Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘God’s deliverance’ Category

10264951_10203835028298840_4816231559290868281_n

 

 

“My old self has been crucified with Christ.It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Recently I have thought of the above photo as a metaphor for my Christian life. I think of myself as someone who,  after getting pummeled by trials originating from the Lord, is waving the white flag of surrender.

This metaphor unfortunately has been short lived for me. For one, I keep withdrawing the white flag and go back to fighting the Lord. Then I get beat up some more. It’s an endless cycle.

Thankfully, I think  I have struck on a new metaphor. It comes from the hit television drama NCIS.

In one episode, NCIS Director Leon Vance is the target of Riley McAllister, a former NCIS agent in charge turned arms dealer. Through a series of flashbacks, it is revealed that McAllister has been gunning for Vance for a long time. McAllister has been after anyone he has seen as a threat to advancement, and that includes Leon, even at a young age.

MacAllister has failed to get Vance, but at the end of a two-part episode called “Enemies Domestic”, it appears he has finally succeeded. As Vance is recovering from an assassination attempt in a hospital bed, McAllister comes into the room and reveals his true self to the director.

The turncoat reaches over and fiddles with Vance’s morphine drip, increasing the dosage to fatal levels. After doing this, McAllister leans over Vance’s face and says,”For once, can’t you just die right?”.

Unbeknownst to the assassin, Vance has a knife which was snuck into  his room by Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the NCIS supervisor who is the star problem solver of the agency. With his last strength, Vance pushes the hidden knife into McAllister’s chest, killing him within a short time.

Vance is able to push his “call” button, and as medical staff rush to McAllister, Gibbs walks in and unplugs the morphine drip, saving Vance’s life. Gibbs lays his hand on his director’s shoulder to comfort him.

I realized after hearing McAllister’s sinister words to Vance after flooding the director’s veins with morphine that in some sense they could be a metaphor for God’s message to me.

“Can’t you just die right?” He says to me. It came to me then that the Lord does not  want me to surrender;  He wants me to die.

The difference between God and McAllister is that the latter’s intentions toward Vance were malevolent while our Lord’s motivation is to save me from sin and keep me alive  for eternity.  He is in some fashion both a good McAllister and a saving Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

If I am a believer in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross, I have already “died right”. When Jesus died, I died with him. This death, according to the God-inspired words of the Apostle Paul, was so that we could live a new life free from sin (Romans 6:4).

Paul writes, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:5-7).

This is why my surrender metaphor doesn’t go far enough. I am waving the white flag with a hand attached to a body which still has sin as its master. My sinful “self” controlling this body  may have surrendered, but the Lord in His wisdom knows that turning my sinful self  and body over to Him is not going to free me. What will free me is the death of that sinful self.

Continuing, Paul notes that we are to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ (v. 11). The King James Version of the Bible prefers the term “reckon” to “count’. “Reckon yourself dead to sin and alive to Christ,” it says.

A synonym for “reckon” is “suppose”. I find the word “suppose” interesting in this context because one meaning of it can be, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “to think of something as happening or being true in order to imagine what might happen.”

M-W notes examples of this meaning in use: “Suppose a fire broke out. How would we escape?” or “Suppose you agreed with me.”

I now think,”Suppose  that I agree that it is true that my old self is dead. What does this mean for my everyday life?”

It means, ladies and gentlemen, as I see it, that I do not have to sin and that I can stop sinning. Paul explains the application of this supposition that my old sinful self has died.

” Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (v. 12-14)

My entire life God has been after me. Occasionally I will surrender, but that has never been His purpose.  God wants me to accept my death.

However, I haven’t trusted Him enough to do that. As a result, He and I have been at war for decades in an endless fight in the trenches that happens again and again and again. He comes after me, saying, “Can’t you just die?” and I say,”I surrender”.

God and I are talking apples and oranges. It is no wonder that I see myself in similar fashion to the beat up guy at the top of this post.

But suppose I trusted God enough to finally accept my death, to “die right this time”? What then? I am supposing the answer to that is ,”Freedom–finally.”

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous (Psalm 124:4).”

Today is an absolutely gorgeous late autumn here in Virginia where I live. My schedule this morning allowed me to take my walk through the pastures of the local university–a walk I treasure.

