Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Another thing we have seen a lot of is a search for where we place the blame. Many have pointed their fingers at an American society that puts very few limits on guns. Their feeling is that if we put tougher restrictions on gun ownership, these things will not happen. Others, on the opposite end of the spectrum, believe that had the school principal been armed when she went out to confront the assailant, it could have ended right there. There are some religious leaders who point a finger at a society that has systematically removed God from the schools, from the work place, from anywhere that is considered a public place but is not a place of worship. And yes, there are many who place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the politicians. They believe that politicians that no longer seem to have any desire to work together on any front have led our country down the tubes. Nothing gets done because partisan politics in this country has died and drug this country down to the grave with it. The moral compass of our politicians on every side of the political spectrum has so decayed that the citizenship they have been charged with leading has followed their lead and thus the country, as a whole has no moral compass. There are fingers pointing in other directions as well. It seems each side has passionate arguments, and to a certain degree there appear to be valid points for each consideration.
Like much of the rest of this country, I have struggled greatly with what took place on Friday, December 14, 2012. I have also struggled with who to blame. As I stated earlier, I suppose that to a certain degree, each of the areas discussed above have some merit when it comes to blame. But could it be that the lion’s share of the blame lies somewhere else entirely? As I have thought about it over the past several days, my mind keeps going to the same area for who is ultimately to blame. Please understand that it really pains me to write this, but I believe that the church is to blame. That’s right, the church. By the church, I want to clarify exactly what I am talking about. I am not talking about any specific church, nor any specific denomination. That being said, I do want to be a little more specific. The church I am referring to is the evangelic church as a whole. That group of individuals, nationwide, that profess to be Bible believing Jesus followers. We have put our faith and trust in Jesus, rarely miss a Sunday and are even in the habit of serving in some capacity.
Perhaps as you read this you are thinking to yourself, these folks sound like they are pretty sharp individuals, how could they possibly be blamed? Allow me to answer your question with a question. What are we, as Bible believing Jesus followers called by God to do? Yes, I understand that we have been given several directives, but I would like to highlight 2, 2 directives given by God to us that, if we follow whole heartedly, have the potential to make such an impact that it may even stop our own Newtown, CT experience. So what are these 2 directives? Well let me show them to you, lets look at Luke 10:25-37. I’m pretty sure you will be very familiar with this story. It is The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
While the lawyer asked Jesus “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answer was to give him a vivid picture of what a real neighbor looks like. After giving him that picture Jesus simply asked; “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
So what does this parable have to do with Newtown CT? As I am in the habit of doing, let me follow that question with another question. A pretty telling question, and in my own case a pretty convicting question. Actually the question has already been asked, it was asked by the lawyer who was addressing Jesus in Luke 10:25-37. And who is my (your) neighbor? Who are your neighbors? What do they do enjoy doing with their free time? What are they like? What are the chances they would knock on your door if they really needed someone to talk to? Ok, I get it; this wasn’t 1 question but several questions. The point is, if the majority of us were to answer this question honestly, we don’t really know the answers to most of those questions. When we arrive home from work, or shuttling the kids around, or from our errands or…….or from church. We push the button to open the garage and before we are out of the vehicle the garage door is on its way down. We relax on our back deck rather than a front porch. Sure, most of us may not have a front porch, but to be truthful, chances are even if we had a front porch we would still go to the back deck. We like our privacy. But there is a problem with this. God has not called us to be saved into seclusion. He has called us to be saved into the mission field. The “Jerusalem” Jesus is referring to in Acts 1:8 for us, is right where we live. Not just our neighborhoods, it where we work, where we go to school, the places we go for recreation. It’s where we live out our lives’ on a day to day basis.
Let’s go back to Newtown, CT. What do you suppose are the chances that Adam Lanza had people in his neighborhood that were Bible believing Christians? Let’s not limit this to just his neighborhood. Really, shouldn’t we include others he came in contact with on a regular basis? Now let’s go back to you and me, our “neighborhood”. Could there be an Adam Lanza living near us? I would imagine that if each of us really put some thought into it, we could come up with someone who is similar in a lot of ways to Adam Lanza; quiet, a loner, sort of strange, maybe a little backward. We have seen them walk by our house a few times, usually we kind of turn the other way, or go back inside the house or garage, pretend to be busy doing something, anything, anything but smile and say “Hi” or “How’s it going?” They kind of scare us, perhaps rightly so. But is that how God has called us to react? Much of the time Jesus seemed more at home with the sinners than He did the religious. It also seemed the sinners gravitated towards Him, but not because He did what they did, not at all. It was because He accepted them, He loved them. He didn’t look down His nose at them, didn’t mumble under His breath about them or think to Himself, “What a loser!”
