Tuesday, October 31, 2017

When Men's Words Fail us

from The Expositor's Study Bible, commentary on Exodus 28:26, page 162
I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

Psalm 130:5

Have you ever gone through something and people tried to say things to comfort you but it didn't help? Maybe you faced the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a marriage, were fired from a job or in some other way had your heart ripped out.

I have, and I also have been one trying to offer support to someone going through this very thing. In so many ways, I was told that talk of doctrines or even the imminence of the Rapture was not really being helpful at that particular time.

What does help when everything is stripped away, when all our hopes and dreams are torn out from under us?

It is in these times that the simple comforts of Scripture helps pierce the thick darkness.

Words like:

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10
..for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Heb. 13:6
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

Not words from the philosophies of men that make you feel like you have to live up to something but only to live unto Someone.

Words that do not help you to put confidence in your own flesh or in the flesh of any person on earth.

Words that remind you that when everything is swirling in a mass of confusion all around you, you can be sure of this ...

GOD does not lie.

God does not change.

His promises are true.

Therefore we cling to them even in the darkest night of our soul.

We  think on Jesus, who went through the darkest night of all souls, faced hell and came back triumphant because His Father raised Him from the dead, never to die again, death has no power over Him.

We can remind ourself, even when we are in the thick of battle, that Jesus Christ won and no power of hell, no, not even on Halloween night can steal that victory back.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? I Cor. 15:57

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. II Cor. 5:17

That is how God sees us, even when we only see our wretchedness.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What I Wished I'd Said

Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

My high school alumni page on facebook contained sad news yesterday. A classmate of mine, aged 55, succumbed to cancer. Regret washed over me as the news took me back to fourth grade, out on the playground of my elementary school.

One bright sunny day felt more like a thunderstorm gushing over my head as some boys were making me the laughingstock of the day. It was probably due to the fact that I was not well coordinated. My whole year wasn't going well. I was having trouble making friends. How I wished I could disappear. School felt like prison. (That same year my gymteacher told me I gave him a heart attack when I tried to jump the hurdles.) 

But one girl from my class courageously stood up for me, told the bullies to stop bothering me, and chased them away. I felt so ashamed, but there was one person willing to do what was right, who helped me out when I needed a friend. I felt so grateful to her for sticking up for me. I still see it play out in my mind.

At the time we lived in the same neighborhood. I remember her being in classes with me in fifth and sixth grade and we were friendly with each other, not best friends but friendly. When middle school rolled around, the population of the seventh grade was at least three times higher than it had been in elementary school and we simply lost touch. It pretty much stayed that way for the rest of high school. I didn't even know many of the close to 800 people I graduated with back in 1980.

How I wish that I had reconnected with her, and told her how much I appreciated her for standing up for me when no one else would. Seeing news that she'd passed from a brave, brief battle with cancer hit me with its finality. When I read her obituary I saw that she also had stayed local and even went to the same university I did, though our paths never crossed there. The chance to ever say thanks now is gone. Maybe someone reading this might understand how hard it is to be a victim of bullying. Now, it seems it is more pervasive as there are increased ways to bully: social media, texting as well as on the playground, on the bus, or any other myriad of ways kids find to make the lives of others a living hell.

To others who also were bullied, if anyone stood up for you, you might want to say thank you, tell them how much you appreciated their act of kindness.

Our life is so brief. Tomorrow's not guaranteed. If there's something you have been meaning to say, by all means say it before it's too late. And if you can stick up for someone who's the underdog, you might just save their life.

Thank you Kim, for sticking up for me. I hope we will meet again on the other side.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Letting Go

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away...   Eccles. 3:1,6

It's come down to this: a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away. Saying goodbye to Mom and Dad's home hasn't been easy. Many trips with the Blazer filled, sometimes to Goodwill and sometimes to my kids, and many times to my house. My sisters and I have had days filled with backaches and dusty, dirty clothes after bringing long forgotten memories from the attic in Dad's barn. I now have plenty of extra plates and dishes, toy tractors and an extra sweeper to boot. More pictures, more books and more memorabilia that made up the life of my parents. All just stuff, though, and will not bring back the man we called Dad or the times we spent there in the past.

The house is nearly empty, all the tractors hauled away and it's been almost one year since Dad fell in a hunting accident. So much work in one year's time, coming to the tough decision to move Mom to the home and breaking down the house took an emotional toll on all three of us.

There was something painfully beautiful about it, a place where you could sit and meditate on the wonders of God's creation. And yet the "time" has come...to let it go now.

Last night we had a bonfire and cookout with Mom's wonderful neighbors. We retired the flag from the flagpole and said our goodbyes to a tiny piece of heaven on earth. It  hurt to look at the beauty of the country as I drove around up there and observe the rolling hills, the patches of farmland and hearing the sweet birdsong.  But....but, this is still  a fallen world. One look at the headlines and I know this is not Paradise, not yet. We have a better place to look forward to. Rocky Ridge in all its glory still had nasty invaders like stinkbugs, mice and spiders. It's time to move forward from a season of casting away and look to eternity.