It occurred to me as I closed in on the well-known pond on campus,”What a difference a year makes.” Last year at this time I was living in a Nordic country where the daylight comes late and goes away early

As I walked I recalled the emotions of that late November. I was definitely depressed. I was apart from my family (I hadn’t seen them in almost three months), and the sun was a thing of the past.  Not only did its light only appear a few hour a day, but there was some much overcast that I rarely saw the object itself.

Yet, today there was a bright sun ball in the blue sky. I was surrounded by greenery and water. It was like I had gone from hell to heaven in the space of 12 months.

A passage from the devotional Streams in the Desert describes well my emotional state one year ago:

“All-loving Father, sometimes we have walked under starless skies that dripped darkness like drenching rain. We despaired of starshine or moonlight or sunrise. The sullen blackness gloomed above us as if it would last forever. And out of the dark there spoke no soothing voice to mend our broken hearts. We would gladly have welcomed some wild thunder peal to break the torturing stillness of that overbrooding night.

Yet, something came out of that period. It drove me to my knees.

When I wasn’t working, I had time to spend with the Lord. And I did a lot of that, especially on Sundays.

Streams in the Desert, in the same passage, goes on to portray  what happened to me as well as this author:

“But Thy winsome whisper of eternal love spoke more sweetly to our bruised and bleeding souls than any winds that breathe across Aeolian harps. It was Thy ‘still small voice’ that spoke to us. We were listening and we heard. We looked and saw Thy face radiant with the light of love. And when we heard Thy voice and saw Thy face, new life came back to us as life comes back to withered blooms that drink the summer rain.”

Somehow in my loneliness and darkness my relationship with God grew to be the best it had ever been. It was just me, the Lord and the black.

One of my friends recently told me that he thought of me as Job’s second cousin. I have been thinking of that comment ever since.

In one way I think of it as an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as a man like Job. On the other hand, I have thought that my life and that of Job differ in one respect.

His plight eventually came to an end.  God restored his  fortunes. My difficulties go on and on, with no end in sight.

My pastor told me a couple of months ago,”You’re just in a season of life right now.” The inference was that “this too shall pass”. I looked at him with an expression of,”I don’t know about that.”

Sometimes I see light at the end of the tunnel. For example, I am so boxed in that I pretty much have to use my one talent to get by.

As a result, I think that perhaps God has enclosed me so as to force me into using my gifts. Otherwise, my attitude would be,”I can’t do that. I must do this.”

Now, it appears He has placed me in such a condition that He is telling me,”No. You must do this. You must listen to me (finally!) and do what I called you to do  a long time ago. You just need to trust Me and the promises I have given you.”

That is astounding to me, that God would think that much of me to actually set me on a path to my dreams being fulfilled, especially this late in the game. The jury is still out on whether or not that is what is happening, but I’m listening–and watching for the light to reappear!

Read Full Post »

The Lord is my shepherd;  I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;  he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name (Psalm 23:1-3).

These days of summer I am wont to taking a walk into my Virginia town of about 75 minutes. This journey takes me through the agricultural section of the local university, a large concern.

Every time I make this trek I see something different. For example, last week there were four young bulls playfully fighting, their heads focused inward toward each other. Their bodies jutted out from their heads, making the latter the center of a black kaleidoscope.

Yesterday I passed two flocks of sheep which I had not previously seen. I supposed that not having seen them before  was due to my having gotten out earlier this particular morning.

The sheep in the first flock ignored me, diligently munching on the green grass in their pasture. All except one that is.

This black-faced rogue stared through the fence at me, almost angrily. It was as if it was telling me to get them out of there, or to give them something more than the grass all around.

I thought,”Even for a sheep, the grass is always greener on the other side.” This sheep didn’t know what was good for them.

Here God had provided for their need that which was particularly suited for their position in life. Yet, this particular animal appeared to want something different, perhaps even wishing they were walking outside the fence with me on the way to the coffee shop instead of chewing on a blade of grass!

This sheep reminded me of Harvey Cheyne, a character from a Kipling novel. I learned of him from a  1996 movie called Captains Courageous, which adapted the story for television.

In this story Harvey is an extremely rich 16-year old who is also a self centered brat. On an ocean cruise he falls overboard and is seemingly lost.  However, he is picked up by a small fishing vessel captained by the demanding Captain Troop.

Harvey remains in character after his rescue, insisting on special treatment. He tries to bribe Captain Troop to take him back to shore. Troop tells him ‘no’, noting that they would be out to see for several months to fish, which was the crew’s livelihood.

