Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Never Hopeless

Spring is in the air! Baseball games have started. Pollen fills my sinuses. Snakes crawl across the road. Birds have moved into the birdhouse. The grass HAD to be mowed this week. And severe weather is forecasted for tomorrow in Arkansas.

Even with all the downside of Spring it's still one of the most anticipated events on the calendar. Now understand, I'm not saying that baseball games are the downside of Spring! In fact, for me it's just the opposite. Baseball is the main reason I like Spring and Summer. The only way baseball could be more perfect is if it were a Fall and Winter sport!

But, alas, I must take the good with the bad. I can bear the near-record temperatures today because of baseball.

What is the silver lining to the clouds in your life? Sometimes it is easy to see the good against a backdrop of bad. Sometimes it is not.

From your point of view you may not be able to see a silver lining, only clouds. Dark clouds. Dark clouds with lightning flashing within them. And strong winds.

We cannot control everything that comes our way. Often we can't even control ourselves in the midst of the storm.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible tells of a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples - many of whom were seasoned boatmen on that very body of water - couldn't control the boat and maintain safety. They were scared. Jesus was also on the boat and he was sleeping through the storm. They woke him and pleaded for help.

In the midst of a terrible storm Jesus calmed the winds and the waves. The disciples were safe because Jesus was on board.

I've experienced storms like that. Few were literal weather-related storms. Most were physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual problems. Like the disciples, I tried my best to deal with it without calling on the Lord. And like the disciples, I had to call on the Lord or I would have been overwhelmed.

When I could see nothing good in my situation I learned that Jesus is at work to bring something good out of my troubles. Even the self-inflicted troubles that are all too frequent for me. With Jesus I am never hopeless. Because of Jesus I am never hopeless.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Discipline, or the Lack Thereof

It's fair to say that we let our circumstances dictate our mood too much, isn't it? I know that to be true and that position was validated this morning when I looked at my blog's dashboard. This is where I see the stats about how many people click over here to read my thoughts and when they do it.

I'm not surprised at the level of readership, after all, this is mostly an outlet for my thoughts where I wrestle with how to apply a biblical worldview to what I see happening to me and around me.

I was surprised, however, to see that my last post was over a month ago. I'm not being a good host to anyone who might surf by looking for nuggets of truth, wisdom, or humor. I feel like I owe you an explanation.

The thoughts and ideas for posts have been plenty the last few weeks. Some were pretty good, I thought, but I just didn't sit down and write at that time. If you are like me, thoughts are slippery things. My get away from me if I don't nail them down.

Other topics were reactions to current events. Honestly, my reactions may have been best kept to myself on some points. Do you react without thinking? Me, too. That's not good when your fingers are on the keyboard. I'm glad the Lord kept me from writing what I was sometimes thinking and I'm glad he's renewing my mind so that I think thoughts that might translate into posts that bring him glory rather than shame.

You know that song that says, "Holiness, holiness is what I long for"? Stick in the word "discipline."

"Discipline, discipline is what I long for.
Discipline is what I need.
Discipline, discipline is what you want from me."

When you lose discipline in one area of your life it's likely you'll lose discipline in other areas. And that's a symptom of a greater issue, maybe.

Here's what I've found to be true over the years of ministry and in my own life: a person's love for Jesus drives everything else.

Revelation 2 relates the words of Jesus to the church in Ephesus: "You have forsaken your first love!" Paul had spent two years in Ephesus teaching these believers to love God. Within fifty years they had fallen from great heights of love. But Jesus held out the hope of restoration to them.

You and I may waiver in our love for God. Our actions will prove it out. But we, too, have the hope of restoration.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Addiction

According to psychaitry.org, "addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. Health, finances,relationships, and careers can be ruined."

That definition contains some heavy words.

Chronic

Brain

Disease

Compulsive

Consequences

Ruined

The National Institute of Drug Abuse says, "Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors." That is weighty, too.

Today one of our favorite baseball players disclosed to MLB that he had relapsed. His career, his family, and his health are in question.

Everyday someone in your circle of influence is struggling with an addiction. It may be drugs, alcohol, pornography, or dozens of other things. Not everyone will seek help.

I believe in the power of prayer and I believe in the power of God. I also believe that God uses skilled doctors and counselors to affect healing in addicts. And I believe in the power of friendships.

Most of us can pray. Most of us can be the friend that walks through recovery with someone we love. Most of us can encourage the addict to get help.