In our circles, you can’t be much more of a loser that The Woman At The Well. She was a half breed who had lost count of how many men she had slept with. She was filth through and through, but before Jesus was done with her she was clothed in His righteousness. Shouldn’t that be our desire for the Adam Lanza’s God brings us into contact with? I know, we may not be able to reach them no matter how hard we try, but shouldn’t we at least try? What a fool David was to go to battle against a giant who was covered in body armor, had a sword, shield and spear, when David had nothing more than a sling and 5 stones…… But you know what? David knew that the God whom he served could direct his stone to the perfect spot. He didn’t approach Goliath in fear and trembling, he ran towards him like a man possessed. Guess what, he was a man possessed. The Bible tells us that David was a man filled with the Spirit of God…..he was a man possessed. Don’t we serve the exact same God? So since we do, let’s start serving Him fully and making a difference in our “neighborhoods”.
We have got to get to the point where we stop searching for who to blame when things happen like what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT and start, as individual believers, taking responsibility to do whatever it takes so that when Jesus looks our direction He can say of us that we have proven to be a neighbor. Who knows what God may do through our willing and available hearts? We could very well be an important tool in the hands of the Master Craftsman that changes a life destined for utter destruction into a life of eternal significance. We may be the one used of God to stop a potential Adam Lanza, not with a gun, or our religion, or our political stance, but with the unconditionally love of Jesus Christ that is flowing through us.
Perhaps you don’t struggle in the areas I addressed below. To be honest, this was written as much to me as it was to anyone else. However, if what I wrote struck a chord with you. Let’s do some brainstorming now. What can we do to do better? What are some steps we can take? I know for me and my family, we need to purpose in our hearts to make a difference in our “Jerusalem”. That place where God has placed us. What about you, I would love to hear your thoughts. Jim
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
We all watched in utter astonishment as that second jetliner crashed into the side of the World Trade Center. Tears rolled down my cheeks, when in horror, I saw the first of the 2 towers collapse into a huge pile of rubble. Never in a million years could you have convinced me that those things would take place in such a short period of time in a country not in the midst of war. But the sad truth is, they did. It wasn't a nightmare you wake up from. It was a reality you live through. It was a reality you weep through. It was a devastating reality such as we have never seen before, and I pray to God, we will never see its kind again. Destruction like this has the ability to bring about a demoralizing devastation that plummets those who experience it into a despair that they are powerless to recover from.
Can I ask you an important question right here? Have you ever experienced tragedy of this magnitude? I now live in Overland Park Kansas. Well over a thousands miles from New York City. While I wept at the sight, its devastation to me was not first hand, though that could be around the corner. But my 41 years has not escaped great tragedy altogether, and chances are, you have also tasted of that bitter fruit. I've wept at the loss of a child. I've watched cancer take the live of a loved one. As an 11 year old, I looked into the face of my 8-year sister and saw the devastation the teeth of a dog can cause.
Given time, you could probably add to my list, because tragedy, simply put, is a part of life. A part that we would all just as soon live with out, but most likely, we will all walk down that dark path. Having traveled that road, can I share with you what I have learned? The truth of the matter is, some of life's greatest lessons are learned through tragedy. The lessons may be very hard, but their value cannot be measured. I want to share with you the most important lesson I have learned in and through tragedy.
God is there! The path may be dark, but it doesn't have to be lonely, and anywhere God dwells, rest assured, incredible victory can be experienced. When you are in the middle of tragedies strong grip, you can't fathom victory. I, myself have uttered the words, "I can't possibly see how God can bring about victory through this tragedy." Then, I have watched as His hand has reached down and woven a beautiful quilt of victory from the threads of defeat. How He accomplished this, I haven't got a clue, but He did it. Not once, not twice, He's batting a thousand, never a miss. Not so much as a strike. He has an unexplainable ability to work about incredible victory when all we can see is despair. I've seen it first hand. I've also seen it in His Word. Almost 2000 years ago, God took, what was the most devastating tragedy anyone has ever faced and turned it into the greatest victory in the history of the universe.
