There Is A God And I Ain’t Him

It’s hard to wait on God to do something.  You pray the prayers and engage your faith yet you wait.  I don’t know about you but I’m not any good at waiting.  

I have even found myself telling God how He could get something done.  Yeah, I’m sure He had a good laugh at that one.  I had a pastor once that liked to say that there is a God and we ain’t Him.  It’s funny how we can forget that little fact.  

I’m good at figuring things out for God but the truth is that I have no clue and I’m certainly not God.  For me, it’s hard not being in control.  The waiting and seeing nothing change is quite frustrating.  It’s like you see where you want to be and simply want to get from Point A to Point B.  

God doesn’t work like that.  

If there is one thing I think I have learned in time I have had to wait on God is that He has his own timing and ways in answering prayers.  It is evident that to answer prayer which involves people that God won’t force people to do things.  There is still that wildcard of free will.  This is where some times where God has to work in His mysterious ways. The dynamics of everything working together can get quite complicated.  

So I’m still waiting.  What can I possibly do while I’m waiting?

  1. Accept it.  There’s nothing I can do to change it.  Even if I did I could make it worse.  The best I can do is be where I am now. 
  2. Keep the faith.  Faith can waver. Some days it’s really strong and other days it needs a little boost.  What helps me is to look back when God has helped in the past.  
  3. Be thankful.  Instead of constantly asking and repeating my petition it is good to be thankful on how I got to this point.  Being thankful actually strengthens your faith. 
  4. Be ready.  Look for the answer and be ready when God opens the door.  

It’s hard not being in control but it’s better to let God do His job.  Nothing surprises God and it’s certain you would never hear him say “Oops”.  He knows what He is doing.  

Another good thing about God is even if we get in the way and mess things up, God can still take our mess and work it out. Of course, it could delay things but He’s still able to work it out.  

Do I like waiting?  Heck no.  I see the answer but there is no way to it yet.  I have to keep calm and not stress out about it.  It’s a delicate balance.  I have also reminded myself of times past when I thought I knew the plan but it turned out differently but later saw how it worked out like it should.  

Yeah, I think I’m going to let God do His thing and try to stay out His way.  

How To Deal With Hurts We Don’t Deserve

Hurt-Feelings-

It’s hard when people close to you hurt you. It can totally crush your heart and you feel like you just want to crawl into a hole. Sometimes we may ask why God is punishing us. I can assure you that God isn’t always looking to punish us. People can be stubborn and prideful. If there is one thing you can understand is that God won’t force people to do the right thing. People will go to great lengths to keep from being wrong. Pride is a strong barrier to any relationship but when someone hides behind that pride, it’s a tough opponent.

So we are met with two choices. We can either stay in a constant state of turmoil lamenting over how unfair we are being treated or we can control how it affects us.

Here are five ways that we can control ourselves in the face of adversity:

#1 – Pray. Prayer is going to be your strength through it all. Prayer is not and should never be the last resort. Not only is prayer instrumental to your defense, but it is also important to pray the right thing. In praying, you must focus your prayer on what you CAN control – you. Let God take care of the other people. Pray that God will give you peace and the right heart. Not one of vengeance.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

#2 – Be yourself. In spite of what other people will do, don’t change to conform to what they want you to be. You will never be happy doing that. God loves you. That’s the only important thing. Their opinion of you doesn’t matter. Don’t live for their approval because you will never get it.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

#3 – Stick to the truth. Even if the truth is twisted and distorted don’t ever give up on the truth. Do not lower your standards. The moment you give up on the truth, then others will have their confirmation against you. Yes, it seems people always get away with believing and spreading lies but that doesn’t mean you should lower your standards.

“And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

#4 – Do good to those who do wrong to you. This probably the toughest one of all. At times you want to reach out and grab the other person by the neck and shake them with all of your strength. Some would say that you can “heap coals of fire” on someone’s else by doing good to your enemies but that doesn’t mean they will feel it or change their ways. You have to do good because that’s who you are and not that you are only doing it for something in return.

