Trials

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July 15

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

I’m sure you have heard or maybe even had one of those love/hate things going on.

You love ice cream (guilty) but hate the calories (I don’t care).  🙂

You love pizza (guilty again) but hate the results (ditto).

You love feeling and looking good (guilty) but hate the exercise required (can’t say this).

Instead of the word “hate” use the words “don’t like it all that much.” 🙂

Seriously though, there are certain love/hate things that go on in my life. One occurred to me as I listened to a podcast Tuesday while driving…then I read something on Wednesday morning during my Encounter Time that cemented it. Please take a moment and read Hebrews 12:5-11. Again, I could link it here but I encourage you to get your Bible out and read it slowly.

Discipline. It took me a long time to separate discipline from punishment. Growing up I had someone who mistook punishment for discipline. As a father, I had to wrestle with my upbringing, to separate them and to realize that discipline was to teach. I didn’t always succeed (I’m ashamed to admit).

Even now I sometimes struggle with God and whether He is disciplining me or punishing me.

The truth is real though. I disciplined my girls because I love them. John Cooper (lead singer of Skillet) was a guest on the podcast (Alisa Childers) and he was telling how he disciplined his daughter and explained to her he did it because he loved her. A week or so later she came to him and said, “Daddy, that man hates his son.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because he is pushing all the kids around and his dad won’t tell him to stop.”  🙂 🙂 

Needless to say she got John’s point.

And even though I am not fond of God’s discipline (sometimes it really hurts), I know He loves me.

“Father, thank you for Your discipline. It shows me You love me. Help me not to forget that truth when it hurts.”

July 2

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Bob Goff tells the story of Walt Disney (WD) which I suspect many of us have heard:

Before WD dreamed up Disneyland, he was fired from his job at a newspaper in Kansas City because his editor said he “lacked imagination.” Can you believe it? Whenever I’m at Tom Sawyer Island (note: his personal retreat), I think about what would’ve happened if WD had dug in his heels at the newspaper instead. The world would have never met Mickey Mouse. Failure forced WD to pursue his passion.  (p.224)

He went on to say elsewhere:

Our habits shape our days, and our days make up our lives. Without much thought, we can settle into routines that keep us stagnant for decades. (p.224)

While Mr. Goff went in one direction, I want to go in another. I want to talk about failure. It is something most, if not all of us, hate to discuss or consider. None of us go into a venture, no matter what it is, thinking we are going to fail at this. If so, it is wise not to even get started.

I recently read some quotes attributed to the late coach, Vince Lombardi:

“If you accept losing, you can’t win.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

There are more but these ought to suffice in making my point. Failure happens. But there is a big difference between thinking you are going to fail from right out-of-the-box and failing because you tried.  WD failed at his newspaper job, but did not allow it to curtail his dreams. There are many (and I know some) who are glad he didn’t give up.

Perhaps another quote by Mr. Lombardi will be a good ending:

It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men.  It starts in ours.

“Father, help me to believe in Your dreams for me.  Help me not to cower in fear over seemingly overwhelming odds.”

Bob Goff’s quote from Live in Grace-Walking in Love.

June 18

Friday, June 18th, 2021

HOPE.

An ‘oft used word:

  • “I hope it does/doesn’t rain today.”
  • “I hope it’s a boy/girl.”
  • “I hope my son/daughter gets a scholarship.”
  • “I hope God comes through for me.”
  • “I hope my new job is a good one.”

So many different ways we use the word hope.  Truth? We. all. want. and. need. hope. You take away hope and all you’ve got is a shell of a person left. You can see this in a person who has received the big “C” diagnosis and only given weeks to live. You see it in a parent’s worst nightmare-the loss of a child. From the biggest thing to a minor thing, we can see our lives are fueled and driven by hope. 

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” So says the old hymn.

Hope relying on things or people or circumstances will not last or hold together. Hope relying on horizontal fulfillment will not last. Only hope found vertically will stand the test of time and can be counted on.

You see…hope that lasts can only be found in a Person, that Person is Jesus. Hope found in Him will not disappoint us. (Romans 5:1-5) It will, instead, be the rock we can stand upon.

“Father, may my hope be in You and You alone. Take away all desires to find the answer to hope horizontally. Help me to push aside all the other imposters to Your throne.”

