Trust God: He’s Got This

Trusting in God and His timing is one of the hardest things for me to do. I am pretty sure that I am not alone. We are impatient people. We want what we want when we want it. We don’t want to wait. I’m sure it drives God nuts in how impatient we can be.

My wife has been planning a trip for us and she will routinely tell me that she’s got this. It is her way to keep me from stressing out about it. When someone says “I’ve got this” it means you don’t have to worry about it. They are handling it so don’t stress about it

Worry is such a nasty word. I hate to worry yet I often find myself there. When we pray, we are presenting our desires to God but many times we walk away and continue with stressing about the very thing we prayed for.

God knows us and knows more than anything we could. This is a God who knows the very details of how many hairs we have on our head. Nothing that happens to us surprises Him and you won’t hear Him say “oops”. He’s got everything under control.

Okay, let’s be honest here. It sure doesn’t seem like He does. I know I will even look up in my despair and ask Him does He even see what’s going on. The fact is that He does and He’s not under any obligation to share every little detail of His plan with us.

Just this past week I offered up a prayer about a particular need. It wasn’t one of those on-my-knees-crying-out-to-God prayers. It was a rather weak request but it was sincere, honest and from my heart. I talk to God just like I would talk to you. I presented my request to Him. I would like to tell you that I had all kinds of faith that God was going to do something. I did have a measure of faith but certainly nothing you would be impressed with. The very next day God not only answered that prayer but He did above and beyond anything that I expected. I was totally overwhelmed. I spent the rest of the day thanking Him for it. It was incredible.

I also asked God to help me to remember that moment. Remember how it felt when a prayer was answered. I want to always keep moments like those on my mind when prayers aren’t being answered or when it seems God isn’t listening.

I assure you they God had a plan. Timing with God is important. We pray things and we expect to get them right away. I’ve been doing this a long time and I can tell you that it is very rare for a prayer to be answered right away. Most of the time, it takes time.

There are times when God had to answer prayers around the free will that people have. God isn’t going to force people to do what He wants them to do. He’s moving the chess pieces around to get things in place to answer our prayers. God will often work in ways we cannot see and get our prayers answered in ways we would have never thought of. It can come from totally unexpected places. I know because I often find myself trying to visualize how God is going to do it. Sometimes I will even try to help Him with His plan which I am sure amuses Him.

I’m glad that God is in control and I can have faith that He’s got this.

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Waiting To Be Remembered

In the story of Joseph in the Old Testament, Joseph found himself in prison after he had been falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of rape. When the baker and the butler were in the prison Joseph interpreted their dreams. The baker didn’t have a good result but the butler did. When the butler was restored to his position Joseph had asked to be remembered but he was not and he spent another two years in the prison before he was remembered.

I don’t think we can fully comprehend what he went through because we already know the end of the story. Two years is a long time to be forgotten.

I have spent many times in the forgotten place. Those are some of the hardest times of your life. It is difficult when you are waiting. It doesn’t matter how many times you have gone through this it is just as hard the next time. Experience doesn’t make it any easier.

At this time in my life I am waiting. I hope that I will be remembered. I will have to confess that I am have been discouraged. It is difficult being Joseph in the prison. The hardest thing is to refrain from forcing something to happen. Yes, here we go with that dreaded patience word again. I have already established the fact that I am not very good at waiting but I have also learned how important that patience can be from my own experiences.

I have always heard the cliche that “God is good all the time and all the time God is good”. He is and I don’t dispute that one bit; however, that cliche has always sickened me. Yes, God is good but I’m a little less interested in some Christian cheerleader chant during these forgotten times. When it seems that you are forgotten or your prayers have been forgotten you really don’t want to hear a cliche and it certainly doesn’t seem God is good at the time. I know this doesn’t sound very holy like but I’m being honest. Yes, maybe some people can whistle their way through being in the prison but most of us cannot.

It is hard to continue to go each day without an important prayer going unanswered. Each prayer seems empty. The energy dwindles with each word.

This week I was struggling with the discouragement of being forgotten by God. It seemed that nothing was happening. I was honest to God about what I was feeling. I simply asked for a little encouragement. I didn’t need anything big just a little something to give me a lift. Yesterday, Steven Curtis Chapman released his latest music video for the song “Remember to Remember”. The song reminds us to remember that God had been there when we’ve been on the mountaintops and the times we’ve been in the valleys of our lives. That song hit me right where I needed it. I am often amazed how God can work through a song but He does. No, it wasn’t a huge thing but something I needed and something that will push me on. I may still be in my prison of unanswered prayers but I am not forgotten.

