Archive for God’s Ways

I imagine most, if not all, of you have had some contact with serious drugs, but have you seen them cause death? That’s where the shock hits home. Yes, it is that fast. No, he almost surely didn’t know the last hit was too much for him. Always, it’s a surprise ending. Never does anyone get to say goodbye.

I started writing this blog a while ago. It began in the shock over Glee actor Cory Monteith’s death. When his autopsy came out, there was the awful truth: heroin and alcohol did this. I remember how my eyes filled up for the unfinished life.

Unfortunately he’s only been one of many. The needle – and its ugly companions – has done its damage over and over again. It has not only made headlines, it has come much closer in my life. Two of my young friends nearly lost “life as we know it” to bath salts. And a dear friend of mine has lost her great-great nephew to some kind of drug overdose, or bad batch, or – no one really knows why, only that he is gone. His family struggles now with a grief beyond words or reason.

That is why I am dedicating this blog to that young man, Eric Oliver, who lost his life before he had a chance to enjoy being an adult. Because as tragic as the Cory Monteiths and the Amy Winehouses are, the person we all want to save is you, the one we love and care about, the one we live with, or work with, or see all the time in our daily lives.

My son came very close to dying from drugs in 2010. It was a terrifying time. And just think – I got off easy. My son lived, and he’s clean now. Eric’s family and loved ones are never going to have the consolation of saying that.

At the time my son told me, “The only person who can stop me from doing drugs is me.” If you’ve ever seen an intervention you know how badly the family wants to make a difference. But it’s true: only the user can stop the chaos. Amy Winehouse singing, “No, no, no,” is a chilling omen of how it would all end because she rejected help.

The Bible doesn’t say specifically, “Thou shalt not do heroin.” So why not take a few drugs? You’ve doubtless been told some sound reasons from society at large: you can get in trouble with the law; you can dim your thinking and derail your education. Those reasons may seem remote. After all, not everyone gets caught by law enforcement. Not everyone loses their way or has addictions take over his or her entire life.

Honesty – Not to Mom and Dad, to Yourself

For starters, when you take drugs, or overeat, or bury yourself in video games, you’re not being honest about what’s bugging you. In the reports about Cory Monteith’s death, drug counselors have said over and over that one month in rehab was not enough to reach down and confront the pain he covered with drugs. How very sad.

God is big on honesty. Jesus even said that He is the Truth (John 14:6). He also said that if we held onto his teaching,

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. – John 8:32

We need to leave behind drugs and other addictions because the hiding has to end – and drugs hide the truth about ourselves.

We’ve All Got Something Else to Do

Then, think about this:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. – Romans 12:2

This gives us two things to do. First, we’re to leave the “pattern” of the way the world (adults as well as teens) deals with life, fears, and worries when they chill out with drugs. And of course, we need to leave a lot of other bad patterns, too – hate, arrogance, anger, and revenge, for instance.

But people who only focus on thinking, “I can’t do this, or that, anymore,” don’t really succeed because their minds are still on that Thing I Shouldn’t Do. God didn’t want to leave us there. We’ve got something positive to do to lead us away from the old pattern: renew our minds thinking about the life God has for us. The way God thinks about the world turns our view upside down, and as we catch on, it’s going to transform us. We can trust God with our past and present hurts in a way we never knew existed before. We can be honest with God and with ourselves. And we can be healed.

I don’t need to tell you that people on drugs aren’t transforming themselves. That dulled and warped thinking and the increasingly sad and scary behavior isn’t a transformation that anybody wants. And it’s like quicksand. When someone finally realizes they’re in it, they’ve already been pulled way down.

The apostle Peter says to be self-controlled and alert (or, in older translations, be sober and vigilant). You can’t have that self-control and alertness when you’re on a mind and mood altering drug. It’s standing in the way of you being honest with yourself and becoming healed and transformed.

