LIFE’S DIFFICULTIES, BLESSINGS

I’m sitting here in my study looking at the weather station that shows it’s 105 degrees on the north side of my house in deep shade.  Yes, it’s hot!  In the back yard it’s 109.    My refrigerator died earlier this month, so I had to buy a new one.  My not very old washing machine quit working, but woo, I was able to fix it.  The espresso machine went on the fritz.  All this is happening when we’ve recently lost a fair portion of our monthly income.  Life has its difficulties.

In addition, I live in drought ridden California, so we’re trying to be very careful with our water usage.  A sprinkler valve stuck in my front yard sending a great wash of water down the street.  I replaced the valve, but not very well, so it broke loose and flooded the front yard.  Yes, and I forgot a hose I left running that flooded my back yard.  Really, I’m trying to be good!  The August water bill will reflect that I’m not being very successful.  Life has its difficulties.

As I reflect on these difficulties, I’m suddenly embarrassed.  A vision of the suffering across the earth passes through my mind.  I see the pictures of starvation, famine and war suffered by my fellow humans.  My difficulties pale in comparison.  I live a very comfortable and blessed life.

Even though it’s hot outside, my air conditioned house is a comfortable 80 degrees.  I love my new refrigerator, and it’ll be paid off in a few months.  I have the convenience of a washer and dryer right here in my house.  The espresso machine is working again!  And though we’ve had a financial set back, all our bills are paid.  Life has its blessings.

About now you’re wondering where the scriptures and the adaption of a spiritual message are.  Well here it is.  When living in God’s world, trust him with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (See Proverbs 3:5)  Both difficulties and blessings are covered by this verse.  It is his world.  We can trust him with the outcome.  He worked out our salvation.  He can handle all the rest.  He loves us through the difficulties and the blessings.

 

Reposted from July of 2015

FAITH AND DOUBT

Are you convinced that Christianity is true?  Do you ever doubt your belief?  Does God really exist?  Is my belief in vain?  Do these questions of doubt haunt you at times?  They do me.  During these times of doubt I have two processes that I follow, reason and experience.  Reason alone cannot restore faith, but it can help.    Walking back through my life and remembering my experiences with God seals the breach in my faith, and I am restored.

These nagging questions that challenge my faith cause me to return to the process of reasoning. I start with the basic question of where did I and all I know come from.  There are only two possible answers.  It all came about by some accidental occurrence of events over millions and billions of years, or an intelligent force designed it.  The complexity of the universe and the existence of life itself lead me to believe that an intelligent force designed it.  And if this is so, what do I know about this intelligent force.  I have concluded that the Bible is the most reliable source of information about this intelligent force.  This process, to remind myself of the logic of my belief, gets me started.  But the most interesting truth about this reasoning process is that it all came about after I believed.  My belief in God is therefore founded in something other than reason.

I next reminisce on my experiences with God.  God has spoken to me at key moments in my life, and he drew me to himself.  He answered prayers and provided miracles all to build a relationship of trust.   My faith is rooted in a relationship with God that he has built over many years.  Then I remember, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  Ah, my faith is based not on my ability to reason, but on my relationship with God.  Experience trumps reason.  The questioning of my faith is entrenched in my reasoning skills.  My reasoning is faulty, but my experience is sound.  There is no argument against what I have experienced.

I feel that faith is even more deeply based on a spiritual foundation.  When I first believed reason played a small part, experience barely existed, yet I was drawn to God.  Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him …” (John 6:44).   My reason and my experience came because God drew me.  I simply said yes to him.  I believe because I was predestined to believe.  God is sovereign over all his creation, even me.

Repost from July 2015

NOT MY WILL BUT YOUR WILL

Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

There are two wills at work here in creation, God’s will and man’s will.  God’s will is that there would be harmony in his creation, that we would love one another.  Man’s will has brought about what we experience daily.  We are subject to man’s will because God gave us free will.  We each one get to choose.  The ultimate goal is that we would, of our own free will, choose God’s will. 

In Matthew 23:37 Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” 

I am in tears as I hear the heart of God in these words.  How much the words, “but you were not willing,” sting my heart.

INFINITE WISDOM

If you believe in the God of the Bible then you believe in a god that has infinite wisdom.  God is all knowing.  God always uses infinite wisdom in the application of his knowledge.  This is demonstrated in his creation, in his interactions with mankind as a whole, and in the individual direction of our lives. 

Being fully convinced of this truth, I have no worries or concerns.  Whatever the situation, I know that God has got it.  Right! 

Unfortunately, I have worries and concerns all the time.  Does this mean I’m not fully convinced?  I’d have to answer no it doesn’t.

If you’ve studied the life of King David, you are aware that he had his times of trials, sins, and difficulties.  There were many times in his life that he was worried and concerned, but he never lost his faith.  In Psalm 23 he writes, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”    David did not waiver in his trust, but he often wrote about being perplexed at what God was doing.

