Friday, May 25, 2018

Confidence

Do you have confidence? Can you rest assured that all things are going to work out in you life? You can you know. God has said so. Jesus Christ Himself tells us in John 16:33 to be at peace saying, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Because He is an overcomer, we are too even in our troubles. How can I say this? Because God is telling us that it is normal to have troubles. God’s half-brother James even said, “Consider it pure joy my brothers when you come into trials (troubles) of diverse kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Over the weekend I attended a men’s Bible study where we looked at Hebrews 4:16 saying, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Do you approach God’s throne in prayer with confidence? You should because as Hebrews says, as a believer, “you have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess” (Hebrews 4:14).  We have Jesus interceding with the Father for us, therefore we should be confident. This is not some worldly hope, but a promise from God, “Through these (life and godliness) He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them we might participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4).


God has promised us that even though we will have trouble that His divine nature through His Holy Spirit is guiding and protecting us through them. Therefore we can be confident, as He is our anchor. He is the promise maker and keeper. He cannot lie or change like the world does. “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of prophecy in this book” (Revelation 22:7).  These are Jesus’ last words to John written to us as we wait for His coming soon. We can be confident of this that He who said this is the Holy Lord and we can count on it.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Food

Are you hungry? Probably like me you say yes most of the time. It is the way it is, we are hungry. But are you hungry for the right things? Jesus was walking through Samaria with His disciples who were hungry and wanted food said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about…My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish this work…Look at the fields, they are ripe for harvest” John 4:34-35).

For the disciples finding food was a constant theme. They told Jesus that the crowd of 5,000 was hungry and they needed to go find food. But Jesus says that there is a food that satisfies. He tells them that they have come to need milk and not solid food. Here He is speaking of the Word of God. Remember in the John 4 passage that Jesus headed to talk with the woman at the well when the disciples went to town to buy food. He told her, “But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. But the water I give him will become in them fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). Way back in the Old Testament story of the Exodus, God rained down bread from heaven. But in Deuteronomy 8:3 He said, “man does not live by bread alone but from every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”


So that’s what He is talking about, that we are to satisfy our desires and hungers not on worldly things but on His Word. Yes, that is what Jesus had and has given to us if we will seek and eat. It is seeking the will of God that fills us. We cannot fast forever in God’s word the Bible, but we can stop and read or meditate on it more than we do. We spend thousands of hours a year eating, how many in the Word? It is nourishment for our souls and guidance for our lives.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Collisions

“Life is a series of head-on collisions.”  This was the opening line in a sermon of a well-known TV preacher. Well that is an attention getter and many would say very negative. I would say, that’s true. So we truly need the helmut of salvation for protection.

I have found in my ministry to hospital patients, families and staff that every one is in a trial or has just come out of it. And if that doesn’t fit, you are about to go into one. No head-on collision does sound a little strong, or does it. Today happens to also be the one-year anniversary of a head-on collision that my wife and I survived. I have written on it before, telling the story of a crash on a vacation trip to the American Virgin Islands. There, as you might know the driving is on the left side, but the cars steering wheels are on the left like on the mainland. The roads are paved for the most part but very windy along the ocean or in the subtropical jungle. There are no shoulders and the jungle comes to the edge of the road. Scattered along the roads are chickens and donkeys and walkers from neighboring shacks. Along the seaside roadways are coral boulders. It is beautiful don’t get me wrong. But you need to share the road with trucks and buses. You might not know that the islands are mountainous and therefore the roads are also undulating through the woods and slopes, often with roller coaster like ups and downs.

It was on such a hill on a curve that we needed to find a place to turn around after missing the Red Hook Care Ferry terminal. That was a feat, but up the hill around a car and a donkey as I was trying to get back to the left lane at the top of the hill. There we met a car just cresting the hill from the other side. Even at only 25 MPH, the explosion of breaking glass and screeching metal is deafening. The shock-arresting crash blurred every thought. The airbags blew and the seatbelts snapped. Blinded and shaken I could only smell the acrid odor of burnt rubber and hot anti-freeze. Steam and smoke rose to cause my initial thought of blindness. As it rose, I could see the car right in front of me. The license “Ps 27.” As asked my wife if she was all right and she said yes. I was able to get out and view the other car. The driver was staring at me. As I walked up to her down window I asked if she was OK and she said, “I think so.” I told her the first verse of the Psalm 27 on her plate, The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear; The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid.” An ambulance and police arrived quickly I thought. We were shaken, but the other woman needed to be taken from her car by ambulance to the hospital only two turns back down the road.

We needed to wait and make statements. Then after riding in the tow truck back down to ferry we got another rental jeep. The ferry made the twenty-minute trip to St. John where we had rented a house high up on the mountain. The sea spray and azure waters gave us a little calm after the storm. We found the house just right with a view out over the sailboat dotted Coral Bay for many miles across the multi-island chain.  The green jungle rose high around us, ensconcing us in its dense life-filled greens against the blues of the Caribbean.  We sat on the deck, watching the tropical horizon like we imagined the first explorers had.

Our bodies were bruised and Pam looked like a crossing guard with multi-colored shoulder straps. We decided to head to a beach to find solace and peace.