It seems the MLB star came forward on his own - or at least without a failed drug test about to be released. More details will come out in the next hours and days. But he's seeking help. His story includes relapses and recoveries so he knows there is a way of hope. He has a testimony of Christian faith. It would be easy to throw rocks at him, cast him on the trash heap, and look for another hero.

My own faith-journey tells me that there is always hope. Yes, there may be relapses into whatever sin you struggle most with, but the hope is in knowing that Jesus forgives us when we turn to him, he accepts us with all our faults, and he works in us to make us something new. If I cast this player on the trash heap I might as well join him. How can there be hope for my sin if there's no hope for his?

Look around you for that person who needs someone to believe in him. Find the addict in your circle and pray for her. Encourage them to seek help.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hidden Files

I've spent about 2 hours trying to get my mail app to import old mailboxes. It should have been easier and quicker but the operator didn't know what he was doing.

Here's the story. I opened Mail on my MacBookPro this afternoon. It worked fine. I hadn't check mail on this computer in a few days so it went through the process of checking mailboxes, downloading any email I had not already deleted on other devices, and deleting messages I had deleted already elsewhere.

Then I needed to reboot for another issue and when I tried accessing Mail again a message came up telling me that I needed to import mailboxes from earlier versions of Mail before I could continue. OK, no problem. I clicked "import" and waited.

A minute later another message came up telling me that the import failed because of some gobbledy-goop I didn't understand. So like any good computer user, I tried again. Same result. Then I remembered the first line of response the IT guy at my previous employer always used - "Reboot!"

So I rebooted. Same thing.

My next favorite thing to do is to Google the exact phrase in the message box hoping that someone else has already plodded through the problem and I could just simply copy his solution.

I found plenty of threads talking about this issue but it was too technical. I needed a simple 1, 2, 3 answer in simple English.

Then I searched the Apple resources and found a couple of things I understood and tried. One was really easy and allowed me to actually get into the Mail app for the first time in over an hour.

The second super secret solution was to help me regain the old email I had saved in Mail prior to this unannounced and mysteriously downloaded upgrade.

I found the old mailboxes tucked away in a nest of computer drawers in a never-ending computer file cabinet. But they were in a hidden folder! I could get to them in Finder but not in the Mail app to import them.

So I spent a long, long time trying to figure out who to "unhide" my hidden mailbox files. And I did and all is right and well and just the way I like it.

Deep within each of us are some super secret things we've done. We think nobody knows about them. We think nobody will ever discover them. As time goes on we become arrogant about our ability to keep others from finding out.

But God knows. He sees the secret places in my heart. I'm not exactly sure of the emotion he has regarding that stuff. I don't think it's anger although most of us have heard that God is angry because of sin and is just waiting to fling a lightning bolt of judgment down upon us.

I believe God is just and holy and righteous. I believe he will judge every person. But I really don't think that's the emotion God feels while you and I are trying to hide our sins from everybody else.

Maybe what God is is grieved by our sin. When you stop and think about what God has already done to deal with our sins, it seems grieved could be a good description of his response to our sins.

"For God loved the world in this way: He gave his One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 HCSB).

God's done a lot to deal with our sin. Jesus died receiving the punishment for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God - restored to right relationship with him. God freely offers salvation, forgiveness, redemption to anyone who will accept the gift. It's his grace extending freedom from what we are trying to hide and held prisoner by.

Have you ever tried to give someone a very special gift but they refused it? How did you feel? In some small way that is how God feels when you try to hide your sin rather than receive the forgiveness that's wrapped up in the free gift of salvation.

It's been my experience and that of hundreds of people I've talked with during my years in ministry that trying to hide your sins, ignoring your sins, or thinking sin is no big deal will make you miserable. You'll be smothered by the presence of sin and there is nothing you can do about it.

Except to turn to God believing that Jesus is his son and what Jesus did on the cross is the only remedy for your sin problem. Confess Jesus as your Savior and Lord, and commit to follow Jesus for the rest of your life.

Stop hiding your sins. God knows about them anyway. And he loves you anyway.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Faith, Adversity, and the Crucible

I'm never amazed when God speaks to me while running down Rushing Road. What he says, however, is always amazing.

God speaks through the most simple things. He did that this morning.

2.68 miles
36 minutes
2 seconds
1 Aha Moment

First, don't make fun of my speed.

Second, Forrest does most of the audible speaking. My pace doesn't strain him like it does me. I can barely grunt and he's telling stories running uphill.