And Somewhere Else to Go

You might be saying, but sometimes I just want to run away. We all feel like that sometimes. Peter points to the One you can run to instead, and why:

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. – I Peter 4:7

Jesus is ready for you to come. Click on the song: Arms of Love

You’ve got a place to go so much deeper than any drug. It’s not only a place of hiding; it’s a place to get help.

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. – Psalm 32:7

Don’t hide in drugs. Hide in Him.

My daughter has been monitoring tweets about actor Cory Monteith’s death this weekend. I think it’s been quite some time that a person who was on TV weekly and loved by many teens and young adults has passed away. For them I think this is going to be very hard and significant. They need our prayers. I want to blog about it more to the teens I know later this week.

But in her watching tweets, my daughter found that the Westboro Baptist Church is spewing its vile attitude again, being “Glee-ful” at Cory’s death, and threatening to picket. They don’t represent me at all, and when they are described as Baptists and as a church that really bothers me. I’ve been wanting to say something for a while about them, especially for people who aren’t part of the orthodox Christian community.

This is what I hope you know:

Baptists Are Not All the Same

First, “Baptist” is not a term that always stands for a well organized denomination. There are several good Baptist denominations or confederations between churches that provide checks and balances if needed to the individual churches and pastors. But “Baptist” basically means only that one believes that when a person becomes a Christian he or she should be baptized by immersion in water. It says nothing, really, about how the church lives out its faith.

If you and I wanted to go out right now, buy a building, and start a Roman Catholic parish to run any way we pleased, we couldn’t. We would need to come in line with the denomination and agree to their viewpoint. But if you and I wanted to buy a building and hang a sign that said, “Baptist Church – Come Sunday at 10”, there’s nothing to stop us.

The Westboro Baptist Church is run by one man independently. The condemning things the church says and the picketing and hatred they promote are the teachings of this man. He is in a miniscule minority. Very, very few Baptists would join him on the picket line, and many, many of us would be glad to serve in the lines of “human shields” who protect mourners from what Westboro’s doing. They do not speak for the American Baptists and Conservative Baptists I have known, and I’m sure they don’t impress the Southern Baptists, either. Overwhelmingly they speak only for themselves.

The Matter of Being a “church”

Usually churches are made up of believers from a community. The members share a faith in the essentials of Christianity, but from there, they can be from different cultures, races, and economic classes. The Westboro church is made up almost completely of the relatives of the pastor. That’s an unusual and insular situation, lacking diversity and giving the pastor the powerful dual relationship of religious leader and family patriarch with almost everyone. There’s a proverb in the Bible, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) In other words, my differences of opinion with yours are like two swords sharpening against each other and becoming greater tools to sharpen both our understandings of God and the Bible. The extreme and unquestioned opinions, and the lack of outside community participation, should give anyone pause. A church was never meant to be a closed group.

As It Should Be

people hugging photo: People Hugging group_hug.jpg“>

Although the terms “Baptist” and “church” grate me when used with Westboro, the last thing I hope you know is more important by far:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34 and 35

Below is a beautiful song based on this verse by Christie Knockles:

They Will Know Us By Our Love

This command of Jesus is buttressed by so many parables and incidents in His ministry: the Good Samaritan, the adulterous woman, the injunction not to judge lest you be judged. Accusing people of sins and humiliating them is not the way to go. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their sins far better than we can. We were sent to love as Christ loved us.

The Westboro people may believe that Jesus died for their sins and is their Lord and Savior, and it’s not mine to take that away from them if they say they believe it. But my understanding is far different than theirs. I believe Jesus died not only to take my sins, but so I would have His life and love in me, and because of that, in my life and the lives of other believers this kind of hateful venom would end. Let me say it again:

My Savior hung naked on a cross so that this kind of hatred would stop. It’s that important.

Jun
28

Sweet Sustenance

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Got Honey?

Last time I said how hard it was to have my friend Kristin move out of state. There’s another story to that which is actually funny. It includes what Fly Lady calls a “God-incidence” – one of those coincidences you know the Lord has His purpose in. This time I think God was laughing a little.