May 27

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

I’ve been reading a book called Beauty in the Browns by Paul Asay. Paul is a writer for Focus on the Family and other venues. Short story: it is about walking with Christ in the darkness of depression. Mr. Asay has been brutally honest in his person memoir on his struggle with depression.

I have no plans to go any deeper right now. What I want to focus on is one of the three key elements that brought him out of his depression.  Time. Love. Action. Those are the three key elements. My focus is on the second: Love.

Hardly a person alive-one who know the Bible or one who doesn’t-has not had some exposure to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…”  That verse sums up the essence of Christianity. Think this through with me please:

  • We didn’t deserve it.
  • We didn’t deserve the gift of life and salvation.
  • He loved us, not because we were lovely, but because we weren’t.
  • He loves us not because we had and have it all together. We could say He loves us because we didn’t. To use a common phrase: He loved us because we were broken.
  • His love was not dependent on our goodness. It was not dependent on our response.  It was not dependent on us raising our hallelujahs or our hands.

His love is real. His love is sincere. His love is pursuant. (One author once called Him the “Hound of Heaven”).  His love is constant. His love is steadfast. It does not depend on our skills, talents, and dedication. Aren’t you glad?

So this morning I want to challenge you to sit back, relax, and bask in the love of God today. Live in that love.

“Father, may that be my desire today. Help me to just rest in Your love.”

May 24

Monday, May 24th, 2021

This is a continuation of my previous post. Not the topic but the whole “flood of ideas” which overtook me.  This is another thought which assailed me that morning.

I’m sure you have noticed as I have that God often gets a bad wrap. When things go bad or get tough…blame God. It is not unusual for people’s anger toward their lot in life, circumstances, or even consequences from choices, be directed toward God.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about deconstruction lately. For the uninitiated, that is the term used for someone who dismantles, i.e. deconstructs their faith. There are many triggers but one of them is the seeming absence of God during tough times. I’ve had someone recently tell me they were angry at God because of unanswered prayer.

I’ve struggled with that myself but thankfully never got so angry or bitter I turned my back on God or doubted His love or sovereignty. Struggles are a fact of life but never think that the hard things are “failures of God’s character, promises, power, or plan.” (Tripp-p.42)

I, personally, keep reminding myself that God is the stable one, not me! 🙂 God’s grace to me is real and powerful and present just not always when I want. And certainly not when I “feel” it because He is there despite my feelings.

Deconstructing because of feelings is not solid, because feelings are so fluid. Hold on to that which does not waver-the truth of God’s Word and the character of a grace-giving God.

“Father, You are a solid rock. Unmoveable, even despite the strongest storm. Help me to trust in You.”

May 21

Friday, May 21st, 2021

“Where, O Where, should my rambling mind go?” Did you ever have those time when nothing clicked? You know…you read and read and nothing hits home. This is not one of those times.

The opposite. I sat down for my Encounter Time this morning and the more I read the more I got bombarded. It wasn’t lack; it was too much. I had 3 different devos running around in my head. I liked them all.  But I’m going to go with the first one.

Have you ever got an “F?” Yeah? Join the club. More than one I might add. You see, I am not a smart, smart person but I can guarantee that if life was graded on a curve any forward motion I took would have been negated by my “lack” in math, science, or any subject related. Biology. Chemistry. Geometry. Trigonometry. Calculus. (Notice a trend there?) Anyway, you get my drift.

My kids got a hold of my Senior Year High School grade card. Let’s just say that my admonitions to them of studying and getting good graces and finding out what you’re good at  no longer held water.  I lost a ton of credibility at that point. Fortunately, I was a pretty good dad so I got it back other ways. 🙂 All my credibility was flushed down the toilet. I got two “As” that year-Driver’s Ed and Phys. Ed. Powerhouse subjects!!! The others I’ll not say in detail. Let’s just say there was a smattering of “D’s” and an “F.” I’m must glad they never saw my Jr. Year card with Chemistry and Geometry.

Failure is part of life. It comes in all shapes and sizes. Maybe it is more accurate to say “failure isn’t part of life; it is much of life.” (Goff-p.170)

I went on to better things (and grades) in college, although I was never valedictorian material. Or salutatorian. Or top 10% of my class. I survived (barely) my high school years.  (Note: in my defense I played basketball, worked after practice, school and weekends), and surprise of all surprises, I had a girl friend and it behooved me to investigate the great mystery of the universe…woman}. I continued to find out that Math and Science and all related subjects were to be avoided. I did find out I loved studying the Bible, learning and preaching/teaching it.