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

#5 – Continue to do good even if good is never done to you. The “Golden Rule” is all sweet and should be something we all live by but this isn’t real life. Do good even if it is lied about. (Luke 6:27-36)

Are any of these easy to do? No. Not at all. People will hurt you and disappoint you. It hurts. It hurts bad. You have to get to a place where you can absorb these fiery darts without letting them completely rattle you. We all want the other person to change and realize what they have done but there is no guarantee that it will happen. Unfortunately we don’t live in a Lifetime movie. Most hurts we encounter from others last longer than two hours and may never be resolved. The ONLY thing we can control is us and how we react to it.

Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, you see the hurt in my heart by what (name) has done and the lies they have chosen to believe about me. I am asking that you will be my defense and speak to their hearts. While I can’t make them see the truth or change their ways, I am asking that you can help me be strong and shield me from the fiery darts that come at my heart and the negative thoughts that come to my mind. Give me peace and wisdom to rise above this and continue to do good in spite of what I see or feel. I trust in your faithfulness. I know that love me. Create in me a clean heart and one that always stands for the truth and does what is good.”

 

Waiting For The Prodigal

The-prodigal-son-Photography-by-Nigel-CoxSome relationships we have in life are hard and, at times, we have people who choose to walk away.  In the Biblical story of the prodigal son, the son wanted his inheritance so he could go out into the world and have fun.  His father gave it to him and let him go.  When the son had wasted everything and found himself working in the pig pen, he came to himself and returned home to a father who ran to meet him when he saw him returning.

We like that part of the story.  But what if the prodigal doesn’t return?

Sometimes we have people in our lives who become the prodigal son.  It doesn’t necessary have to be a son.  The prodigal to us can be a father, mother, friend or spouse.  It isn’t easy to play the role of the father of the prodigal son because waiting is hard and requires patience.

Sometimes the prodigal doesn’t return.  That’s the part that hurts us the most.  We may keep waiting for the person to come to themselves and return to us but sometimes they never do.  Pride can do things to people.  Pride is the enemy to restoring relationships.  One side waits for the other to give in and the standoff turns into an emotional game of chicken.

As a person who has often found himself in the position of waiting for that prodigal person to return, let me give you some helpful tips.

  1. Never give up hope.  I try to always keep my end of the relationship open and never close the door.  This, my friend, is really hard to do.  Hope is the only thing that can help you in the waiting.  Sometimes hope is all you have.
  2. Pray.  This is something you need to keep going and never let it get old.  Pray for the person.  Ask God to be your help in these times.  I often ask God to talk to the person’s heart for me since there is nothing I can do to help.
  3. Don’t force the person to come back to you.  I know people who like to use manipulation or drama to force people to do what they want but this isn’t a good way to do it.  I have always been a person that wants to fix things but sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do to fix it.
  4. Realize that people make their own choices.  People will do what they want to do.  If they want to do it bad enough, they will.  I have often said that if I sudden became a Powerball winner that people would suddenly want to return to me.

I think one lesson to learn from the story of the Prodigal Son is the reaction of the father when he saw the son returning home.  The Bible says that the father RAN to greet the son and even threw a party for him.  Are you serious?  We are sometimes harsh when someone does decide to return to us in that we want to make them pay the emotional bill for what they have done to us.  If we are waiting for someone to return to us, we should be as anxious as the father and cancel any and all debts we feel that they owe us.  We shouldn’t be waiting with a list of things to hold them accountable for.  If we are waiting for them to come back we need to act like we want them back and forgive the debt.  We don’t have to make it an issue.

I will be honest and say that this waiting is not easy.  There are days that I don’t feel like running and welcoming the prodigal person to return.  We can’t let feelings dictate what we do.  Feelings are fickle and not always consistent.  They can change with the weather.  We have to find a steady place and remain solid in spite of how we feel.   We have to anchor ourselves and be solid in the process of waiting.