On the Friday night before the graduation/going away party, I told this recollection to my daughter: Not long after I graduated from college I was not making much money, and my mother asked me if there was any food I’d especially like to have. I said, “I’d like some honey.” I prefer honey in my tea but as you likely know already, it is expensive. My mother snapped, “That’s not a necessity,” probably because she preferred sugar in her tea. “Well, you asked me what I wished I had,” I countered, but I was still feeling rebuked and as if my feelings had been negated. She did, in fact, include a jar of honey in the groceries she bought me, but by then the sweet treat came with a stinging taste.

We went to the party at Kristin’s, and she gave me the food items she could not take with her on the move. It seems that sometimes Kristin forgets and buys things that she already has. In the bounty she sent home with me were three jars, all half full, of honey. It was as if Jesus was winking at me and saying, “Oh, you want honey? I can supply you with honey and you can forget the sting of the past. I can take care of all your needs.”
honey in jars Pictures, Images and Photos

Honey, Oil, and a lot of Spaghetti

Later I was struck at the particular items I ended up with in abundant duplicates. There was the honey, famously promised to the Israelites:

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – “ – Exodus 3:7 & 8

Milk and honey become the symbols of the affluence that will follow the rescue from their time of need.

Then there was olive oil. A lot of olive oil. I am not going to want for olive oil for quite some time to come. And oil was the blessing Elisha gave to a widow in 2 Kings 4:1 – 7. She had a creditor she could not pay, and he wanted to enslave her two sons as his payment. Elisha sent her to her neighbors to ask for empty jars, and she filled them all from the little bit of oil she had left in her house.

“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’” 2 Kings 4:6 & 7

The miracle of the oil became the means for the widow to pay her debts. What a comforting account of God’s provision.

Finally, there was a lot of spaghetti, nearly nine pounds of it. Evidently I was the beneficiary of some recent sale. I found that the prophet Elijah, too, had multiplied both oil and flour (from which pasta is made) to save another widow and her son from a drought. Elijah asked her for bread, but she told him she had none, just a little oil and a handful of flour for a last meal, after which she expected she and her son would die of starvation. But the Lord had another plan for her.

“Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’ She went away and did as Elijah told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” 1 Kings 17:13 – 16

It must have taken great faith to make that first bread for Elijah, when just before that she had seen it was the end of the bread and oil. But they did not run out until the drought ended! God gave the right provision at the right time. Jesus asked,

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? . . . how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.” – Matthew 7: 9 & 10b

Kristin gave me her groceries, but God gave me His promise. I’m trusting in Him to provide and protect me in the tough times.

Jun
25

Broken for Hope

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June has brought some emotional experiences with some special high school graduations and the departure of one of my dearest friends, Kristin. Kristin and I have been friends for some 18 years, but her family is heading south to Texas. We’ve been getting together over afternoon coffees and catching up on each others’ lives for a long time. Now we are headed to cyberspace in order to keep our friendship on track. Quite a difference from the in person meetings at Dunkin’ Donuts that always ended with a hug and a promise to get together again soon.

The last of the going away parties was combined with the high school graduation party for Kristin’s oldest daughter. There were some people there who I hadn’t seen in years. One was a close friend who had moved to the Midwest. She hadn’t seen me since 2006, when I had gotten divorced, and then only briefly. I told her the truth about how things had been these last six years, and it hasn’t been pretty. She didn’t know how I had fared. My son, who had gone through severe drug addiction and rehab, she remembered only as a young boy. There were so many stories to tell from these hard years.

