Archive for October, 2015

Michael is a TV news anchor in our area.

Although I have not directly experienced the challenging life he lived through, I understand the truth of what he describes. My heart goes out to all who are in the twisted normal Michael describes and I pray that the sound wisdom he espouses will be heard and heeded.


Michael Cogdill

What some parents don’t want to remember their children can’t forget.

I’ve turned fifty, yet the child within me can’t help but remember.

In a small house in Arden, North Carolina in 1964, my mother tried to wake my father from a deep nap on the living room couch. Beer likely fueled that nap. I would soon learn even one or two lubed the gears of violence within that beautiful man.

But I was too young to know that then. I was a little past three years old. This ranks as my first memory of childhood.

My dad sprang from the couch, straddled and pinned my mother to the floor, and beat her so hard with his open hand her head thundered off the hardwood. She fought him, hard. Screamed for him to stop. I joined her. My cries fused with hers from where I stood, no more than six…

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It has been a hard week.  Last weekend a tragic car crash took the lives of four of my son’s friends – one a roommate, two other teammates with him on his college soccer team, the fourth a senior female tennis player who epitomized friendliness and zest for life.  I have watched and at times tried to help, but in the immediacy of the situation, words are of little comfort.  The past two days I have given my son space that he and I both needed.  He has been with friends comforting and being comforted.  I slipped up into the mountains and let the Lord minister to my soul.  I have four things I have had reinforced through this that I would like to share with you today.  I doubt any of these will be new to most of you, but they are foundational truths that will help us in the good times and the tough times.

The first truth the Lord spoke to me Wednesday night after attending two of the funerals.  Admittedly I was feeling sad for a different reason than you might suspect.  While I empathized with the parents to the extent that I could and I can relate with the students to a degree because of losses I have suffered, my sadness was that I had spent 12 hours “being there” for Sam and it didn’t seem like he needed me.  Even at the time I realized that my feelings were indicative of my own insecurity and, to a degree, selfishness.  I wanted to be needed.  As I sat there praying, I groaned, “Lord please help my son, please draw him close to you and comfort him.  And please help me to know what to do to help.”  And the Lord spoke to my spirit, “Who’s son is he?”  I was a little taken back by the firmness in the question, however I quickly realized my mistake.  As our children were growing up, we often prayed prayers of relinquishment over them.  We are given responsibility to train up our children, but we are only stewards for a short time.  They never cease to be God’s children.  And as they get older the relationship shifts such that we must… MUST… get out of God’s way.  He loves them more than we ever can.  Even our most faithful, most effective parenting falls short of our heavenly Father’s love for them.  I have to chuckle as I write this because there are times when prayers of relinquishment are easy… like when you have about pulled out every hair on your head and you are down to your last nerve…  But Sam and his friends were hurting and my desire was to wrap them in my arms and to take them to a safe and peaceful place… but that was NOT my role.  Needless to say, I prayed the prayer of relinquishment.  God is Sam’s heavenly Father.  I love Sam and I will be there for him, but he is God’s child and as such I can fully trust the Lord to provide for him.

The second truth is that we all have choices.  We gain wisdom from many different sources – our parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, friends.  It is vital that we take that wisdom and use it to make wise choices.  Our choices have consequences.  Good choices lead to more positive outcomes.  Poor choices, or not making a choice but just going with the flow, can lead to outcomes that are less desirable.  Professionally I am a Reliability Engineer.  One of the things that I have done a lot of is failure investigations.  In every significant failure there are a number of things that went wrong to result in the failure and negative outcome.  While we will never have absolute control over all the circumstances we find ourselves in, we do have an opportunity to make wise choices that reduce the risk of negative outcomes and increase the probability of good outcomes.

The third truth is relationships are paramount.  We can accumulate things, we can be successful in our professional life, we can even cultivate a good reputation, but the reason we are here is for the relationships we build and the lives we touch.  Jesus came to earth and became a man.  He lived a full live in his thirty years from infant to adulthood in relationship with others.  Living in meaningful relationship with others has certain key components, the chief among them is love.  Kyle, the roommate and best friend to one of the boys who passed away shared a brief vignette.  He described how passionate James was, not just about his sport, but about life.  One of the things James would do is he would always tell his friends, “I love you, man.”  And he would wait expectantly for his friend to acknowledge and respond.  It was a game of sorts, but at it’s heart was a young man who understood the importance of relationships.  Almost every Sunday James would take as many friends as he could back to his parent’s home to have Sunday dinner and hang out.  He knew the value of relationships.  And James’ investment in others has not gone in vain.  I got word of appreciation from James’ mother last night.  It seems this week was James’ younger brother’s birthday.  My son and some other boys went to their home and spent the day with Landon celebrating his birthday, making it memorable.  That’s what you do when you love, when you understand the value God puts on relationships.

