Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Reminder of Who's in Charge - Throwback Thursday

I was moved to do a little throwback Thursday post.  God led me to my journal post dated May 16, 2013. Someone needs this today.  Maybe you.

4 days until surgery.  Nine weeks after diagnosis, I will have a radical prostatectomy.  Try saying that 3 times quickly.  During the last three weeks, my emotions have simply blended into a fog.  But fear has given way to resolve and anxiety has given way to that "peace that is beyond human understanding."  

As I approach "C Free Day" (Cancer-Free), let me pass on some things that I have learned over the last 2 months.  Things that have renewed my passion, reaffirmed my values and reordered my priorities.

1.  This hasn't caught God by surprise.  There is no sunrise that He has not already seen.  No road that He has not already traveled.  No valley that He has not walked.  No mountaintop that He has not traversed.  HE IS GOD!  Take a moment right now.  Leave the blog and turn in a Bible to Psalm 139 and read it slowly, deliberately.  Whatever you're facing, He's known about it before you ever left your mother's womb.  So as you face your giant, navigate your storm, or walk that valley, just remember!  He knows, He cares, and He's in charge.  

2.  God does NOT condemn our fear or anxiety.  I wish that I could tell you my great faith cast out my fears when I heard the words, "You have cancer."  It didn't.  My wife was sick in bed when I received the diagnosis.  How would I tell her?  How would I tell my kids?  Why now?  I'm not even 60 yet.  There were questions, concerns, uncertainties.  AND, there were some regrets and unfulfilled dreams and hopes.  I have to confess that there were many moments of fear and anxiety.  And God took me a verse that I've loved for years.  Psalm 103:14 -- "For He knows how weak we are; He remembers that we are only dust." 
God, my Father knows and understands my fear and anxiety and offers Himself as the Answer.  

3.   God's desire is to use these kinds of things to shape us into the image of Jesus.  Sometimes these things are used to correct us.  Sometimes He uses them to redirect us.  Sometimes He will use them to convert us.  He always uses them to teach us.  And ultimately, He will use them to prepare us for future service or ministry to others.  Romans 8:28 is a well-known verse in Christian circles, often quoted to give us hope in the midst of difficulty.  But Romans 8:29 really needs to be linked with that promise.  We do know that God works in all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. But He works in those things (good AND bad) to make us more like His Son, our Lord Jesus.  

4.  God's power is always best demonstrated in our weakness.  That's Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10    Americans are, culturally speaking, prone to be "in charge."  We are control freaks and when a situation is out of our control, it causes stress, anxiety, and a host of emotional responses.  Paul would have done well in America.  But what he learned about weakness is simply this --- when we are weak, that's when God is strongest in our lives.  Faith really is all about letting go and letting God.  When the situation is out of our control, it's good to have intimate relationship with the One Who is really in charge.  

So whatever you're going through, whatever you're facing, remember!  You know the One Who's in charge of it all. Abandon yourself into His hands.  I know I will because I realize that His hands are the safest place to be.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Use US to Bless the USA

An essay by Samuel Adams in the Boston Gazette dated 1771 states:  "The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.  We have received them as fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors.  They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood and have transmitted them to us with care and diligence.  It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us . . . without a struggle or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men."  

Wow!  396 years ago, a small band of courageous men and women stepped ashore at Plymouth Rock. Months of hardship and much loss of life were among the sacrifices made in order to achieve religious freedom in a new, uncharted land.  For 150 years, this "new frontier" flourished, colonized by the British empire and strengthened by the blood, sweat, and tears of noble individuals who believed that freedom was worth the risk, hard work, and sacrifice.  

BUT, control by the British crown increased during that first century and slowly began to choke off some of the freedoms that these folks had risked their lives to attain.  It has always been true that as the size of government increases, the true freedom of the governed decreases.  So, small groups of colonial citizens began to rebel with such tactics as the famed 'Boston Tea Party.' Thus was born the American spirit . . . a prevailing attitude that was absolutely instrumental in winning our freedom.  This spirit, perhaps the most formidable weapon employed by this rag-tag army of colonial rebels, became known as the "Spirit of 76."

In the spring of 1776, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Franklin, Madison, Hancock, and Henry.  Adams and Jefferson, too.  They were all there.  The course of action taken that spring literally changed the course of the world.  It was there that Patrick Henry said, "Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, almighty God!  I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."  Thomas Jefferson penned these words:  "The God Who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy it but cannot disjoin them."  

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was presented and proclaimed its foundation in this way:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;  that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  Note that phrase, "endowed by their Creator."  With all of their faults, with all of their flaws and character quirks (we all have them), with all the shadows that loomed over their private lives, these men recognized that the true Source of their life and liberty was God.  A new nation was born.  A nation that would become the greatest civilization in the history of mankind.  From the lives of our young men to benevolent needs across the world, no other civilization has ever given so much to defend and help the poor, the weak, the defenseless.  