When I got home that night, I felt the sorrow of all that had gone before and had not gone well. And I felt the burden of those things that still await God’s timing and God’s answers. The words of the song, “Revelation” by Third Day, really hit home:

My life has led me down the road that’s so uncertain
Now I am left alone and I am broken

Roads that never lead me home


“I am broken” resounded within me. All the experiences that had hurt and not yet healed had left me a broken person. Now I believe that I am someone God can heal and use; we all are. But the enormity of all that had gone before hit me so hard that night. Perhaps I had gone from patching up this disaster and that calamity without realizing the whole effect: I had become a broken person in desperate need of God’s help and rest an healing. I needed to understand where I really was before I could arise and act upon His answers.

This time I know that you are holding all the answers
I’m tired of losing hope and taking chances
On roads that never seem
To be the ones that bring me home

So I’m wondering, has this ever happened to you? Have the hurts piled up without your really knowing it? Have you realized the depth of the wound? Before I could bring everything to the Lord, I had to know what “everything” is. I think we all do.

The song verse above talks about losing hope in the plans we make that don’t have God’s blessing. Proverbs 13:12a tells us that a hope deferred makes the heart sick. But false hope is not God’s hope.

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him….” – Romans 4:18

Abraham had been promised a son, but not only a son. This is what had been said to him in Genesis 15:5

“[The Lord] took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Now this would have been quite a promise under any circumstances, but Abraham had before him a very broken situation to assess:

“Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” – Romans 4:19

In other words, neither Abraham nor Sarah were young enough to have children any more. Not one child, let alone as many as the stars in the night sky. But he did not weaken in his faith:

“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” – Romans 4:20 & 21

Abraham’s promise was from God, and he knew God had the power to fix his broken situation. Do we believe God has that power for our own broken situations, or do we worry that we are going to live on, broken forever in this life? I know I could certainly remember His power more and practice remembering it more often than my past or present “breaks”.

This is how the song ends, too. “Revelation” is the singer’s prayer – not to dwell upon the past, not for the strength to do what I think needs to be done, not for me to find my own way, but to ask for the revelation of Jesus’ way.

Give me a revelation
Show me what to do
‘Cause I’ve been trying to find my way
I haven’t got a clue
Tell me should I stay here
Or do I need to move
Give me a revelation
I’ve got nothing without you
I’ve got nothing without you

May
17

Into His Eyes

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Last Sunday my church took communion. One of our elders, Rick Bringhurst, challenged us beforehand to examine our hearts in this way: what if Jesus were sitting across the table from you? I had to smile. It was this very concept that had started my journey toward a deeper spiritual life over twenty years ago.

I’d been at a retreat, and the leader had suggested we close our eyes and imagine a peaceful scene – so far so good – and then Jesus coming and sitting with us in that scene. My reaction was sheer panic. Although I’d been a Christian for some ten years, the thought of Jesus actually being there, sitting right next to me, looking into my eyes, made me want to run. Of course I knew He knows all about each of us, “and even the very hairs of your head are numbered” (Matthew 10:30). But to confront Him face to face? I knew this was totally the wrong reaction. My day-to-day life with God needed some major work.

Into His Eyes


Have you ever heard the word intimacy described as “into me see”? I was really not open to that. My innermost thoughts were strictly my own. That’s how I dealt with people, and that’s how I wanted it with God. But God is not satisfied with that answer. He wants to dwell in our hearts, including the parts we don’t show. And more than that, there were some feelings I had locked away. I was trying to forget, and in trying, was not being honest with myself. God wouldn’t have that dishonesty, either.

Over a period of time, I returned to this idyllic imagery gone wrong. I had to be able to let my Savior see my eyes, and thus, my soul. Those eyes penetrate so deeply! At first I thought he was looking for all my sin, and hence the terror. Eventually I realized that He was looking deep into the good in me. Yes, God deals with our sin, but there was a deeper purpose for the deep intimacy that was not for accusing me. I did not realize in my heart that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

You may want to know why this path thinking was not based more in Scripture, or in searching the Scripture. I knew many passages already that said God loved me, that He was good, that God would never leave us or leave us comfortless. But they hadn’t come off the page for me and into my real life. I knew many of the passages telling of God’s intimate knowledge of us. But would I let Him see into me to that depth? Could I let Him “search me and know me” (see Psalm 139:1)? I certainly haven’t arrived. Even if someone spent hours and hours in deep meditation, with the vastness of the love of God one never could come to full understanding. But it is much better than the young woman who wanted to run away all those years ago.

