God knows

In 2012, Diane and I were at a New Year’s Eve party at the home of Dave & Shelly Barr.  We met a pastor friend of theirs named Brian Harkness. Brian is the one who told me about Samaritan’s Purse mission trips.  Diane and I have a team of 9 on mission with SP this week in Greenbrier County, WV.

Last night I got a text from David Barr asking me if I was working on a green home in White Suplher Springs.  I said yes.  Knowing Dave is not on Facebook, I asked him how he knew.  He said Shelly saw Diane’s Facebook post.  Dave said that’s the same home Brian worked on last week and Dave sent me a picture he received from Brian with last week’s snow blanketing the home and grounds. I then looked at the pictures they post weekly of the teams in the hall of the church that serves as our base here in Lewisburg. Sure enough, Brian’s picture was there.

As things like this situation play out five years later, people have a tendency to think, “Isn’t that a coincidence?” But I don’t think that way any longer. I understand that the God who created everything, including free will, must have been sitting back laughing on that New Year’s Eve five years ago knowing that His guidance and our obedience was going one to have us shaking our heads and saying, “God works in amazing ways.”  And He surely has a sense of humor.

And on the other hand, He is also not caught off guard when the difficult times come.  His guidance and our obedience will help us through them.  And if we can’t appreciate that fact in the valley, we will certainly be able to look back on it one day and see how He was at work. God is good all the time. All the time, God is Good.

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The God I barely know

Most of the time in seminary I was not allowed to refer to God as He.  In my papers I was not allowed.  In my pastoral care class I was not allowed.  Many professors would omit any Biblical pronoun referring to God as He, changing it to God.  They would read John 3:16 this way: “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only begotten Son that whosoever…”  I would always say, “Jesus called God Father, I think I’ll go with that.”  One of my friends said she was interrupted by the professor in the beginning of her prayer in front of her class when she addressed God as “Father God…”.

I call God Father and use the pronoun Him.  And I only do that because that’s the way the Bible refers to God.  In other words, that’s the way He refers to Himself.  But that’s primarily because we are so limited by language.  Do I think God is a man?  No.  God is God.  I understand the seminary’s desire to lift Him up, even if I think it is misguided (showing faulty judgement or reasoning).

The truth is, none of us know God very well.  Sometimes the best we can do is, “That’s just God being God”, like sports fans would do with professional baseball player Manny Ramirez.  Ramirez was so unpredictable that people came up with the phrase “That’s just Manny being Manny” when Ramirez did something inexplicable.  Manny’s American pro baseball career seems to be over and he just signed a contract to play baseball in Japan.  His Japanese contract includes unlimited sushi.  But I digress.

I am going to let Jonathan Cahn remind you of how immeasurably incomprehensible God is.  Please click on the photo and read what I read this morning.

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Indescribable, uncontainable

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What I love about the Robin

Last night we got about 8 inches of snow.  We have a large deck on the back of the house with a garage under it.  I was shoveling this morning around the back of our home, but I don’t have to shovel under the deck because the snow stays on the deck.  A robin flew under the deck where there was still bare grass.  It was within 10 feet of where I was working.  Robins are different than all the other birds that are around us in that they do not fly away when we are around them.  Sure, they keep their distance, but they do not flee.  We have bird feeders and routinely have three types of woodpeckers, we have mockingbirds, nuthatches, sparrows, wrens, cardinals, blue jays, the tufted titmouse, and more.  Every one of them fly into the woods next to us any time we are outside.  But not the robin.  There’s something different about the robin.  They are cautious, yet not fearful.  I am no bird expert, but it is almost as if they know something the other birds do not know.

That’s how I see myself as a follower of Jesus.  I know I am saved by Him and I have nothing to fear.  I know that whatever comes my way, even if He has not caused it, He has allowed it.  I am cautious, but not afraid.

There is to be something different about us as His children.  We have a new nature placed within us that helps us live differently than those who are living in the flesh… those living within their old nature.  Our old nature causes us to be bitter, fearful, unforgiving, worrisome, unfulfilled, and selfish, to name a few.  The new, fresh Spirit within us changes us.   And just as I notice something different about the robin, the world should be able to tell there is something different about us.

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Growing or shrinking your faith

There have been a few times in the last 10 years of preaching that after a sermon, my lovingly honest wife will say to me, “What was that?”  or “What was that about?”  It hasn’t happened often, but it has happened.  Sunday’s 11:00 sermon was one of those times.  It was not recorded, so what anyone heard is what they heard.  I’m not sure what she or anybody else heard.  It was not the sermon I had prepared and presented at 8:30 or 9:30.  They’re never exactly the same, but usually basically the same.  At the 11:00 worship, it was an impromptu sermon.

What was on my mind was about how something can happen, such as the discovery of a half dozen habitable planets in another part of the solar system, and that same event helps some people’s faith deepen and at the same time causes others to find it more difficult to believe in the existence of God.  The same thing goes for tragedies.  The same tragedy can draw one person closer to God and drive another person further away from Him.  Prosperity can be a faith builder or a stumbling block.  The same can be said for poverty.

