former players, it was obvious that “being a champion” was the most important thing in their professional careers. It was “the” goal that they all aspired to. In their minds, it defined who they were and what their career accomplished.
Second was a statistic that I was reminded of again in the sermon this weekend. Over 95% of all Christians have never led another person to a saving relationship with Jesus. I’ve been aware of this for a long time, but somehow the connection with this particular weekend hit me in a different way. This is not exactly the statistic of “champions”, now is it?
Here are the questions I’m wrestling with today, in light of yesterday’s game: (1) As Christians, what do we aspire to do with our time here on earth? In what way to we want to be “champions” for Christ?, (2) How important is our relationship with Christ to us? How well do we know Him? Are we in love with Him enough to tell someone else about the grace, love, and eternal life that are found only in Him?
In the lives of people all around us, it’s the “Super Bowl” every day. God is looking for you and me to step up, be “champions”, and tell someone about what the King of Kings can do for them today. We don’t know exactly what’s going on in their life – that’s why we have the Holy Spirit helping us. We do know what Jesus Christ has done for us, and about the eternal future we have with Him. All we have to do is share that. Anyone who says “no” to that is not rejecting us, since we’re not the one offering the free gift. Let’s be “champions” today, and tell people about something much more eternally exciting than a football game!
For those of you who looked at my blog the past few days, and saw nothing but a blank screen, I humbly apologize! Being the technology professional that I am, when an updated version of my WordPress “theme” was released, I thought I should apply it. And then everything sort of went downhill from there. First mistake – I didn’t go back and check the blog to make sure the update worked correctly. I believed what it said when the process “completed successfully”. Bad, bad, BAD! Always check! I knew that… Second mistake – I didn’t back up before I updated. Again, you would think that I know better by now! With no working copy to restore to, I may be in for a bit of work to get back to where I was before. Good thing that my modifications were not too extensive.
For the moment, I’ve got a new theme up and running. Who knows, maybe this was God’s way of telling me that my old one was due for a change. Even the professionals make mistakes from time to time. We just need to let God use those mistakes to make us more like Him each day. Have a glorious one!!
I’m reading M’Cheyne One Year Reading Plan at YouVersion.com. Check it out. Start the New Year right! http://read.ly/r/O
This is by far the most beautiful baby girl in the world. Absolutely no doubt about it! I’d like to introduce my granddaughter, Abigail Elizabeth Hart. She was born December 9 at 11:52 PM, weighing 8 pounds, 7 ounces, and was 20.5 inches long. God watched over her during the delivery, since the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck three times. The doctor had to quickly cut it as she was coming down the birth canal. All is well at this point, and she is a healthy young lady just starting out her life journey. Her parents, David and Krista, are beginning to adjust to being parents. Some day they will get a full nights sleep again. We’re so excited to be her grandparents, and to be able to watch our son become a great dad.
The wife of a fellow pastor I served with has been battling cancer for the last eight months. That in itself is something that I sometimes have a hard time truly understanding. Today, it appears that they made the decision to bring her back home, and await either the working of God’s miraculous healing power, or her complete healing when she goes home to be with Him. Again, this is almost beyond my ability to comprehend. As I look at tomorrow being “Thanksgiving Day”, I’m thinking that we really have this wrong. Every day should be a day for giving thanks to God for all that He has blessed us with. The apostle Paul exhorts to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) So as hard as this may be, I’m giving thanks for Tammy and Gerald, and what God is now doing and will do in their lives. Nothing is too hard for Him! And His peace truly passes all understanding!
On the flip side of this, we are awaiting a call any minute that our daughter-in-law Krista has gone into labor. She’s due on November 30 to deliver our beautiful new granddaughter Abigail (Abby for short). There are still lots of things related to her delivery to pray for, but we know that God has this planned for His glory. We’re super-excited to have a grandchild to spoil! This one is much easier to give thanks for.
So I guess this goes to show that Job had it right, when he exclaimed “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21). I know that I have learned a lot over the last few days of what is really means to give thanks.
Like many, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last day watching the rescue of the miners in Chile. The thought of being trapped for 17 days before being discovered, and then waiting another 52 days for the actual rescue, is something that’s hard to even conceive. When we look at some of the problems we face, and get so worked up over, they shrink to insignificance by comparison. Maybe we should focus on being thankful we’re alive today, and that all of our problems are completely understood by God. I think we need to follow the exhortation of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which says “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” And let’s also give thanks to God for the safe rescue of those miners. What a miracle! [I also saw a video this afternoon on MSNBC with a good friend of ours, whose company drilled the hole that was used for the rescue. That is awesome to have someone we know very well involved in this amazing story!]
Okay – so I lied! Well, not exactly. My plan WAS to post a lot more on my blog since I thought I would have the time to do it. It turns out that this unemployment gig can keep you pretty busy. They way I’ve explained it is that I’m “working full-time looking for work”. That’s pretty much true. Actually, it’s like most anything else where you work from home. You almost never have time off. And there are more distractions than if I had to go to an office somewhere. In any case, I’m still plugging away at discovering what God has in store for us next. There are a few little projects I’ve got going on the side, and we’ll see if any of them bear fruit (meaning produce dollars). I was going to “promise” to start posting more, but then given my track record it’s probably better that I leave that alone for now.