Finally, the fourth truth is that this life is but a prelude.  This has been a theme that the Lord has hammered home for me for about seven years, but experiencing the end of the earthly life of four great young adults emphasizes anew the brevity of life.  Scripture tells us that this is not the end, but only the beginning.  Every one of us are created by God to exist forever.  The part of us that is spirit and soul will continue after our physical body has stopped working.  His desire is that we live with Him forever, but He has allowed us to make that choice.  Actually this point is a summation of all the previous points – real life is found in the perfect Father – God.  We all have choices with the most important choice being what are we going to do about Jesus.  And our relationship with Jesus followed by the myriad other relationships are the ultimate reason we are here.  Our relationships now give color and value to life on this side of the grave and, to a degree we can’t fully understand until we have crossed over, they impact life on the other side of the grave too.

The two young men whose funerals I attended this week had experienced salvation by trusting in Jesus earlier in their life.  Today they are experiencing REAL LIFE, a larger life than we can imagine.  As I hiked and experienced God’s refreshing over the past two days, I was repeatedly reminded that the best this life offers, – the most stunning sunrise, the most beautiful location we will ever see, the most touching moment of intimacy, the most exhilarating thrill we ever experience is but a foretaste of what God has in store for His children when they come home.

Pretty Place, Camp Greenville, SC, Oct 16, 2015 (47) Pretty Place, Camp Greenville, SC, Oct 16, 2015 (113) Pretty Place, Camp Greenville, SC, Oct 16, 2015 (129)

Thank you Father for the lives of James, Josh, Mills, and Sarah who my son and many others had the privilege of knowing and being friends with.  Bless and comfort their family and friends.  Please use their loss to touch many and to draw them closer to you.  Thank you for the manifestation of your great love in mercy and grace.  Amen.

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I am usually a very solid sleeper.  This morning sleep alludes me and thoughts of myriad concerns and big truths swirl in my mind.  It strikes me that if I were to fully rest in the big truths, the myriad concerns would shrink into insignificance.  So I think I will capture the big truths here and see what happens.

God is omniscient.

God is sovereign.

God is in control.

No matter what the view appears to be at the current moment, in the big picture God knows how He is going to bring good out of the present situation.  As I write this a scene from a movie comes to mind.  In the movie Sahara, Penelope Cruz has been lowered into a well in the desert.  While she is in there the bad guys come up and reek havoc.  She can only see a small sliver of sky but she hears the commotion and she knows the situation is dire.  As the scene continues to develop we see the two good guys coming up with a plan (albeit a seat-of-their-pants plan) and they save the day.  The analogy here is about Penelope in the well.  She can only see and hear a small part of what is unfolding much like we are in our times of distress.  But God is never surprised by the difficulties that we experience.  He is ready to meet us in the hard place and help us through it.  By the way, the analogy breaks down about the seat-of-the-pants plan.  God’s already aware of what He is going to do.  He is just waiting on us to exercise faith in Him to execute His plan.

God is good.

Now this big truth can only be handled exercising that faith I mentioned above.  A week ago today, a vile act was perpetrated upon college students in Roseburg, Oregon as a troubled young man took the lives of 9 college students and wounded 10 others.  He specifically targeted Christians.  “But wait a minute,” you might say.  “Aren’t they supposed to be the ones in the bottom of the well exercising their faith to be saved?”  Excellent and very important question.  The answer is that many times they are, but sometimes our purpose on this side of eternity is not to be saved so much from physical death, but to help save others from eternal death.  Let me get to the next big truth before I finish answering.

God sees the BIG Picture and He moves in accordance to our ultimate good.

