The Problem We’re All Trying to Solve – Part 2

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23 (NIV)

The problem we are all trying to solve is death. Or, how we make sense of life if death is the end of the story.  Many of you reading this know that I died about four years ago.  You can read about it here.  Following that experience, I wrote a series of posts about death and what it is like to die.  Today’s post is from that series.

When I had my heart attack, I was dead for about 30 minutes.  I do not have a specific memory of that experience, maybe because I was sedated when it happened.  I have some impressions that I will share in this next series of posts along with my thoughts on death and what happens when we die.  This series will “get into the weeds” a little bit and I hope you will hang with me.  It’s stuff we don’t often think about and it may be the most important stuff I say in the blog.

Let’s start with a fundamental truth: our spirit, or soul, lives forever.  Once you exist, you never cease to exist.  At death, your soul is freed from your body, but it doesn’t perish.  Take a minute to let that sink in.

Jesus told us that, when we die, our souls will be taken to heaven where we will spend eternity with God or we will go to hell where we will spend eternity separated from God.  Heaven is a place of joy and fellowship, hell is a place of suffering (we see the consequences of decisions we can’t change) and darkness.  Hell isn’t something we like to talk about, but Jesus talked about it a lot.  It is real and he doesn’t want us there.

What heaven and hell have in common is that things happen, but time never passes.  Imagine the most peaceful and joy-filled time of your life, you look at the clock and it is stopped.  The peace and joy continue and time remains stopped.  Can this go on forever? Yes, it does.  Now imagine the worst time you ever had: fear, regret, panic, suffering and pain.  Imagine being trapped in that time.  You keep checking the clock and time has not passed.  Can this go on forever? Yes, it does.

So, the big question you should be asking is: How do I make sure that, when the time comes, I am going to heaven and not to hell?  Do you meet the entry requirement?  To get into heaven, a person must be perfect without ever having sinned.  God is perfect and he cannot allow imperfect souls to be around Him.  That’s a problem because, on our own, we are not perfect.  That’s where Jesus comes in.

The consequence for our imperfection, or sin, is eternal death. Or, as Paul says, the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When we sin, we earn death. Paul also confirms that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:23). We like to think that “sin” is the “big things” that we don’t do. But, the truth is, sin is every time we do not follow God’s law perfectly. By that standard, I can’t begin to count how many times a day that I sin.

God knew that His standard was unreachable when he set it, that is why He planned an alternative. For us, because we sin, death is the necessary outcome. But, what if a person did live a perfect life? That person would not have “earned death” and would be entitled to go to heaven and spend eternity with God. That person is Jesus. He lived a perfect life, yet he gave up his life for us on the cross. Jesus died the death that we are all condemned to die. God allows us to claim Jesus’ death on the cross as the death that we should have received for our sins. Then, because the price for our sin has been paid, God wipes out its consequences and we can enter heaven as if we had never sinned. The Bible calls us “righteous” meaning that we now have right standing before God.  When we get to heaven and are asked, “Did you live a perfect life?”  We can say, I have accepted the perfect life that Jesus lived for me.

The last question is, if you don’t have this right standing with God and are not sure you will go to heaven when you die, how do you get it? You simply need to ask. There are many versions of the “sinner’s prayer” that you can pray. I will give you one here. There is no magic formula. You are committing your life to God and asking Him to forgive you and change you. Will there be changes in your life? You bet. Will it always be smooth sailing? No. But, I can assure you that a life spent on earth at peace with God and eternity in heaven with Him will far outweigh any temporary problems you may face.

Here’s what you can pray. Don’t be afraid to be honest and fill in the gaps.

“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Please take my life and make me the kind of person You want me to be.”

This prayer is from the Cru Web site.  If you want more information, follow this link.

If you have prayed this prayer for the first time, welcome to the kingdom of heaven! If you have prayed this prayer or something like it to recommit your life to Jesus, welcome back.  You can follow these links to read the posts on daily prayer and daily Bible reading to get started.

The Problem We’re All Trying to Solve – Part 1

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:23 (NIV)

“Vanity,” “vapor,” “foolishness,” “the wink of an eye.”  What am I describing? Life.  These are a common view of life for many people.  What leads them to reach such a conclusion about life? Death.