Will He do anything less today? The answer to that is actually quite simple, No. We are already receiving stories of victory. A newly widowed young mother of 2 (soon to be 3) sharing on Larry King Live how her belief in Jesus has sustained her through this tragedy, then being invited back 2 nights later to do the same thing. Republicans and Democrats standing together united in heart and purpose (that's not far behind the miracle of the empty tomb). Prayers filling the halls of public schools, with not so much as a word from the ACLU (at least not yet). More than 19,000 at a fight filled hockey game pausing to listen to the words of a President and being so moved by those words that somehow, the game seemed unimportant. It ended, a third of the game still to play, with handshakes in the middle of the arena. With all my heart, I believe that we have only scratched the surface of the victories still to come. I'm quite certain that God will bring about so much triumph out of this tragedy, that we will loose track of all that He has done.
So don't loose heart my friend, thinking that all is lost, that you are all alone as you witness this tragedy, or as you go through other tragedies in life. Because God travels along side you on that road. We read in Habakkuk 3:17-19 " 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights."
Something that proved helpful to Pam and me after the loss of our baby some time ago, was memorizing and personalizing this passage. Let me tell me how we would quote it; Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no baby in the crib, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights."
Perhaps for you it will be different. For you it may be though there are no sheep in the pen and the innocent die in crumbling towers, or markets crash or no husband in the home, or I've lost my job, or my health is fading, or I've been diagnosed with terminal cancer, or … you fill in the blank. Each of you can personalize this verse in your own way. Am I promising that your problems will go away? Not at all. I am merely pointing you to The Sovereign LORD who will be your strength; who will make your feet like the feet of a deer, who will enable you to go on the heights.
God is at work and He will bring Triumph in Tragedy. We serve an awesome God and when all is said and done, He will reign victorious.
Watch, see, rejoice,
Monday, January 18, 2010
Stay strong all year long.
- The world's first and only mag trainer with progressive resistance.
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- Cam-Lever tighten...
Beats the heck out of riding below 0
Pros: Easy to Use, Durable, Lightweight
Cons: Instructions not good
Describe Yourself: Avid Cyclist
I use this for the winter months when it's just to nasty or cold to ride outside. I have enjoyed it so far. At this point in time my only con is the instructions that came with it were not very helpful at all.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Acts 16:6-1o “6Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
There are times it is quite difficult to understand the plans of God. In fact, from a human standpoint there are times God’s plans don’t make a lick of sense to us. He either allows, or in some instances, causes things to happen that are baffling. While in the middle of these times or seasons we look at what is taking place and think; “What on earth is God thinking? Why would He allow such a thing to take place?” There are other times where we look and see great need spiritually, we make our plans to meet those needs, but it seems at every turn we are prevented from accomplishing our tasks. Surely God wants us to succeed with our plans! After all, the need is great, and we have the ability to meet the need. Yet it still seems as if…..well as if God Himself is preventing us at every turn. I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t exactly what was going through the minds of Paul and Silas in our current passage. There was perhaps nothing Paul wanted to do more than tell everyone he met about Jesus. I believe his plan was to go from town to town, find the spot where the people congregated and proclaim the Good News. God seemed to bless their efforts at nearly every turn. Oh sure, they had some tough times, but as far as Paul was concerned it was a small price to pay. Asia was his next target, but the book of Acts makes it clear that God Himself, through the Holy Spirit, was preventing him from accomplishing his goals. If Paul was anything like me this was very frustrating! But frustrating or not, Paul had no interest at all in doing anything that didn’t have the Hand of God behind it. He had wasted way to much of his life doing what he thought was good, even in the name of God, but without the Hans of God behind him. If God was closing the door, then Paul wasn’t looking for an open window.
Just a brief side note, most of us have heard, or even said; “When God closes a door, He opens a window!” Don’t be too quick to believe that. When God closes a door, that’s it, the door is closed. If you proceed to look for an open window, it could very well be that you are more interested in accomplishing your will than you are God’s will. If He closes a door, wait on Him until He points you in the direction of His open door.
Now back to Paul and his closed door.
Once God closed the door for Paul to preach in Asia, Paul just kept going in the direction he was already heading until he made his way to Troas, a town on the coast of the Mediterranean. That night “had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.'" Did I mention Troas was on the coast? Well caddy corner across the coast was Macedonia. Paul’s obedience to that closed door, put him in perfect position to further obey God’s open door and sail to Macedonia. So what’s the big deal? Ever heard of the city of Philippi? Let me make it a little bit easier for you. Ever heard of the New Testament book of Philippians? The first city Paul came to in Macedonia was the city of Philippi. Paul’s first trip to Philippi was the result of that closed door. Perhaps we would have never had the joy of experiencing Philippians had not God closed the door in Asia, or if Paul had looked around for an open window!