"If only we could keep it in the family somehow," I still  mused last night while gazing heavenward. But life does not promise us a piece of land or even ending the way we think it will.

That's OK, we have something so much better to look forward to.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.  Hebrews 11:13-16

We're pilgrims passing through. We belong to a better country. A place where no corruption, no decay, no death and no more night will ever make us sigh again. We're headed for Eternal day and no need of the sun there for the Lamb of God will light the universe.

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. Ps. 37:25

As we say goodbye to memories, I realize I'm next. My kids will be deliberating on how to care for me, how to keep me safe. And yes, they will have to sort through my "stuff." I hope I can pare it down somehow, make their job a little easier.

I thought about the lyrics in the song "Hurt" by Trent Reznor, made famous in Johnny Cash's swansong video. It says "you can have it all, my empire of dirt..."  I worked in the attic, and attempted to sweep over twenty years worth of the accumulation of dust.  My fingernails became coated black with debris as we cleared out the last of the leftovers: tractor parts, tools, pictures and slides from the 50s and 60s. 

Life is brief. All that's left is our "empire of dirt."  That's what it comes down to. The only stuff I'll  keep when it's time to pack my suitcase is God's Word inside. Everything else will be cast away.

Help me God. Let my daily prayer simply be:

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Ps. 90: 12

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Hope for the Suffering

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
that no flesh should glory in His presence.  I Cor. 1: 27-29

Just when I needed a gentle touch from the Lord, He blessed me beyond my dreams today.  I drove this gloomy morning to the assisted living center where Mom lives, feeling nervous and unsure of myself. Today was the first day I was to lead a small devotion time with some of the residents. It's to be once a week, but at the time I didn't know how it all would turn out. When I walked into Mom's room, she looked glum herself and said she didn't think anyone would come. But I didn't have time to stew over it, I needed to start knocking on some doors and inviting people.

The first door I knocked on was a couple doors down from Mom's. "Stan" was laying on his bed but when I asked him if he would like to come he got up right away and thought it would be a good idea. I knocked on another door, and thought at first he hesitated, "Jeff" said he would come along too.

"Not too bad," I thought, "At least there will be two others." I led them down to the room behind the big dining hall and started pouring coffees for people. An aide asked me if there were others. I thought of a couple more people and soon there were three ladies and two men, plus Mom and I.

For our meetings I will use my book, Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering  for our time together. Each of the forty chapters shares about a believer who suffered in some way, but overcame through God's promises.Today we naturally did Chapter 1 which concerned George Mueller, a true prayer warrior, orphanage founder, and preacher of the Word of God. I found myself not just reading the chapter word for word, but interacting with the sweet residents as we all sat around the table together. Smiles and bright eyes encouraged me that somehow God could use something small like this to help spread a little joy, a little hope.

I could tell the residents enjoyed hearing about Mueller, who is a true hero of the faith. One of the Scripture references from the chapter was from John 3 where Jesus talked to Nicodemus about being born again. I read the passage and the Holy Spirit prompted me to discuss what it meant to be born again, to look away from yourself trying to be good and to believe in the Finished Work of our perfect Savior, receiving His gracious gift of salvation.

When I said that we could not be good enough I looked over and there was Stan with tears in his eyes. He then stated that he was going to "try hard" to keep himself in the faith. I said that if he believed, then God the Father would hold him in His hands and no one could ever snatch him away.I had a feelling of joy telling about the gospel really being good news, that Jesus Christ came down here and lived a perfect life on our behalf and took all our sins on His body on the tree.  To have the residents listen and respond was icing on the cake.

When we closed our time, Stan started humming  Amazing Grace. He was a music teacher and plays the piano beautifully. Outside our room there  is a piano where he plays regularly so I asked him if he would play it for us. Without any hesitation, he wheeled over in his wheelchair and played it. We sang together and hearing the voices singing was among the most beautiful sounds I've ever heard.

I felt so blessed that God gave me this small opportunity to share the Word with  precious people who might sometimes feel forgotten. I'm not famous, but God opened a door for me to write my book and to share its  message of hope. Three weeks today will be the first anniversary of my father passing from this life into eternity. If he hadn't encouraged me and pushed me, Sure Mercies might not have beenbready to share with others.  How often he told me that it needed to come out because people needed to hear it. All  we see around us reveals just how desperate we are. Without Christ, there are no answers for the chaos in this world. But with Him, there is hope.

If you are born into this world at one time or another you will suffer, but with God's provision there is always  hope for the suffering.

 God 's promises affected forty people's lives, helping them not just to survive but to be overcomers. I think Dad would have been happy about today. Even if I am only one small person, I am helping to share the best news with people who long to hear it. A colaborer in the Kingdom of God.

If you happen to read this blog today and are not sure if you have believed in Jesus, you can be right now, wherever you are. Crazy times are upon us, but God's promises are sure and every one of them will be fulfilled. Jesus' promise to Nicodemus can also be His promise to you:

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
"that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."   John 3: 14-17