Humans are the only creatures who are self-aware.  When Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” he was making a philosophical statement about the unique nature of humans to think about and comment on their existence. Depending on the conclusions we reach about our existence, the phrase may be modified slightly, for example, “I think about death, therefore I am without hope.”  Death is the problem we are all trying to solve.

Why is death so important?  For me, it was because death brought focus to life.  If all life ends in death, regardless of what I do, then why do anything?  If I know I will die, does that affect the way I should live?  Death, or more accurately, what happens when we die, is a subject addressed in all the religious and philosophical systems I have studied.  I was encouraged to know that I wasn’t the only person thinking about it.

Over the next six weeks, I will be talking about the explanation of life and death that we find in the Bible.  It is the view that I have accepted as true.  When talking about death, the Bible begins with the assumption we find in today’s verse, everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  I talked about the problem we have with the word “sin” a few weeks ago, you can follow this link to read it, so I won’t get back in to that again.  Instead, I’d like to set up the discussion we will have over the next month or so.

We begin with the statement that death is the problem.  And we ask, why.  In the Christian faith, death is a problem because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and that will affect what happens when we die.  God is perfect and, though He created us to know Him, our sin has separated us from Him.  Because there is nothing we can do on our own to fix the problem of sin, God became directly involved in the process of restoring us to Himself by becoming human and living among us as Jesus.  Ultimately, He paid the price for our sin that we could not pay ourselves.

For Christians, it all starts and ends with Jesus.  We believe that he was a real person who lived in what is now Israel about 2,000 years ago.  He was born in a little town called Bethlehem and God told his father to name him Jesus, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Yeshua or Joshua and means God is salvation.  The central message of Jesus teaching was our broken relationship with God and how it could be restored.

If we are going to spend the next several weeks talking about Jesus’ solution to the problem of death, we should begin by asking why his opinion should matter.  One view is that Jesus’ opinions on life and death are just another voice in a chorus of voices on the subject and we should give it as much or as little weight as we like.  But, C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, explains that we don’t have the option of putting Jesus in the same group as all the other philosophers and religious leaders because Jesus’ message was unique in one significant way, Jesus claimed to be God.  Therefore, Jesus’ teaching about life and death was not yet another solution added to the pile, but the definitive solution from the creator of the universe.

Many people want to give Jesus the respect they believe he deserves and call him a wise man or good teacher who taught us how to live a good and productive life.  They would like to take from his teaching the things that they like and leave the rest behind as his opinion and not right for them. But, Lewis explains that we may not take this “philosophical smorgasbord” approach with Jesus.  The choices are Lord, lunatic or liar. The first option is to believe that Jesus is who he said he was, the God of the universe who came to earth in human form. If we believe that, his teaching about life and death take on an authority that defeats every other philosophical or religious view.  Believers are often called arrogant for taking that absolute position. But, if Jesus is God, we don’t have another option.  If Jesus is not God, Lewis says we have two other options.  Jesus was a lunatic or he was a liar.  He was a lunatic if he really believed he was God, though he wasn’t, and he was a liar if he knew he wasn’t God but told people that he was.  In either case, he does not deserve our respect and his teaching is not credible.

The question this week is “Who do you believe Jesus is?”  You may have answered that question already.  If not, take the week to read the Gospel of John and think about it for yourself.  Send me an e-mail or leave a comment with the questions you are asking.  The solution to the problem of death offered by the Christian faith is based on the belief that Jesus is God.  The rest follows from that assumption.

Press On!

David

Winning the Fight with Temptation

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

For the longest time, I thought God must be really smart because He knows how much temptation I can bear and he always keeps the temptation level just below my limit.  What an amazing calculus God must have developed to know all the temptations I encounter, how mentally and morally strong I am, and how much I can bear at that moment.  He would allow the temptation meter to go up at times when I was strong and he would keep it easier when I was more vulnerable.  I don’t remember when the light finally went on and I realized that this verse, like so many other things, was not about me, at least not in the way I thought.