If you are like me, we have to hold on and keep the faith. It isn’t always easy but it is always worth it. Always.

When God Is Silent

manSilence isn’t always golden. Especially if you are a believer. I don’t care who you are, there comes those times in our relationship with God when things get stale. It happens. It’s one of those dry spells everyone goes through. Even the most religious person goes through it. When I was in the Pentecostal Church they had folks who were “on fire for God”. So what happens when that fire isn’t so hot?

One of the most important things I have learned about going through times like these is to keep talking to God. Silence is dangerous and leaves you open for temptation if you aren’t careful. Keep talking to God even if it feels like a one-way conversation or if you feel absolutely nothing. Whatever ritual you have in praying, keep it up.

During these silent times you simply have to push through. It is difficult and very frustrating – believe me. I totally dread the times of silence. If you go to church you hate it or you look for reasons to miss. It’s not an easy time.

Another thing that always seems to work for me is to find a new song. I usually go to the latest Christian music releases on iTunes and see what song touches me. I love it when I find that favorite new song or a new artist. Music is something that will stir my soul.

The times of silence aren’t fun but you can get through it. I have often wondered why we even had these times. Sometimes God withdraws himself from us on purpose to help us to focus more on Him or on an area in our lives that needs some improvement. He doesn’t necessarily leave us but at times He may not be as present with us as He is at other times. Do I always understand it? Not really. Can I adequately explain it? Hardly.

Sometimes it’s just the fact that we are human. Can I be brutally honest here? Frankly it gets boring. We talk to God and we hear nothing. It can get to where we feel like we are talking to ourselves. He’s God and we’re human. We aren’t on the same level so we can easily get out of synch. When things get boring or when our human emotions temper our relationship with God, we have to push our way through it. Change things up. Study the examples in the Bible when people went through the same situation.

The final thing that always seems to get the spiritual mojo again is thinking of others. It could be volunteering or simply being kind to someone. Reach out to someone who is hurting. Be the Jesus in human form to someone else. It doesn’t have to be religious to make a difference to someone. Quite honestly it is rare in today’s selfie world to find someone that is kind and thoughtful to others.

Maintaining a relationship with God isn’t always easy. The silent times are hard work but it is so important to get through them and make your relationship with God worth the effort.

In the old days, we used to wait for a week of revival meetings to get energized again. Sadly it sometimes was nothing more than a spiritual pep rally to stir up emotions only to leave when the revival was over. We shouldn’t depend upon a dynamic evangelist to do it for us or to be hoodwinked that we should “sow a seed” into someone’s ministry. Contrary to what they may think, a relationship with God can’t be bought. It just takes some inner strength and discipline to do it.

As I am writing this, I am going through the silent period. I have been around long enough to recognize it. I hate it too. When it happens, I want it to be over as quickly as possible. I annoy myself with how inconsistent things are right now. I still keep the faith and keep doing the things I know to do to get through it and I will. You have to be determined.

Yesterday I was sitting in the car waiting for my wife when I heard the song “Broken Prayers” by Riley Clemmons. The chorus says:

You want my tears, every messy word

Every scar and every fear

You want all I have

With no holding back

When I’m hurt, at my worst

You meet me there

‘Cause you see the beauty

In my broken prayers

In my broken prayers

You can watch the lyric version of this song here.

It is tempting that when things are silent in our relationship with God that we feel abandoned by Him. This couldn’t be further from the truth. He may be testing us by allowing us to see the things in ourselves that we need to work on. The silence exposes our fears and gaps in our faith. Life always has a lesson for us. The only way we get better and grow is when we learn from those lessons.

Does this make me feel any better about the silent times? No, not really. I may understand it better but it still doesn’t mean I like it.  Regardless, we still have to push through it.

Mother’s Day For The Rest Of Us

As I prepare myself to see all the loving tributes to mothers today, it is a painful day for me and it always will be in some way. My mother passed away in December 2015. Things did not end well for us. I deal with it the best I can and take comfort that she no longer has to experience any of the pain she had.