I am so glad that I was challenged to go deeper with God, to look “full in His wonderful face” as the song says. If this story challenged you or left you startled at the thought of facing Jesus, I encourage you to take the journey, too. Start having the thought of “going to the Lord in prayer” becoming a time to actually sit and be with Him so He can show you who He is – and who you are, too.

May
04

Mystery Revealed

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The Unknown about the Lord and Being Known Ourselves

Last time I blogged I looked at some things which we just don’t understand about God’s ways, and the reasons that things happen in our lives that He doesn’t reveal. Although some things remain a mystery, on the other hand we are completely, utterly known to God.

Is that always comfortable, that God knows absolutely everything about me while I cannot begin to fathom Him? In Psalm 139 King David is completely comfortable with this and finds it beautiful and wondrous.

“O Lord, You have searched me and you know me…You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord.”(Psalm 139:1,3b, 4) David contrasts his thoughts about how well God knows him with verses about how the full knowledge of God is beyond him. And more than that, he rejoices in it. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”(vs.6)

David says that wherever he goes, God will be there, and moreover, He will be there for David. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? . . . 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.” (vs.7,9&10)

If I settle on the far side of the sea

If I settle on the far side of the sea


After David explains how completely the Lord knows his soul, he tells of God’s perfect knowledge of his physical being: “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb . . . Your eyes saw my unformed body.” (Vs.13&15c)

But within these thoughts he again turns to how miraculous and unfathomable God’s works are. “I will praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”(vs.14)

As this section of the psalm ends, David’s praise for God’s immensity and for His closeness to David combine: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with You.” (vs.17&18)

What a promise that is – He is still with us.

The Secret of Living with the Mysteries

What made David so comfortable? He never directly, but I think between these lines is a deep trust of His Lord. Although God reaches beyond that which David could know about or comprehend, David is sure that He can trust His loving Father with all the intimate details of his life. Does trust like that come easily? Not to me. It grows with time, with experiencing God’s love and provision, with reading passages like this that show me David’s utter trust of God. For me, the more I know of God’s care for me, the easier I can live with my unsolved mysteries.

A Prayer of Trust

Finally, there is the well known ending prayer of Psalm 139 verses 23 and 24. It is a prayer of such trust and such an open heart to the God of the universe.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

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Apr
30

Mystery Unsolved

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Is your curiosity piqued by a real life mystery? Some mysteries that have puzzled people the world over have been solved, or are nearing a solution, recently. There’s been no end lately to speculation about the Titanic sinking as we’ve passed the 100th anniversary of the tragedy. One of the newer and most intriguing to me was the theory that weather conditions created a kind of mirage on the horizon that both prevented the crow’s nest from seeing the iceberg sooner and prevented the closest ship, the California, from understanding Titanic’s signals for help.

Other mysteries have been solved definitively. For years all we knew was that author Antoine de St.-Exupery had flown out on a mission in World War II, and his plane was never seen again. Now the wreck has been found. A few years ago the hidden and shameful burial of the Russian royal family was found, ending any possibility that the “Princess Anastasias” who surfaced later were true escapees of the massacre.

I find these unhappy endings especially sad because it stops all the “what ifs” and the hopes for a better, if improbable, conclusion. There was always some comfort for me, however imaginary, that St.-Exupery had once again found that landscape from the end of his book The Little Prince where the little prince had appeared to him, and that his diminutive friend had come back for him, taking away the inevitable fate of an unfound desert crash. And it was wonderful to hope that somehow Anastasia had escaped her family’s fate at the hands of the firing squad.