For a long time, I thought that temptation must be an incredibly powerful force.  Like gravity, if I stepped off temptation’s ledge, I would fall if God “allowed” me to be tempted beyond my ability to bear it.  It eventually got through to me that temptation is not some irresistible force of nature.  I can always say no, walk away, and make another choice.  When I am tempted and fail, it is not a problem of God over-tempting, but of me under-resisting.  I don’t get to blame God for my mistakes.

Back to the verse for today.  Open your Bible and read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.  In verses 7-10, Paul gives some examples of the temptations that got the Israelites in trouble during their 40 years in the wilderness and, he says, still cause trouble for believers today.  His first example is idolatry.  You may remember that soon after the Israelites left Egypt, Moses led them to Mount Sinai where he went up the mountain to receive from God the tablets of the law.  The Israelites got worried because Moses was gone and the mountain looked scary covered with clouds and lightening.  They decided that they should have a golden calf, like their friends had back in Egypt, to make their life better and make their problems go away.  So, they convinced Moses’ brother Aaron to make them a golden calf, which he did and they worshipped.

As an enlightened person living in the 21st century, I know that a golden calf is not going to make my life better or make my problems go away.  We all know that.  Right?  What will make our lives better and our problems go away is a new [pick the one that best fits] car, house, job, TV, computer, iPhone, truck, . . .  We still have “golden calves,” they have just taken a different form.  If something takes the place of God in our life, it is an idol, even if it isn’t made of gold.  What are some of the other things that got the Israelites into trouble, revelry (partying), sexual immorality, and complaining.  Paul is right.  Even in the 21st century, we have the same idols and temptations that have been common to mankind.

The good news is that God has also provided the same way out so that we can endure them.  God’s rules for surviving in the wilderness for 40 years were pretty simple: 1) follow me (when the cloud or pillar of fire moved, they moved and when it stopped, they stopped) and 2) do what I say (when they listened to God and did what he told them, they were prosperous and successful in battle).

I have now come back around to where I began.  Only, this time from God’s perspective and not from mine.  The reason I can endure any temptation is because God will protect me from it or lead me through it if I am following Him and doing what He says.  My success in overcoming temptation has nothing to do with God being faithful to me by limiting how much I am tested.  My success in overcoming temptation has everything to do with me being faithful to God.  Paul can be confident that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to bear because he knows, if we are following God and doing what He says, we will have the strength to overcome temptation.

You will be tempted, tried and tested this week.  Don’t be surprised by it, be ready for it.  When you are tempted ask, “How do I follow God in this situation?” and “What has God told me to do in this situation?”  If you aren’t sure, go to the source and ask “God, how do I follow you?” and “God, what do you want me to do?”  Then, take a deep breath, listen for God’s voice and watch for his intervention.

Press On!

David

The Healing Power of Prayer and Confession

 

Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16 (NIV)

You may know that James, the author of the letter from which this verse is taken, was Jesus’ brother and one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem.

The book of James is short and, if you read it later, you will see that it has some great practical guidance about how believers should live.  There are also some parts that are hard to understand.  I chalk that up to the challenges of translating a letter written almost 2,000 years ago in another language to another culture.  In this verse, for example, I have never been sure if James is saying that physical healing depends on both confessing our sins to each other and praying for each other, or if he is encouraging two separate things that are unrelated.  Either way, we run into the problem from last week, we don’t like talking about sin in general much less confessing our sins to other people.

I agree that the idea of confessing all of our sins to others seems weird.  Except in relationships where we have a deep level of trust, we don’t share with someone all the times we have sinned throughout the day and I don’t believe that is what James is telling us to do.  But, I can confess my sin to someone when my sin has hurt them and I can ask for their forgiveness.  Just as confessing sin and receiving forgiveness is essential to our relationship with God, it is also essential to our relationship with others.  Simple confessions like “I am sorry I lost my temper, please forgive me,” “What I did was selfish, please forgive me,” and, “I’m sorry I was wrong,” can have a profound effect in a relationship.

Many smart people have written about the link between confession and physical healing and I will leave the theological discussions to them. What I do know is that there is a link between confession, forgiveness and healing in relationships.  Confession and forgiveness will mend broken relationships and make good relationships stronger.