Joan Chittister wrote something to the effect of, “It is way too easy to spend your entire life studying/thinking about a spiritual life without ever actually developing one.”  If you have a firm foundation of faith that’s built on Christ, anything that happens, good or bad, seems to affirm and build upon that faith.  If you just dabble in spirituality or hang out at the edges of faith, anything that happens just confuses you more.

I invite you to listen to this Steven Curtis Chapman song that encourages you to dive in.

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Steven Curtis Chapman

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When you get off course

This morning when I went into the church sanctuary, as I always do I looked to see if the Roomba was docked.  For those who do not know, the Roomba is an automatic carpet vacuum.  Once in a while it’s stuck somewhere in the sanctuary or one of the rooms behind the sanctuary.  There are so many places for the Roomba to get hung up in the sanctuary.  Speaker and microphone cords, the organ, the piano, and where I often find it and found it today: under the computer desk (the computer we use for worship).  I keep the chair pushed in, but that Roomba is persistent and often manages to scoot the chair/legs so it can get under the desk.  It does the same thing with the doors to the rooms behind the sanctuary.  If they are not latched, the Rooma will bump them open and keep pushing them open and then get stuck in a back room.  Once it gets under the desk or in a back room, it nearly always gets hung up and stays there trying to escape until the battery runs dead.  It is forever there until moved by an outside force.  In this case, it is always me.  I come in the next morning and find it hung up and I pick it up and carry it back to and place it on the charging base.  When I do, the lights begin to flash and it soaks up the electricity, being recharged until it is finally able to go back out and carry on with the task of cleaning the carpet.

This morning I thought about how many times I am like the Roomba.  God closes doors, and I pry them open.  God places an obstacle in my path to guide me in a different direction and I keep bumping and bumping up against it until I get by it, thinking that my persistence is a good thing.  I tell myself that the Scripture says to keep on knocking (does it?).  I remind myself of the persistent widow.

Sometimes the place I have worked myself in to is a situation or physical place, and other times it is merely in my mind.  And when I work myself into these places from which I cannot escape, it is only the grace of God that rescues me.  Sometimes it is because I cry out to Him.  Sometimes it is because He knows I have neither the strength or wisdom to do so.  Psalm 40, verse 2 recalls David’s words: “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”  The Psalm of David continues with, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God…”

When you get into one of those places and feel as if there is nothing more you can do, try to muster the strength to do one more thing – cry out to Jesus.  And if you can not, do not fear because He knows when you do not even have the strength to do that.

The song I placed at the bottom from Third Day comes to mind, but also if you have time, please listen to this song from Andrew Peterson. “Hold on, whatever you do to the hope that’s taken a hold of you.”

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Praise you in this storm.

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On not being ashamed of our scars or our current battles

img_9243I have a couple of Samaritan’s Purse t-shirts that some people would consider unsuitable to wear in public.  One has paint splatters on the front (or it might more likely be drywall mud).  The other one has black residue from hot shingles that I earned on a roof in Oklahoma.  I do not wear them just because they have these marks on them, nor do I avoid wearing them.  I just pick a shirt out of my closet and wear it.  Today I happened to grab the one pictured with the white splatters.  It might just be me, but I find it strange that anyone would find this shirt unsuitable to wear in public. It is a clean shirt that happens to have some “battle scars” on it.  And this makes me think of the things we hide.

The church is just about as guilty as any group of people of hiding things from each other and from God.  While we can hide things from each other, we can not hide things from God.

“O God, it is You who knows my folly, And my wrongs are not hidden from You.” ~ Psalm 69:5

My favorite writing about this subject is from The Knowledge of the Holy by AW Tozer:

…how unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. No talebearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some bidden closet to abash us and expose our past; no unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us.

You not only do not have to hide things from Him, but you can not hide things from Him.  He knows you, everything about you, and everything you have done….and He loves you.

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Where are you going?

Thursday night I attended a presentation on the Heroin Opioid Epidemic.  What struck me was the idea of a path.  Each of us is on a path.  Sometimes there is a crossroads that changes things immediately.  The first time someone puts the poison that is heroin in their body, they have made a terrible, life altering decision.  That decision changes their path and their direction in a tragic way.

However, most steps on the path do not appear as crossroads, but what we do not realize is the tremendous difference every little decision can make.  We are all headed somewhere.  If you do not care where you end up, any step in any direction will get you there.  But if you have an idea of where you would like to be in 5 years, 10 years, or at the end of your life, every step matters – even the ones that seem insignificant.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (ESV)

The rest of the blog is pictures – first, this email just came through – how weird?  It is 10:35 a.m. and I’m finishing this blog about choices and this comes through my email – img_9239

 

 

 

 

And this that I read this morning put me on the path in talking about being on a path!

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What if there is something you were meant to find?  There is.

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