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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

There are many things in life that I have a hard time understanding.  The scale of the universe…time into eternity…what my wife is thinking.  (OK, actually I know what my wife is thinking a fair amount of the time, such as “what was he thinking?”, but most other times I am clueless.)  Of all the deep thoughts that fit into the category of head-scratching realities, the fact that Jesus died for me and for you is at the top of the list.  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 NIV.  This is truly mind-boggling.  But the wonder of it does not diminish the simple fact – it is true.

 

I heard a story a few years back that gave me a new perspective on this.  It seems a little girl, 7 years old, was dying of a rare blood disorder.  The doctors had done what they could with medicine, but the prognosis was grim.  In a final effort to save the little girl’s life they offered a new treatment option that had shown promise.  If they found a perfect blood match they could perform a special blood transfusion and potentially cure the little girl.

The parents said yes and the search of databases begin.  The parents plus aunts, uncles, and all extended family members were tested but no match was found.  When the results returned the father looked at his wife and asked, “What about Billy?”  The mother, heart-broken, dropped her head, hoping not to have this question posed.  With a deep sigh, she said, “we can ask him.”

The results of the test showed a perfect match.  The news was bittersweet to the parents as they knew what they were asking of Billy would mean some pain and discomfort for their little boy, but it was their final option.  They called their 5-year old son into the room with the doctor and asked him.

“Billy, Annie is very sick.  The doctors have said she won’t live much longer without special help.  You see her blood is where the sickness is and she needs new blood.”

Billy listened wide-eyed, tears forming and flowing as he thought about his big sister not being there anymore.

“But Billy,” said the Dad, “There is hope.  You see there is a person who was a perfect match to Annie.  A person who can give her blood that can make her sickness go away.”

Hope leapt into Billy’s eyes.  “Really, Daddy?  That makes me happy.  But Daddy, why do you and Mommy still look so sad?”

“Honey, you are the perfect match and it would mean you would have to undergo a procedure to give your blood to Annie,” the Mother said choking back tears.  “But it means your sister will be able to live.”

At this Billy became quiet, his little brow furrowed.  Shortly he asked one question.  “You mean if I give my blood, Annie can live and play, and make you smile Mommy.”

“That’s right honey.  You’re the only one who can do it.”

A troubled look crossed Billy’s face for a moment, but then he brightened as if a pleasing thought crossed his mind.  “OK Momma.  If it will make you happy.  I will do it.”

The medical personnel quickly began making the arrangements.  Billy was given a few minutes alone with his parents.  His Dad knelt down and gave him a big hug and told him what a brave young man he was.  Billy’s smile was sad, but it was evident he wanted to be brave and please his Daddy.  Momma held his hand and looked him in the eye and said, “Billy, this is the most loving thing you can ever do for your sister.  I am so thankful for you, son.”  While a tear ran down her face, she was also giving Billy a smile.  Billy leaned into his Momma’s hug.

“That’s a happy tear, right Momma?  Like you told me last year when Aunt Sally got married.  I wondered why you were crying and smiling and laughing all at the same time, but you said they were happy tears.”

“That’s right dear.  That’s a happy tear, because my little boy is going to help save my little girl’s life.”

Soon the nurse came and took Billy away to prep him.  He cried a little as he looked back at Momma and Daddy, but he tried to smile so they could be happy tears.

In the transfusion lab, Annie, pale and listless, was wheeled in and connected to the blood transfer machine.  Two nurses bustled about checking vitals on machine and patient, making sure the procedure had the highest possible chance for success.

A little later Billy was wheeled in, his clothes replaced with a hospital gown, a pic line already inserted in his arm ready to begin the blood draw.  Because he was so young, a parent, Momma, was allowed in the room.  Billy’s face was tense, something significantly out of place on one so young.  When he saw Momma he relaxed a little.  Then he saw his sister Annie lying on the gurney on the other side of the machines.  His look became determined.  “This is going to help Annie, right Momma?”

“Yes dear, Annie is going to be able to recover because of what you are doing.”

“Then I’m happy Momma.  I’m glad this will help Sissy.”

A few minutes later a nurse bent down to let them know the procedure was about to start.  Billy bravely squeezed Momma’s hand a little tighter.