The point is this, when God closes a door, it simply means He, you know--- the All Knowing, All Powerful, Sovereign God--- has a better plan. Please understand, I have searched for and found open windows to crawl through. There is no joy in ignoring God’s closed doors. There is little chances of accomplishing anything of eternal significance even if you are doing a “good thing”. Forget “good things” and pursue “God things”, and may you experience your own Philippians joy! (Want to really catch my drift here, take a quick ½ hour and read through Philippians).
Ignoring open windows and looking for God’s opened doors…..most of the time!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
With the perfect vision that hindsight provides for us, we see the urgency in their actions that day. We have come to understand the motives of the enemy. We know that, to a certain degree, the very lifeblood of our Nation was at stake. Their actions were not only admirable, they were of paramount importance. In a spiritual sense, we as Christians today are staring into the face of our own 911. Our enemy, who is far more powerful than the al Qaida, aims his own weapons of mass destruction at the very spiritual core of all mankind. The only thing standing in his way is a very small number of Spiritual heroes, who daily present their bodies as living sacrifices to the King of all kings. While most Christians believe that what God is looking for is those who are willing to die for Him, the truth is, what He really wants, is those who are willing to live for Him. Those who understand the power of the enemy, realize that the only chance we have of victory, is to humbly yield ourselves daily into God's all-powerful Hands, to allow Him to work in us and through us. Though there are times His purpose makes no sense to us, our allegiance is proven, when our actions take hold of His marching orders, and we look neither to the left or the right and, in faith march forward.
This battle cry goes out to all who call on the name of Jesus today… "Lets Roll!" Death has no grip on our life, and the Spirit of God Almighty has given all of us the power to shake loose the firm grip of the enemy, to put on the full armor of God and march forward claiming great victories in Jesus name. The time has come for believers today to inscribe on the very heart of God a new list of heroes to be added to the spiritual Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. Will you roll with me today?!
This battle is for weak warriors in the Hands of a Mighty God, who will lift their eyes towards heaven and proclaim; "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Are you weak today? "Lets Roll!"
This battle is for fearful soldiers whose only courage comes from the Spirit of God who indwells them. Are you fearful today? "Lets Roll!"
This battle is for reluctant troops who will not take a step forward until they hear the voice of the commander and chief. Are you reluctant today? Listen, not just to His command, but also His plea, "Lets Roll!"
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the time has come today for all of us, young and old, male and female, weak, fearful, reluctant, every last one of us, to step out of the safety of our foxholes and to storm the gates of the enemy. God's very Word assures us, we will prevail, "Lets Roll!"
Written in August 2002
Monday, August 3, 2009
John 4:35-38 "35I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor."
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Mark 1:1-4 1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare Your way" 3"a voice of one calling in the desert, `Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.'" 4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Prophesies fulfilled, we see this continually throughout the life of Christ as it is recorded in the Gospels. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, written 600 or more years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah writes of one who would “Prepare the way for the Lord”. That is exactly what John the Baptist lived for, he lived his life with one main purpose and goal; “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.”
The Nation of Israel had been experiencing great turmoil now for many years. If memory serves me correctly they were at the end of 400 years of silence. 400 years where they had not heard from God. No Abraham, no Moses, no David, no Solomon, no Isaiah, no one to be a spokesman for God. 400 years of silence! Oh they had their religious leaders who claimed to be spokesmen for God, but those religious leaders’ ears were deaf to the voice of God. Yes religion was alive and well in those days, but God has never been One who was impressed in any way with religion. Religion can easily be done as a ritual. What God is interested in is an individual who serves God, not from a sense of duty, but from a heart of love. That was what John lived and that is what he preached. John the Baptist preached “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” As you watched the life and ministry of John, you find out that John’s calls for repentance were certainly not aimed solely for the sinners in the world’s eyes. He pointed his accusatory fingers at the religious leaders as much, if not more, than the “sinners”. Guess what, those religious leaders didn’t like of appreciate that and as a result they wanted him dead! They had a good thing going and were not at all interested in loosing it. I wonder if they would have wanted me dead? Would they have wanted you dead? God had a plan, a purpose for John, and John was so intent on obeying God, that he would let nothing, including his own death, stop him from accomplishing that purpose. How set are we at being obedient to God and His purpose and plan for our lives? The good news for the vast majority of us is, we really don’t have to worry about loosing our life. That being said, in some ways the plan God had for John and has for us are quite similar. The rest is up to us. John was opposed to established ritualistic religion that “does, does, does” for the sake of man’s approval. Approval from men is a momentary pat on the back. It’s here today and gone…..well it’s gone today. Simply put, it doesn’t last. A heart that serves God because of love for Him receives a pat on the back from God. Those are the pats, the rewards, the blessings that never end. Which am I working for?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
“Cause all too soon the clock will strike mid-night, and she’ll be gone”.