Troop makes the boy work, something he is not accustomed to. Harvey refuses and hears from the captain,”You don’t work, you don’t eat.”

After a period of resistance, Harvey slowly comes around. He learns the fishing trade with the help of Dan, Captain Troop’s son. He also learns some life lessons and matures into a fine young man.

David Jeremiah tells a similar story of a man who is out to sea on a small raft when a storm hits. As much as he tries, the man cannot prevent the craft from sinking.

Like Harvey, he is picked up by another vessel, this time a large ship. The captain of this boat tells the man,”I’m sure you don’t mind helping out in the galley. We are short handed.”  Unlike Harvey, the man is so happy and grateful over being saved that he is willing to do anything.

David Jeremiah likens this to our salvation through Jesus Christ. We are in the place of rescue from our dire straits at the point of salvation, but we are not saved to inactivity. Jeremiah points out that we are saved by grace, but also for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

I see a lot of application to the stories of Harvey and the man on the raft. I too have been rescued.

During the previous year I was alone in a foreign country, with no family or Christian fellowship. I cried out for rescue from these lonely circumstances.

During this time I was tossed about as if I was on the ocean. I felt adrift and pleaded with the Lord.

Finally, this summer God heard my cry led me back home.  I am finally with my wife and children and ecstatic to be home and connected to my friends and church.

However, I am also currently unemployed. I can see from the episodes o f Harvey and the raft man that I have a choice to make in terms of how I view my new condition.

I have determined that I should not expect to sit around my house and do nothing as Harvey did.  The crew (my family) needs my help, not a freeloader.

Part of me does feels like Harvey did when he was first rescued. I have these thoughts of being too important or too “good” for certain tasks.

However, another part of me knows that I may have to take what seems to be an unpleasant job in order for me and my family to continue to survive. I am so grateful to be away from my own personal “ocean” that I am willing to do anything to avoid being tossed overboard again.

I have a suspicion that even work with menial tasks can teach me something new and lead to a broader ministry. In Captains Courageous, Harvey plans to build a hospital in Captain Troop’s hometown out of thanks and gratitude once he is back on shore.  He can do this because through his perseverance in his messy fishing job his life is restored.

I believe God can lead me in the same way, taking what appears to be a dead end job and make it into something special. Looking at others and thinking that they have it better than me, or that my little “pasture” is too beneath me misses the point of who I am and what God has created me to be for His glory.

Read Full Post »

 

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe (Psalm 4:8).”

It’s hard sleeping this time of year. I live in a Nordic country which is currently experiencing “white nights”.

One former colleague posted the sunrise and sunset times in her hometown above the Arctic Circle on Facebook yesterday. There was about 45 minutes in between these events.

In my location farther south it isn’t as bright,but it’s close. The sun officially sets between 22:00 and 23:00 and rises again about 3:30 am. In between is twilight and perhaps about 45 minuted of darkness.

It’s hard enough to sleep in this kind of environment unless you have good curtains or eyepatches. But it’s even worse when your heart is troubled.

I will be unemployed in about three weeks and I am looking for work. Having to write and talk about myself so much to strangers, especially professional ones, is nerve wracking.

Although I have a lot of strengths on a professional level, I haven’t been perfect. In fact, my recent history includes a failed work experience.

 There are all kinds of details I will leave out here. Also, I do not intend to use this space to argue my case or assign blame. Let’s just say that things did not end well.

This makes it difficult when I go to apply for similar jobs as the one I had. When they ask to speak to my supervisor at this place of employment, I inwardly cringe.

I have no choice but to give them a name. I then know that my prospects with the employer I am currently talking with aren’t good.

 So, there’s a lot of stress right now. I really don’t care what time it is because I just sleep when I feel like it. (As an educator my schedule is pretty flexible in the summer.)

It’s easy in my situation to beat myself up over this whole thing.  People have expectations and sometimes you don’t meet them.

Author and pastor Bill Merritt tells of his own experience where he almost lost his job. He notes that talent isn’t enough anymore.

Merritt says that people want you to actually be able  to relate to them. They want you to ask questions and be interested. They want you to be nice.

“Imagine that!”, he writes.

“Nice” was not always my forte on the job I left badly. I think I did an excellent job there, but I could have handled relationships better. As a result there is an irreparable rupture between me and this company.