The transition of going from a child to a man was difficult for our mother-son relationship. Sometimes it’s hard for a mother to accept it when another woman comes into her son’s life. I am sure that was at the core of a lot of our issues.

I had to make some difficult decisions both good and bad which put a lot of strain on our relationship. I won’t lie. It was very difficult. I’m a lot like my mother in that I won’t just let things go and I am a fixer. I want to fix things. This created more problems than it helped. There were many times of strife and separation between us. Even with all of the differences and periods of silence at least she was always the one who would make an effort at some point to reconcile. We would often find ourselves back to the place of starting over again. Unfortunately, something would happen to bring us back to the same place of separation once more. We were never able to sustain any consistency in our relationship.

It’s easy in a strained relationship to see the negative. I was not always good at looking past the negative. That has been a difficult lesson for me.

In remembering the good things – my mom had a awesome sense of humor. She always found humor in any situation. I definitely see that part of her in me. We had a lot of funny moments together. My mom loved going to garage sales, yard sales and any rummage sale she would definitely brake for. One time we went to a yard sale and suddenly a dust devil touched down and took a flimsy card table several feet into the air tossing everything on it into every direction. We laughed for a long time about that one.

I treasure the good times. That’s what I hold on to now. Yes, there were some ugly times but I choose to remember the good – especially today. Do I have regrets? Absolutely. I’m sure we all have them but you take the good with the bad. When it’s too tempting to focus on the bad you push that away and cherish the good times. That’s the way I deal with it.

I have thought a lot about my mom since her passing. I relive things in a different way and try to look at them from her perspective. Her life was affected a lot by physical pain. She had some awful episodes with migraine headaches. She also had many other ailments which I am sure made life difficult for her. In addition to the physical pain she also had to endure the harsh life as a preacher’s wife. People are cruel and judgmental in the church. Perhaps the thing that really dealt her the most difficult blow of all was when her father passed away in 1989. I don’t think she ever recovered from that and life was never the same for her. She was indeed a daddy’s girl and she missed him terribly. I don’t fully know all the details of what she went through in the years after that. I’m sure that pain contributed to the strain of our relationship too.

I believe in heaven and I believe she is there. I take comfort and knowing she’s no longer in any pain and she’s right where she has wanted to be. She’s reunited with my Pa-Pa. I hope one day I will be reunited with her and the past problems we have will fade away.

I wish things had been different between us – especially in her final days. Most of my family sees only one side of the situation and have made up their minds without walking in my shoes. That’s fine. I deal with it. I don’t waste my time fretting over what they think. I have heard the saying that there is always three sides to a story – my side, your side and the truth. They haven’t walked a day in my shoes so they don’t know what they think they know.

Sure I have regrets. If you have a good relationship with your mother I am happy for you. Hold onto it. Do want you can to work through the difficult parts. If you are forced to make decisions to set boundaries – keep them. Don’t flip flop about it and don’t wimp out. If you’re a man, be a man. Not a mommas boy. If you find yourself in a strained relationship suck it up and deal with it. Life isn’t always fair. Not everyone is going to have the Hallmark Card relationship with their mothers. You just do the best that you can.

It may have ended tragically for me but I live my life hoping that I will be the son she could be proud of. That is how I honor her on this day.

Awesome Songs of Easter

empty_tomb1

Easter Sunday was always my favorite day to attend church. It was a tradition for me which started at an early age. When I was a child it was about wearing new clothes to church and the Easter Egg Hunt after church. As I grew older, I learned to appreciate the positive message of the resurrection. It has always been exciting to hear about that morning when Jesus walked out of His tomb. Good Friday became an even better Sunday.

During a period of my life, I was a church youth leader and my favorite activity was to direct the Easter program at church. I was always one who was a bit eccentric and liked to do things different. Each year when I planned the Easter program, I would pick a powerful Easter song and have our young people to play roles in acting out the song. These programs were a lot of work but they were always very fulfilling when they were performed. I always had a wonderful group to help me. We had fun but they were all also very committed to what we were doing.

My early productions were rather basic but I found ways to improve each year. The year I discovered the effects of dry ice was an awesome discovery as I learned how to create fog or smoke effects, especially when the stone was rolled away from the tomb. Another year I managed to save tubes of fake blood from Halloween to use them for the productions. The blood was so lifelike that one elderly lady didn’t like it and left. I’m not sure what she was expecting from us acting out a song called “This Blood Is For You”.

