Archive for October, 2008
What’s your worst fear? What is it that keeps you awake at night? There are plenty of things to choose from these days. Here in the United States, some people are panicked over the upcoming presidential elections. They just know if their candidate doesn’t win, everything is going to fall apart. For many others, the horror du jour is the economy. Banks failing, stocks falling around the world, taxpayer money going to save financial institutions … the news seems to get bleaker by the day. Many others are still picking up the pieces from recent natural disasters. We’ve had hurricanes, wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and hosts of other catastrophes. For a lot of people, tomorrow isn’t the problem; they don’t know how to get through today.
Many of us, though, have found our own personal terrors. Health issues. Death of a loved one. Relationship trouble. Addictions. Legal problems. Crises don’t have to appear on the national news to have a huge impact on our lives. Some of these problems are self-inflicted; others come to us through no fault of our own.
So, what’s your worst fear? What robs you of peace? What clouds your view of the horizon? Whatever it is, wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of it? Maybe I can’t fix all of your problems, but I can tell you how to recover your peace and maybe even get to where you can sleep at night. Here’s what a man named Paul wrote many years ago: “[i]Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus[/i]” (Philippians 4:6-7).
“Sure,” you say. “Easy for this guy Paul. He wasn’t facing what I’m facing.” While that’s probably true, Paul certainly was not living the life of ease when he wrote those words. He was in chains in a Roman jail cell. He wasn’t serving out a sentence; he was awaiting a probable execution.
So listen to his words. He knows how to face fear. As Paul said, God can give you a peace that goes beyond what is reasonable, that goes beyond human understanding. He can teach you to take all of those problems, bundle them up, and give them to him.
Peace that passes all understanding can be yours. That’s great news!
Grace and peace,
I like watching old Westerns on television. Maybe it is because they are easy to follow. The “Good Guys” always wear white hats, their bullets never hit innocent bystanders, and they treat their women and horses like they should. The “Bad Guys” always wear black, always are deceitful, and never treat anyone the right way. Well…maybe those old movies are not quite that cut and dried, but they are close. And the Old West was not like that. It was never that easy to tell the good guys from the bad ones.
I suspect they were much like people today – people whose lives are messy, people who sometimes make bad choices and decisions, and people who do not easily fit into stereotypes. I am still surprised at people labeled as “bad” who do nice things. I am still saddened, but not always surprised, when “good” people do bad things.
A long time ago, Jesus made the point that only God is truly good. He was right. God, who is good, wants men – who are not always good — to live in relationship with him. In fact, God wanted that so much that he sent his son Jesus to die for the bad in us. So we would be good – holy – like God. Not good because of what we do, but in spite of what we do. Good because of what he did for us, not because of what we do.
That is good news. And if they made a film of heaven, it might be like an old western. You will not have any trouble knowing who the good people are… they will be the ones who trusted Jesus.
So how about in your life? How hard is it for you to trust in God’s goodness instead of your own? Do you think you are good?
As I was flying out of Abilene this past summer, I looked out the airplane window and admired how green Texas was. From several thousand feet up, the ground looked almost lush. Eight days later I flew back into Abilene. I again looked out the window and my immediate thought was how brown and dried up the ground looked. I had just spent time in Tennessee where the grass was dark green and dense, the flowers were blossoming and the tall trees were abundant. After Tennessee, Texas looked arid and the trees had shrunk to minuscule size. Nothing had really changed except my perception.
My perspective is based on my emotions or personal opinions. I look back over my life and I remember my terrible “F’s.” I think about my personal failures, family problems, financial concerns, fear for the future and my futility in maintaining a relationship with God.
How does God see us? God looks at His children with pure love. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and His love is not emotionally based depending upon his mood for the day. I don’t really understand this but I do know that my name has been engraved on the palm of God’s hand (Isaiah 49:16) and that I am the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). He loved me enough that He sent His only Son to die for my sins so that I can have an eternal relationship with Him.
I can learn from my failures and perhaps even help others facing similar trials. Since my children are adults, I can’t make decisions for them but I can take their names before God in prayer, remembering that God loves them even more than I do. I can plan for my future but, since I cannot control it, I can trust God to take care of things. As difficult as it is for me to admit, He doesn’t need my help. I can choose to remain faithful and ask for strength and courage from my Father in heaven.
Maybe, just maybe, God looks at my fears and failures as opportunities for me to grow in Him and then He shouts for joy when I fall to my knees in prayer.
Do you have similar thoughts and concerns? Do you wonder if God really loves you? Do you perceive that God cannot possibly care for you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, let’s discuss it.
Have you heard of Flagstaff, Maine? It’s a ghost town now, submerged under the waters of Flagstaff Lake. A dam was built along the Dead River back in 1950, enlarging Flagstaff Lake and burying the town of Flagstaff. In his book “Unfinished Business,” Halford Luccock tells this story:
One night at dinner a man, who had spent many summers in Maine, fascinated his companions by telling of his experiences in a little town named Flagstaff. The town was to be flooded, as part of a large lake for which a dam was being built. In the months before it was to be flooded, all improvements and repairs in the whole town were stopped. What was the use of painting a house if it were to be covered with water in six months? Why repair anything when the whole village was to be wiped out? So, week by week, the whole town became more and more bedraggled, more gone to seed, more woebegone. Then he added by way of explanation: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.”
“Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.” In his famous song “Imagine,” John Lennon wrote, “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people. Living for today ….” Lennon somehow had the idea that if people would stop thinking about the future, forget about eternity, they would enjoy the present more. He thought they would live better lives. He was wrong. “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.”
Christians can live the present more fully because we have faith in the future. We know the God that holds the future, and we can face tomorrow without fear. The reality of eternity, the reality of God, the faith we have in the future doesn’t diminish our ability to live well in the present. The hope we have fuels our lives now, letting us experience life more completely than if we lacked such hope. “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.”
If you find yourself without power in your present life, maybe you’re running short on hope for the future. I know the God that gives that hope, and I’d love to help you reconnect with him.
Grace and peace,