My apology was not accepted. Subsequent correspondence to this organization has gone unanswered. 

I’ve improved some since then. However, as noted above joblessness is hovering and I don’t have much going on, and this failure hangs around and occasionally surfaces. 

It is hard to recover from personal failure. This is true in the workplace and at home both.

When you fail people don’t trust you. They get mad at you.  Not only that, you get mad at them, especially if you feel as if your treatment is unjust.

You lose fellowship and friendship. What to do?

Well, as a Christian I know that it’s not a good idea to quit on God.  If I stick with Him, He will stick with me. 

However, if I abandon God, He will abandon me. It’s my choice (II Chronicles 15:2).

I noted above that when there is a relational fracture in the workplace that the parties get mad. I notice that God tends to get mad when people don’t treat Him with respect, too.

The Psalmist tells leaders that they had better submit to Jesus, or else!  Destruction is on the way when our Lord is ignored, rejected or rebelled against (Psalm 2:10-12).

The Psalmist says that God is an honest judge. He gets angry at the wicked every day and takes action against them (Psalm 7:11-13).

So, what’s my part?  Well the Psalmist tells ME if I want to sleep at night that I should:

-submit to Jesus myself (Psalm 2:12b);

-control my 0wn anger and trust God (Psalm 4:4,5);

-pray for God’s active protection and action against my enemies (Psalm 3:1-4,7);

-ask God to take care of my reputation (Psalm 4:2,3);

-ask God to rescúe me from the mess in my heart and out there in the world (Psalm 6:1-10).

This last point is especially  profound. Until last night I thought of God as someone who would come in like the calvary to perform his rescue. I didn’t see Him as someone who stuck around the garbage dump I’ve created in my heart and life.

However, it occurred to me yesterday evening that Jesus is down there with me in the junkyard. He is there waiting patiently for me to acknowledge Him while I sit in the stench.

This thought reminded me of an old booklet from my youth. Robert Munger wrote a short story called My Heart Christ’s Home which was popular at the time.

In this piece Jesus is invited into a man’s home. Room by room he begins to set the man’s house in order.

Eventually, the man realizes he can’t keep his house clean and asks Jesus to do it. However, Jesus tells the man that He has no authority there: He is just a guest.

The man turns the deed of the house over to Jesus. From then on, the man is just the servant in the house and Jesus is master.

I learned last night that Jesus is not content to stay on the outskirts of our lives. I had forgotten this and didn’t think He wanted to be down there in the muck with me, but He does.

Yet, the Psalmist says He does. He wrote,”For you look deep within the mind and heart, O righteous God”. (Psalm 7:9)

When we give over ownership to Jesus, we can sleep soundly. David found this out. He wrote:

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side (Psalm 3:5,6)

When Jesus enters the trash heap, it is not His intention to let it stay messy. He intends to clean it up, if I let Him.

If I do, I think I will sleep better despite the white nights. I will have the assurance and peace that He is there to take care of my messy heart and the rest of my trashy life out there.

Read Full Post »

“The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit (Proverbs 28:18).”

On January 30, 1972 a large number of people in Northern Ireland decided to thwart the British government’s ban on public protests in their area and took  to the streets.  By the end of the day, 26 people were dead.

The event, known as “Bloody Sunday”, shook Ireland. Meant to be a nonviolent protest against discrimination along the lines of those held by Martin Luther King, Jr. in America,  the protest was just the opposite.

British soldiers stormed through the predominantly Catholic crowd shooting protestors. Official accounts immediately following the massacre cleared the British troops of wrongdoing.

According to the soldiers involved, the killings were justified because the protestors were armed and using their weapons against them. Most eyewitnesses disputed these claims, but to not avail, at least at the time.

As depicted in the movie, “Bloody Sunday”, the truth was that the British troops went crazy. They basically murdered many unarmed civilians without cause.

The film reveals wounded people in the  crowd being targeted by the soldiers. In one instance, one of them shoots a protestor lying on the ground at point blank range.

The movie’s portrayal of events are true. Later government investigations determined that the killings were out-and-out murder.

One cannot help but become angry watching “Bloody Sunday”.  How could the government allow such a thing to happen?

Surely, the protest was illegal. In addition, there had been violence between radical IRA elements and British troops. However, nothing justified the murders which occurred on “Bloody Sunday”.