The Little Prince Landscape


For other people who are perhaps more level headed than I, a mystery is a nagging question that must, at all costs, be solved. It is too insufficient and galling for circumstances to just trail off into the mist. All endings must be completed, and all doubts and incorrect theories put to bed. The true answers settle history for all time, even when the loved ones and people most concerned with those answers are long gone and the conclusions only satisfy the curiosity of onlookers several generations removed.

The Mysteries God Doesn’t Solve

This need to solve all things can spill into Christianity. How much time has been spent making philosophical “proofs” of the existence of God? Or trying to define the Trinity? Or resolving how Jesus could be truly man and truly God? If we’ve come to “know the Lord” we can sometimes feel that we should know everything about Him and be able to explain everything with a concise theological answer. It can be embarrassing if someone asks us a question about God that requires faith because it cannot be explained in a way that fits into our minds.

If a tragedy or difficulties befall us, I think we all wish we knew why. Sometimes the answers unfold for us later on. Sometimes we carry the question with us on through the years. “If you could ask God one thing…” many of us would want the answer to why something unfolded in our lives the way it did.

Remaining Unsolved

Whether our mysteries are theological or personal, we end up confronting the fact that some things God has shared with us about Himself and some things – not. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8 & 9

He is our Father and loves us so greatly, yet He does not tell us everything. His character He reveals to us, His creation, what He has done for us in sending Jesus to die for our sins, but He is not sharing all that He is thinking or doing. The apostle Paul told the Athenians, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23c) The Athenians then learned of God as Creator and Savior that day – but they did not learn all the thoughts of God.

Can We Live with the Mystery?

Perhaps some of you are saying, we have to live with the mystery. There is no choice. At some time or another, we’ve all been advised to spiritually drop our mystery into the Lord’s hands. But accepting this advice is not always easy. If we have theological questions, can we really let it rest that somehow the Trinity is three, and is one? Or that God is Sovereign, and man has free will? Can we let it go that we’ll never know God’s purpose in the car accident that changed our lives forever? By itself, just saying “It’s God’s will” in no way makes it easy to let go.

We live with some of our nagging mysteries better than others. In the course of looking at the vastness about God that we don’t know, I think I’ve found something that made these things easier for King David. Mystery revealed – on Thursday.

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Apr
23

God’s Voice of Truth

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It’s All the Same

Life isn’t any different. Some problems get solved, some are works in progress. The mornings are beautiful; housekeeping is not beautiful, as they always have been. Music still lifts my soul and paying bills does not. Nothing new there. And yet . . . .

Lately depression has been holding me in its sharp little claws like a scared kitten. “ The same, the same,” it whispers. “What you do and who you are or make yourself out to be will not matter. It is all the same, the same . . . .” And who can you be with when you’re such unscintillating company? “Ssseee, they are all busy with their happy lives,” the whisper hisses. “But for you, it is all the sssame . . . .”

The Starry Host

I was leaving a Bible study the other night and looked up to the night sky. As the church is located in a rural area, it’s especially nice to view the clearer, darker sky that I cannot see at home. It reminded me of a well-worn passage of my Bible:

“to whom will you compare Me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of His great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
Isaiah 40:25 & 26

The Voice of Truth

Something utterly, dependably the same, as long as I’ve been looking up, and much, much longer: God overwhelmingly and indisputably controlling the universe. Always and ever the same, always and ever glorious, always and ever in love, always and ever in peace.

Not Only the Big Picture

And I am not careening randomly through this universe. The next verses seem to say, “You see how the universe is firmly taken care of. So, what do you think? Is God not able to reach down from the big picture into your life?”

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and complain, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
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,
and His understanding no one can fathom.
Isaiah 40:27 & 28

When I can’t fathom what seems to be a bottomless pit with no life in it for me, God is saying, “No, look the other way. Look up! No one can fathom the starry host that he can see, and no one can fathom My understanding of events that he cannot see. Look for my power and strength and understanding that you cannot see yet.”