The big picture includes the time we live on this earth AND eternity on the other side of death.  I guess you can add this to the list of Big Truths – there is life beyond the grave.  God knows this because He created it.  He has laid out a very clear way for us to enter into His joy in this place called heaven.  It is through faith in His Son, Jesus, whom He sent to die in our place on the cross.  Part of the big picture is that God wants that message to get out to all people.  Back to the victims of the violence in Oregon, they were killed because they stood up for Jesus.  I have asked myself a number of times, would I have that kind of faith.  I would hope so but as they say you don’t know until you are in it.  The Lord promises that He will help us in our hour of need.  I believe that means I would have the faith to stand regardless of the price I would pay.  Those victims had a reassurance that God was with them whether they lived through it or they went on to heaven.  The same is true for several victims of the shooting in Columbine, Colorado.  They were killed because of their faith.  Yet we can look to what happened in Columbine to realize that God used that terrible tragedy to bring many to faith.  I am confident that the Lord will use the sacrifice of those brave believers in Oregon to open many hearts to His redeeming love and grace.

There is an invisible war raging around us in the spirit realm and God has a role for us to play.

This is summarized in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Paul, the writer of this letter, goes on to explain how the believer is to put on the full armor of God.  He ends his description with a call to pray.  Ephesians 6:18  “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  We do not have to stand idly by and watch the enemy run rough-shod over God’s people or over the many who have not yet come to faith.  In fact we are specifically called to intercede, to stand in the gap, to faithfully articulate the Gospel, to exercise the rights and duties as citizens for the common good.  If those who know God will exercise their faith in listening and obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit, God’s plan will unfold in an amazing way.

Truth is not relative.  God is and truth originates in Him.

Islam and Christianity are not the same, they do not worship the same God, and they are a direct manifestation of that invisible war that Paul mentions in Ephesians.

Islam is not our friend, no matter how influential it’s proponents might be.  It is a man-made religion that promotes a strong deception wrapped in a maze of impossible to fulfill rules.  Sadly, it’s use of intimidation, manipulation, and power appeal to the baser instincts in man.  What perplexes me is why any thinking woman would ever willingly submit to the terrible dehumanization of Islam.  I understand the psychology of it a little… the constant repetition, the unrelenting intimidation to accept the belief system, the concern of being ostracized if you don’t conform and accept, these force women to a place where the only hope seems to be in acceptance.  It is no wonder why they do not want women to be educated.  Yet we who live outside that dark shadow know the truth.  Male and female where created by God to be partners, not master and slave.  Different strengths and weaknesses, different roles in many cases, but equally loved and cherished by the one true God, the God of the Judeo-Christian faith, the God of the bible.

The Christian faith is about a relationship with God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son, by the power of His Holy Spirit who lives within us.

It is possible to have the outward appearance of Christian faith, i.e. go to church, read the bible, pray, wear Christian jewelry, etc. and not have the relationship.  I can say that from experience.  I did all those things for several years, but in my heart I had areas were I chose to do what I wanted to do.  When I finally said yes to God and I gave my life fully over to Jesus’ Lordship, dramatic and wonderful changes took place.  I experienced a transformation as His Holy Spirit moved in.  I experienced salvation immediately and the process of sanctification of my life began.  I recently past my 32nd year of new life in Christ and I love Him more today than ever.  And He is still pointing out areas where I can manifest more of His love, His mercy, His grace.  Step by step He leads me in a love relationship that just seems to get better and better.

I know I get wordy.  Please forgive me.  However if you have read this far let me tell you one final story.  Twenty six years ago I was awakened one minute earlier than I awoke this morning, 2:22 am.  On that occasion I assumed God wanted me to pray for something or someone as I had become sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s nudge usually being linked to a prompting to pray for someone.  I rolled out of bed onto my knees that night ready to pray, but it was quiet in my Spirit.  I waited several seconds and then I asked, “What is it Lord?”  To which the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to my Spirit, “Dan, I am going to have you say special things to special people.  And to prove it I’m going to take care of your house today.”  God produced the miraculous provision of a home that we then owned and raised our family in for 18 years beginning the next day.  I may share the full story at some time, however my point this morning is that the miracle was to validate to me that God would give me special things to say and I needed to say them.

If you are reading this then I am confident you are one of the special people God was referring to.  Ask Him to show you the BIG truths that you don’t already have a firm hold on.  Ask Him to help you see Truth and accept it.  Most important, ask Him to make Himself, clear to you.  Because He is real and He loves you, I am totally confident He will begin to move in ways that provide you with increasing faith to know and to grow into Christ Jesus – the One Who loves us more than we can comprehend.

Now unto Him Who is the truest, most ardent lover of your soul and mine, be glory, honor, praise and dominion, forever and ever. Amen!

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