Now, let’s talk about the other admonition in this verse, praying for each other.  Prayer is communicating with God.  Most of the time, I take for granted how remarkable it is that the creator of the universe wants to have a relationship with me.  When I pray, He assures me that I am not in this fight alone and He responds to my requests and concerns.  This is so much more than some people imagine is possible.  Take, for example, the idea of praying for healing.  For some, maybe for you, prayer for healing is a mystic process that we use to transmit our positivity to someone who is sick.  We send “healthy thoughts” or good wishes for healing.  That’s not what James is talking about.  He is telling us that we can go directly to God and ask Him to heal someone.  Not only that but he tells us, “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  Not powerful and effective in a magical kind of way, but powerful and effective because God hears us and responds.

Just as many people have talked about a link between confession and healing, many more have talked about the link between prayer and healing.  Again, I am not an expert on the topic, but I can share some things I have learned:

  1. God may not heal someone in the way I ask. He has a bigger view of the situation.  As I shared a few weeks ago, He has understanding beyond my ability to fathom.  You may have heard of Joni Earecksen Tada.   She was injured in a diving accident in 1967, when she was 17 years old, that left her  a quadriplegic in a wheel chair.  God did not heal her physical injuries, but used her physical “weakness” as a powerful platform from which she has shared her message of faith and trust.
  2. God may heal someone though medicine or the normal healing process. Just before this verse, James tells the sick people to call for the Elders in the church to anoint them with oil and pray for them.  Today, we have spiritualized this process and it usually takes the form of dabbing a little oil on someone’s forehead.  But, in James’ time “anointing” was pouring the oil over the affected area.  While there may have been a spiritual effect or symbolism, the oil also helped in the natural healing process.
  3. God may heal someone in a way that defies explanation. You have heard the stories of, and maybe even experienced, situations where tumors disappeared or long-time ailments went away after someone has prayed.

We can’t control God’s response to our prayers for healing and we may not always understand it.  But, we can pray and trust that God will work in the situation.

This week practice James’ direction to confess and pray.  Experience for yourself the relational and physical healing that will result.

Press On!

David

The Problem with “Sin”

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 (NIV)

The Bible talks about sin, a lot.  Depending on the translation you check, the word “sin” appears around 450 times.  God talked about sin, Jesus talked about sin and the prophets and apostles talked about sin.  But, in our culturally sensitive and morally relative society, the word “sin” makes us uncomfortable.  I wrote about that in an earlier devotional.

The result of our discomfort is that we talk around sin, but don’t talk about sin.  What do I mean? We want to analyze the word “sin.”  We ask, when does something go from a bad idea to a real sin?  Is it a sin if I am annoyed with something, or do I need to be really angry and lose my temper?  You may have gone through this analysis too.  Plug in other actions like stealing, lying, lust – you get the idea.  We want to quantify sin.  In our mind, we break things into “big” sins and “small” sins, serious sins and sins of little consequence.  For me, that usually means my sins are small and of little consequence and other’s sins are big and of great consequence.  And, we want to measure sin.  Do a lot of little sins equal on big sin, and if so, how many?  If I have a pile of sins, can I reduce the size of the pile by mixing in good stuff, like being nice even when I’m tired, helping somebody, or giving a dollar to that guy at the stop light holding a sign asking for money?

We don’t find any analysis of “sin” in the Bible.  Instead of talking around sin, the Bible talks about sin, and it is a different conversation.  The passage today is a good example.  John, the disciple of Jesus, writes this:

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.  (1 John 1:5-10 (NIV))

John doesn’t try to define sin, analyze sin, quantify sin or measure sin.  He simply makes an assumption, no one is without sin.  From the tiniest thought or action that crosses over into our definition of “sin” to the greatest, most terrible thing we can imagine, John says we have all sinned.  John isn’t alone.  The rest of the Bible says the same thing, everyone sins.  That creates a problem for us.  As John says, God is light and sin is darkness.  If we sin, what John calls walking in darkness, we can’t have fellowship with God.  That’s bad news.

But, there is good news, if we will stop talking around sin and talk about sin.  John goes on to tell us, when we admit to ourselves and to God that we have sinned, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and remove the effect of sin on our life.