Then God shows His willingness to lift us up and keep us moving from where we are:

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Isaiah 40:29 & 30

My struggle to look up and trust in God’s strength reminded me of Voice of Truth, a modern song that talks about those voices in our minds that pull at us. The depression is “reminding me of all the times I tried before and failed.” But, thank God, “the voice of truth tells me a different story.” Please enjoy that song which I’ve included today, which I especially like because this version has many pictures of the heavens that God has created and cared for.

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Apr
05

What is Truth?

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Good Friday Prayer Request

My sister and I have long had a tradition of each choosing a special person to pray for on Good Friday. There is no question who my person is this year, and the need is so urgent I want to invite everyone to join me. Janice Wray, a beautiful 20 year old Christian woman, was in a terrible car accident on Palm Sunday. She has broken her neck and twisted her spinal cord. She cannot feel her hands or her legs, and doctors do not expect her to walk again. Please pray for her and her family – healing, strength, comfort, however you are led. There is no limit to how our God can work in this situation.

The Gnawing Question

The narrative of the Passion always draws me in, no matter how many times I’ve heard it. So many parts of it go right to the heart of the matter: who is Jesus, and why did He come to us? This exchange from John 18: 37 and 38 is one that hits me hardest.

Jesus answered, “…for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked.

Pilate had a lot of “truth” to balance that day. He had to keep the Roman agenda in mind, but the Jewish leaders had their own idea of truth, and they wanted to entangle him in their plots. Then there is the extraordinary man before him, who began telling Pilate that He was the truth.

Pilate did not see that Jesus was the truth above all the others. With some misgivings he continued trying to balance the false with the true until it led to Jesus’ death sentence. But the disciples, or at least Philip, didn’t comprehend it fully, either. Jesus had just hours before told his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) He is telling them that He Himself is everything they need – an astounding thought. But Philip answers, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” He doesn’t see that the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father. Jesus explains to him, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9b)

Even today I don’t think we always have such an easy time knowing what is truth when we go to live it out. Yes, Jesus is the truth. He tells us the truth of our spiritual condition. He gives us His blood, that becomes our salvation. What about truth in our day to day situations?

Two 21st Century Questions

Last summer someone urged me to walk away from my mortgage. Instead I chose not to believe her claims that the house was worthless and I would never be able to afford it. I fought to keep my house. Was that my stubborn pride, or was I fighting for what I believed God wanted me to have? What is truth?

When my son was on drugs several persons urged me to toss him out of the house. They were sure this would straighten him out and help me regain a peaceful home. I never could do it. Had I done it, he would never have gotten my help to keep him alive when he overdosed. When he came back from rehab, some still felt he should not live with me. My son and I have fought and negotiated and learned from each other over these months. We are closer than we ever would have been because I did not kick him out. What is truth? Was my method just the truth of a sentimental mother or was it a reflection of God’s truth for our situation? It is easy to say now that it seems to have worked out well. I took a lot of opposition for the decisions I made and the stands I took. And remember, those with contrary advice felt they were reflecting godly wisdom, too.

You know many examples from your own life. Things come up, and then what is truth? And is my truth a reflection of His truth?

Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life

This has made me think about the hymn, “Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life,” written by George Herbert, who lived from 1593 to 1633. The music, while sounding characteristic of Herbert’s era, was actually the work of 20th century composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Jesus’ declaration, “I am the way and the truth and the life” ceased being only doctrine to Herbert and became his own truth. He embraced Jesus, calling Him “my way, my truth, my life”. But there’s more. Herbert shows in his verse that he expects the way, the truth, and the life to speak into his life, teaching him and changing how he lives it.

Come, my way, my truth, my life:
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife;
Such a life as conquers death.

Just think: a way that is so easy and light that we breathe peacefully in it; a truth that comes in and settles conflict without and our hearts within; a life that we live knowing “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

I hope in your Easter you find Jesus to be your way, your truth and your life as never before.