Since I would always use modern contemporary Christian songs, there were always the traditional people who would express their dislike for our “worldly” music. In other words, we weren’t acting out songs from the church hymnal.  That’s okay because everyone’s tastes are different, I just liked using songs that were effective to stir the emotions of people and understand the importance of this day.

It was exciting to bring life to some awesome Easter songs. When I refer to Easter songs I am referring to songs about the resurrection.

Here is a list of some of my favorites along with a link to a performance of that song:

  • “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco (Listen)
  • “Arise my Love” by Newsong (Listen)
  • “The Champion” by Carman (Listen)
  • “He Lives” by Lakewood Church by Cindy Cruse Ratcliff (Listen)
  • “Rise Again” by Dallas Holm (Listen)
  • “Was It A Morning Like This” by Sandi Patty (Listen)
  • “Jesus Is Alive” by Ron Kenoly (Listen)
  • “Celebrate Jesus” by Don Moen (Listen)
  • “Because He Lives” by Bill and Gloria Gaither (Listen)
  • “I’ve Just Seen Jesus” by Sandy Patti and Larnelle Harris (Listen)

It’s very difficult for me to pick a favorite from the list above.  I can only say that they all have their own ways of bringing out hope and maybe cause a few goose bumps to appear when you listen to them.  I think the first one that I remember which really stuck with me was the first time I heard the song “He’s Alive”.  My first time hearing this song was not the Don Francisco version but one sung by a man that has meant a lot to me.  He was my first counselor in Youth Camp many, many years ago.  He is an awesome banjo player and he performed a memorable version of this song.  I have never forgotten it.

So if you are looking for an awesome Easter song today, I highly recommend any of those on the list above.

Although not an Easter song, the final scene from the movie “Passion of the Christ” is perhaps the best movie scene which depicts the resurrection.  I think it’s pretty powerful.  You can view the scene below:

 

 

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

goodfridayThis morning I walked into our building and noticed that our cafeteria is closed for “Good Friday”.  Seriously?  It isn’t even a federal holiday and they are closed?

Well, honestly, Good Friday is NOT a holiday nor should it be.

And what’s so “good” about Good Friday?

Good Friday is the Friday prior to Easter Sunday which recognizes the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.  Yes, it’s a Christian thing so what’s so good about a day when Jesus was brutally beaten and suffered death on the cross?

If you need a reminder about what happened, you need to watch the movie “Passion of the Christ”.  I have only been able to watch it once.  It’s pretty graphic and closely accurate to what happened.  I warn you that the movie is pretty graphic.  You will gain a whole new understanding of how Jesus suffered and died.

And this is supposed to be good?

It is good because of the suffering and death of Jesus, as brutal as it was, fulfilled God’s plan to save people from their sins.

So why did a man have to die to save people from their sins?

Yes, I know it’s a little difficult to understand but you would have to go back in history and understand the culture at that time.

After Adam and Eve sinned the world changed.  Sin is the wickedness in each of us that causes us to act selfishly, to rebel against God, and to hurt one another.  In the Old Testament, Gold instructed people to set aside the day of atonement to make sacrifices for their sins.  They were to bring an innocent, blemish-free animal as a temporary atonement for their sins.  God gave a temporary means of forgiveness through the death of animals.  The problem with this method was that no amount of sheep or other animals could remove the sin from the world.  Jesus came as the only human being in all of history who was completely pure and without sin.  In God’s plan, it took a blameless human to become the ultimately sacrifice for sin.

This whole explanation can really get twisted depending on which religion you listen to.  It’s difficult to grasp the fact that someone who died a horrible death thousands of years ago could still affect us today.

I’m not expecting this blog to convince you if you don’t believe.  That’s totally up to you.  There is no way a person could intellectually convince you through scientific of historical facts.   Even if you go to the site of the crucifixion, it would still be hard to believe.  I have been there and seen the place and I have to tell you that the bus station next to the location kind of doesn’t fit what we imagine it to be.  But when you think about it, when, in any other point of history was a perfect situation for God to choose the time period that He did to do this?  Yes, just imagine if something like this happened today?