Most of my life I have witnessed such protests as this one on television and generally thought the government was in the right. After all, they are there to protect us and ensure the common good.

In fact, I have always been something of a “good soldier”. I am not one to rock the boat or hold contests with authorities.

However, in the last year something has changed in my attitude.  This is because I have begun to be personally affected by what is nothing more than corruption in high places.

For the first time in my life, I have experienced moral rot in high places that has impacted me. I haven’t dealt with the experience very well. In fact, I have at times squealed like a pig.

I think part of this sense of injustice comes from my having originally been one who trusts established institutions and authorities. As  a Christian, I have subscribed to biblical teachings that tell me to submit to these powers (I Peter 2:13-21; Romans 13:1-7).  

I have understood that those in authority arent’t perfect. I understand that they are human.

However, what I have found is that they are in fact not always worthy of my trust, which to me is something needed for respect to happen. I have seen in my own deaslings what I interpret as either chosen ignorance, or perhaps worse, cowardice by people entrusted with power over me.

It has been very disheartening. People who I thought had my back did not.

We humans are created in God’s image.  Yet, I should not be surprised that we don’t carry it very well. God has told us that in His Word:

God presides in the great assembly;
   he renders judgment among the “gods”:

 “How long will you defend the unjust
   and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
   uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
   deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
   They walk about in darkness;
   all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (Psalm 82:1-5)

When the corrupt are in power over you, your world gets rocked. No wonder the Bible tells us that people in such a condition lay low, hoping to avoid trouble (Proverbs 28:12,28).

Oh, how wonderful it would be to be surrounded by people like David’s mighty men. These fellas had his back.

They looked out for him and kept his enemies at bay. When most people deserted David, they hung tough. These guys are described in II Samuel 23.

For example, Eleazar killed Philistines alone with David until he was too tired to hold his weapon anymore. Of course, the rest of the army only showed up to collect the benefts (v 9,10).

Then there was Shammah. He stood alone in a field when once again the Israelite army had fled. Shammah, however, held his ground and the Lord gave him a great victory (11,12).

When David wistfully longed for a drink of water from the well of his hometown, a troika of  these boys snuck by the Philistine garrison there and brought some back to him. David was so awestruck by this action that he refused to drink the water.

He gave it in worship to the Lord in thankfulness for men who would risk their lives for him on a minor whim (v. 13-17). David knew these men were rare, and a gift from God. 

My favorite “Mighty Man” was Benaiah.  He is described as having done “many mighty deeds”.

My favorite of these  is when he chased a lion down into a pit with only a club. Benaiah scrambled down this muddy hole and killed the beast (v 20). How many people do you know that actually run TOWARD a dangerous animal?

The Scriptures indicate that corrupt authorities who have power over you are similar to a menacing predator. The wise man of Proverbs describes them as “like a roaring lion or charging bear” (Proverbs 28:15).

It is difficult to know what to do when you are faced with people like this. My own prayer of late has been the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Behind all this tainted behavior in high places is a menace the Scriptures describe as a lion: the Devil himself (I Peter 5:8). He is mad as hell because he knows the jig is up, so he is out there ready to take it out on believers like me (Revelation 12:12).

I am willing to follow the biblical admonitions to stay alert and resist him when he attacks . However, I don’t think I have the wherewithal or the courage to actually chase him down into his hole as Benaiah did.

This would mean I’d have to go on the offensive against Satan and his power grab around me. That’s asking a lot from one person.

However, there is a Mighty Man willing to take on the task I can’t. It is the almighty and all powerful king of kings and lord of lord: namely, Jesus Christ.

As I walk the unclean halls of power in my life, which for me are unmanageable, I can trust Him to keep the devil down in his hole there. There is no doubt He will give me the insight to do business that will glorify Him, help me keep my footing on those slippery paths, and protect me along the way.

Read Full Post »

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the  mountains would tremble before you!  As when fire sets twigs ablaze 
and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.  Since ancient times no one has heard, 
no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:1-4).” 

Michael Crow knows who the enemy is. As Pogo noted, it is us.

Crow, the president of Arizona State University, says  scientists today are so proud that they are unable to understand that there are limits to our knowledge. In an article in the webzine “Issues in Science and Technology”, he calls the failure of academia to see that the problems of mankind are NOT external to ourselves “hubris”.