The first step to solving the problem we have with the word “sin” is to admit that we have a sin problem.  Our sin separates us from God and, until we confess our sin to God and he forgives us, the barrier cannot be removed.  When we confess our sin, God forgives us and changes our life forever.

Start today with your “self-talk” about sin.  Stop analyzing, quantifying, measuring and minimizing the things you do.  Get rid of the darkness in your life by turning on the light of confession and forgiveness.  Instead of self-justifying self-talk, try some simple God talk, “God, I’m sorry I did that, please forgive me and help me not do it again.”  See if that changes how you live this week.

Press On!

David

Are you reading a shortened Bible?

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)

God created the universe, made some rules for us to follow, and thumps us when we get it wrong.  Do you ever feel that way?  I do.  When I am in that frame of mind, the Bible could much shorter.  A few chapters are all you need to cover the creation and the 10 commandments.  This “shortened Bible” would also make it easier to read the Bible in a year.

But, if we spent our life with the shortened Bible, what would we miss?  We would miss that God made us so he could have a relationship with us.  He knows us better than we know ourselves and He wants us to know him.  The parts the fill in the rest of the Bible tell us about God pursuing us, chasing us, embracing us, and calling us as his children.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews knew this truth.  He tells us how God had tried to reach us through the ages.  How God took the form of a person, Jesus, so that he could talk to us as one of us.  God understands what it is to be us, because He has lived here.  Jesus experienced all the trials and troubles that we experience, including feeling rejected by God and abandoned by the people he loved.

In the passage our verse comes from, the writer reminds us about Jesus and our verse today is a great source of hope:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

We have access, through Jesus, to God’s throne of grace where we can receive grace and mercy.  Those are two important words.  The theological definition of God’s “grace” is God’s “unmerited favor.” God loves us, even though we have done nothing to earn it.  Merriam-Webster defines “mercy” as “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.”

If we limit ourselves to the shorted Bible I talked about at the beginning of the post, we will miss that God didn’t just make the rules and thump us when we get them wrong.  He loves us, even though we have done nothing to earn it and He forgives us, even though we don’t deserve it.

Bad things still happen, they are a part of life.  So, what do we do?  We approach the throne of grace with confidence.  In other words, we pray.  God wants us to tell Him with our worries and our joys.  Why? Doesn’t God know everything, including everything that is bother me right now?  Yes, but that’s not the point.  The point is God wants a relationship with us.  He wants us to talk to Him about what we need, what concerns us and what we are thankful for.  And, if we watch and listen, God will respond to us.  He will meet our needs, give us peace, and give us more reasons to be thankful.  Make prayer a part of your daily routine. Here are some ideas on how to get started: http://thedigitaldisciple.net/category/prayer/.

Take some now to approach Gods’ throne of grace and receive his grace and mercy.

 

Press On!

David

And the Government will be upon His Shoulders

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

We are in Isaiah for a second week, and again, the passage is also in Handel’s Messiah.  Last week’s reference was to the more pastoral Comfort Ye My People.  This week you should be standing and singing when you read this, which will get some attention if you are at Starbucks.

I will include some personal confessions this morning, the first is that I love to listen to Handel’s Messiah at full volume around Easter and Christmas and sing along.  It’s not pretty, but I am by myself in my “music room” in the basement.  This week, I have not listened to the recording, but instead thought and prayed about this verse.  It is a wonderful promise.  The phrase that I keep coming back to is “and the government will be on his shoulders.” The promised son, Jesus, will be the head of the government in God’s kingdom in the new heaven and new earth.  The cable news networks, if they exist there, will refer to him as: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.  Isaiah goes on to tell us there will be no end to the greatness of his government and peace.

Now, a second confession. When I think of our government and our elected leaders, I don’t use any of the terms Isaiah uses.  Instead, I think “swamp” and “dumpster fire.”  I understand that Isaiah is talking about a future time after Jesus has returned and God has established His eternal kingdom.  But, though Jesus is not here in bodily form, he is here and he works through those who follow him.  This has led me to think this week about how I, and other believers, can place our government on Jesus shoulders.  This is not a political rant, so please don’t stop reading.