Someone once told me that it is as simple as just forgive and forget.  Well, sometimes it isn’t that simple for some relationships.  Both sides have to be willing to do it yet, sadly, it turns into a standoff waiting for the other side to blink.  When the prodigal son returned home the father threw a party to celebrate his son’s return.  I don’t think there was anything held back.  If you really want the prodigal to return, you will celebrate without holding anything over their heads.

So, as you wait, think of what could happen.  Cling to the hope you have and never give up.

 

 

The Universal God

Friday night we went to a local observatory with hopes of looking at the stars through the giant telescope.  Unfortunately, it was a cloudy night and we were unable to do so. We were able to look at some amazing photos that had been taken by the Hubble telescope.  It totally blew my mind at the number of galaxies it had captured.  The astronomer said that scientists are STILL counting them because there are so many.  

That led me to two thoughts.  There has GOT to be a God (not that I doubted but it reinforced it) and that there has to be life on other planets.  

Unless the universe is some kind of cosmic screensaver, isn’t it entirely possible that God has created other planets and other life forms?   Perhaps He created them with no intention of having our worlds meet.  It is beyond what our minds could understand.  I know people will think that God only made this Earth and us alone but I have to think it is possible.  

Hebrews 11:3 says something strange in that “through faith we understand that the WORLDS were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which of things which do appear.”

Some would debate that the word “worlds” is a translation thing and doesn’t mean what it implies but maybe folks should stop trying to find reasons against things outside of their comfort zones.  

Since God is the one who made the universe, it can scarcely be big to Him. We struggle with this because our knowledge is limited to the created time/space dimensions within which we exist.

The vastness of the universe is a tremendous expression of God’s might and power. God is greater than we could ever imagine, even greater that His spectacular creation, the universe.  

Yes, it can make your head hurt to think about this possiblility of other worlds and beings God could have created.  We simply don’t know.  The only thing we do know is that God is amazing.  

One day I hope to actually look into a giant telescope for the first time.  I know that it will only amplify to me how amazing God is.

First Sunday In August

I have some memories about the first Sunday in August.   

Growing up as a preachers kid in Georgia, this particular Sunday signaled the beginning of a new church year in our church organization.   Six times while I was living at home, this was our first Sunday at a new church.  Meeting people I had never met before and being guarded about what I did and what I said.  It was a fish bowl existence for me and probably the main reason I have an introverted personality today.  Even now, it takes me a while to warm up to new people or a new place.  I am also careful to not open up too much too soon. 

There are some things we learned about these experiences.  

  • The first person to tell you all the problems of a church was always the one that was the troublemaker.  I remember at one church we had barely got moved into the parsonage before someone came and told us about the problems of the church.  That was the person who turned out to be the problem.  
  • You learn to be very observant and know the motives of people.  Just watch and it doesn’t take long until their true colors come out.  You would assume that you shouldn’t have to think about these things with church people but the reality can be very sobering.  
  • People who bragged on themselves and what they did in the church were usually the ones that you couldn’t get to do anything after the “honeymoon period” was over.   Some people just simply resist submitting to authority.  They don’t want a pastor to lead them.

I know it sounds negative but I’m just telling you the experience I had with this.  Opinions will vary depending on who you ask but I know other preacher’s kids who had very similar experiences.  It just always amazed me how things developed from that first Sunday.   God – and people – work in mysterious ways.

If I can be totally transparent with you, I would have to admit the worst first Sunday experience was in a tiny community church in Axson, Georgia.  Man, those folks were tough and the kids my age didn’t cut me any slack at all.  They made fun of me and keep me as the outsider.  On the other end of the first Sunday in August was the first Sunday in Villa Rica.  The kids there accepted me from the first time we met.  Both of those experiences have stayed with me even today.  I look at some fondly and others not so much.  

Thankfully I don’t have to deal with the first Sunday of August the same anymore.  

Spreading The Bad News

This weekend I saw a man on the street corner with a sign that read: “The End is near.  Repent or go to hell.”