“OK” he said as he looked into Momma’s eyes.  The machine was switched on, and a quiet whirring began.  Within just a few minutes Annie’s color began to change as her blood was removed, cleansed and then mixed with Billy’s healthy blood.  Billy broke his gaze from Momma just long enough to look at Annie and to see the change.  He turned back to Momma.

A tear was now running down his cheek.  “How much longer Momma?”

“Not much longer,” she said as she too had turned to notice the change in Annie.  Hope was growing in Momma and Billy could see it.

“Will it hurt Momma?”

“I’m sorry dear, does the pic line hurt.”

“No Momma.  I mean when all my blood is gone and I’m dead.  Will it hurt?”

Momma gasped.  Billy had misunderstood.  He didn’t realize he was only giving a little of his blood to mix with his Sissy’s blood.  He thought he was giving it all…

 

‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5:6-8

Jesus held no illusions when He came to earth.  He came on a rescue mission.  There were no other options.  It was His blood that was going to save the day.

But unlike Billy, Jesus was shedding all His blood for ALL mankind.  Every person who has ever lived, was alive then, or was to live in the future were being given an antidote to the terminal illness of sin.

He was also different from Billy, He didn’t just think He was going to die, He knew He was going to die.  He knew not only pain and suffering were in His path, but humiliation and, sadly, rejection.  Yet He bravely faced it.

‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!’  Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus was God, who became a man, who walked this earth for 30+ years, and at the culmination of His earthly life, He paid the penalty for sin for everyone – for you and for me.  And then He put an exclamation mark on this selfless act by rising from the dead three days later and ascending into heaven.  He sits there today at the right hand of God the Father.  But He isn’t grim-faced.  No, He has a warm and inviting smile and His arms are outstretched toward us, beckoning with His nail-pierced hands.

“Come to me.  Come home.  Lay down your striving and join me.  We have much to talk about.  And in the time you have left on earth there are things to do, things that only you and I can do.  Come home to me and let’s talk.  I love you and I desire to live with you and to put my Holy Spirit inside you to help you from now on.”

Say yes to Jesus, my friend.  You will never be the same.

Blessings upon you.

 

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The most difficult care conversations are those where people have lost hope.  Hope is an anchor.  Hope keeps us from being lost when the storms of life break over us and threaten to destroy us.  Persons who lose hope are vulnerable to multiple temptations that will only make bad situations worse.  The downward spiral that is hopelessness is difficult to break once the path is set.  This is when the life-giving words of Jesus are so important to hold on to.  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 NIV.

Yesterday we prayed with a man whose family has experienced two suicides within the course of a month.  This is the ultimate losing hope.  Two of my friends then shared nuggets of gold which I want to share with you today.  First Doug, a teacher for many years, mentioned an experiment that he has read about.  Laboratory mice were subjected to a stress test that measured the impact of hope.  The mice were placed in a tank filled with enough water that the mice were forced to swim.  For one group of mice the tank was then covered with a box that completely sealed off the light.  The average lifespan of the mice in the dark box was 3 minutes before they drowned.  The second group of mice were treated the same except for a small hole in the box which allowed a small amount of light to enter the box.  The average lifespan of these mice was 36 hours.  Such is the power of hope.

As Doug finished, Greg asked if we had a good definition of hope.  I think I said it was a belief that things would be better in the future.  Greg said hope is H.O.P.E – Holding On to Promises Eternal.  My definition could be true, but it could just as easily be the definition for wishful thinking.  In reality, that’s what a lot of people accept as hope.  But Greg’s definition is tied to something solid… something that has stood the test of time and proven true.

So, I want to share with you some of the Promises Eternal that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt to be true.

“I will never leave you or forsake you.”  God speaks this to several people in the bible.  He spoke it to me in Sept of 1983 in a small chapel at Camp Hartner in the piney woods of central Louisiana.  This is the first and foundational promise of my faith journey.  I pitched my anchor trusting it would hold fast in this promise.  It has for over 34 years.  I am certain it will hold into eternity.

“I know the plans I have for you.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and future.”  Jeremiah 29:11.  The Lord kept this verse in my thoughts the entire week when I was told my job was eliminated in 2007.

‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ‘  Isaiah 41:10.  The Lord clearly gave me this verse as I was about to go to work one morning fully expecting to hear that my team was being downsized.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. ‘  Matthew 6:33.  In this simple admonition, Jesus gave the recipe for prioritizing life which ensures my needs are met.  While there have been a few times that my wants went unsatisfied, I’ve never missed anything of significant value.  One of the things I’ve learned about “wants” is they usually have a great big “I” in the middle of them and they don’t advance God’s purposes in my life or the life of those around me.  Yet with a few unfulfilled wants, there have been numerous times when God’s blessings have absolutely overflowed into my life and the lives of those I know and love.

‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”‘  Matthew 11:28-30.  I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve “limped home” to hear the Father whisper the words “Rest in Me.”  He has always carried the bulk of the load.  At times I’ve attempted to shoulder more than I was supposed to and forge on in my strength.  Yet in His gracious mercy, He has always been right there to step in as soon as I realize my error and lean into Him.

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.’  Proverbs 3:5-6.  Again there have been times when I’ve gotten focused upon my plan, my work, my way that I’ve lost track of God’s call and purpose.  But He is faithful to His promise here and when I turn to Him fully committing my heart and ways to Him, He has always, ALWAYS been there to guide and direct me.

‘Delight yourself also in the Lord , And He shall give you the desires of your heart.’ Psalms 37:4.  I’ve learned that deepening my relationship with the Lord – delighting in Him, has been the greatest blessing of life.  At times I can clearly see how martyrs and the persecuted saints through the ages have been able to worship God even in the face of intense personal pain and suffering.  He gives eyes to see things unseen.  He causes our hearts to know of things eternal.  He changes our heart so that His desires become our desires.  He accomplishes those things that will bring about His glory and our joy.

I meant to keep this to a short post, but I have failed again.  Please forgive me.  While I am just getting warmed up, I know it is time to sign off for today.  Before I do, I would be remiss not to emphasize, these are your promises too.  God loves with an overwhelming love.  He has written His love story for you as well as for me.  Every promise of God is true and you can rely on them.  Wherever you are in life, you can pitch your anchor into God’s Promises Eternal and that anchor will hold.  Jesus gave His life for you and He gives His promises to you.  That my friend is HOPE.  That my friend is for you.

Blessings to you today.

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I serve on the Care Team at Church.  We meet people with God’s love and give them hope.  I feel called to this.  But it’s not always easy. 

From the conversations I have I see that Hope is a commodity often in short supply.  Usually the visit for care is the result of multiple crises in a person’s life.  Often it is the result of personal decisions combined with events outside their control.  Almost always there is some degree of loss that precedes the loss of hope… decline in health, the passing of a loved one, a job loss, a broken relationship…  The end result is that the initial loss precipitates a void wherein hope is drained from the individual.

Our goal in Care is very simple.  We seek to allow the Lord to work through us to help the Care Receiver know that Jesus loves and cares for them.  It is amazing how He does this.  Empathy is our connection point.  Often the Father matches life experiences that the Caregivers have walked through with the challenges the Care Receiver is facing.  This empathy is more than just important, it is essential in being a conduit of God’s love and hope.  We do not theorize, postulate, or pontificate, but rather we seek to be like Jesus and know the person as a valued child of God.  With this relationship established we are able to take the next step.

With sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and an attitude of love, we seek to help the individual identify the root of the loss.  In most cases there are decisions that have been made that need to be understood.  While we seek to deal gently with the broken, we do not treat sin lightly.  It is vitally important that sin be clearly identified and labeled as what it is.  While not all poor decisions are necessarily sin, those that are must be confessed and repented of.  The Word of God is the key here.  With Love we share what the Bible says and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  (Sidenote – It appears to me that where we Christians gain a black eye in the public realm is when we take on the role of prosecuting attorney for God.  Don’t get me wrong, we are to flee from sin, to resist the devil, and do all in our power to promote what is good, decent, and godly.  But if we simply speak the truth from the Word of God, we can leave the emphasizing of what that means to the Holy Spirit.) 