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Sep
21

Kindness Instead of Quarrels

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A couple of weeks ago, Michelle was asking me when I’d weigh in about the pastor who wanted to burn Qurans. Although we’re not talking about the pastor in particular anymore, I’ve found a place where I think the Bible weighs in on the controversy – and as always, right down to our hearts, too.

I am reading my way through 2 Timothy, a book I’d have to say I don’t know too much about other than the “famous” verses that pop out. It surprised me to find some thoughts about kindness and gentleness that sound all too a propos for these days.

I have a fondness for those fruits of the Spirit that seem to get lumped together and not discussed – goodness, kindness, gentleness. This started years ago when I was asked to speak on all three for 10 minutes in a presentation on the fruits. Someone put them all together, thinking they were basically the same thing. They are not! I tried to show that in my allotted ten minutes. Then it started me on the lookout to find these qualities in the Bible for the last 25 years.

These are instructions for anyone who wants to be “the Lord’s servant.”

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:23-26

There are two ways to get into a quarrel: you are drawn into one when another person becomes combative, or you pick a quarrel, saying inflammatory things that you know will lead to quarreling. If we’re told to be careful not to get pulled in to a quarrel, we certainly shouldn’t be starting one.

Now, putting “Quran Burning” in huge letters outside a church is an extreme example. (An aside: many bemoaned the attention the media gave the story. I don’t know exactly how they found the pastor, but think about it: he wanted to be found. He was picking this quarrel and hoping to amplify it.) But at home, on the smaller scale, how many times have you heard someone say the “clever” snide remark that is going to humiliate and raise ire? The one that comes to my mind is the “joke” about Adam and Steve, by which some people feel they’ve handily put down their opposition. But then there are the people who say, “Those people who believe in eternal security, they….” or, “those people who speak in tongues, they….” I’ve worshiped with both of “them” over the years. It’s a disgrace to talk about other believers like that. Because

Instead, {the Lord’s servant} must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. – 2 Timothy 2:24b

To be kind to another, we have to be respectful of him as a human being, even if we cannot respect his viewpoint. To be able to teach, we have to know Scripture, not hearsay or smart remarks. To not resent the other person’s religion and what hurtful things that religion may have done, we have to put away our pride. We are not better than the other person or his ideas. We have found Someone better than both of us. Someone who ended quarrels. Someone who was not only kind, but even gentle and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29). Someone whose very name is above any other name – most certainly our names (Philippians 2:9). The very thought of my name compared to His makes me wither. We are supposed to introduce others to that Someone – Jesus – holy and true, not someone combative and prejudiced.

Those who oppose him he must gently instruct – 2 Timothy 2:25a

If you confront a person on any subject, you need to know what your objective is. Are you bringing up your points to bring harmony, or a greater understanding? If your objective is to show the other person “what’s what”, or to make sure they know you are right and they are wrong, then pride is leading the way, not reconciliation.

Here, the gentle instruction is going to lead to evangelism, the opportunity to share who Jesus really is with the person. Posturing and put downs are never going to do it. I doubt that anyone has ever said, “Now that you’ve shredded all my beliefs and made me look like a fool, I want to accept your Jesus.” You realize that’s ridiculous once I’ve said it; do we always realize it when we’re talking to someone?

That they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:26

Paul says the unbeliever is trapped. They have been taken captive, and often have been taught to take more people captive into the same false religion or cult. There’s been an outcry about human trafficking in part because we can see, and hopefully stop, the horrible kidnappers and abusers. Even when people are being belligerent about an ungodly viewpoint, Paul is saying that beneath it all, they are trapped by the real enemy that we do not see. If we could see their captivity, would we argue with them? Wouldn’t we rather work with them gently and try to get them out of there?

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. – Philippians 4:5

Lord, it’s a human failing to want to fight and put down others. Please help us all to be kinder and gentler the next time there is a conflict of opinion and remember it’s an opportunity to show Jesus’ kindness, gentleness and love. Amen.