God’s faithfulness during difficult times

Just once I want to read where someone says, “I lost my job. God is good.”  Or, “The doctor said it’s cancer.  God is good.”  Or, “My loved one died. God is good.”  

His faithfulness is everlasting.  He is good no matter what.

A pastor friend sent me a note reporting on his church. He had baptized several that year and had twice that number to join in other ways. I replied that God is using him to turn around that old church and, “Good for you, friend!”

He came back: “The curmudgeons are still there, though, still lurking.”

I answered, “They always will be. But let me tell you what I’ve finally learned about that. These detractors are doing you a favor. They motivate you to greater faithfulness, to do your best work, to keep the focus on the Lord.”

He said, “I call them ‘Holy Sandpaper.’”

The Lord uses them to get the rough edges off His servant.

Interesting how the notes I get from pastors–some are questions regarding ministry–turn out to be the very thing the Lord was talking with me about earlier.

Case in point. I was going through some old correspondence files, trying to decide what could be discarded. I ran across the most critical (i.e., life-changing) exchange of letters I ever had with a church member in a long lifetime of ministry.

Continue reading

Waiting on the Lord may be the hardest thing we are asked to do

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength….  (Isaiah 40:31)

I waited on the Lord and He inclined to me and heard my cry…. (Psalm 40:1)

So, wait on the Lord.  Be strong. Let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait on the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

Are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?  (Mark 14:37).

It takes time.

God has all the time in the universe.

Throw away your watch and your calendar, follower of Jesus.  You’re on heavenly time now and nothing happens on your schedule.

I suspect most of us are like the fellow who prayed, “Lord, give me patience–and give it to me right now!”

You’ve been praying for a loved one. And you don’t see an answer.  You keep praying.  For years, you pray and wait and hope.  Then the one you were praying for is in a traffic accident and killed.  Clearly, God never answered your prayer.  You are devastated. So disappointed.  Your faith in God wavers.  You’re so unsure any more.  What is the point in praying and in trusting?

And then one day, years later, something happens.

Continue reading

What lazy theologians do

Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1749.  Yet because of opposition from local clergymen–man should not dare ‘avert the stroke of heaven’–the lighthouse did not receive protection from God’s thunderbolts for more than two decades.  –The New York Review, May 26, 2016

Imagine the thinking of some people: We shouldn’t protect ourselves from lightning, lest we interfere with God’s judgment.

Abandoning their responsibility, criticizing those trying to help, and blaming their warped thinking on God.

“This is how God set things up.”

Interesting theology, I think we can agree.

If we carried that reasoning to its natural lengths, no one should wear seat belts or repair the brakes on cars just in case the Father in Heaven had planned to kill us that morning.

God should always be given a free hand in these things.

Continue reading

What makes prayer so hard. And why we keep praying.

In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know how to pray as we should.  But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  (Romans 8:26)

Recently, our country had a National Day of Prayer. That’s a good thing.  It keeps us focused on the importance of prayer, and probably dumps a load of guilt on all of us for not praying more or better.

Three aspects of prayer make it difficult, and probably even unreasonable.  And then, one overwhelming reality keeps us at it with the strong confidence that praying is the best thing we can ever do.

The three impossible aspects of prayer that befuddle us…

–One.  The Object of our prayers is unseen.

In prayer, we are addressing One we’ve never seen and can’t even prove exists.  And yet, we keep at it, drawing aside day after day, year after year, speaking to the Invisible, Unprovable Lord in the firm belief that He is there, that He hears, and cares and will answer.

Is this bizarre or not?!  Smile, please.

Continue reading

God is making plans for you.

“…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

We don’t begin to have a clue.

God is doing a zillion things He has not deigned to reveal to us mortals.

It’s not our business to know, for one thing.  Most of what goes on in the universe He is keeping to Himself.  “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…”  (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Everything we know about the operation of the created world is but a sliver of the full story. (And yes, isn’t it fun to make these discoveries. Scientists get to see what God has done before the rest of us!)

How can it be that before the world as we know it was formed, the Heavenly Father was already at work making plans for us to arrive and dwell with Him forever?

I do not know. Neither do you.

Continue reading

God loves you everlastingly

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying, ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

What part of ‘everlasting’ do we not get?

These days, we are learning through science a little of what unending and infinite look like. Space seems to be continuous, going on and on.  The lineup of galaxies across the heavens staggers our imaginations, considering their size, makeup, and number.