Fortunately on our first try we found a gorgeous private bay down a jungle coral and sand covered trail. The waters were sparkling in the sun with translucent shades of azure blue lapping against the white sands.  There were only a couple of beachcombers and a couple of yachts anchored out a few hundred yards. We had found a silent and almost secret paradise pond bay. There we soaked and swam with snorkel and mask, mesmerized by the tropical fish and terns wheeling above. A green turtle appeared and gave me a smooth swimming distraction to follow into the sea grass.  Time stopped spinning and the Lord said to me, “Peace, be still.” We healed for several days in our private lagoon and on fresh caught fish from our sea.

Why such a long narrative? Soon we were back to the States and received all the insurance inquiries followed by another collision, a lawsuit from this supposed Christian. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, Paul reprimands church members who have filed lawsuits against each other. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18 to work out differences. But we live in a litigious society.

Back at my hospital job as a chaplain, I am called to encourage people through crisis. My conversations tells that most people are experiencing trials or collisions on a regular basis. As I quote from the 23rd Psalm on walking through the valley of the shadow of death it seems that this is the norm not the exception. Oh yes David tells us that even though we are in the valley, we are walking and getting through and that God is protecting us with His rod and staff. So we are not to fear for God is in it with us. In fact Immanuel, God with us, is always with us, He will never leave or forsake us. Most people don’t have a very good theology of suffering or collisions.  Scripture gives us a myriad of guidance for getting through the valleys. God said we need a “Valley Guide.” That guide is God and His word and other godly people.

I find the psalms a wonderful place to go in trial. They represent all of our emotions as my book, Great is God’s Faithfulness, tells us. Jesus said, “In the world
 you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). As we age, I think we learn the tribulations are the norm and the way of life. Jesus, however, is the way, the truth and the life. He will show us the way to walk as Isaiah 30:21 tells us. It requires being filled with the Holy Spirit and walking in the Spirit with the fruit of the Spirit within us.

Collisions, maybe you don’t like the metaphor, but pick one for it is the way of life on earth. For me, a car wreck was for real, but so also are the constant collisions with co-workers and even relatives. I know that Scripture admonishes us, “If it is at all possible, as much as it depends upon you, be at peace with all people” (Romans 12:18). This will be a life-long learning for me. In the current genre of colloquial speech, I am to “Let it go” or “Shake it off” when confronted by difficult people. As peacemakers we are not to avoid conflict but to hit it head-on with gentleness and respect. I am in a season of collisions with difficult people and God is training me to trust Him in it. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).


Friday, May 4, 2018

Struggle

"The struggle is part of the journey."

The above quote is from a woman struggling to live after a stage-4 tumor was surgically removed from her brain. She says that she is glad that it is just “part.”
“Quietly endure, silently suffer and patiently wait.”
Struggle is the essence of life. It is the God ordained way of things human.
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” (Hebrews 12:4-7).

The central meaning of live comes from knowing God in His Son who did shed His blood for us that in our struggle against sin we would know that He has already overcome it for us on the cross. Failure is not final. It is being sanctified through our life in Christ as we trust in Him. It just is as King David said in Psalm 23.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:4).
David, near the end of his life had come to know that struggle and valleys are the main thing of life, but that God is good and protects and comforts us even though we will suffer in it. That is the key, He does anoint our heads with the oil of life and eternal life so our lives can overflow in the struggle and we can live mercifully in the house of the Lord forever.

“Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.”
I am so glad that the Bible chronicles man’s struggle through the ages. I am always amazed at how the Apostle Paul was battered as delineated in 2 Corinthians 11. If that was not enough, Acts 27 portrays dramatically the survival or all with him in a shipwreck. As Salinger writes for the ages as well to young men, we need to learn from these things.

All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.
Pope Paul tells us that all life demands struggle or we will become selfish and hedonistic.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.
This renown grief therapist talks of how people become beautiful, and that is through struggle. Can I get a testimony or at least Amen.

Without a struggle, there can be no progress.
I am not sure what progress always is, but this civil rights activist of the 19th century was measuring progress in the struggle against slavery. This was and still is an honorable struggle for life in freedom.

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
We must live our individual struggles. We cannot change other people or circumstances to avoid it, coercion is fruitless. He wrote often of struggle in bestsellers like The Grapes of Wrath.  

I pick my favourite quotations and store them in my mind as ready armour, offensive or defensive, amid the struggle of this turbulent existence.
This Scottish poet and lyricist was active for social change and dealt with struggle finding armor and sword in it. It was this that was the topic of his writings.

Life has meaning only in the struggle. Triumph or defeat is in the hands of the Gods. So let us celebrate the struggle!
So let us celebrate the struggle through spiritual disciplines.  These keep our minds on God and His promises that are certain. We need to keep our minds on the triumph we have in Christ. Struggle is the way of life. That is how we can “Consider it pure joy when we come into trials of diverse kinds, because the testing of our faith develops perseverance which must finish it’s work so you can be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). Yes, call on the Lord and He will give you how and what to do in the struggle. He will take you through if you trust in Him and are not double-minded, like a wave blown in the wind.
Struggle on.