As a dad, my heart has been touched too many times to count when listening to the song “Cinderella” by Steven Curtis Chapman. I have a daughter, and I have frequently rushed through the bedtime routine so I can get back to whatever it was I was doing before. Rarely is that task ever really of great importance, yet I rush her non-the-less. I have also had the privilege of dancing with my daughter, singing to her as the song played. It was a very memorable event that I have permanently locked away in the memory banks.
Chances are anyone reading this knows that the song “Cinderella”, though not intentional at the time, became quite prophetic in at least 2 ways, one beautiful, the other tragic. The beautiful fulfillment came in the engagement of Steven Curtis Chapman’s oldest daughter Emily. Chances are the future holds a beautiful and tearful daddy/daughter dance at Emily’s wedding reception. The tragic fulfillment came when 5 year old Maria Sue was killed in the family’s driveway when she ran into the path of their SUV as her older brother Will Franklin was returning home. Midnight had come and gone, and the clock struck midnight before all but One expected it to. The One is, of course, our heavenly Father. The One who holds the future in His hands, Who knows the beginning from the end, Who has written all the days of our life before we breath a single breath. He knew when midnight would come for Maria Sue Chapman. He picked out the exact moment; choose it out of the million available moments. As hard as it may be to fathom, His choice of midnight was not a random choice. He didn’t just throw a dart at the dart board of her life and where it hit midnight would strike. I don’t believe there is anything random with God. There is purpose in everything He does, a plan, and we know from His Word that His plan for use is good. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read “For I know the plans I have for you, ‘declares the LORD’, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I would have pictured those words written by a man who knew quite well, what prosperity was all about. But it is interesting to note, that the man who penned those words, had an intimate relationship with tragedy. One of his closest friends, King Josiah, died a painful death at the hands of Pharaoh Neco II. On top of that, he was chosen of God to deliver the message of God’s impending destruction to the Nation of Judah, his Nation, a Nation he loved. Then he painfully watched as his prophecies were fulfilled. Yet still he wrote “For I know the plans I have for you, ‘declares the LORD’, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”. Amazing words from a man known as “The Weeping Prophet”.
So what does this mean to the Chapman family? Well to a very large degree that story is still being written. Part of that story is playing before our very eyes. Just this morning the Chapman family appeared on Good Morning America. In an interview conducted by Robin Roberts, who herself appears to have been snatched from the clutches of death in her battle over breast cancer, the family shares of the hope they have. One of her early statements was particularly telling. She says that after spending time with the Chapman’s: “I saw a family closer than ever before, there for one another, and a family facing the future, with great hope.” Hope lived out in the day to day life of a family living in the throes of tragedy. Hope spoken from the mouth of a father to a son, dieing daughter in an ambulance heading for Vanderbilt hospital, possibly already haven taken her last breath, as he rolled down his window and shouted; “Will Franklin, your father loves you!” A father who sensed the strong possibility of losing one child and wanted to make sure he didn’t loose a second. Hope lived out in a mother for her remaining children, who at times has to, in her own words “shift her grief” because; “I have Emily who's getting married and her fiancé, Tanner, and Caleb and his girlfriend, Julia, and Will Franklin. You know, he's my baby boy. And then Shaoey and Stevey, and my grief gets shifted to making sure they’re as whole and as healthy as they can be.” Hope lived out in the lives of a bother and sister who have, in the midst of their own journey through “the valley of death’s shadow” sought to minister to their younger brother. Caleb said it so well when he said; “When you see someone hurting, and you see someone burdened. You…you want to take that burden from them.”