In the last full paragraph of the Declaration, the framers stated, "We therefore . . . appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions . . ."   Are you familiar with that word, "rectitude?"  Its definitions are "quality or state of being straight; moral integrity; the quality or state of being correct in judgment."  Throughout the process, these flawed men sought the wisdom of God.  Then, by affixing their signatures to that document, they each pledged their lives, the honor, and their fortunes to birth a new nation.   That war for independence cost 5,000 patriot lives.

Freedom has never been free.  It always requires sacrifice and perseverance.  It is tempered with responsibility and respect.  It flows from the hearts of people, NOT the halls of government.  And it is NOT to be taken lightly.  We are privileged still to live in a great nation, this United States of America.  But as citizens of heaven, we have an even greater responsibility, given by Jesus Himself, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14-16)   God is waiting for US to stand in the breach and intercede for a nation that He desires to bless.  (2 Chronicles 7:13-15)

SO, this Independence Day, amidst the Bar-b-ques and ball games, the late morning brunch and the late night fireworks, consider spending some time in God's presence and renewing yourself regarding these commitment:

PRAY - Become a prayer warrior for our nation.  Yes, we have issues and yes, our choices in this critical election year might seem distasteful, but WE are the ones to whom the responsibility is given to intercede for our leaders, our warriors, our children, and our grands.   I Timothy 2:1-4

BE CHRIST-LIKE -  Whatever happens, whoever is elected, whoever is "in charge," remember that there is no authority in place anywhere that is not allowed there by God.  Romans 13:1   So our responsibility is to follow the admonition of Philippians 1:27 -- "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."  

BE INVOLVED  -  Salt that remains in the salt-shaker is of little value.  We are called and commissioned to be the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13)   We cannot positively affect the world by withdrawing from it.  So be an involved, principle-based, values-based participant in our culture. Biblical principles and values communicated with a Christ-like authority in the arena of debate and in the voting booth.  Pray, Be Christ-like, and Be Involved.  And leave the results to God.

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!  And remember . . . If anyone asks you if they have a fourth of July in England or France or Canada, the answer is yes.  But it's just that --- the fourth of July.  

IF you want to read the Declaration of Independence in full, go to 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

So What's the Problem?

It was a crisp, clear January day in 1977.  My father, who had suffered a heart attack on January 6, had finally been moved from the ICU to a private room.  His first request was a haircut. Just before his barber came in, the doctors stopped by, gave him a quick check and said that everything was progressing favorably.  Shortly after the barber started, my father slumped over in the chair in cardiac arrest.  

My sister alerted the doctor and nursing staff, who responded to find my father blue and unresponsive.  No pulse, no respiration, no sign of life until . . . CPR was administered until a defibrillator was brought in.  With one shock from the paddles, there it was.  A cough, a gurgle, and suddenly, my father was alive again.  It was there that I first grasped the concept of revival.  From listlessness to lifelessness to LIFE because of an external force.  

Alive Again!! That's what it means to be ReVived.  The church of Sardis, found in Revelation 3, was a church with a rich, productive past.  But when Jesus addressed them in Revelation 3, their present was characterized by a listless, lifeless faith. Jesus' words were:  You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead . . ." Some might consider this a eulogy, but it was not. Indeed, it was an invitation to Revival!  Certainly if we or any church are to offer eternal, abundant life to those who are dead in sin, we must be alive and healthy.  

If Jesus' message to Sardis warns us of anything, it is a warning against looking to past glory and victories while neglecting the needs and opportunities of the present.  Far too many individuals and churches fall into the pattern of those who, as Paul wrote, ". . . hold to a form of godliness while denying its power." (2 Timothy 3:5)   Spiritual lethargy is often masked with religious activity.  Adequate attendance and offerings keep us comfortable and, as long as there is no major conflict looming on the horizon, we feel pretty good about things.  

But here is the problem.  A comfortable church is the equivalent to a spiritual couch potato.  Unwilling to experience the comfort and pain of an exercised faith and spiritual growth, we develop a survival mindset instead.  We avoid risks at all costs, we claim possession of what Jesus purchased with His own blood, and we expend our energy just trying to hold on to what we have.  The result is spiritual stagnation and ultimately death.  

What's the answer?   Revival!  But in order to be revived, we must be willing to admit that our health might not be good.  We must admit that we're on a course that is leading toward an ultimate death.  God described it in 2 Chronicles 7:14 as humbling ourselves.  Notice in that verse that the onus for revival is on US.  We must Humble Ourselves, Pray, Seek God's ways, and Turn from Our Wicked Ways.   God waits with great desire to give us Revival.  Perhaps we're just not desperate enough yet.   Leonard Ravenhill is credited as saying "The only reason God has not given us revival is because we're willing to live without it." Sad.  

Now I know the context of these verses.  I know that God spoke these words to Solomon for the nation of Israel at the dedication of the Temple.  But, are they not applicable for us today?  Hear them again.  Read them aloud.  "If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.  My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to every prayer made in this place."  

Sounds like HE might still be waiting to hear . . . from me and from you.