The pace was slow enough so I could actually join in the conversation a little today. I would look for a downhill slope, take a big breath, and quickly spew out a thought or response.

We were talking about the struggles people face. Family, finances, friends, and faith seem to be targets that Satan is good at hitting. That's the case for lots of folks we know.

These verses from the Bible came to mind as we made our way through the darkness.

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. (Proverbs 17:3)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

So Forrest and I began to chew on these two statements. Let me know if you think either is valid. Are both valid?

Adversity is the crucible in which faith is proven.
Faith is the crucible in which adversity is crushed.

In adversity, faith is all you have to count on. Do you believe that God loves you? Do you believe that God wants what is best for you? Do you believe that God can do anything? If you believe (have faith in God) then you can rest in who God is and in his promises even though circumstances don't look so good right now. Faith allows you to have hope in what may seem to be a hopeless situation.

If your belief in God's love, God's desire, and God's ability aren't strong, your faith waivers and your circumstances overwhelm you. You lose a spouse, you lose a job, you lose control...and you lose it. Life spins out of control. Hope is lost. Fear moves in.

But it doesn't have to be that way. You can trust God to do what is best for you because he can and he loves you. And your faith will grow. That will prepare you for the next crucible experience. Don't face that experience with waivering or no faith.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Which Way?

In our devotion time this morning, Deana and I talked about God's timing. I like to think I am a patient person. I don't want to rush ahead of God. Should I act too quickly I will most likely make a mistake.

Just as bad as acting hastily is erring on the side of caution. Can you be too patient?

No, you can't be too patient because patience is simply waiting for God's timing. But you can so drag your feet IN THE NAME OF PATIENCE that you miss the opportunity.

In my desire to not act hastily I miss opportunity. My actions seem to say, "God, show me an open door. OK, there it is. Now push me through it."

Dr. Lemley, my college accounting professor, used to say accountants were doubly cautious. They wear a belt AND suspenders.

I want God to sky-write my directions. I want a courier and a trumpeter to show up on my doorstep. I want every commercial in every local newscast to be God's instructions to me.

So I wait patiently and hope I haven't already missed it.

Sometimes I don't understand God and his ways.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Second Guessing

The Super Bowl ended with the commentators, analysts, pundits, and fans questioning a play call. Down by 4 points with less than a minute to go, the Sea Hawks had the ball on the Patriots one yard line. A power run through the middle, a leap over the top, a scamper around the end and the game goes the other way.

Instead, Seattle calls a quick slant pass play. The ball is intercepted and the game ends with New England the victor.

Seattle has one of the NFL's best running backs...especially when it comes to power running. But with time running out the coach wanted to maximize his three remaining downs. The running back had buoyed the team many times before. But the play was a pass.

I completely understand the call. I also completely understand the noise from almost everyone calling for a run play.

It was late October 1981. The Dardanelle Sand Lizards were trying to beat the Ozark Hillbillies for a spot in the playoffs. With the game winding down and needing a touchdown to win the game, we started deep in our own territory. We had a great running back, Jamie Young. For three or four plays Jamie took the ball around the left end and we were near the Ozark 20 yard line.

As I leaned forward in the huddle to hear the next play I smiled when I heard the call. Ray Webster was a junior, a little smaller than Jamie, but really fast. Our coach called for Ray to take the ball around the right end. I knew we were about to score. Ozark would expect Jamie to take it left again.

A few seconds later my excited crashed. The pitch from the QB to Ray hit the ground. Ozark recovered the fumble. They ran out the clock. Our hopes of making the playoffs ended.

Predictability is a curse when it comes to sports. Even this beast of a running back for Seattle scored only once out of five attempts from the one yard line this season. NFL defenses can load up for a plunge up the middle and stop even the best offenses.

I won't second guess the coach...mine from 1981 or Seattle's from last night.

Sometimes we squeeze God into a predictable box. Because he did something we liked once or that was helpful in a certain situation, we want him to act that way again. Wouldn't it be better to let God - with all his knowledge, understanding, and power - do whatever he wants to do? Maybe last week's solution is not the best for this week. Maybe last year's miracle is not what you really need this year.

It's the creativity of God that we rarely tap. We talk about the beauty of creation and wonder how he did it. What if we stopped resisting his creativity in our daily experience? I think what God would do would be better than making the high school playoffs or winning the Super Bowl.


photo cred:
nbcsports.com
answersingenesis.org