Where it is possible, attempts to undo the damage of the sin are appropriate.  Restitution is a bold, and often beneficial step in the process of repentance.  When I became a believer there was a person I had wronged in my college days.  The Lord impressed upon me that I had a concrete step to take with that person so I drove 600 miles for a face-to-face confession of my sin and to ask for forgiveness.  At the time I was just trying to be obedient to what I understood the Lord was showing me I needed to do.  Today I recognize that it was a major step in my growth as a believer which freed me to be ready for what lay ahead.

Many times forgiveness is a key act in the repentance and healing process.  One of the diabolical aspects of sin is that the victim is often the one who ends up bound in cords of unforgiveness.  There is great liberty in forgiving someone who has done you wrong.  I have had a few “done unto” events and I can honestly say that the Lord has blessed me, not in spite of those things, but through those events after I forgave and then gave the situation to Him.  This is something I have personally experienced and it is essential in the healing process.  (Truth in writing, the forgiving part requires persistence.  The enemy will initially bring the event back up to try and revive the pain and emotional turmoil.  This is a good time to rebuke the thought and repeat your decision to forgive and verbalize that it is in the Lord’s hands.) 

This post is about hope, but it is necessary to understand that hope is a tender flower that requires the proper soil.  What I have described above is required to prepare the soil of the heart to receive the seed of hope.  Make no mistake, hope will not flourish in the wrong environment.  There is a plethora of hope-killers waiting to stamp out the flower of hope, but Jesus’ words should encourage us – “Fear not, for I have overcome the world.”  He is the MASTER Gardener and the Giver of Hope.

Which brings us to the next step – sharing the Word of Life.  The bible is full of God’s promises.  In caregiving this is an apt time to share words that speak into the Care Receiver’s life situation.  Frequently after a conversation I stand amazed at how the Lord brought the right scripture to mind at the perfect time in a conversation.  It is important to regularly read the Word so that it performs its transformative work in you (Romans 12:1-2) and becomes the source of your wisdom to share with others.  The final piece of this is the active work of the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the right word for us to speak and then apply that word in the Care Receiver’s life.    

This leads to the climatic step in Care Giving – Prayer.  I’ve mentioned speaking and verbalizing a couple of times already.  I’m prompted today to mention that it is often necessary to speak things into existence.  The bible begins with God speaking all of creation into existence.  Through the Old Testament we see God putting His words into the mouths of His prophets.  When Jesus walked the earth He spoke and people were changed, healed, delivered, saved.  He even spoke to the wind and waves and they obeyed Him.  He is the Lord God Almighty.  To Him every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess (Phil 2:9-11).  Now for a time He has chosen in His great mercy to give mankind a little more time to turn to Him.  In this window we do not yet see everything under the heavens fully submitted to Him.  But make no mistake, it is all under His dominion. 

As believers God has placed His Holy Spirit into us.  We are His ambassadors.  An ambassador is a representative of a sovereign nation living and residing in a foreign land.  Even though they live in a different country, the full weight of their home country rests upon them.  When they speak, they are speaking for their home country.  As Christ’s ambassadors, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are to speak God’s Word and His words into lives.  Prayer is how we do this.  God gives us the responsibility and privilege of praying what He wants to do in the lives of those He sends our way.  The enormity and mystery of this overwhelms me, but I have experienced it too many times to ignore or discount.

The final step is living out the hope which God has called us to dispense.  In some instances, it will mean we walk with the Care Receiver for a time, for a season, or as life-long friends.  In other instances, it will mean praying for and encouraging them for just that intersection of time, trusting the Lord to continue the good work He has begun.  In every situation though, God has called us to look to Him in child-like trust and nurture the hope that He promises us in His word and He places in our heart. 

A final application.  Please forgive me ahead of time for this final inclusion, but it is a burden I’ve been bearing for several weeks now.  It is also the primary reason I haven’t blogged in a while.  You see, I, like a lot of Americans, am disappointed in what I see in our political process.  It wearies me to see the division and acrimony blasted forth for all to see and endure.  I do not see hope there.  I have chosen a candidate to vote for, but it is more because I see a terrible choice and a little less bad choice.  My friend this has tended to get my eyes off the Lord and onto lesser things.  This weekend I was able to minister care to others dealing with real world, right now issues and I was able to fellowship with others who love God and are striving to live lives of abundant hope.  In so doing I saw my malady for what it was.  I was being drawn to put at least a portion of my faith in things that are not worthy of my faith, nor able to give real hope. 