I couldn’t agree with Caleb more, but I have learned through life that you can rarely “take that burden from them”. However, you can walk with them through those dark valleys. In fact, that is what we are called to do. As believers we are called to come alongside one another, even if it means a trip through the “valley of death’s shadow”. This is not an easy task, but there are few tasks whose rewards are more telling, more evident, more fulfilling, more eternal. It is those stories you and I are writing today. That we will continue to write tomorrow, that we have the opportunity to live out each day God gives us breath. It has been said that “Hope springs eternal!” But I am here to tell you that there are times that hope is a distant memory so far removed that you struggle remembering what it is like. Times where it is so dark, so painful, so heart wrenching that you literally feel like you have to fight for every breath. I am also here to tell you that there is light at the end of that tunnel. Light so brilliant that it is beyond your imagination. However, when you are deep inside that dark tunnel, it seems like the only thing you have to hold on to is the assurance from God that “I will never leave you or forsake you”. One of our terrific responsibilities is to be used of God to show others the truth of that statement “I will never leave you or forsake you”. The question is what will you do? Let’s follow the lead of this amazing family and come alongside one another to speak, to minister, to live out hope. Then let’s watch as God takes the dark colors from our “valley of death’s shadow” and paints them into a beautiful masterpiece of His graciousness.
A Masterpiece in progress,
It is not often that I add to what I have already posted. In fact, outside of the comment section or minor edits, I have never done this. However, today is a different day. Last night the Chapman family, with the exception of the 2 youngest, appeared together on Larry King Live. It was a touching hour of remembering what took place. Of reflecting on how they as a family have come together while on deaths dark and winding road, and how they have all seen the Hand of God even in the midst of tragedy.
You know one of the things I love about live TV is that, to a very large degree, the hands of the editors are tied. Outside of the traditional 5-10 second delay, the editors don’t have much power. As I watched the show live last night, I rejoiced at the way the Chapman family sought to bring honor and praise to the Lord. I don’t know this for a fact, but I am guessing that there were key points in the interview conducted by Robin Roberts of Good Morning America, that never got past editing room floor. But things are different on live TV.
I wrote earlier about “Hope lived out in the day to day life of a family living in the throes of tragedy.” Last nights interview brought more of that hope to the forefront. Interestingly, I just watched Larry King do a recap of the show in his regular review titled About Last Night. His words are amazing. He said the subject of the hour last night was “Faith, and faith renewed, and faith restored.” His next statement is very telling. He stated; “I am always amazed at that. I’ve never been able to make that leap into blind faith which they have… and trust. They believe that their daughter is in heaven, watching down. I wish I had that…belief. But it was incredible to spend time with all of them, and the strength of all of them. And even though that strength may be looked at… some, looked by some as leaning…on a fence, a fence that is God or religion. I looked at it as stronger than that. They were an incredible group, I’ll never forget it!”
I have been listening to or watching Larry King since, if my memory serves me correctly, the late 70’s or early 80’s. Back in those days he was not on TV. He was a syndicated radio talk show host with a pension for attacking Christians. He has softened considerably in the years since. I am not completely certain what it is that has changed him. Perhaps he has been impacted as he has, through the interview process, walked with believers as they traveled through tragic times. Who could forget his interview with Todd Beamers wife days after she lost her husband on Sept, 11, 2001 (for more on that see my blogs titled “Triumph In Tragedy” and “Lets Roll”). In that interview she talked about how Jesus had sustained her through the tragedy. Or perhaps it was his own journey to the threshold of deaths door. I am not sure, but I pray that the day will come when he makes that “leap into blind faith”. If, or perhaps I can be bold enough to say, when he makes that leap. He will realize what I have come to realize. I do not lean on a fence that is God or religion! My feet are firmly planted on a foundation so strong and so powerful, that the gates of hell cannot prevail. Every step I take, He takes with me. When I face tragedy, it is as if His hands are resting on my shoulders, reassuring me that I am not alone. I feel his breath on the top of my head and I know that One more powerful than me, is there. My tears are seemingly met by His nail scarred hands and I know that I have a God Who understands my pain. My hope rests in a God Who has no limits, Who is surprised by nothing. Who holds the future, and even the past, in the palm of His Hand. Who gave Gideon his battle cry and guided the stone of David. Who toppled the walls of Jericho as His people watched. Who guided, fed, gave water to and preserved the clothing of more than 2,000,000 people wandering in a desert for 40 years. Who spoke “Peace! Be still” and calmed the storm.
