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Feb. 26, 2021

WHERE IS GOD IN ALL THIS MESS?

 

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would

see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.”

Psalm 27:13

 

 Life is full of messes. There are relational messes, personal messes, political messes, health messes, financial messes, social messes, economic messes – the list is endless. Christians live in an imperfect and fallen world. When we find ourselves in a big “mess” of a situation we can feel helpless as fear sets in. Many times in frustration to find a rational reason “why”, we end up blaming God, and some even lose their faith wondering if there even is a God.  Let us briefly look at two Biblical heroes who found a blessing in the midst of their messes.

 The first is  Gideon (Judges 6:11-14). Israel at this time had no governing ruler. God was to be their king. When a need arose, God would raise up a champion to fight the cause. Under the oppression of the bad guys, God’s people, were reduced to starvation. It was as if God had abandoned them. He had to press grapes in secret at night. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon with the message, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”  Gideon, living within Israel’s plight, in essence replied, “If God is with us why are we in this mess? Where is God in all this mess?” and “Where are all the miracles we have heard and read about?”  He made the common mistake of thinking that Israel was entitled to God’s protection and blessings despite the nation’s waywardness from God. The fact is that God owes us nothing. We are all mercy cases!

 The second Is David. In Psalm 27 he writes, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” David found God and a hope for the future in the midst of his messes.  And he had a lot of them. In David’s life he suffered through many hardships. To name a few: he lost a baby boy that was the offspring from an adulterous affair. He was hunted by an evil king who dedicated his life to killing David because he was jealous. He dealt with his own family issues – the rape of his daughter by her own half brother and then the murder of that son by his another brother, a coup to overthrow his throne by a disgruntled son, an adulterous affair that ended up in murder and the loss of a child. This is but a small portion of David’s life story.  He survived only by the power and grace of God. Throughout the psalm David goes back and forth remembering how God has delivered him in the past. This is what kept him going. The psalm starts and ends with patience, faith, and hope.

 As Christians when life gets messy, we need to stop, listen for and follow the voice of God. It is about keeping our head and heart when all about us is a mess. We can entrust ourselves to the care of your all-knowing God. The message to take with us in hard times is that when we cannot see His hand, we can trust His promises, and realize that He has not forsaken us. When trouble comes, when we feel alone and our strength is weak, and we ask where God is in it all - remember that God is right there with us to see us through the trial.  You have His Word on it.

 The good news is that because Christ is with us in times of trouble, we need fear, despair, or give up. The grace of God can be found even in the ugliest messes of our life. We sing the chorus, “God Will Make A Way”, and we should live our lives as if we believe it.

 As usual, see you next time and have a great day...

Feb. 21, 2021

GOD’S LOVE UNDERSTANDS

 

“Let us come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy

and find grace to help in our need.”

Hebrews 4:16

 

    God’s overwhelming love touches us where we live. God identifies with us. He accepts and responds to us. We can never go to him and accuse Him of not understanding us.

     We may say, we had it hard and were born in a rough part of town. He says, He was born in a stable, a truck stop, a camel stop. It was like a truck stop of today with hard, rough and cursing people. Camels were the trucks of their day. As a baby of two years old, He was traumatized. He escaped death by the skin of His teeth; had to leave home and live in a foreign land because a jealous king wanted to kill Him.

   He was raised in Nazareth. It was said nothing good came from Nazareth. It was a wild and rowdy place of continual rebellion which had a Roman garrison was located nearby.  Jesus grew up with slavery, prejudice, hatred, tyranny and injustice all around Him. The Romans exploited the Jews and the Jews had racial tensions with the Samaritans. He chose at 12 years old to be submitted to His parents even though He knew more than about God than they did.

   He was a businessman, a carpenter. He learned the trade from His earthly father Joseph. He who made wood had to learn how, as a human, to use and shape it.

     He learned what manual labor and long hours were like, He learned how to forgive the Romans, and customers. He learned what He was later going to teach. He learned how to be patient, gracious and serving to customers and vendors. He learned how to deal with the hassles of owning a business; how to be honest and have integrity and how to be skilled at what you do.  He had to deal with failure and success.

   He was used and abused by the Romans for they forced the Jews to carry their heavy packs for them. He just didn’t pull forgiveness from the air, He learned it by dealing with unlovable people. Then there is a long period between 12 and 30 years old. The next time the scriptures talk about Him, Jesus is 30 years old. What happened that was extraordinary during those 18 years of ambiguity? Perhaps nothing much.

  So it is with us - the same ordinary things happen in our lives. Routines, growth and other unimpressive and mundane things. Jesus faced the death of His earthly father Joseph and of His best friend Lazarus. He faced rejection by the multitudes, and His immediate family. His brothers and sisters did not believe on Him until after His death. In fact, they accused Him of losing His mind.

   He knew the responsibility of running a household after Joseph died. As elder child it was His responsibility to put bread on the table, to be the head of the house, to keep on the budget. He knew the anguish of following God’s will by leaving His carpenter shop and going to be baptized and starting a full time ministry.

  In the Garden of Gethsemane, He knew what it was like to struggle with decisions that He didn’t want to make. He faced Satan’s temptations in the wilderness. He knew what it was like to be tempted with every sinful desire that might cause Him to move out of the timing and will of His heavenly Father.

   The good news for us is that God in Jesus took all of that personal human experience into heaven with Him. He did not put it in some spiritual closet and say, “Whew, I am glad that is over! I will never need that again.” He sits at the right hand if God as the glorified Divine Human and rules the universe.

   As He does, the Bible says He intercedes before the Father for us. 

   That is love.

   He could forget how it feels to be human but He doesn’t.

   God’s love understands us.

   As always, have a great day and see you next time...

Feb. 12, 2021

 

A CUP OF COFFEE

 

“The light of the righteous rejoices...”