Good Friday is really about blood.  The blood atonement that Jesus gave for the sins of the world.  The Bible states that blood was the symbol for life.  Old Testament sacrifices were only temporary and only pardoned for a short time.  This atonement was a weekly thing but when Jesus shed his blood on this day, He voluntarily gave himself for all time and no need for future sacrifices.

So, really, Good Friday is good for us.

If you want to see a powerful music video about Good Friday, watch “This Blood is for You”

 

 

 

The Power of Redemption

Icanonlyimagine_1200w_tnAt times I can be a very emotional person.  There are times that I cry.  There, I said it.  Something like that is hard for a man to own up to but as I sat in the movie theater Sunday wiping away tears from my eyes after watching the movie “I Can Only Imagine” the power of redemption overtook my emotions.

I wasn’t the only one.  I heard many sniffles from the people around me.  We were all taken in from the emotional workout we had just experienced from watching the story of Bart Millard of the Christian Music group MercyMe.

As I think about this movie, I can tell you that as long as there is a God there is a chance and a hope for redemption.  I’m just crazy enough to believe that.

Forgiveness is hard.   Let’s be honest.  In fact, I think it is the hardest thing that a person can do.  The only way it can truly work is from both sides.  It is especially difficult if you are the person who was wronged to let go of the hurt and the memories that are burned into the scars of your life and to set the offender free.  We don’t like pardoning people.  Not in this day and world that we live.  We want people to pay.  We want revenge.  We want them to hurt as badly as they hurt us.  We don’t want to hear about forgiving anyone or cutting someone loose.

It’s hard I won’t lie.  I have always been passionate about defending myself when I have been wrongly accused.  I can get pretty worked up about it too.  I don’t like to be wrongly accused but it happens.  It’s not right or fair.  Life isn’t fair.  If we live and we feel we will most assuredly be hurt by someone.  I know you don’t like reading this and I honestly don’t like writing it.

Redemption is hard.  We want people to pay.

In the movie, Dennis Quaid plays, Arthur, the abusive father who tries to make things right with his son, Bart.  Bart has a hard time dealing with the change in his father.  His father is at a loss on how he can possibly make up for the years of hurt and pain he caused his son.  Sometimes we all have relationships that have gone past the point of no return.  The hurts run deep.  So deep that there is no possible way to make up for it.  Unfortunately none of us have a time machine that can go back and correct the hurts we have caused in the past.

So what does God expect from us?   Well, you’re not going to like this but He expects us to forgive – and not just one time either.  He’s also not into the “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” rule.  When Jesus was asked about this He said 70 x 7.  So, in other words, we are ALWAYS supposed to be good at forgiving.  Let me say that God also expects us to use our brains too and not keep put ourselves in a position to where we have to forgive someone that is taking advantage of us either.  If someone keeps stealing from you at some people you need to forgive them and stop giving them money.

God is kinda big on forgiveness.  We also hear the other part that is usually tagged onto this and that is forgetting.  Letting it go.  Now that’s a hard one to digest isn’t it?  Love is the key to letting things go.  It has to be.  If you don’t let things go then there is no forgiveness.

Sometimes the forgiveness never comes and the other party dies.  What then?  Are we doomed forever in the land of unforgiveness?  No.  Even if the deceased person is no longer here, we still must deal with it.  Some suggest getting a chair and talking it out as if the other person is sitting there.  I’m not sure if that works or not but we must do what works to resolve it.  We hold onto things way too long and it messes up every other relationship we have with people.  We hurt so we unintentionally hurt others when we don’t deal with it.  Get it resolved one way or the other.

What if the other person is unwilling?

That’s a hard one.  Maybe you want to redeem your relationship but the other person does not give a thought about it and has no interest in it.  All I can tell you is to let it go on your end and be open.  Never shut the door.  Believe in the power of redemption.  You know, if one thing I learned from the movie is that God is always working and sometimes we never see what He’s doing in people or how He’s working behind the scenes.  As hard as it is for us to believe that God does not give us a report of what He’s doing, He’s doing what He wants and will work in whatever way to bring redemption.

Yes, I’m crazy enough to believe that.

I am an emotional guy.  I can’t help it.  That’s who I am.  I believe that redemption is possible.  It’s hard to believe it when you can’t see it happening.

It’s true that there are some relationships that are never restored but, as the old hymnal goes – “We’ll Understand It Better By and By”.  As long as there is a God, there is a hope for redemption.