When It’s Dark

Depending on the current time you are reading this–we may or may not have arrived at our destination. But we’re closer than we were at 4:00 p.m. Central Daylight Savings Time. I’m not frustrated we’re not there yet–I’m just confident, through God’s Grace, that we will get there!

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When this post appears, it’s dark outside for us. Truthfully, I can’t tell you exactly where we are–because I don’t know. Thanks to this marvelous thing called “Schedule your post”, I can share my thoughts even though I’m not sitting at my desk. Debbie and I left Sunday afternoon for our semi-annual sabbatical visit family at Lake Millsite near Bartow, Florida.

When this post appears, it’s still dark–but I’m not worried. You see, I have some things going for me. One thing is our headlights. I never have to worry about seeing the road. Another thing is I know where we are going. We’ve been there enough times, so we don’t need a roadmap (for you old folks) or even a GPS. The route is known to us. We know where the gas stations are; and where the Rest Areas are. Finally, I’m not alone–my gift from God, Debbie, is with me. She’s probably asleep right now–but that’s OK. She’s with me, and that’s good enough.

Now, let’s do an application of this little story. When darkness tries to overwhelm you, even make you afraid, or seem to be lost, remember that Jesus Is The Light. Remember Psalm 119: 105–“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” When it’s dark, go to the Word that became flesh!

Second, remember your destination. Your destination is more than heaven. Your destination is to become exactly like Jesus, the image you were created in. And for this remember Philippians 1:6–“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Every day so far, God has been at work in you. And even when it seems so dark outside, God is still at work!

Finally, remember you are not alone! Allow me to rephrase this: You Are Never Alone! He’s closer to you than Debbie is to me right now in the passenger seat. Jesus had something to say about Being with us in Matthew 28:20–“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Depending on the current time you are reading this–we may or may not have arrived at our destination. But we’re closer than we were at 4:00 p.m. Central Daylight Savings Time. I’m not frustrated we’re not there yet–I’m just confident, through God’s Grace, that we will get there!

P.S. Since this is a sabbatical, I may not be posting every day. But then again I might. We’re recharging our batteries. So if I don’t post tomorrow, remember:

If A Frog Had Wings

The IF that you may long for will not, cannot give you the kind of life we are created to experience.

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If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his butt every time he hopped. This is one of the many facts in scientific law. Wish as the frog may, he has no wings–so each time he moves as he is designed to move, he bumps his butt. But (pun intended) still he hops, even though wings sure would help soften the landing. What does all this have to do with the Kingdom Life?

How many people today are living with their own IF? And because they are living with that IF, they feel that hard landing of the frog. They look around and see others who seem to be having much easier life than they are. They think to themselves, and often out loud, “You know, IF I had been born to different parents. IF I had their money. IF I had married that person, or NOT married the person I did. IF life had treated me fairly–then I would be as happy as a frog with wings.”

And they go through life sad, disillusioned, defeated, and miserable. IF you think about it, IF is a tragic way to live. Still, they are like that frog who wishes he had wings as he moves about his day doing what frogs do. While it’s true that a frog with wings would not bump his butt every time he hopped–it’s equally true that he wasn’t designed with wings.

And some people have that IF when it comes to God. That somehow God isn’t all He claims to be. That God isn’t fair with them. That God doesn’t care. That God has forgotten them.

  • IF God is real, why is there such a mess out there?
  • IF God cares, why did my spouse leave me?
  • IF God loves me, why did my child die?
  • IF God will provide for me, why did I lose my job?
  • IF God is all powerful, why am I having to take chemotherapy today?
  • IF God _________________(insert your own IF here)

But the problem with this thinking is it focuses on what we don’t have–rather than what we do have. The IF that you may long for will not, cannot give you the kind of life we are created to experience. It is true that while money cannot buy you happiness, it will buy you a place on the beach–and the beach is a better place to be unhappy. But it will not satisfy your heart.