And then I lifted my eyes…  Jesus is the only one worthy of my total faith and the only one who gives real hope.  And that hope does not disappoint!  (Romans 5:1-5)

Two final thoughts.  I finished this blog last night, but for some reason I didn’t post it.  This morning I woke and called my wife to do our devotion.  (I travel a lot in my work so we do our devotion together over the phone each morning.) The following scripture just jumped out at me.  It is the exclamation point from the Word on what I have said.

Psalm 62:5-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.

Today is the one year anniversary of the passing of four of our youngest son’s friends in a tragic car accident.  James, Josh, Mills, and Sarah are not here with us any longer.  The pain and loss is still very real for their family and friends.  But with eyes of faith we look forward to the day when we will see them again.  They trusted the Lord and were His children.  And one day we too will pass from this life to larger life.  And the reunion will be real and it will be good.  This is hope that we can hold onto.

Take care my friend.  May the Lord richly bless you today as you live a life of tangible hope.

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The Presidential Race is going strong here in the USA.  Sadly, that means dealing loosely with the truth is broadly on display for all to see.  At least two of the front runners in the race for our highest office are guilty of repeatedly lying.  And yet they are still in contention to be our next president.  I find myself becoming discouraged, not so much by the fact that the lying occurs, but that it seems like it is accepted by so many voters.  Truth is devalued.  When truth becomes so devalued that it no longer matters, the consequences are brutal.  Just look at Germany in the 1930’s…the Soviet Union in the early to mid 20th century…ISIS today.

Fortunately there is a remedy – an eternal remedy.  God is real.  His sovereignty is genuine.  His plan is being worked out.  Ultimately all lies and distortions of God’s eternal truths will be completely overthrown.  And if we chose, we do not have to wait for some time in the future for this to begin taking place.  Jesus explained this to a crowd of His followers and His antagonists in John 8:31-32.  “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

I have lost count of the number of times God’s truth has given me a stable place to stand when it seemed the world around me was in upheaval.  Some of them stand out as stark reminders for me now and on into eternity.

When my company announced a merger and it was likely that the group I was in would be downsized.  The Lord clearly spoke Isaiah 41:10 to me.  “So do not fear for I am with you; do not be ashamed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Through the months of waiting as the merger unfolded and the office I was in was eventually downsized, I had God’s truth holding me.

Nine months into this process, when they called us in individually to tell us our specific outcomes, I was told my job was being eliminated.  This time Jeremiah 29:11 repeatedly came to mind, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  I was totally buoyed by the truth God spoke.  I was immensely aware that the God of the universe was with me to see me through.  No matter how it turned out, He had my back… as well as my front, my sides, above and beneath.

Five days before this job was to end, they offered me a new position which was a significant promotion to do work that I really wanted to do.  I experienced the reality of Jeremiah 29:11 in a way so tangible that even as I write today I can’t help but smile.  I know a freedom that the world doesn’t know because I am certain of the truth – He is alive and He is living in me.

But let’s bring the story up-to-date.  A little over a year ago I was in a leadership role in a new company where I had worked for about 3 years.  I had significant responsibility in a brand new plant.  We were making steady progress on our goals, but my boss, the plant manager, and I were not on aligned.  While it was not a surprise, it was still uncomfortable to be told by your friend, the HR Manager, “I have to let you go.”  Since we are talking truth, I have to admit that there were bouts of anger, feelings of loss, and a number of times when I reviewed what I could have done differently.  I continually came back to the same place though.  I had continued to lead with the best interests of all involved to carry out my job in a manner that glorified God and met the company objectives.  In my heart, I could not perform my job the way my boss wanted me to and remain true to my moral and ethical beliefs.  And since he was the boss it was his right to fire me.

Through that soul-searching time the Lord repeatedly gave me signs of His love and peace.  Over and over as I would begin to sink into either anger at the unfairness or self-pity at the loss of a very good (compensation-wise) job, the Lord would whisper, “Trust Me.” 