There is controversy within political and Christian circles about whether our nation’s founders intended to establish a government based on Christian principles.  The “Truth Project” from Focus on the Family made a compelling argument that they did.  My constitutional law profession made a compelling argument that they didn’t.  The question may be interesting for someone who likes to talk about the law.  It is irrelevant for most believers.  Regardless of the founders’ intent, we live in a democratic system and Jesus can have an impact on the government through his followers.

A third confession, as a believer, I don’t think much about my role in the political process.  In fact, there are times I dread it and actively avoid it.  I am turned off by believers on both ends of the political spectrum who want to tell me what I should think and how I should vote.  I will add a voice to that discussion that I hope will be a voice of reason and faith.

Jesus’ followers are called to be salt and light in a dark and decaying world, including our political system.  That calling may lead some to run for elected office or lead efforts to reform parts of the system they perceive as broken.  But, it should lead all of us to pray for our political leaders and elected officials.  A final confession, when I was getting ready to write this post, I had to Google the names of the House majority and minority leaders.  I can’t pray for people when I don’t even know their names.

Would you join me this week to pray for our political leaders?  Pray that God will give them wisdom, that He will help them work together, and lead wisely.  These are the top six national political leaders, you should feel free to expand your list if you like:

President –  Donald Trump

Vice President – Mike Pence

Senate Majority Leader – Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader – Chuck Schumer

House Majority Leader – Kevin McCarthy

House Minority Leader – Nancy Pelosi

There will be a day when Jesus leads the government.  It will be a theocratic monarchy and not a democratic republic.  Until that day, will we take up the calling to be salt and light and pray for our elected leaders?

Press On!

David

 

 

Understanding No One Can Fathom

 

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (Isaiah 40:28 NIV)

This simple statement about the nature and character of God is one of those “plaque-worthy” verses.  You know what I mean, you’ll find the verse on a nice plaque you hang in your house or printed on a card you send to a friend going through hard times.  It is from the chapter of Isaiah that begins with “Comfort ye my people,” which I can’t read without hearing Handel’s Messiah in the background. If you have a Bible on your phone or tablet, take a minute to read Isaiah chapter 40 before you go on because it will put the verse and the rest of this post into context.

When you see the verse in context, you find that Isaiah’s statement above in verse 28 is made in response to the people of Israel complaining, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God.”  That sentiment may not be “plaque-worthy,” but we have all felt it.  We face trouble and we pray and plead and seek God’s intervention to fix the problem or make it go away.  Yet, the problem continues, and we feel like our prayers are unheard.  In those situations, verse 28 is not comforting at all, it is frustrating.  God, the everlasting creator of the universe knows exactly what I am going through and He is choosing not to fix it.   Why?  Because, He has understanding no one can fathom.  He knows what is best for me.

These times of testing are difficult to go through and difficult to understand.  For a long time, I thought of God as the great professor in the sky who would teach me a lesson and then test me, so He could see if I had learned it.  “OK, Dave, this week we learn about patience.  Here’s what the Bible says about patience.  Now, here is a totally frustrating situation so I can see if you have paid attention.”  Then it occurred to me one day that God knows how I will do on the test before it even begins.  He knows me better than I do.  So, who is the test for if it isn’t for God?  It is for me.  The tests and trials I face show me where I need to grow and where I need to change.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul said, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rom 5:1-5 NIV). Just as precious metals are refined by fire, our faith is refined by testing.

This chapter ends with another plaque-worthy section that you have probably seen but may not have had the context:

He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

(Is 40:29-31)

God may not sweep in and take away our problems.  But,  instead of stumbling and falling, He will give us strength to run and soar and, in doing so, we will learn about God’s character and develop our own.

I also want you to know that God does intervene in situations and deliver His people in times of trial.  If you have time to read a great book about God working miracles today, I recommend Miracles by Eric Metaxas.

Press On!

David

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update – Cincinnati – January 20

Good morning from Cincinnati.  This week the changes have been good and very noticeable.  This is a quick update of the changes and prayer requests.