What’s up with that?

Based on my experience the guy looked Pentecostal but I don’t know for sure. What I wanted to know is if this method of “evangelism” actually reaches people.  Are people really “converted” by this method?

Scare tactics on laminated poster board?

Honestly this guy is an embarrassment to other believers and probably does more harm than good with the doomsday messages.

Yes, according to the Bible the end has been near for my entire life to this point but I’m not going to hold up a sign about it.   I don’t think you see anywhere that Jesus stood on a street corner holding up a sign of doom and gloom.  In fact, most of his most fiery sermons were directed at religious people.  Interesting don’t you think?

Honestly, what is your first reaction when you see this guy on the corner holding up this sign?  No doubt most will have an eye roll of disgust.  How is that winning anyone?   Now folks will argue that this may not be a high percentage evangelism tool but will say that if they just reach one person it is worth it.

So tell me, which would be most effective – holding up a sign advertising a harsh message or taking cold bottled water to the homeless?

Matthew 25:35-40 says “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Their are far more effective ways of reaching people than holding up a sign.  If you are wanting to win someone then help someone.  I know of a church that will perform some sort of community service on Sundays instead of meeting in a building and doing church the usual way.

Jesus instructed us to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone”. (Mark 16:15)  The gospel is good news.  Advertising that people are going to hell is not preaching the gospel.  So isn’t it counterproductive to spread the bad news?

In this day that we live, we need to show more than tell.  People are tired of being preached at and condemned to hell.   We need to do a better job of selling the gospel and retire the old methods of guilting people into believing.

“That’s Between You And The Lord”

I’ve heard this statement and even said it to others before.  What does it mean?

Most of the time it means that either we don’t agree or we don’t know all the facts about why someone has done something but we choose not to pass judgment.  

There is a lot of truth in this statement because someone else’s relationship with God isn’t something we can truly judge if we don’t know all the facts.   Too many times we are quick to judge and condemn others.  We will judge on outward appearances or assumptions but we don’t see what’s inside the person or the hurts they have endured.  

The Bible says to work out your own Salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  This means we all should take our relationship with God seriously. We all have our own battles and weaknesses to contend with.  We all make our own choices and decisions in life.  There are twists and turns that are different for everyone.  Obviously none of us are perfect and we do make mistakes but we serve a God that isn’t waiting for us to do something wrong so he can hit us on the head.  He will guide us with His wisdom if we let Him.  

Yes, I have been guilty of judging people without knowing all of the details and have been totally wrong.  I think we have all made this mistake.  

There are things that only God knows about us.  He’s very good at keeping our secrets and dealing with us in the ways that work best.  I’m not saying God makes allowances for sin but He is a God that knows us better than anyone else.  

People are quick to make assumptions of others until the same situation hits them.  Funny isn’t it?   I have know some Christians who were strictly against divorce until it happened to their son.  Oops.  He made a mistake or error in judgment then it’s swept under the rug.  Well, I’m sorry to break this news to you but we are all human.  We make decisions.  We make right and wrong decisions.  Life happens to use all.  

God knows us.  If we have a relationship with Him we have the best relationship we could have with anyone.  So, yes, whoever we are is definitely between us and God.  Not everyone will understand your journey.     There is a quote that says “Don’t judge my story by the chapter you walked in on.”

Sometimes we find ourselves living frustrated lives and we aren’t living the life God had intended us to live.  The courage to make some difficult changes won’t be understood by others.  People who have the courage to change are people who can trust an unknown path to an all-knowing God.  

Proverbs 3:6 urges us to acknowledge God in all our ways and He will direct our paths.     To acknowledge God is to spend time with him.  Sitting on a pew at church is not acknowledging God.  You have to be a little more engaged than that.  It is a daily experience that involves you and God.   Yes, it is between you and God but there has to be a relationship between you and God. 

It’s not up to us to judge people.  We are supposed to love people even if we don’t understand or agree with what we see.