Are you wandering in a desert today? He stands there with you! Looking into the eyes of a giant? Have faith in the God who guides small stones and topples insurmountable odds. Facing a battle you can’t possibly win? Hold high His lamp, break the jar of dependence on yourself and press your lips to the horn of His faithfulness and watch as He wins the battle for you. Look as He breaths on the mighty walls of the enemy and they fall. And listen to His voice as he speaks to the storm, in His perfect timing (His, not ours!)and then rest in His peace. My point is this. I have learned through the pages of His Word and through my own life and its many tragedies, that God is real, and He is there. If I remain in Him, rest in Him, and rely on Him. If I seek Him, follow Him, and hold fast to Him. If I grow in Him, pray to Him, and trust in Him. If I look to Him and hope in Him. My eternity is secure. He doesn’t promise me a life without problems. In fact the opposite is true. I will face sickness. I will see the ugly face of death. I may experience poverty, hunger, pain, loss, unspeakable sorrow. But I am not alone, and the Word of God is clear that:
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.
I am not alone! You are not alone! We are not alone. He is with us in the valley of the shadow of death. That is God’s assurance that we don’t face that dark valley alone.
That is the great hope that the Robin Roberts spoke of that she saw in the Chapman family. That is that faith renewed, and faith restored that Larry King will never forget. May others see that great hope in us as we walk through the tragedies of life. May our faith renewed, and faith restored have an eternal impact on the yet to believe world that watches us.
To God be the glory….even in tragedy,
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
In many ways we felt kind of sorry for this old couple. They lived in a run down old house. The paint had long since disappeared. All you could see was the drab old grey exterior that tends to happen when a house isn't cared for. While everyone else in the huge metropolis of Pierceville, Kansas had nice green lawns, at this house there was dirt, nothing more, just dirt. Rarely could you ever walk by the house without hearing yelling and screaming going on. And forget about trying to sneak around their house. The very second you set foot on their street the barks and growls began. It was a pack of man-eating wolves that surrounded their property. Many sales careers ended on their front porch. Ok, perhaps I may be exaggerating slightly but those things sure seemed true to me at 7 years old. Every time I ever saw the man, he was wearing the same thing: grey hat, grey shirt, grey pants, wouldn't surprise me if his underwear was grey as well. Chances are that none of those things started out grey, but that's what they were now. Actually, he matched his house perfectly. Did you ever see the children's movie "Snow Day"? Well this man could have been the snow plow driver, including the teeth. Surely this was the poorest family in all of Pierceville, Kansas. Then one day, tragedy struck. There was a fire in the house. Literally adding fuel to the fire was stacks of newspapers, as high as 5 feet. By the time the men arrived to help put out the fire, the house was already engulfed in flames. When they tried to pull his mother to safety, she fought like cats and dogs, kept screaming something about her bed. Sometime later they discovered what she was screaming about. Underneath the mattress on her bed was money. Cold hard CASH. Not just a little, there was an incredible amount of money stashed there. It turns out that what appeared to be the poorest family in town, was actually one of the wealthiest! The problem was, they never took advantage of the wealth they possessed.
In today's passage, we see the disciples listening to Jesus as He spoke some of His last words before the ascension. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." With Jesus leaving, the remaining disciples needed some reassurance. They needed something of a confidence builder. Something they could sense, that they could feel. My wife and I have been drinking a vitamin supplement drink for a few years now. It is a powder we mix with orange juice. On the can it says it tastes good. I'll bet the guy that wrote that likes peas too! Something happens to Pam about five minutes after she drinks it, she literally feels it kick in. It's as if something surges through her veins. All of the sudden she feels energized. In a spiritual sense, the disciples needed something just like this, they needed to be spiritually energized. There were times when they were with Jesus that they felt like they could do anything, but in just a few moments, He would be gone. What would they do then? "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you." Now, at this point in time, I'm going to go against what many believe to be true. There are many who believe that before the Holy Spirit came, the disciples had no power, that in a spiritual sense they were powerless. My personal opinion is that this was not the case. Let me ask you a question here. Was there ever a moment that the omnipresent God wasn't with these men? You're right, they were never alone, never without the presence of God. Let me ask you a series of questions now. Did Moses turn his staff into a snake? Did he part the Red Sea? Did he bring water from the Rock? Did Joshua make the walls of Jericho crumble? When Gideon and his army of 300 faced over 127,000 Midianites, was it their skills in hand to hand combat that gave them victory that day? The answers to every one of these questions are the same, it was NOT the men of God that did the work, it was the HAND of God that did the work. Since I am in the question mode, let me continue. Since the Old Testament days, in what ways had the power of God diminished? Are you catching my drift here? The fact of the matter is, nothing within the nature of God had changed. However, something within the lives of these 11 men had changed, and was about to change even more. While these men had grown spiritually in a huge way, (by the way, isn't that what happens when you go through great trials? They either make you or break you.) there was still room for more growth. But Christ-likeness is a final destination that we will never arrive at here on earth. At the same time, it is the one destination we should pursue, with all our hearts, until God calls us home. While the disciples knew full well that Jesus is the Son of God, they didn't realize yet, that He would still be with them, even when he wasn't….well… with them. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you."