Proverbs 13:9

 

 Imagine with me, that you are in an afternoon coffee break room. It could be any break room, any place, anywhere. You are seated with other co-workers, acquaintances, and friends waiting for the fresh pot of coffee to finish brewing. The group begins sharing about the events of the day so far. The conversation soon turns into a complaint session about the stresses felt in both the job and home life – work conditions, long hours, kids, marriage, finances, relational drama, and the such. A common theme arises:  that life is hectic, full of discontentment, and that happiness seems to be forever elusive.

 On the counter is a large pot of hot coffee and an assortment of clean cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite.  One by one the individuals got up from the table, reached for a cup, and poured themselves some steaming hot, freshly aromatic coffee. When everyone was seated again with their steaming delight in front of them, one observant fellow thought out loud to himself,  "You know, we all grabbed for the  nicest looking and most expensive cups  leaving the plain and cheaper looking ones behind.”  The people sitting around him who overheard his comment looked at him in bewilderment as they sipped their coffee and continued to complain about the deplorable condition of their lives.  

 Oh well.  Such is life – or is it?

 The observant man was beginning to tap into a truth greater than his own shallow experience about life. As he quietly contemplated the significance of the coffee cup in his hand, he realized that while it may be  normal for people to want only the best for yourselves, that  this misguided perspective  was perhaps the very source of their problems and stress! He thought to himself, “A cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.” He began to realize that in most cases the more expensive looking cup was just a prettier container that like the less expensive one. And they both serve to hide what is on the inside.

 He began to see that what he and his friends really wanted was the coffee, not the cup!  They had missed the point, as they consciously reached for the best cups and foolishly thought that the coffee would taste better, or that the experience would be more meaningful.  Then as a little larceny in their souls set in, he observed they had even begun to eye each other's cups! He quietly continue to consider the drama playing out before him.  With all the chatter going on around him the thought, “Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain the ‘life’. In most cases, the type of cup does not define, nor change the quality of the ‘life’ we live.”  

 “Bingo-Bango-Wingo-Dingo!” A light went off in the observant man’s head. “Ahah! That’s it!”, he exclaimed. With a smile on his face, and sense of contentment  in his heart, he declared under his breath, “When in life, we concentrate only on the cup, we fail to appreciate and enjoy the blessing of the coffee God has provided us! God brews the coffee, not the cups... so I should learn to simply be thankful for and enjoy His gift of life to me! Yes, that is the source of true peace and happiness." Those sitting around him, who heard him, just shook their heads and continued their diatribe of communal grumbling.

 Now, I said all that to say this... The happiest people don't have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything.  They love God dearly, they thank Him continually, they live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and treat others fairly. And yes, they know how to sit back and really enjoy a cup of coffee!

 As always, see you next time and have a great day!

Feb. 6, 2021

DECISION, DECISIONS

 

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Matthew 11:15

 There is a difference between listening and hearing. Hearing, like sight, takes place in the brain. Listening gathers information. It is in our hearing that we interpret and apply the data. Christians need more than ears; they need ears to hear what Christ is saying. Whenever Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” He is calling for people to pay careful heed. It’s another way of saying, “Listen up! Pay close attention!”

 God will grant us wisdom for our journey in this life with Jesus.  We can entrust an unknown future over to the loving care of our all-knowing God. We are all mercy cases. There are no self-made men, women, nor children in God’s Kingdom. Making right decisions in each particular seas of life begins with listening to and heeding God’s voice. 

 Wisdom is knowing the right thing to do at the right time. It is more than natural common sense. It is a gift of grace that God gives to those who seek to do the right thing.  Listening is a lost art. Listening means you have to be quiet. Most of us resist silence with every fiber of our being. When you stop and get speechless that you finally begin to see who Jesus really is.

 My wife recently sent me out to the store for a bag of chips. The task sounded easy. But in my rush to the store, I did not take time to listen clearly to her instructions on which kind to buy. As I stood in the aisle, it was me against a mountain of chips, all calling for me to buy them. Did she want chips for dip? There were: Nachos, Munchos, Doritos, Fritos, Chees-Os, regular, barbeque, pizza, salt and vinegar, ranch, sour cream and onion, rippled, plain, thick ones, thin ones, bagged ones, canned ones, big bags, little bags, original classic ones, new improved ones, bagel chips, baked chips, fried chips, low salt, no salt, low fat, no fat, crispy ones, crunchy ones ... "Argghh!" 

 I was losing my sanity quickly, so I grabbed a two bags and proceeded to the beverage aisle. Then it hit me again. Did I want: regular, diet, cola, orange, grape, lemon-lime, ginger ale, Perrier, Pepsi, Coke, clear, colored, caffeine free, caffeinated, bottles, cans, six packs, or individual, sale items or not? "Argghh!" I screamed again, as I ran to the checkout counter. Along the way, I found myself disoriented in the laundry detergent section. So, in a move of desperation, with "All" that was within me, I gave a hearty "Cheer". This helped me turn the "Tide" of my dilemma, as I "Dashed" to checkout counter. When I got there the girl asked was I going to pay with cash, check, or credit card? Did I have any coupons? Did I prefer plastic or paper bags? Would I like help carrying my groceries to the car? Decisions, decisions, decisions ... all that I wanted to do was to buy a bag of chips!

 Our lives are full of decisions every day. Big ones, little ones; minor ones, live changing ones, fun ones, serious ones. When we find ourselves bewildered in the aisles of the supermarket of our lives and don't know where to turn or what to decide, it is a relief to know God's word through prayer, worship and Bible study. His wisdom will keep us from becoming overwhelmed with the pressures of our complex and sometimes hectic world. He will bring comfort and guidance into our lives.

 As always, see you next time and have a great day!