As I go about my daily routine, I’m trusting God for the outcome, but I trust him with finite knowledge and wisdom.  I only see my little portion of the world in my miniscule moment of time.  I don’t understand what God is doing, and I can’t.  What I do know is that God is good, he loves me, and he has called me according to his purpose.  Even though I don’t understand his ways, I can trust in his infinite wisdom. 

Thus, I can join with King David in knowing: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 

THE BRAVEST ACT

Bravery is a desirable trait.  Most of us find it so.  The Encarta Dictionary defines bravery as: courage in the face of danger, difficulty, or pain.  Throughout the annals of history there have been innumerable acts of bravery.  Usually when being brave, a person puts aside self-concern and moves onward.  They have the hope of a good outcome, but they are willing to face the possibility of a bad one.

Matthew records in chapter 26 of his gospel the story of Jesus’ final hours before he was arrested.  Jesus knew he was facing a brutal death.  There was no chance of a different outcome because what he was facing had been planned from the beginning of time.  In the garden of Gethsemane he said to Peter, James, and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”  Then he went a little ways away to pray.   He prayed three times, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus also said to his disciples, as Peter raised a sword to defend him, “Do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”  Jesus had the power to remove himself from this terrible situation at any time.  Instead, he bravely faced a certain horrible death.  He was compelled by obedience to his Father ‘s will and a deep love for you and me.  This is surely the bravest act.

 

Two thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer: 

Pray it every day; because, it is a daily prayer.

When you pray alone, you should personalize it.  In the garden, Jesus prayed, “My Father.”

GOD ANSWERS THE LORD’S PRAYER

Last night, as I lay on my bed awaiting the curtain of sleep to envelop me, I began to reflect on those times in my early years when I escaped being caught up in evil.  The stimulation of these memories caused me to raise prayers of thanksgiving.  God was in my life protecting me even before I fully recognized him.  As I thought about this, I realized that God was answering the Lord’s Prayer.  He was delivering me from evil.

I tend to trivialize the Lord’s Prayer because I memorized it many years ago as a child.  The repetition of this familiar prayer has washed over its implications.  In my meditations, I encounter a highlighted view of these meaningful words.  I recognized that God has indeed delivered me from evil and kept me from temptation.  He has provided my daily bread, forgiven me, and taught me to forgive others.

Jesus gave this prayer to his disciples saying “this is how you should pray.”  I found myself saying “yes” this is how I should pray.  Jesus starts his prayer by setting a proper placement between man and God, and then he gives us a few words to deal with daily life.  He covers it all.  Of course, I did know this before, but isn’t it wonderful how you can come to a deeper revelation of a familiar passage of scripture?  The words of the Lord’s Prayer have taken on new significance for me. 

I’d like Jesus’ prayer to be continually with me both as I speak it, and as I experience its impact in my heart.  I desire to offer it to God my Father with an expression of love and thanksgiving for his continual answers.

A DAY OF HUMBLING

Yesterday was a day of humbling.  I made a big mistake at work, had to fudged a little on a recorded time, and to top it off, when the left turn lane started to move on the turn arrow, I started forward from my straight lane.  Catching my error, I slammed on the brake.  There I sat in the middle of the cross walk in my driver’s instruction car for all to see my error.  The haunting realization came over me that even under my scrupulous vigilance I can’t attain perfection.  The illusion of perfection was no longer possible to maintain.

I’m a perfectionist!  I live under that faulty idea that I need to do all things perfectly.  How imperfect is the pursuit of perfection?  To think that I can do anything perfectly is ridiculous -not to mention it’s hard work.  I’m reminded of the guy on the Ed Sullivan show twirling plates on top of poles.  He had to run from plate to plate to keep them spinning so they wouldn’t fall.   In my yesterday’s experience, plates fell.  One fell then another.  It was a disaster.

So here I am, in the aftermath of humiliation, trying to make sense of it all.  I ask myself,” What causes me to be a perfectionist”?  My answer is twofold.  First, I am created in the image of God, who is perfect.  It’s inherent in my nature to want things perfect.  Secondly, I have a sinful nature, so I’m full of pride.  I inherently want to be better than the next guy.  I also don’t want to be criticized by the next guy.  Perfectionism can also set me in a place where I judge others as less than me.  How ugly is that?

I now rejoice in my day of humbling.  It brings me down from the throne of superiority and places me right back where I belong.  I will continue to give my best effort at work and in all my endeavors because it is the right thing to do, but I will also make every attempt to keep a humble place and avoid letting my desire to do good work tempt me into a prideful place.  I will trust God to give me days of humbling when I need them.  After all, I am a sinner in need of a savior.