Devastated but Hopeful

www.bible.com/72/hab.3.17-18.hcsb

My life is in shambles, like a tornado ripped through and left me with debris. In 2012, a powerful tornado whipped through our sister community of West Liberty and many echoed this statement. A church was completely destroyed, along with several downtown businesses. The town was leveled.

Habakkuk reflects upon the devastation that results from agricultural failure. The olive trees, the crops, even the stalls for livestock are all empty. For someone living in sixth century BC Israel, this was a fate akin to death. When the crops don’t come in and there is nothing on the trees, you are done. Habakkuk knew this well and cried out to God. But in the midst of the cry was a note of hope. That despite all of the physical evidence that as a nation, we are finished, God is still a God of salvation.

It’s hard to praise when there is no blessing. It requires a perspective that acknowledges the now, but anticipates eternity. While we suffer in the present, this isn’t all there is. Though the world around us is destroyed, He is not. It is the ability to see past our circumstances.

The people of West Liberty rebuilt their town, but even today you can see the scars. You too can be rebuilt, but there will be scars. If you are suffering today, know that you are not alone. Perhaps God is using this time to draw you closer to Himself. The rich young ruler was told to sell all of his possessions and follow Jesus. Will your faith be in jeopardy if you lose a few things? I would like to say, “Absolutely Not!” But I can’t tell I wouldn’t be shaken either.

We all need a note from Habakkuk today, both to be grateful for the blessings we have (knowing they can be taken away at any moment) and for praying that we don’t follow Jesus for the blessings themselves. God help us.

And may God bless you today. Thanks for reading.

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Lead On

www.bible.com/72/psa.143.10.hcsb

A simple plea of the Psalmist today for the Lord to rescue him. The Psalmist says he wishes to learn the ways of God and be led by the Spirit onto easy ground, because he’s been in some tough places. The Psalmist wants to live for the Lord, but life has really gotten in the way and he Psalmist pleads for rescue so that he can live for the Lord. Sound familiar?

I don’t know what you are going through today, but I’m sure you can empathize with the writer here. I could live for the Lord if He would just lighten the burden a little, give me a little breathing room. Some days are like that. I am too busy just trying to get through it that I forget that I have a loving God who is watching out for me. Sometimes it feels like He abandons us altogether. It feels like it. It’s like the parent who lets go of the bike so that his child can ride on his own. He is never far, but He lets you try it for a while. We never get tougher if we are always coddled. We need seasons in the crucible so that the dross can be burned away. We don’t like them, but they are designed to focus our attention on Him. God is seasoning us with stress and conflict, so that we will learn not to depend on our own wisdom, but His leading.

We know we need that. We just don’t like the process it takes to get there. No one does. No one enjoys boot camp, but it is a necessary process to take soft civvies and turn them into soldiers. We need the training if we are going to be effective servants. We know this is true, even though we cry out in the midst of it. But know that God is the way through it. Let Him lead.

God bless you today. Remember the struggle is not forever. You will get through this.

Pruning isn’t Pleasant

www.bible.com/72/jhn.15.2.hcsb

Just saying.

No, seriously, pruning your life is not a pleasant experience. It usually means losing something, maybe a job, a friend, even family members. It could be a marriage or a church. I hope it’s just bad habits or sinful behaviors. I hope. Because when the Lord starts pruning the former, you know He has serious work to do.

Maybe you have a fantastic job, but it keeps you from spending time doing the Lord’s work. Or you have a great friend, but they are leading you from your best Friend. Perhaps your marriage is amazing, but it isn’t holy. Pruning doesn’t explain all of these, nor would I say at the time of such trauma that that is what the Lord is doing, but He does prune, and it does hurt.

But when He prunes, it is so we will produce more fruit. He cuts away the extra growth that He doesn’t want or need. He may let it grow for a little while, your your conscious work on you for a bit, but only for a season. If you are trying to be a disciple, welcoming the pruning is a sign of maturity, of knowing that life is more that this world, but prep for the next.

This isn’t an easy one to write, because I’ve felt the pruning. And it always hurts. But sometimes God let’s me see what good comes from it. It takes faith to let Him prune, trust that He knows what to cut so that you will grow.

About two years ago, I was asked to step down from the pulpit and turn in my letter of resignation. That was hard. It still is. But God is showing me today some of the good. It has been a great challenge to my faith, but I still believe, because I trust Him.

God bless you through your trials today. Trust Him.

A Little Bit Goes A Long Way

bible.com/72/eph.4.1-3.hcsb

So it’s been a little bit since I’ve shared something with you. Thank you for your patience. My Dad has been in a bad way here the last few days and life has been a little overwhelming. I got a call Monday afternoon that Dad was going for emergency surgery on his heart and that led to a four hour drive back to Indiana to be with family. Turns out “emergency” actually means “in four days” so there’s that. I go up tomorrow to be with family and deal with the stress and worry.