Today I am at peace and even quite thankful for that situation.  I work part-time doing work that I enjoy, working with people that appreciate what I do.  The mountain of stress that I was under is gone.  My marriage is as strong as ever.  I am able to be much more involved in caring for people.  In fact this afternoon I am going to my grandson’s school to give a brief talk on Thomas Jefferson as part of their President’s month.  I am thrilled to get to do this.

Dear reader, I don’t know where you are in your life, but I want to encourage you today to look to the Truth.  Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  If you already know Him, as I am sure is the case for many of you, then commit yourself totally to knowing Him better.  Spend time every day seeking His face and fellowship.  Obey what He says in His Word and what He whispers to your heart.  He is there and He is not silent.  Love Him and let Him love you.  Freedom – amazing, awesome, peace-filled freedom is what awaits.

What are you waiting for?  Tether to the truth and hold on for the ride of your life.

Be blessed and be a blessing today!

 

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As I finished my run this evening, I was struck by the thought of how good God is to us.  “He showers me with too much love,” I thought.

I don’t deserve the goodness that He pours out upon me, upon my family.

I don’t deserve the kindnesses I have experienced from total strangers in Jesus name.  They were moved to bless and it overwhelms me.

Too many times I have not done what I know He wants me to do and yet His Grace is still upon me and evident in my life.

I have had times when I was happy with my “successes” and pride was a very real issue.  I am still a man who thinks of himself way too much and others way too little.  But day-by-day He leads me to understand that it’s not about me in the end.  It is about Him.  It is about loving others with His love.

Even when I am moody and controlling, His love reaches out to me, to correct me, to lead me, to show me the way of peace and joy… which does not consist of getting my way.

Like Isaiah, I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.  But God called and sent out Isaiah and He calls and sends me out.

Like Paul at times I can only cry out, “what a wretched man I am!”

But Paul was right – “thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

He died so that I might live and know Him in spirit and in truth.  It is too much love for this man.

And that is exactly the right amount.

 

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As I rose this morning I wondered if the storm that crashed in upon us at dusk last night would result in a glorious sunrise this morning.  I hurriedly got dressed as an excitement rose within me to commune with the Father and see what the morning light ushered in.  Surprisingly, my excitement only rose when I looked out the window and saw the fog.  Grabbing my bible and hot tea I headed outside.

This morning’s post requires a little background before I get to the good stuff.  I am in a new phase of my life.  At the beginning of this year after almost 32 years of constant employment and increasingly responsible positions within three different companies, I found myself unemployed.  The way the separation transpired left me with unanswered questions and a fair amount of emotional loose ends to work through.  I had the basis of a plan already formulated, but I had not done much work in setting the plan in motion when the separation arrived.  So even as I moved into a time of soul-searching I also moved into hurry-up mode to become an independent consultant in my field of expertise.  Today, five months later I have made more progress on the soul-searching side, but both are progressing.

Which brings me to the lesson in the fog.  Our church is currently going through a series called “Without a Doubt”.  We are looking at God’s faithfulness in life’s most trying times.  As Pastor P said several weeks ago every person is in one of three stages in life.  Either they are in a storm, they are coming out of a storm, or they are getting ready to enter a storm.  Last night’s storm dumped a lot of rain and that moisture created the fairly dense fog this morning.  Storms do that.  Their impact can linger even after the deluge has passed.

The fog after the rain.

The fog after the rain.

Enveloped by Fog.

Enveloped by Fog.

As I prayed this morning I realized that since I came to faith I don’t believe I have doubted God’s love.  I have experienced periods of uncertainty about what the results would be in a storm, uncertainty whether my response would be right and good, uncertainty whether I would stand in the God-honoring way I desire, but I haven’t been uncertain that God is or that He is sovereign.  Digging deeper though, I have been uncertain that God’s love would manifest itself in a way that I could bear.  It was not whether God loves or that He would be with me.  Those are unshakeable truths.  But I recognize in myself the weakness of thought and action that leaves me yearning for more of Christ and less of me.

At that moment I raised my hands and looked up into the grey mist all around and above and I praised the living Lord.  Immediately I thought of what was on the other side of that grey mist – a glorious sunshine that was bright, golden, and warm.  A light that is life giving.  A light that is always there.  A light that I am certain is there.