Personally I believe, that the power that these men needed to a certain degree, was a power they already had. It was as if it was hidden under a mattress so to speak. And what the Holy Spirit was going to accomplish, was to light a fire that would move these men to rip the sheets off their beds, toss their mattresses aside and unleash the incredible spiritual wealth they already had. That brings us to the here and now. If you have put your faith and trust in Christ, you have at your disposal unimagined power to accomplish the will of God. Unfortunately for many, in fact, not many but MOST, that power is buried, hidden beneath the mattress of mediocrity, or the mattress of selfishness, or the mattress of un-forgiveness, or the mattress of hate…… the list of mattresses is unending. Folks, if you don't see the Hand of God working in and through your life, it is not the Hand of God that is to blame. It is you who is to blame. Somehow, at sometime you have taken God's power and buried it under a mattress. May today be the day you toss that mattress aside and unleash the power of God in your life.
Tearing the sheets and tossing the mattress aside,
Thursday, February 8, 2007
"Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?" These were times of great confusion for the apostles. While it is true that they had just tasted the sweet fruit of victory, had witnessed the resurrected Lord, this also came on the heels of the most bitter defeat they had ever experienced. My guess is that the more time they spent with Jesus before the crucifixion, the more they became convinced in their own minds that they were going to be a part of the re-establishment of the nation of Israel. That they would soon battle along side Jesus, or more importantly in their eyes, that they would lead the nation of Israel. Serve as Generals, so to speak, commanding over an army of Israelites leading them in victory against the mighty Roman Empire. As they followed Jesus in His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, as they laid their cloaks and palm branches before Him, as the people shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David", the inner confidence of the disciples grew. I believe there was no doubt in their minds that Jesus was here to re-establish the nation of Israel, to finally free them from the grip of the Roman Empire. Then in one week's time, those hopes were dashed. Not just dashed they were crushed. Jesus, their once loved leader, tasted the ultimate in hatred and rejection as the shouts from the crowd came "Crucify Him! Give us Barabas, and Crucify Him!" No matter how hard they tried, those shouts still echoed in their minds.
But it wasn't just hateful words that they couldn't get out of their minds. Far worse than the shouts of a crowd were the actions of friends, greater still their own actions. For three years they had followed Him. When He spoke they moved to the edge of their seats, hung on every word. For three years they watched Him love the unlovely, reach the unreachable, touch the untouchable. They saw one woman healed simply by touching the hem of His garment. Who could forget seeing lepers cleansed by the touch of His hand, or see Lazarus come forth from the mouth of the tomb. Or how about the time He simply spoke and the winds and waves instantly obeyed. All these things they had seen with their own eyes, not because they chose to follow Him, but because He chose them. Out of all the great people in the nation of Israel, Jesus hand-picked each of them. They witnessed perfection personified, yet when the person of perfection needed them most, they turned tail and ran. These were the thoughts and pictures that consumed their minds. So when Jesus spoke of the days to come, their minds were mired in the days gone by. When Jesus spoke of the promised gift, they could only see themselves as unworthy recipients. It wasn't that they didn't want this great gift but they had this great fear that once again they would let Him down. In their minds eyes they felt that the more time that passed, the greater the chance that they would fail. "Lord, are you at this time going to restore Israel?" It was a confused pleading sort of question. Almost as if there were saying "Oh please, Jesus, please do it now, before we fail you again, please establish your kingdom!"
But something had happened to these men. While traveling through the torrid waters of defeat, these once proud men had been broken. There had been a day when these men saw themselves as worthy. Now they saw themselves in the reality of who they truly were, unworthy. All their pride had been stripped away, now the Hand of God was ready to work, ready to accomplish the unexplainable through a pack of unworthy humble servants. His greatest works are accomplished through blemished, tarnished simple tools touched by the Master's Hands, may we joyously watch as He works His masterpiece in and through us!
From one tarnished tool to another,