This verse looked like a good one to share with you all, since all of our interactions with others could use a little humility and gentleness. This is especially true as a patient and his family who are in crisis mode. I saw a lot of ways we could have been shouty and petulant during this whole thing. I’m thankful we weren’t. But I can think of a lot of moments we could have lost our cool and felt justified. Hospitals move at the speed of slow sometimes, and getting the right care can mean a lot of waiting. That’s not compatible with folks who’ve been told that their loved one is critical and could die without immediate surgery by the Doctor at the last hospital, before transferring to this one.

Civility seems like it’s always the first casualty in a crisis. We just don’t have time for it. But being humble and gentle isn’t reserved for times when everything is ok. It’s called for at all times. Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time for all things under heaven. But when Jesus was subjected to the torturers, He was a like a sheep led to the slaughter, silent before the shearers. We may not all be like Jesus, but we can demonstrate a little humility and kindness when the need arises.

Suffering is not an easy road. And many of us don’t do it well. We maintain a perspective that this life is all that matters. We forget that this is merely the boot camp for the world to come. We are being trained, tested in our mettle and our resolve, for the eternity that waits for us. Oh but that we could just get a glimpse of what awaits us there, then we might not be so anxious about leaving this world. Then we would know that every test and ignominy we suffer will be recompensed, made good in that perfect place.

My friends, let us strive to be humble and gentle. For our Heavenly Father is proving us faithful, even in the midst of trial. Our life is more than food and clothing, shelter and work. God is forging us into His children with whom He plans to spend eternity with. Forging is not a painless process. But we too shall be made beautiful.

God bless you all.

Bad Day?

bible.com/72/2co.12.10.hcsb

I can’t even imagine what kind of life the Apostle Paul led. We read about his exploits in the book of Acts, and are appropriately awed by all the things he said and did. I know I am amazed at his evangelical prowess, his ability to argue from the Old Testament and from his experience as an Apostle proving that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. But then there are verses like this that prove being an Apostle is not an easy job. In fact it is physically and emotionally challenging. Yet He speaks of his physical trials not as detriments but as encouragements. He takes on the attitude that the bad stuff that happens to him is actually working out for good, and is working out for a good end. I just don’t know if I can be that positive. I mean, I had oncall last Sunday.

I was called in three times to deal with patient issues. I was ok with the first and managed the second, but by the time I had my third call-in, I was upset. I had had enough and didn’t want to have to deal with another emotionally and spiritually troubled person that day. Lord forgive me. I went in angry, only to run in to an awful tragedy. And I repented. God needed me in this situation too. Paul would probably have been delighted to have another opportunity to minister the gospel. I wasn’t Paul.

Even though I was tired and done with the day, God still needed me. I was weak and tired, but God strengthened me to do ministry. Are you having a bad day? Are you suffering from circumstances beyond your control? Remember this verse. When I am weak, then am I strong. His power is made perfect in weakness, because it is His glory, not our own, that shines through. It is when we stop depending on our own strength and rely on His, His hope and promises, that we truly shine for Him. I hope you are having a good day, but if not, remember He still loves you.

Not Just Taking Up Space

You Love Me?

You may not know God’s purpose for your life right now. You may believe that your life is on hold, waiting for someone or something to show you your life’s direction. I saw it in the eyes of a widow, whose husband had passed and now she was ill, with no obvious path forward but death. Yet, she persisted day to day, taking endless treatments and visits to the hospital. Why am I still here?

In the face of life’s confusing circumstances, the road ahead is foggy. We ask what possible direction is there when we can’t see it. Yet, when the roads are foggy, I trust the men who built them to keep driving. I don’t stop in the middle of the road, refusing to travel, because I can’t see the way. I trust the builders that there is a road ahead, so I keep driving.

Our lives are not built merely of our own preferences and decisions. There is One who has built the road ahead for us. We choose to travel. We trust that even when we can’t see what’s next, we know the Builder does and has prepared a way. We don’t worry about ravines and rivers because we trust the builders to have built a bridge. Though life brings us valleys and mountains, we have a Builder who has prepared the way.

I had no answer for this widow. I still don’t. But I trust the Lord, and I trust the road He has built. He has given us guardrails on our road, rules for behavior that show us what we ought to do while we wait for the bigger picture to unfold. In her distress, she knew she just wanted to die, but she knew that taking her own life wasn’t an option, so she waited on the Lord. And He did take her in time, in His time.

She didn’t know what purpose God had for her life. But maybe by sharing a little of her story with you, we have discovered it. We are not here to satisfy ourselves, but that through us, others may know about God. Perhaps her purpose was the demonstrate faithfulness to God’s plan for us, even when we can’t see it. So that I can’t see it either, I don’t lose hope.

We Cannot Imagine

The Lord Speaks

I’ve got 99 problems, but the Lord is bigger than all of them. Job could have said that (and did by the end of his book). So can we. Why do we appeal to God when we suffer, because we know, without thinking, that the Lord exceeds the extent of our suffering, He is bigger and more powerful than anything we can ask or imagine. No sooner than we conceive a limit for God, He exceeds it. And yet, in our limitedness, our Gini tide, God does not look down with contempt, but with the love of the vastness of His nature. Doesn’t God deserve your attention and respect today?