It dawned on me in that moment that God’s love is the same as the sun.  It is always there… it is life-giving… it is bright, golden, and warm.  My doubts and uncertainty are swallowed in the certainty of God’s love.  It is a redeeming love.  Even if I lose all, God’s love can and will redeem what is lost (See Job 42:10).  Even if the way is dark, God’s love is the light of dawn speeding toward us.  Even if my faith slips and my response misses the mark, God is faithful and just to forgive us and restore us because of His love.

I had two key take-aways from the message this weekend that apply in every storm and in the fog.  First, if the situation we are in is not good, then God’s not finished.  Second, in the times when I cannot see God’s hand, when I can’t understand what is going on, I can always, ALWAYS trust His heart.  Let the storm come.  Let the fog roll in.  Let the darkness settle upon us.  In all things and in every situation God is there, God is light, God is life and God is love!

As I finish this blog I look out the window and within the past five minutes the fog has lifted.  I think I will take that as I sign I got it right.

The fog has lifted!

The fog has lifted!

AWESOME!  He is SO GOOD!

Rejoice today my friend.  God’s love is precious and it is near.  Take hold of His hand today and let us rejoice!

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Life is a lot like the weather.  Sometimes it is wonderful like blue skies and pleasant temperatures.  Other times it is rainy, dull, and dreary.  And on occasion a storm or hurricane decides to roll through.  For those in the northern climes we’ll say a blizzard blasts you.  Today I sit on a balcony at Myrtle Beach as tropical storm Ana decides to come ashore.  As storms go Ana is relatively mild.  Still the wind gusts and at times driving rain are scuttling the plans of many as we hunker down inside and plan to “make the best of it.”

Today several of our friends are going through hurricanes in their lives.  A precious 2 year old succumbed to cancer yesterday.  Another friend lost her only brother who leaves behind a wife and two young daughters.  Other friends are dealing with struggling relationships – marriages being attacked and threatened.  These painful events are akin to the wind, rain, and battering waves that threaten to destroy beach, buildings, and any soul who mistakenly wanders out into the storm.

Jesus talked about exactly these sorts of situations and He used a weather metaphor to do so.  In Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus describes the wise and foolish builders.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I am an engineer so I know that there are many steps in building a good, solid house.  Jesus really emphasizes only one point in this story – the foundation.  You can do everything else in home construction perfect, but if you have a poor foundation the home will not stand when the earth shakes or the severe storm hits.  Jesus and His teachings are the only truly solid foundation for life.

 Just a little bit later in Matthew we see a real life example of Jesus’ authority demonstrated.  Crossing the Sea of Galilee Jesus falls into an exhausted sleep in the boat when a squall breaks out.  From Matthew 8: 23 – 27:
23Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
For some storms in our lives Jesus will step in and calm the storm… the layoff passes us by, the diagnosis is marvelously / miraculously wrong, the wayward child comes to their senses and returns home.  For many storms though the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, chooses to walk with us through the storm rather than still the storm.  The promise of scripture and the experience of followers everywhere is that if the Lord doesn’t calm the storm, you can be certain He is with you in the storm.  That is my story.  Jesus’ peace, comfort, and grace have sustained and carried me through every storm I’ve experienced.  And on the other side I am a better person with a stronger faith because of it.  I have been in a particular storm for the past year plus, but I see the end of this storm on the horizon and I am excited.
As I’ve written the bands of wind and rain have continued to sweep through and yet I feel joy in my heart as if it where a beautiful, spring morning.  I know Him who is the foundation of life and He is my strength and shield.  I don’t know where you are in your life, but there is a truth our pastor says fairly frequently.  “Whoever you are you can be certain one of three things is true.  Either you are in a storm, you’ve recently come through a storm, or there is a storm in your future.”  This would be pretty discouraging IF we didn’t have a sovereign God who knew how to bring good out of every storm and Who walks with us through them.
If Jesus and His words are your life foundation, then join me in praising Him in the rain.  If you do not yet know Him, please comment to my blog and I will be happy to reach out and introduce you to the Lover of your soul who wants to be your foundation.  Ask the Lord to help you know Him.  Also pick up the bible and start reading.  The gospels are the best choice, but I would be happy to correspond with you and give you some suggestions based upon your life situation.
Be blessed today and be a blessing whether you are in the sunshine or in the rain.

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