The Psalmist who said “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord” had no clue just how much they say about the majesty and might of our Creator. That’s not to imply we do, only that we have far more information on the complexities and delights of the universe which the Father has wrought with His own hands than biblical writers ever imagined.

“From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” (Psalm 90:2)

From everlasting in the past to everlasting in the future, God is God.  There never was a time when God did not exist; there will never be a time when God does not reign.

I cannot get my mind around that. To my puny intellect, infinity of any kind is fearful.  To think of being snuffed out upon death, that after our last breath, we are extinguished forever, is frightening and painful beyond belief.  I think of loved ones whose passing took with them a huge hunk of my heart and soul. The thought that I would never see them again strikes me with a sadness that is incalculable.

But infinity of the other kind–living forever and ever, world without end–is just as mind-boggling. How could that work? How could we exist knowing that nothing would ever end?

Continue reading

Don’t lie to me about God

Sometimes someone says something to you that jumps out and grabs you by the throat. You have to do something and do it soon, otherwise it chokes the life out of you.  Here’s what happened….

A friend of years past sent a message concerning a difficult situation she was facing. Toward the end of the letter, as she made her case for straight-shooting from my direction, she said….

Pray for me if you like. Send me scripture if you like. Put me on a prayer chain if you want. But please don’t lie to me about God.

She was not trying to be dramatic, only to convey how strongly she wanted to know the right answer. Even if it hurt, even if it went contrary to everything she was doing and believed, she wanted to know.

You have to respect that.

My impression is that so many of the inquiries we preachers get want us to confirm what they are already doing or endorse what they already believe.

Continue reading

The single reason we will not fear. Not now, not ever.

A program on a science channel dealt with “Venus: Earth’s Evil Twin.”  The two planets are similar in size, and according to the experts, have the same origin. But Venus is hellish, with acidic atmosphere and temperatures in the monstrous range.

Early in the program, the scientists began telling how Earth’s future is to become as Venus is now.  Not next week. But in the distant future.

Now, personally, I have no trouble with anything that occurs on this planet a billion years down the road, which is the time period the experts dealt with.  For one thing, I won’t be here, and neither will you.  For another, scripture says “the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat” (2 Peter 3:12).

Wonder why the scientists feel the need to tell us such?

Watch enough such science shows, and you come away feeling that their purpose was to unnerve the viewer, to frighten the audience with the awful fate awaiting the planet and possibly to eradicate any primitive thoughts of a God who could be expected to rescue us from such a future.

I suspect their ploy works.  If one watches enough of this stuff, it would.

But there is one thing–one word actually–which keeps people of faith grounded, one word which is our answer to those who would frighten us about the future of this universe.

Continue reading

Now, take Christmas. That’s certainly not how I would have done it.

(With tongue firmly planted in cheek, let us rethink this greatest of all stories.)

What was the Lord thinking, doing Christmas the way He did?

A Baby is born to an unwed couple after a long, arduous journey.  The cradle is a feeding trough in a stable in Bethlehem.  Welcoming committees of shepherds and foreigners show up. A murderous king sends his soldiers to slaughter babies. The young family flees to Egypt.

And thus the Son of God arrives on the scene.

Admit it.  You would not have done Christmas that way.  It’s not just us.

As the God of the universe, the infinite and omnipotent Heavenly Father, you could do anything you please, right?  In the beginning, You created the Heavens and the earth, right?  The opening statement of Scripture certainly establishes who is in charge.  So everything is on the table.  Nothing off limits.

“Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” It says that right there in Psalm 115:3.

Now, all I’m saying is that had I been God and in charge, with no one to tell me ‘no’ and no supervisory authority to question my actions, I think I might have done things differently.

Take that stable.

Continue reading

“Lord, that’s not how we do things!”

“‘…your ways are not my ways,’ saith the Lord.”  (Isaiah 55:8)

Keep an eye on how the Lord works in your life. You might learn something useful for the next time He wants to use you.

This little couplet seems to sum up 90 percent of what Scripture and life teach us concerning the operation of God in this world….

When God gets ready to do a thing,

He loves to start small

Using ordinary people

With whatever methods He chooses,

And take HIs own good time about it.

Only people of faith will still be standing there at the end

To see what He has done

And to behold His glory.

That’s how He does things.  You can see it all through Scripture and by looking back over your lifetime.

But here is the problem.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are different from ours.  He is in fact light years above and beyond us and our techniques. (He said that very thing in Isaiah 55:8-9.)

Continue reading