Crow cites six areas of limitation to our ability to control nature. Of particular interest are the knowledge and philosophical constraints he mentions.

Regarding knowledge, Crow makes an interesting point about our own capacity for self governance. He says that we do not even have the ability to manage ourselves well enough to confront the challenges of dealing with the damage we have done to our own world.

Regarding philosophy, Crow believes science in unable in this hyperactive age to discover real meaning behind our relationship with nature.  Such age-old questions as “Why are we here?” and “How should we behave?” are beyond the researcher today.

While Crow laments the literal answers to meaning that science provides, calling them a “mockery”, his purpose in questioning current approaches is far different than mine. His goal would be unified effort to be good stewards of the planet.

When I think of our lovely world, I understand it as God’s creation. Yet, I acknowledge that I have barely scratched the surface in understanding the beauty He has made, and more importantly, why he has made it.

Crow says of our hubris (and I include myself in the human race on this):

 We trumpet the onset of the “knowledge society,” but we might be much better off if we accepted that, when it comes to our relations with nature, we are still pretty much an “ignorance society.” Our situation is reminiscent of Sherman McCoy, the protagonist of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, who fancies himself a “Master of the Universe” just as his life is taken over by events far beyond his control. We have the illusion of understanding and are not humbled by the fact that we do not understand. We refuse even to consider the possibility.

I did indeed stumble into a deep thought over the weekend regarding God’s purpose in nature, however, despite my own selfishness and pride. I got an epiphany that God has put it there partly to help me deal with the things I cannot control.

The first s of the Twelve Steps of the Celebrate Recovery movement, adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, is:

We admitted to ourselves that we were powerless over our dependencies-that our life had become unmanageable.

In a couple areas of my life, this confession holds true. It took a walk through the forest this weekend to help me get hold of an idea that God’s creation is an antidote to the addictions that would want to consume me and draw me away from God.

Sunday was a gorgeous, cool day in Finland, the county where I currently reside. I knew I would be stupid to spend my day inside, so I decided to walk a trail that leads past the gigantic lake in our region and into town. (In addition, the aspect of God’s work called “my body” needed the exercise.)

As I was out there, it was so beautiful that I realized something. I understood that the next time I was facing one of my common temptations, I could look seek out God through His creation.

Methodologically speaking, this could mean anything. For example, today I set a beautiful autumn scene from my home state on my computer wallpaper.

In any case, the idea is to put off the sinfulness and put on God (Romans 13:13,14).  I can’t see God because He is invisible, but I can see His likeness through what He has made (Romans 1:20).

Let’s get back to science for a minute. In the opening page of his book “Science and Its Limits”,  Del Ratsch notes that there is no accepted definition of natural science.

This is not a problem, according to the author:

That might seem to be an insurmountable difficulty.  How can we investigate the nature of science if we do not, strictly speaking, know what we are talking about?   But such problems are not insurmountable in comparable situations.  For instance, it is almost a cliché that  no one can define love.  But that does not stop us from proclaiming (often correctly) our undying version of love to select persons on Valentine’s Day, and it does not stop us from marrying for love. We can often recognize  instances of  and characteristics of a concept even if we are unable to formulate an ironclad definition  of it, and we often have a good general idea even if we cannot specify all the details. Such is the case with the concept of science.

And such is the case with the concept of God. His beauty, His love,  and His personal care for me are all there in the woods and the waterways of the area in which I live.

My dependencies are cheap imitations and limitations. I can find the real deal in nature, and that reality is spectacular, far greater than my flesh, the world, or the devil can conjure up.

So the next time I am tempted to succumb to the pull of temptation, I have to endeavor to find a way to muse on God’s beauty in creation. It’ not hard to find. It’s everywhere.

Read Full Post »

Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.  They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes (Psalm 112:6-8).”

Monday is rough. It is a good day to be afraid.

You don’t know what the week holds. Plus, you are just coming off the weekend, where rest, relaxation and recreation are the expectation.

It is culture shock pure and simple. Yet, we know what’s coming.

On Sunday night we get a little squirrelly in anticipation of the week ahead. What new challenges will we face.

Then Monday comes, as it has for me this morning.  As is usually the case, I am having a difficult time getting going.

This morning it is because I really don’t have anything on the schedule, at least exactly. I have enough to do, and expect a meeting to occur some time about some personal business, but generally I can flex a little in terms of when I do the needed activities.