There is a better way to live than like the frog who wishes he had wings. It is living within the relationship where God keeps every promise He ever made for you. God didn’t promise an easy life–but He provides an unshakable life. He provides the life that isn’t shaped by circumstances–but by His Truth and Faithfulness to us. How can I confidently say this? Because all of us are created in God’s Image. We just need to trust–to hang in there even IF everything inside of us screams to let go of God. I leave you this morning with these words of Paul–words that strengthen us for a life better than a frog with wings:

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)

When You Can Feel Something’s Wrong

God is able and willing to handle all those things that just doesn’t feel right.

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Yesterday, Monday, September 27 is prompting today’s thoughts. More than just thoughts, it’s been and continues to be a journey. To tell the story I need to go back to June of this year. My wife, Debbie, had her annual mammogram. The report came back all clear. That’s good news, right? But remember, I’m telling the story of a journey.

About 3 weeks ago Debbie felt something in her right breast that just wasn’t right. I could feel it, too. She calls our family practice, and the nurse practitioner agreed. Since it had not been that long since her mammogram, she ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed what the Nurse Practitioner, myself, and Debbie already knew that there was some type of cyst present in her right breast. The radiologist report was to come back in 6 months to see if it had grown any. That advice certainly didn’t feel right.

She scheduled an appointment with a local surgeon for another “opinion”. Dr. Evans agreed that 6 months was too long for a just “wait and see” conclusion. He attempted 2 needle biopsies but could not draw any fluid from it. So yesterday, Monday, September 27, we went to the hospital for surgery. Everything went good and Dr. Evans was able to remove it, along with some tissue around the lump. He sent it off for a pathologist to carefully examine it. Now we wait for the pathology report.

Now Dr. Evans doesn’t think it’s cancer–nonetheless–sent it off for to pathology to do their thing. The pathologist will determine the nature of what we could feel was wrong by carefully examining deep inside that lump. The radiologist could only “think” it isn’t cancer. Dr. Evans, based on experiences, can only give his personal opinion. But that pathologist? They will know for certain! And that is what Debbie and I need in this season.

And this morning I am realizing how this “journey” is comparable to the spiritual journey we are all on. There are times when something is wrong with our body and our spirit–and we just can’t feel it. But other times, we know something doesn’t feel right deep inside our heart, mind, and soul. So what is going to be our response to this “it just doesn’t feel right” moment?

Well, you could take that radiologist’s guidance to “wait 6 months and see what happens”? And truth be told–sometimes that’s the advice other people will give us. But when something deep down inside us doesn’t feel right–when there’s something that shows up even though life has been going well, we need to know exactly what it is. It may not be anything–but then again–it may be. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Delaying the finding out will only make it worse. The sooner that “foreign object” is removed and identified, the better the outcome.

One opinion did not suffice for Debbie nor myself. That opinion did not suffice for Dana, our Nurse Practitioner. And it did not suffice for our surgeon, Dr. Evans. We all need to hear the full report from the pathologist. And when it’s about our spiritual journey? Go to the one who told Samuel in his quest for a new king, “Stop looking at the outside because I’m looking at the inside!” And even if you feel it’s not “safe” to bring what doesn’t feel right to God, remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23

God is able and willing to handle all those things that just doesn’t feel right. He alone is able to get to the core of everything–to remove from inside of us the things that don’t belong–to heal us–and to restore us. Debbie and I will not know the pathology report until Friday, but we know who holds Friday in His hands–and He holds us in His hands.

Oh, one more thing–October is almost here and October is

BEFORE I EVEN KNOW

Right now, the time is 4:22 a.m., I’m already on my second cup of coffee and I still don’t know the results of the Presidential Election. Did I wake up so early because I was so worried about who will be occupying the Oval Office? Not hardly! Yesterday an oral surgeon had to extract 3 teeth. When I was asked did I want a local anesthesia or be knocked out, I wisely opted for what they termed “the happy juice”. I slept all the way home and slept a lot with the aid of the lingering effects of that “happy juice” and a pain reliever. I’ve been sleeping like a baby!

And now the effects of the aforementioned miracle drugs worn off, I’m simply read to get up and get my day started. Yet even before my first cup of coffee I made a decision; a wise decision. I opened up my ®Spotify app and selected one of my playlists I named Holy Water because that is the first song.

I don’t need to know who will sit in the Oval Office for the next 4 years. I need the One who sits on The Eternal Throne. As this song boldly states:

God, I’m on my knees again

God, I’m begging please again

I need You

Oh, I need You

Walking down this desert road

Water for my thirsty soul

I need You

Oh, I need You.

Writers: Andrew Bergthold, Ed Cash, Franni Cash, Martin Cash, Scott Cash

I need the One Who Sits On The Eternal Throne not because of who will be sitting in the Oval Office, but because I really need HIM! This has nothing to do with Presidential Elections–it has everything to do with my own inclinations to lean into sin rather than Him. I need Him because His strength is the only source of power that will enable me to reflect Jesus. I need Him because He and He alone knows how to help me live the kind of life I’ve been created to live. I need Him because He loves me. I need Him because I love Him. And as I sit here at 4:46 a.m., I am filled with His peace and most of all His Hope for our world. I am all of this right now, and I don’t know who will sit in the Oval Office. And after I know the results? Nothing has changed. You see, I have Him, and HE holds me!

There Is No Quick Fix

This is the last in my reflections of my recent medical emergency. If you haven’t read the first one, then click here.

When we are hurting–whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or relationally–we want the pain to go away and go away quickly. And here is another lesson I have learned in my most recent episode:

The quick-fix rarely, if ever, works.

In my situation of my ruptured appendix, Dilaudid made the pain quickly go away. And for a little bit the quick-fix solved my problem with pain. But guess what? The effects of Dilaudid wore off and the pain returned. Other than making me feel comfortable, the Quick-Fix did nothing to solve the real problem. Can you make the connection here?

In case you did not, allow me to explain. There are things that will help us numb the pain but cannot treat the real condition causing our pain. It’s not just in the realm of physical pain–but all other forms of pain. For example, holding a grudge against someone who wounded you deeply can hide the pain momentarily–but the pain returns. Trust me on this one; I personally know about holding grudges–it won’t heal the pain.

There are a lot of ways–chemical, emotional, and mental–to numb the pain. Yet they fail to heal the cause of our pain. This is why we turn to God in times of pain. God doesn’t offer us a quick-fix–but He does offer us wholeness. And sometimes, wholeness requires both time and a process. In the case of my ruptured appendix, they did not immediately remove that vile and evil beast. To have done so would have exposed my entire body with poisonous toxins that would have put me in further danger. By treating the poisons in me first, it decreases the probability of further complications when they will remove my appendix.

Next Wednesday I revisit my doctor. Hopefully he will tell me when they will schedule surgery to remove my appendix. Doctors have helped me understand why I need to wait–and I trust their knowledge and skills. And you can trust the knowledge and skills of the Great Physician to restore your whole health–spiritually, emotionally, mentally and relationally. You can trust Him because He created you–and offered you redemption through His Marvelous Grace. God doesn’t offer us a day-trip with a quick-fix. He offers us a journey–filled with His more than sufficient Grace–and His Presence to help us when we can’t help ourselves.

IT’S BROKE! FIX IT!

Community is broken. May that community never be seen again.

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Since everyone else is either saying something or writing something I thought I might as well put my two-cents worth into the fray. Due to the inability of the vast majority of Americans to stay home when they have symptoms of even the flu or even the common sense to wash their hands, the government has been forced to step in with this thing called quarantine and social distancing. Some states and municipalities have gone further than the Federal Guidelines and moved into total lock down.

Florida has even closed it’s borders to outsiders unless they have a Federal Certificate of being a necessary person. Of course native Floridians say it’s too little, too late because of the damn Yankees. In case you are wondering what that term means, I will explain. A Yankee is someone who goes down South but then goes back north. A damn Yankee is someone who goes down South and stays. A good friend of mine once said that we should round up all the damn Yankees, put them in cattle-cars and ship them back north. But in all fairness, there are a few damn Yankees who are good; few but nonetheless good. They have adapted to our Southern Culture. They have repented of and renounced their Yankee ways. If there was only a way for them to get rid of their accent you wouldn’t even know they were once a Yankee. I am digressing so I will get to the point.

Due to social distancing and quarantine, community has been broken, well except at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club Costco and the local grocer. But the fact remains that what once was known as community is now broken. Not only in the sense of towns, cities and counties, but it has become illegal to assemble as the Community of Believers. And the very nature of The Kingdom of God requires being and living in Community. And many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters are bemoaning this current reality. And now the first penny of my two-cents worth.

The Community known as church, at least in the U.S., was already broken. Long before it was known as “church” the word used to describe this gathering was “kononia”. Kononia means a shared life, fellowship, and a sense of each contributing to the welfare of others. The U.S. church has been turned inward–and though it considered itself a “community”, it wasn’t the kononia community. It had already quarantined itself from a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit and had socially distanced itself from the very ones we are designed, called and commissioned to reach. This social isolation and quarantine only revealed what already existed–Real Kononia Community was broken. My first penny. Now, for the second penny of my two-cents worth.

Community, as it HAS BEEN defined SHOULD NOT BE fixed. If the COMMUNITY that HAD BEEN was the right kind of COMMUNITY, we would not be seeing the fear, panic, hoarding and complete disregard for their fellow human beings. There! I said it! Community BEFORE COVID-19 was defective, mean, ugly and it sucked at being Community. And not just outside the church. Many congregations who cherished their buildings and traditions in those buildings more than people in their community now have neither! And the social distancing now in place has been in practice by many congregations BEFORE COVID-19–and I pray it does not continue after the all-clear is given.

Truth Time! Can you handle it? We do not need community as it has been. My deepest prayer is that out of this calamity, there will be a Resurrection of Koinonia Community–This is Community as God designed it to be in the beginning. A Community unmarred by selfish desires and behavior. A Community that longs to be defined by the Creator rather than the created. A Community that reaches out to make sure no soul is left behind. A Community that celebrates together and that mourns together. A Community that isn’t defined by buildings and habits–but IS DEFINED by the heart that is completely surrendered to God.

Community is broken. May that community never be seen again. And may the Community of the Kingdom of God rise in its place. And it will happen if each of us heeds the words of this song:

IT’S TIME TO STAND UP AND. . .BE CALM!

WHAT IF, we who are Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God stopped all this frenzied panic and refused to engage in this debate?

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(image generated at http://www.keepcalms.com)

I am sick and tired. . .tired and sick. . .and sick and tired of all this unrelenting caterwauling that is happening. No. . . not in Washington D.C.; rather the incessant caterwauling ABOUT what’s happening in D.C. And I’m NOT referring to newscasters or political underlings. I’m talking about. . . NO! I’m talking TO those who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The social cannonade that covers Social Media by those who say that Jesus Reigns but . . . are quibbling with others about this cauldron of toxicity and sewage. By the way. . . am I the only one who has notice that “Social” Media is actually “Unsociable Media”? Here’s all I have to say to Jesus followers who engage is such characterless dribble:

Oh, and those pusillanimous recreants who are saying “Well, this just goes to show that Jesus is about to return. Come, Lord Jesus, come and take me away!” I refer to them as Calgon Christians–remember those commercials? “Take me away, Calgon.” As if that’s the answer! Bejeezus, folks; where’s your fortitude? Don’t you realize that if Jesus does come today that billions of people will NOT be ready for that moment? Where’s your compassion, your heart like Jesus? Geez. . .

Come on people, think about it. What has all this pestiferous arguing achieved? I mean, what does “How can you be a Christian and vote democrat?” or “How can you be a Christian and vote republican?” produced? Has anyone really said to you, “Oh, thank you for reminding of that. Yes, I’ll change my political party immediately. Bless you my child for you have delivered me!” Nope! Ain’t happening! Here’s what I say about all that mindset:

In crisis moments, sometimes we to need to STAND UP AND FIGHT! But this, my flummoxed sojourners, IS NOT THE TIME TO STAND UP AND FIGHT. May I suggest a different tactic? Would you just love to see the pundits speechless? Would you love to see them stop and question what’s happening. . .even to entertain the possibility that there needs to be a change in how they visage the current dubbing?

What if. . . I mean we are getting nowhere fast with these current proclivities. . . WHAT IF, we who are Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God stopped all this frenzied panic and refused to engage in this debate? Oh, I just heard someone think: “Well, just what in Heaven’s name should be do? If we don’t speak out who will?” (he-he-he–I’m giggling inside with that question!) Speaking out has’t worked. What if . . .

WHAT IF we make the Choice to Be Calm? What? Did someone just ask me to prove that’s what the Bible says? OK, buttercup, I’ll give you what the Bible says about how to respond to our culture. . . any culture: (remember, you asked for it)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Answer me this: Is the current behavior and customs of this culture Calm? Would you LIKE to see things calm down in D.C.? How about seeing our whole nation become CALM? Then, YOU BECOME CALM! Refuse to engage in ANY political drivel. Stop equating political parties with saving our nation. Stop the name calling and belittling of others. Return to the earliest and most powerful affirmation of faith in the church: JESUS IS LORD. If HE isn’t in panic mode (by the way, God never panics), then why iterate the emotional mush being passed off as forward thinking. After all. . . that’s the source of the chaos, anger and confusion.

Walk away from it and become the model of Calm. Who knows, maybe that will change someone’s heart, mind and life. At the very least, it will drive them nuts. In my book, that’s a win-win. So . . . love Jesus with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM! Oh, one more thought:

I Choose To Be Hopeful

Today I choose to be hopeful that in the darkness of our times, the glory of God’s Kingdom will break through…and it will.

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(Picture from doinggreatbaby.com)

Yesterday’s post got me to thinking this morning. Please, no comments from the peanut gallery about me thinking. I need to focus on my choices, so I will attempt to write something about my “Choice Of The Day”. I blame Andy Andrews for this. I’ve been going back through my Kindle and reading some of his books I read several years ago. And my mind is rumbling because….well….truthfully….OK, I haven’t given enough thought and reflection on this radical idea of “choices”.

Today my choice is to be HOPEFUL! I’ve chosen HOPEFUL today because if I listen to the skeptics (they are all around us and some of them operate news networks) I need to renew my passport and seek asylum in Australia or New Zealand. I’ve been “sick and tired and tired and sick” about the culture around me. Well, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. But that’s not the right choice. I need, and maybe YOU need, a different choice.

Today I choose to be hopeful–hopeful that the wisdom of eternity breaks in on the mindless chatter around me. Hopeful that world peace begins when I am at peace with people. Hopeful that a person’s moment, maybe even their life, will change because of something I do or say. Hopeful that I will act like Jesus in the circumstances that happen to me today, rather than reacting. Hopeful that amidst the toxic waste oozing throughout our culture, that oozing waste that smells something like a combination of raw sewage, paper mills, and chicken houses will begin to recede and go back to hell, where it came from.

Today I choose to be hopeful that in the darkness of our times, the glory of God’s Kingdom will break through…and it will. Not because of me. No mam! But because that’s what the Kingdom of God does–it breaks in, breaks down, breaks through the darkness around us. I choose to be hopeful today.

Remember what Paul said:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

Who knows, maybe this choice I make today will change the direction of our culture. I know it will change the direction of my life. And remember…Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM! Oh…choose to be hopeful…