My breathing is finally better. I’m not sure what happens, but I know it is a point I hit as I recover from a flare-up.  I can tell a difference in my breathing and people I talk to usually say “you sound better today.”  The break came mid-week.  It is also the sign that I can begin to taper my steroids without the relapse starting again.

I am getting the strength back in my legs.  I have done OK with the steps in the condo and they have given me some nice every-day therapy.  I have also started walking the dog a little, which the Daisy and Mary Ann both appreciate.  I will probably avoid the gym until we get beyond the flu season a little.

My follow-up appointment at the Cleveland Clinic this week was fine.  We talked about some options for changing my medication but will wait until spring before we make any decisions.  The time at the Clinic was about three hours longer than I planned because the doctor sent me off for an X-ray and blood test afterward.  Thankfully, our son-in-law Mike went up me and drove most of the way.  It makes for a long day when I need to drive 4 hours each way to get to a doctor’s appointment.

I have reached the point that the steroids are waking me up in the morning.  That is another indicator that I am getting rested and usually happen as my other symptoms decline.  As a practical matter, it means that I will have a week or so of early mornings when I can write blog posts and to other stuff.

Please continue to pray for my recovery.  My biggest concern is avoiding the flu and the respiratory infections that are common this time of year.  Pray for my law practice.  Specifically, that I will meet new clients.  Pray that God will continue to use this experience to teach me and give me the opportunity to share my experience with others.

If you would like, please sign up to receive notices of blog posts.  It is in the upper right hand corner of this page.  I will be doing a weekly devotional post on Sundays and posts on other topics as things come up.

Thanks for your continued support and concern.

Press On!

David

 

 

Make 2018 the Year of the “Do”

Genesis 1: 1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  

Our culture has fully bought in to the idea of moral relativity.  Which means that it is up to each person to decide what is morally right for them.  Usually it is subtle, “Well, I wouldn’t do that, but he needs to make his own choices and I can’t judge him.”  Like me, not everyone has bought into the idea of relative morality. They believe there are moral absolutes; things that are right and wrong regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.

Folks who believe in relative morality get along pretty well with all the other moral relativists, but they butt heads with the moral absolutists.  Because, the moral relativists hold back one absolute, which is, the people who believe in moral absolutes are always wrong. You don’t need to follow the argument very far before it begins to unravel.  If I don’t believe in moral absolutes, I cannot believe that moral absolutes are wrong. (The best I can say is that I have not chosen to accept moral absolutes.) To believe there are no moral absolutes is, itself, a moral absolute, and my position collapses.

What the moral relativists are really saying to the moral absolutists is, “In my universe, I have the moral authority to condemn you for holding moral absolutes that disagree with my moral decisions.  But, you don’t have the moral authority to disagree with my moral decisions.”

That’s where today’s verse comes in.  God’s response to the moral relativist is, “It’s not your universe. I made the universe and I included physical and moral laws.  You can’t change the moral laws any more that you can change the physical laws.” If we believe Genesis 1, one of the conclusions that follows is that God is the self-existent first cause of the universe.  Which means that a thing is good if God has made it and it is right is God has said it is right.

With the heady introduction invoking God’s moral authority, this is where you expect me to give you God’s big moral “don’t” list.   You can take the list into the morally relative world and club it into submission by pointing out the logical inconsistencies with its position.  The problem is, that doesn’t work.  Following a big “don’t” list may make us feel morally superior, but it won’t change the world.

Instead, let me kick off your week with a short moral “do” list.  The great thing about this list is that they will change the world and most moral relativists won’t condemn you for doing them.  Do these things and see how they change your life and the lives of those around you:

  1. Love God with everything you have;
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself;
  3. Feed and clothe the poor;
  4. Visit those in prison;
  5. Care for windows and orphans,
  6. Go into the world and make disciples.

OK, you’d feel better if I also gave you a couple “don’t” ideas:

  1. Don’t worry about what you will wear and what you will eat, God takes care of the birds and flowers and He will take care of you.
  2. Don’t grow weary of doing good.

As you read the Bible, you can develop your own moral “do” list.  Pick one or two at a time and focus on them until they become habits. Then move on to something else.

Make 2018 the year of the “do.”

Press On!

David