So hear I sit at 10:41 Monday morning, writing this entry. I am a 10 o’clock scholar, and hopefully I will show up at my office about noon.

Now, Tuesday is a different day. Usually by that time the barnacles from the weekend have been scraped off and we are in the midst of whatever battle we are facing for the week.  We are usually too busy to be anxious or afraid on a Tuesday.

Tuesday morning on September 11, 2001 in New York by all accounts was gorgeous to behold. The temperature was mild, the sky blue and the sun bright.

It was one of those days I suppose when the weather brightens your mood. Furthermore, Monday is gone, so hopefully you feel better about things.

By 9 am on this Tuesday morning, any good feelings had gone. They were replaced by emotions like fear and anger.

When the planes hit the World Trade Center, our feelings and our world changed in an instant. We were at war with an unknown and unseen enemy.

Now, ten years after the event, a lot has happened. The enemy has been identified and put on the run.

There have been a lot of courageous acts in that time, many of them occurring on September 11 itself. The bravery of a lot of people has helped a lot of us get through this monumental period in history.

America’s president spoke of the last 10 years and the effects of this courage on Sunday. The headline accompanying the text of this speech read AMERICA DOES NOT GIVE IN TO FEAR.

The Bible tells us, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Ten years ago, America confronted one of our darkest nights. Mighty towers crumbled. Black smoke billowed up from the Pentagon. Airplane wreckage smoldered on a Pennsylvania field. Friends and neighbors, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters—they were taken from us with heartbreaking swiftness and cruelty. On September 12, 2001, we awoke to a world in which evil was closer at hand, and uncertainty clouded our future.

In the decade since, much has changed for Americans. We’ve known war and recession, passionate debates and political divides. We can never get back the lives we lost on that day, or the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the wars that followed.

Yet today, it is worth remembering what has not changed. Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith—in God and each other—that has not changed. Our belief in America, born of a timeless ideal that men and women should govern themselves; that all people are created equal, and deserve the same freedom to determine their own destiny—that belief, through test and trials, has only been strengthened.

These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear. The rescue workers who rushed to the scene; the firefighters who charged up the stairs; the passengers who stormed the cockpit—these patriots defined the very nature of courage. Over the years we have also seen a more quiet form of heroism—in the ladder company that lost so many men and still suits up to save lives every day; the businesses that have rebuilt; the burn victim who has bounced back; the families that press on.

America did not give into fear because it had leadership that helped the country rebound from that terrible day 10 years ago. The Bible also speaks of a man who did not surrender to his own fright or the anxieties of others.

In I Samuel 23 it tells of a time when David was told of a September 11 type event in a city called Keilah. The people were under attack from Israel’s enemy the Philistines.

The first thing David did was ask God if he should fight. After all, he was on the run from the king of Israel, who was trying to kill him and his supporters.

God told him to fight. However, this didn’t set well with David’s men, who told him that they were afraid enough running from the king. Why take on a battle that really belonged to him.

David again did not respond to their fears or his own. He went back to the Lord to add this piece of information and find out what to do.

God once more told David to go to war. Thus, he and his men went and defeated the Philistines.

You would think that Saul, the king of Israel, would be grateful. Instead, he saw the coming out of David into the open as his opportunity to kill him.

David did what he had done before. He went to God to determine if he was in danger.

When David found out from the Lord that he would indeed be turned over to Saul by the people he had just saved, he and his men escaped.

God not only responded to David’s faith in coming to Him for aid when he was afraid, but he sent his beloved friend Jonathan to encourage him and help him “find his strength in God (I Samuel 23:16)”.

David is the role model of how to respond when fear strikes. In summary, even when he himself was afraid and the people around him also showed fear, he repeatedly went to God for instructions about what to do.

David did not get stuck in his fright or that of others, or suffer from the “paralysis of analysis”. He turned his thinking over to God, who had much greater wisdom.

What is more, this story of David tells us how gracious God is when we are afraid. We can go to Him and ask for flesh and blood human beings to give us the encouragement we need to continue to trust God, even when the chips are down.

It’s almost noon on my Monday. The examples of those who showed  heroism on and after September 11, and David’s actions at Keilah, when he ran to God instead of ran away,  have given me the small spark I need in my spirit.

I am ready to go to work.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »