Good vs. Bad

Angel and devil on a man´s shoulder cartoon

“But it’s harder to be good!”

That’s what I recently heard a 3-year-old say.

Well, I hate to break the news to him but it only gets harder the older you get.

The battle between good and bad is a lifelong struggle. Sorry, I don’t mean to be a downer but we can’t pretend the struggle isn’t real.

Paul hit it when he wrote said it in Romans 7:15-20:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Okay, so that’s not so easy to understand. In fact, it makes your head hurt trying to read this but basically it says that we are constantly fighting to do what we should and we often do the things we shouldn’t do. It is quite a frustrating battle. Unfortunately, our nature is to do bad rather than good.We all have something that we battle with. No, it’s not always easy to do good. I came from a background that claimed a person could be perfect. If you sinned then it was said that you “backslid” and you would have to start all over again as if you wiped out all the good you had done. Fortunately, I have learned that we serve a merciful God who knows our weaknesses and the everyday battle we have with good and bad. It was ridiculous to think anyone could be perfect.

We all face choices each day and moments when we have to decide to do good or bad. It takes courage to resist and walk away from the bad. Sometimes we fall right into the bad choice so effortlessly before we realize it.

God isn’t waiting for us to fail. He’s waiting for us to depend on Him to do good. If you’ve something bad has gotten you today, don’t stay down about it. Too often we just don’t own up to it and talk to God about it immediately. The temptation is to give into our failures and assume that God is mad at us and He doesn’t want to hear from us. We out ourselves in a self-imposed time out and that is not God’s desire for us.

Sadly, the 3-year-old’s comment is right. It is harder to be good. We can’t do it on our own. We need to let go of our pride and allow God’s love to work in us in that we aren’t good on our own. Yes, we screw up and make bad choices but we can recover and learn from the experiences of good and bad moments.

I often have to deal with my moods. Honestly I can get moody which is caused by factors such as how I am feeling physically, emotionally or stress. I have to really make an effort not to let it affect my life and then sometimes I just give into it without a fight. Yes, it’s hard to be good but if we do it is worth the effort. When I am weak I just take a timeout and sit in silence before God or listen to inspiring music. These timeouts have a way of resetting things for me.

Do whatever works for you to be able to fight for good.

GPS: God’s Positioning System

making-decisions2

Everything happens for a reason.

What a dumb statement that is yet people say it to try to explain when bad things happen in our lives.

Growing up in church I always heard that “All things work together for good” which is a piece from Romans 8:28.

Most of the time things weren’t exactly “good” at the time.

I think that Ecclesiastes 9:11 probably sums it up best:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Time and chance.  Yes, that certainly happens to us all.

We all make decisions – both good and bad along life’s journey.  I used to stress out about making decisions because I wanted to make the perfect one.  I finally realized that you just do your best and make the choice.

Some people call it “fate” and I heard someone make this statement:

Fate is a tricky lady.  When you try to figure her out, you just get more confused.  All I know is that the mistakes I have made have made me who I am today.  If I were to go back and relive it differently, I wouldn’t be the me I am now.  I thought things were supposed to happen for a reason but the truth is that things happen randomly for no reason at all.  But they create opportunities, even the missed ones.  The question is:  can you recognize that next opportunity when it matters the most?

I can tell you from personal experience that God can handle the choices we make.  Some folks in the church get all tied up with the subject of predestination where they say that God already knows your life from beginning to end.  If that were true, what would be the point of freedom to choose?  I do believe God directs our path but if we fail to follow that path, He can still take that path and make it work for his purpose.  With each choice we make, He knows where that is headed and he can re-calculate our directions so that things can work together for good.

I know it’s confusing.

I have often been fascinated with books and movies about alternate realities and how choice we make have a ripple effect in our future.  The day we choose not to take the normal route to work or the time we miss the train.  Somehow it all works together.  It can stress you out if you think about it but I have always been encouraged by the song “God is in Control”.   If God has every hair on our head numbered, then that’s pretty certain He’s in control.

Decisions are hard.  We all want to make the right decision.  It’s difficult to make the perfect decision that is free of emotions or peer pressure.

I have made decisions that I just knew was right.  I felt it in my being although it contrary to what anyone else thought.  Sometimes it was right and sometimes it wasn’t but in the end, I have made it here.  I learned from those experiences.  It would really be nice if God spoke to us audibly and directed us that way.  I think it would be a whole lot easier but, for some reason, He doesn’t.  I’d like to know why.  But, for now, I try to do the best I can in listening to Him in however He chooses to communicate.  Many times He does this when I am silent.  When I turn off my devices and shut out the noise around me I can sense Him.  It’s not anything spooky or freaky.  It’s just the best way I know to tune into Him.  Even then, He sometimes doesn’t speak.

I don’t know what to say except that He’s God and I’m not.  I can’t make Him do what I want Him to do.  I guess that’s the part about Him being God.

If you are struggling with a decision, I suggest that you take a time out.  Turn off your mobile devices, silence the noise around you.  Sit silently before God.  This invites Him to speak to you and direct you.  Even if you aren’t a believer, just sit silently.  Calm yourself and your anxieties over the decision.  This isn’t some weird form of meditation but nothing more than a mental timeout.  Sometimes I have done this and still didn’t have a clue about what decision to make but at least I had a clear mind.  Many times the time out is the same as when your GPS has to refresh your directions.  It resets you to a new course.

God knows us.  He knows what we need and when we need it.  Even more than we know ourselves.  Sometimes we knock on doors for Him to open but sometimes He opens doors that we never thought to knock on.  That’s why He’s God.  Whether you believe in Him or not, there is a reason.  Many times I fussed and rebelled at things He has done in my life at the time but years and years later I have looked back and saw how that moment changed my life and directed me to something better.

I sure wish God would tell us what He was up to but He doesn’t.

That’s why it’s called faith.

Faith is the GPS for our life’s journey.

 

Thoughts And Prayers

After yet another mass shooting, I once again read where our political leaders say that the families of the victims are in their “thoughts and prayers”.

I am fed up with that.

Enough of the thoughts and prayers. It’s time to do something.

It’s like when I hear Christians say that we need to put prayer back in schools. Really? What’s that going to do?

It’s these lame Christian sentiments that is an embarrassment to God. Most of these folks aren’t praying about anything because if they were, they would obey God and take action and do something about it.

I am absolutely supportive of prayer. I’m not hating on people who genuinely do it when they aren’t in a position to do anything else. We certainly need prayer but we also need to hear from God. God isn’t impressed with our eloquent wording in our prayers, He is moved by the sincerity of our hearts.

In these times of senseless violent acts, there is a powerful evil in the hearts of men today. The undercurrent of anger and hate fuel these horrific acts. Praying helps but praying and doing works much more. Just having the families of victims in our thoughts does little to console them.

It is sad that the only time people seem to be kind is when there is a tragedy. Why can’t we be kind when there aren’t any? Why can’t we be kind to others every day? That should be the norm.

Stop saying “thoughts and prayers”. We’ve been saying this since the first mass shooting and it still hasn’t done anything.

One thing I can offer that would help is for assault rifles to be banned. Period. Why does the average person need this weapon? What war are they preparing for? I know I have heard that people want to be ready in case the Government attacks them but do we really think a person’s private arsenal would stop them? Let’s stop the silliness. I mean it’s even called an ASSAULT rifle. Good grief use some common sense.

How many more mass shootings is it going to take to do something? How many more “thoughts and prayers” do we need?

If your loved one had been a victim, you’d want more than someone’s thoughts and prayers.

It’s time to fight back against evil. People with evil hearts do not have to win.

Who’s In Control?

Earthquakes rattle California.

Tropical storm batters New Orleans.

It’s in these times we realize that we aren’t in control. It scares us. We wonder sometimes what’s going on.

On a personal level, things happen in our lives that we don’t plan. Unexpected expenses drain our budget. We receive a bad report from the doctor.  These things remind us that we aren’t in control like we think we are.

Some call it fate. Some say “that’s just life”.

If you’re like me, you like being in control and planning things for expected results. The unexpected stuff throws me many times and I stress out.

Drama at work drains me. I don’t understand why people can’t just do what they are supposed to do.

Perhaps the thing that stresses me the most is finances. There never seems to be enough money to do everything that we need to do. Most people don’t have room in their budget for another bill to pay. That’s when it throws us when the unexpected happens.

I have heard it all of my life that God is in control. I believe that He is but sometimes my anxieties refuse to feel good about that when the unexpected happens.

I’d like to tell you that I never worry and I trust God during these times without question but the reality is that I fail miserably at this many times. I don’t want to feel this way. I want to have complete trust that God is in control.

The best way that I calm myself is force my mind to recall how God has gotten me through things in the past. He’s done it before and kept me through things so I should feel good that He can do it again.

When Jesus was in the boat on the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 8:23-27 with the disciples and the storms blew in and was tossing the waves against the ship, the disciples freaked out. This is funny because they had seen Jesus perform miracles before and here they were filled with anxiety about the storm. It was probably in their mind that even though Jesus has done other miracles that maybe this was something he could not do. This was a new problem so maybe he couldn’t do anything about it. Of course, Jesus spoke to the storm and the weather obeyed him and became calm again. I can only imagine how silly the disciples felt. Okay, so why were we so worried about?

That’s how silly I usually feel after I am on the other side of a situation. It’s easy to have faith after you’ve been through something than when you are in the middle of a situation you can’t control.

So why is it so hard to trust God?

I think it’s because it’s so easy to fall back into thinking that we are in control again. We get too comfortable depending on ourselves and what we can do. When we have savings in our bank account or when we have a job we feel like we’ve got this now. It’s almost like we’re saying “Thanks God but I think I got this now.”

Unfortunately, the only way we develop faith is when we go through something and our faith is tested. Singing worship songs doesn’t do it. It’s when we are in the middle of the fire and we are scared that we see how strong our faith is.

It’s hard not to get rocked when unexpected things hit our lives but it’s good to know that God is in control and whatever happens, He will help us to get through it whether we are full of faith or scared to death.

We may not be able to control what happens to us be we can control how we respond to what happens.  I don’t think any of us likes to feel that we aren’t in control so it’s probably a good thing to know someone who is in control and put our trust in Him.  It’s not easy and it’s not always spiritual but it can ground us and keep us calm during the troubled times in our daily lives.

Peace is the result of retraining  your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be. 

Wayne W. Dyer

I Survived Church Camp

Rare photo of me at church camp

At some point each summer I think back to past summers and there is hardly a thought about summer without thinking about camp. While most kids go to a summer camp, I attended church youth camp.

No it was fun. Really. Okay, parts of it was fun. Some parts not so much.

My first venture to church youth camp was in the summer of 1975. My dad had volunteered to work in camp a counselor and teacher during the week. My first youth camp was in a remote location called Pine Mountain near Columbus, Georgia. When we arrived, I was assigned to a cabin separate from my dad. When I walked into my cabin I was expecting other quiet and reserved kids like me but I witnessed another camper swinging from the rafters with his pants pulled down.

Yep, this was church camp.

The kid was being funny and in years that passed I learned this camper just was a crazy guy who wanted attention good or bad. It was a strange first experience for me. I had a girlfriend at that first camp – well sort of. The whole week she thought I was someone else even when I tried to set her straight. At the end of the week there was this thing called a banquet which was supposed to be this formal thing for the last night of camp. It was an unwritten rule that guys were supposed to have a date they could sit with at the banquet. This would be the first and only time I would ever have a date for this event.

Okay, I think you know I said this was a church camp. Let me further make things more interesting for you by telling you it was a Pentecostal church camp. That’s right. We were saving souls and speaking in tongues this week. Every night we had church. At this first camp church was held under a large outdoor structure with a tin roof. One funny memory I have is one night when the spirit was moving (that’s what we called it then) a group of boys were running around the building speaking in tongues. When me and another camper did the same thing, one of the boys in the other group stopped and looked at us and said “you are only doing this because we are doing it”. Then he continued with leading his group around the building and resumed speaking in tongues. After that first year of camp, I didn’t want to go back and I didn’t return the next summer. I didn’t think I would ever go back.

Then as the summer of 1978 approached, our church organization had built their own campground in a place that would be known as Camp Echeconnee near Roberta, Georgia. My dad was the pastor at a different church that had a larger youth group than past churches had. This influenced me to give youth camp another try. The first camp at the new campground was supposed to be the senior camp which was the age group ahead of me but a kitchen fire postponed their camp and my age group (juniors) were the first campers to attend. That first camp at the new campground changed it all for me as well as a counselor named Bubba Cardin. Bubba was a young state evangelist but was like no other I had known before. Bubba played the banjo and his rendition of Don Francisco’s “He’s Alive” was one I have never forgotten.

Camp turned out to be a positive experience for me that week even when several campers got chiggers from an impromptu hike in the woods.

I was never the popular one and was largely overshadowed by the cool kids at camp but I still made some good friends. I met a guy named Jay Thornton. Jay and I were both preachers kids and our lives had travelled similar paths. We also both liked basketball. With the NBA playoffs usually finishing up before camp, we would talk about the games and played many games of basketball ourselves at camp during free time. I think I even remember us imitating sports commentators while watching the staff-camper basketball game.

Basketball. Now back in the day, this was my game and I wanted to be good at it. I would practice weeks before camp hoping my skills would be impressive enough to get a spot on the staff-camper basketball game. The desire to play didn’t match my ability so it was an annual effort of frustration.

Remember me telling you that my first camp was my first and only time I would have a date for the banquet? It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Just as my basketball skills failed me, my attempts at dating were anything but smooth. Once I saw a girl I really liked and I wanted to meet her. I boldly went up to her and introduced myself. Pretty harmless right? To my horror, she laughed and turned away from me and walked away. Her and her friends pointed at me and laughed every time we would pass the rest of the week.

Fortunately for me and my fragile self-esteem, I had some great friends during this time. I had already told you about Jay. Jay has remained my friend over the years thanks to Facebook. Jay is now a pastor himself and probably the kindest person you could ever meet.

Gary Lewis was another person I would meet at camp and become friends with. Gary was also a preacher’s kid. We were often grouped into the same cabins at camp or next door. In those days at camp, each building housed four groups of about 10 kids plus their counselor. I was always one that got my shower done early and dressed for church each night. This caused me to be ready earlier than others. Gary found this comical once and made the comment “Look at Milton. He’s all dressed up with no place to go.” This has been our ongoing joke ever since then. (Yes Gary, I still get ready early with no place to go!). Gary went on to bigger and better things. The last I heard was that he was a Chaplain with Hospice. I can’t imagine those folks being in better care for their spiritual needs during those times.

There was no doubt that camp was about our spiritual needs and our relationship with God. Nobody ever forced God in us but there was some peer pressure to do so. The camp was structured.

Each day at camp would pretty much be the same schedule:

  • Morning Devotion
  • Breakfast
  • Class
  • Singing
  • Lunch
  • Class
  • Girls swimming/boys recreation time
  • Boys swimming/girls recreation time
  • Free time
  • Cabin devotion
  • Dinner
  • Church service

You might have noticed the swimming part of the schedule. Boys and girls were never allowed to swim together at the same time. This would be what they church called “mixed bathing” which was not allowed. So we had separate swim times.

In those old youth camp days, the common enemy we all had was the intense heat of the Georgia summers. The swim times was one of the things we could do to get relief. The only air conditioning was in the cafeteria. Anything happening at the cafeteria was a popular event. We also had something called the Snack Shack which was a place we could get refreshments. At the beginning of the week we would purchase a snack shack card. I would always stress out about it and try to budget myself to make my card last as long as I could.

I hate to admit it but the least favorite part of camp were the classes. Those were hours of my life that I thought would never end. To be fair, most teachers did a great job but when your life already revolves around church, you weren’t thrilled about more church. I will say that the elective classes were a bit more interesting such as the CPR class which was the first time I learned how to perform CPR.

When I got older and no longer a camper, I volunteered to work in camp. My pastor convinced me to join him to work in the kitchen during camp. That’s probably the hardest I ever worked in camp. Other times I volunteered to be a counselor. Counselor sounds like a nice job but it was more like a weeklong chappone/babysitter. It is a week where you shouldn’t expect to get much sleep. Boys can stay up for a long time and explore many ways to get a laugh including various forms of bodily sounds. A counselor has to keep one eye open or else you will find yourself being pranked. I was lucky that my bunk never ended up in the shower or short sheeted. (Yes, this was church camp) In spite of all the shenanigans, I always did my best to make my boys feel special. During one camp our theme was the Olympics and I had a vendor create replica gold medals that I gave to my boys at the end of the week. They thought that was so cool. Being a counselor was a lot of work but I always felt like it was a rewarding experience after it was over. I can only hope that somehow I was able to be a positive impact on the boys in my cabin.

Yes, it was a church camp and a Pentecostal so there were some strange quirks for a summer camp. I wouldn’t say there are a lot of fond memories but I survived.

Church Mission vs. Church Business

 

churchbusinessI was sitting in the waiting room of the service department waiting on my oil change when I overheard the phone conversation on the man next to me.  I wasn’t creeping on him but his conversation was unavoidable to overhear.

He was deep in conversation about the politics within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the local baptist churches. It was all about who was doing what and who wasn’t doing their job in their positions. If I had listened more intently I could have probably gotten some real juicy gossip to write about. Instead, I started writing this blog post because this makes me sad.

Once upon a time I was all about the business of “doing” church. My life revolved around who was in what position and which church had the largest membership. I think sometimes people who are in the church for a long time can easily slip into this business about the church and lose sight of the true reason for the church in the first place.

The business isn’t about the Southern Baptist Convention or any other church organization, it is about THE mission that Jesus gave in Mark 16:15:

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

What about that’s mission? What about that business? All too often churches are more concerned about their buildings, their group of people and their organization than they are about loving people and reaching people.

I am happy to say I am not about the church business anymore. It was frustrating and unfulfilling. When I was growing up in the church if you became an overseer then you made it. You were big time. I remember how we would basically roll out the red carpet when any overseer would visit. For a pastor to get one of the big churches, you had to be in good with an overseer. Politics. Pure and simple. I remember seeing church deacons politicking to get the pastor they wanted to be appointed to their church.  It was about who you know and not the God you served. It all really disenchanted me about the church.

Fortunately, I learned to separate church from my relationship with God. I was never with the “in” crowd anyway so it was silly to chase any of that.  I reflect now on how I remember the popular ones were always in front of everything and had their photos taken for church youth camp annuals. They were the life of the party.  Yeah, I will admit that as a teen I wanted that but now I’m glad I never was part of any of that. The church was too much about pleasing man and being cool rather than about God.

So this man next to me in the waiting room of the service department is deep into his opinions about leaders in the SBC. I have not heard one word about God, reaching the lost or helping others. All political talk. That’s disappointing.

To be fair, I think people mean well but sometimes lose their sight of what’s really important and why these churches exist in the first place. God certainly does appoint people and leaders to carry out the mission of the Gospel. There are some who are doing that while others what to be the next big thing in their church or seek to further their own agenda in doing God’s work.

As I was sitting here waiting on my car, I also read about people like John Knox, George Wishart, John Welsh and others who were early pioneers of the church and sacrificed their lives for the Gospel, not some church denominational political agenda. I can’t help but wonder how this man next to me would do in the face of what these pioneers faced.

In today’s world, people need help, hope and love, not church politics. I have had people through the years who assumed that I was going to be a preacher just like my father. I would tell them that being a preacher is not something hereditary but a God-called.  Everyone can’t be preachers.  All believers won’t be able to get behind a pulpit but everyone can do something to support the mission.  The mission is God’s commission, loving others and people of integrity.  People who are hurting don’t care what you church title is.  They don’t care if you are an overseer, pastor or assistant worship pastor.  None of that matters in the grand scheme of things.  When people are hurting, they need healing, hope and love.

I wonder if this man understands this?

Empty Tomb, Full of Hope

Today is my most favorite day of the year. It has nothing to do with the Easter Bunny but with the hope from a risen savior.

I think most of us have experienced the death of a loved one. This is a painful thing to experience and we feel that sting that death has caused. Today gives us hope because the resurrection of Jesus Christ takes away the sting and the power of the grave. Because He lives, we will live. I will admit that I have gotten a little bogged down about what happens when we die. I am still not sure whether we stay in the grave under the resurrection or if we immediately go to be with Jesus when we die but it doesn’t change my hope.

The most encouraging scripture is when Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)

Years ago when I was in Jerusalem waiting in a long line to walk inside of what was believed to be the Garden Tomb, the guide made the comment: “Everyone is waiting in line to see an empty tomb.” He was right. Those of us who have been taught about Jesus all these years finally got to see for ourselves that the tomb was indeed empty. The empty tomb reinforced our hope in the power of Jesus’ resurrection and the promise He made to believers.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event in history and irrefutable evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be – the Son of God. Sure, there are doubters and haters about this but it still doesn’t take away our hope which energizes believers on what today means to us all.

I can’t offer you scientific proof of the resurrection and I don’t expect to convince you with this post. I can only tell you of my hope. Everyone believes what they believe. I tell you as it says in the old hymn: “You ask me how I know He lives. He lives within my heart.”

When You Have Been Hurt By The Church

Church is supposed to be a safe place. A positive place. A place where you gather with God’s people. There are some good churches out there but unfortunately there are bad ones that hurt people.

If you’ve been hurt by the church, I feel you. I have felt the pain of being burned by a pastor, church leader or fellow believer. It hurts bad. It’s not a hurt you can easily overcome. I recently drove by a church sign that had the message “If you have been hurt by the church we’re sorry”. It was quite an unexpected message on a church sign but I was impressed by the honesty of it.

Having been hurt by the church myself, one of the most important things I can tell you is not to let it affect your relationship with God. Instead of hindering it, let it motivate you. Now, this isn’t easy. I won’t lie about it. It can be difficult to separate God from the church.

The church is made of people and people aren’t perfect. They can disappoint you. Unfortunately we tend to hold church folks to a higher standard than other people and when they fail us, we are dealt a blow. That blow can defeat us if we aren’t careful.

People can be cruel. Yes, even church people. I have had church people fuss at me for sitting in their pew. At another church I greeted people as they entered. I had to deal with some grumpy ones who would complain about anything and some would even complain to me about the pastor.

One important thing I realized about church people is they don’t really know you. They might think they know you but they don’t and they often have their own ideas about you based on the few hours each week you are at church.

If you are to remain faithful to your church you have to be good at forgiving because you will have to do it a lot. You will also have to have a realistic expectation of others. Realize that people fail and will let you down but don’t let it bring you down with it.

If you finally decide to give it up, it doesn’t mean you have to give up God either. I know this goes against what people will tell you but you can still have a relationship with God and not go to church. How is this possible? Discipline. It takes a lot of self-discipline. You have to be personally committed to your relationship with God. It is a PERSONAL experience.

Pastors and church people will make you feel guilty for not going to church. They will use the verse “forsake not assembling yourselves together” but it isn’t a commandment. It does you no good to force church on yourself out of guilt when you’ve been hurt. You don’t need to add more hurt on top of what you already have endured.

If you need church and you have been hurt by it, take a break or visit other churches. Don’t be afraid of taking time to heal. Being hurt by “God’s people” is not to be taken lightly. God understands and He can heal.

if you’ve been hurt by the church, don’t let it jade you. Don’t cast your net of hurt upon all churches. Focus on your personal relationship with God so that is more important than any church.

If you are in the church, don’t guilt trip people who are hurt. Give them some space. Love those who have been hurt. Don’t do it for the motive of getting them back to church, do it out of love for the person.

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8

WAIT!

waitThat’s a four-letter word.  I don’t like it.  Waiting isn’t an easy thing to do when you see the goal you want to reach.  Being still and patient takes a lot of discipline.  I haven’t always been good a waiting.

So what’s up with waiting?  Is it a game that God plays with us?

Many thoughts go through you mind when you are put on hold. Believe me…I  have been in many holding patterns during my lifetime.  In the end, after that waiting has passed and I look back on it I see why I had to wait.  Instead of doing what I thought should be done I usually see how it was better that God worked it out HIS way instead of mine.  I’m sure He gets a good laugh from my plans.

I still don’t like waiting and I never will.

Psalm 27:14 tells us to “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

I can love that verse and quote it all day long unless I’m having to live it.   I have to remind myself of past times of waiting.  I also have to caution myself about making things happen or trying to take matters into my own hands.  Hopefully I have learned how I have either messed up or delayed things longer.   Sometimes you just have to do the hard things to get to the end.

I always quote the Apostle Tom Petty (I’m kidding of course) when he sang “The waiting is the hardest part.”   There is no way to describe the feeling when the wait is over and your answer has come.  In our time of instant communication, instant food and instant conveniences, we are not always capable of having a good attitude when we are forced to wait.

In case you wondered, I am in a position where I am waiting.  My wife and I both are trying to keep positive during this time of waiting.  I may not show it but I have a lot of mental hand wringing going on in my mind about the situation.  It is a situation where I have absolutely no control and all we can do about it is wait.   It’s in these times I try to remind myself of past experiences.  He’s the same God.  We don’t know what He’s doing or why He’s doing it but obviously there is a reason for it.  My feeling right now is that it has to do with timing.  This situation is also dependent upon other people and God isn’t going to force them to do what they don’t want to do.  Pieces have to be moved around and timing is crucial.

You know I would love just to know what’s going on.  I think that’s what makes waiting so hard.  We don’t see what’s going on or how much longer we have to wait.   I suppose that’s why He’s God and I’m not.

I’m sure Job would have liked to know when his suffering was going to end.  I know that Joseph would have liked to know he would eventually be released from prison.  These guys didn’t have the luxury of knowing the whole story like we do now when we read about them in the Bible.  They simply continued trusting God and believing that He would come through for them.

So I wait.  I wonder what will happen next.  Will we reach the goal or will it be changed to something else?  The unknown is scary.  Having no control over the situation makes me anxious but I take heart and only do what I can do.  That’s all we can do when we are waiting.

If you are waiting on something and feeling anxious, hang in there.  Don’t forget to remind yourself of past experiences when God came through for you.  It’s so easy to focus on what we need now and not what God has done before.   What He has done before helps our faith for what we are going through now.

I never like the waiting part but somehow it always works out.

Pride: Kryptonite To Answered Prayer

obstacleIf you have ever prayed for someone you can understand how difficult it can be to get that prayer answered.  It is especially difficult if you have strife with someone.  There is no prayer you can pray that will impose your will on someone else.  I have had to do this many times and I can tell you from experience that praying for people is the most difficult thing a believer can do.  It will seriously wear down your faith.

The problem is pride.

There is no doubt that God can answer prayer but He will not force anyone to do anything.   People have free will to make their own decisions.  Although God won’t make someone respond to your prayer He can make someone wish they had.

If there is one thing I can tell you from experience – don’t give up.   I know it becomes repetitive and you can go days, months or years without seeing any progress whatsoever but eventually something can happen.

Most recently for me I reconciled with my dad shortly before his death.  Before that last month of his life, we had gone almost eight years without speaking.  When my mother passed away, I thought he had shut the door on us forever.   But…..I kept praying for him and me.  I had to pray for myself just as much as I did for him.  If I wanted God to answer my prayer and reconcile me and my dad I had to be ready for it.  My heart and mind had to be prepared to forgive and let things go.  That’s hard.  I won’t lie.  I had a hard time with that.  I had this ritual every morning on my first walk to my work location that I prayed for him and me.  Some days is was the same worn out prayer every day and some days I was quite angry about the situation.  I didn’t understand it and  I vented to God about it.

Let me tell you that my dad was a stubborn man and set in his ways.  I prayed that God would soften his heart towards me.  There are some days I was just ready to write him off.  “I’m done!” I would say.   Praying for someone isn’t always so glamorous.  It’s hard work.

Still I managed to pray through the situation where it looked like nothing was happening.   I prayed through my own anger and frustration.  I can even remember times I would have a profanity-filled tantrum about it.  God understood.

I wrote letters and sent cards which were never answered.   Still I kept praying.  I would get aggravated with myself because it was the same prayer and I was bored with it but God knew my heart in the matter.

Shortly before my wife and I went on a trip, I felt like writing him again.  I wrestled with doing so but the thought that kept going through my mind repeatedly was this:  “It is never wrong to do the right thing” so I wrote him a letter and put it in the mail.  When I picked up our mail upon our return, I received a handwritten letter from him.  He apologized for everything and wanted to see me.  As I stood there reading that letter I could hardly believe what I was reading.  After all of the time that had passed, my prayer was finally being answered.  It was a weird feeling.  I can’t say that I was overjoyed but it took a while to sink in.  Then I wondered:  Was I ready for this?  I struggled with this thought.  Could I possibly let everything go and press on?

When I called him for the first time, he gave me details about his medical problems which were very serious.  He told me that he had bladder cancer and was scheduled to have his bladder removed the week of Thanksgiving and wanted me to be there.  He was also having issues with something called Pulmonary Fibrosis.  He had just finished his last chemo treatments for the bladder cancer and little did we know at the time that these treatments had made his Pulmonary Fibrosis worse.  When my cousin called to inform me that he had been admitted to ICU in Gainesville, Florida weeks before his bladder removal, I decided to go down and be with him.  He passed away a week later due to complications from the Pulmonary Fibrosis.  In that time we had together, were able to talk and we made most things right.  Some things we couldn’t but I will always be grateful for the time we had.

If you saw the movie “I Can Only Imagine”, I felt like I lived that movie with my own father.  It was tough.

Yes, God answered my prayers but you never know how that answer will come or how it will be.  Being an impatient person, it is agonizing for me to sustain prayer for something or someone for this long.  I tell you that you get weary with it.  Fed up with it.  You want to give up.  But God understands more than you think He does and He sustains you even when the prayer gets stale and boring.  I can tell you that some days I just honestly ran out of words to pray about it.

I have now heard people tell me about how Dad was wearing down and being drawn toward reconciling with me.  Pride was the barrier that kept it from happening sooner than it did.  It’s hard to pray against someone’s pride and resistance.  I did that and I was blessed that God finally broke through to my dad’s heart to let me back in.

So how did I do it?  I didn’t do it by prayer alone.  I also had a wife that encouraged me and reminded me that I had done everything I could do.  She had to remind me to not blame myself.

If you think I’m some kind of super intercessory prayer warrior like that Miss Clara in “The War Room” you would be seriously mistaken.  I was nowhere close to being like that.  The only thing I can tell you is that I never gave up.  I may not have had papers pinned up in a prayer closet somewhere but I always had the prayer for him.   I also had several songs which encouraged me as well.  I salute the song writers out there who put words to these songs that encourage us.  Many of them are still on my playlist.  Here are those songs:

  • Gather At The River by Point of Grace
  • God Is In Control by Twila Paris
  • It’s Not Over (When God Is In It) by Israel Houghton & New Breed
  • Jesus Is by Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
  • Made Me Glad by Hillsong
  • Never Been A Moment by Micha Tyler
  • Overcomer by Mandisa
  • Warrior by Steven Curtis Chapman

Although I wish the prayers had broken through his pride sooner so we could have had more time, I am still very thankful that I had that last week with my dad.  It wasn’t a Hollywood ending but it was good way to end when he said his last words:  “Beam me up Scotty”.   I think he was finally ready.

So, yes, praying through someone’s pride is difficult but not impossible.  Galatians 6:9 tells us “Let us not be weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.”

Don’t give up.  Keep praying.