I learned some valuable lessons through my “D’s” and “F’s.” Avoid certain subjects as a livelihood; embrace certain subject which bring you to life.  Hence, my calling.

“Father, even now, may my failures be a stepping stone to new lessons and new challenges.  Help me to grow in wisdom.”

May 14

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Life is difficult. Life is hard. Or so I’ve heard. And…so I’ve experienced. Inherent to all of us is one of two choices- give up or fight through.

There are those who give up. They check out of reality.  Maybe they tell themselves “This is not real. This is not happening. God wants me to enjoy life so I’m going to spin positive and deny I’m having difficulty.” Yeah, like that is going to help. No name-it-claim-it; no Christian Science; no Scientology denial; no dismissal and positive “best life now” approach will change life.

Others tragically check out permanently. Putting aside those who struggle mentally, there are those who just give up. I think what happened during the Great Depression and most economic downturns is proof of what I’m saying.

But, then there are those who fight. Bob Goff wrote the following:

There are three things I’ve learned about climbing a mountain. First, there’s almost always a point when you want to give up. Second, you don’t get breathtaking views until you push to the summit. And third, the summit is almost always just after the point you want to quit.

I’ve never been a mountain climber. Maybe when I was younger Not now. 🙂 My knees would protest. Loudly. Too loudly. But I have stopped at high points and gotten out of the car to look. A train ride in Skagway, Alaska is another example. Beautiful views. Getting to the summit worth it.

Giving up goes against my grain…sometimes to my detriment. But I’d rather stick to something too long than to give up too soon. On the other side of pain and yes, failure, is a beautiful view of love and acceptance from a Father who walked every step of the way with me.

“Father, thank you for hanging in there with me, especially through the tough times. “

{Quote by Bob Goff from Live in Grace*Walk in Love. P.164}

May 6

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

How often have you wished your troubles would go away? How many times have you (and I) said, “Oh, I’m so tired of this mess. I just wish it would all be right. For once.” More than I care to admit.

I’m in the process of reading Surviving Religion 101 by Michael J. Kruger. It is written in the style of a father writing to his daughter at college. (His real life daughter was just beginning her freshman year at UNC in Charlotte).  So the format fits perfectly.

His first chapter address the question: will I survive? I started reading this book because I see and hear and read of so many who are deconstructing their faith, especially those who go off to college. In this first chapter he said something which was so spot on, so insightful, it impacted me enough to write his post. Opposition to our faith comes in various ways. Kruger writes about the effect/importance of/response to opposition.

Here is some of what he wrote:

“In short, opposition  made the early Christians better theologians (My note: he had referenced the Gnostics), better defenders of the faith, and better evangelists.”

“But opposition to your faith will change you in another way. In addition to sharpening your mind, it will hone your character.”

And finally: “Don’t view opposition only in negative terms; view it as an opportunity to grow as a Christian, so that you might be better equipped to build up your fellow believers and reach non-Christians more effectively.”

Nothing wasted. No wasted opportunity to learn. To share. To grow. I believe that is God’s modus operandi.

So…let me ask you: how do you view opposition in your life?

“Father, help me to view opposition not as a negative, but as a positive influence in my life.”

{Note: All quotes are from page 35}

May 4

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Yesterday’s Living in the Shadow devotion was on pride and arrogance.  God must have felt I needed to learn something more because I read 2 Cor. 12 this morning, particularly emphasizing verses 7-10. 

Background: It is Paul’s account of his “trip” or visit to the third heaven. He wasn’t sure if was in the body or in spirit but he did come to a very solid conclusion:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so  that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (7-10)

There is no question is Paul’s mind why that thorn was given to him: to keep him from getting proud. In fact, whatever the thorn was hit him hard. It brought him low. It took whatever pride was there and dumped it. Pride rears its ugly head…here comes the “reminder” thorn. It is humbling to be brought low or to be constantly reminded of our weakness. Such was Paul. Such is us.

What do you do about your weakness? How do you view them-as a curse or a blessing?

“Father, help me to keep a handle on my pride even it it means the thorn rears its ugly head. But, if it does, help me to run to You and see You glorified through it.”

April 8

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I like to tease Jo. Sometimes I know I really get on her “last nerve.” One of Tami’s students once her: “Miss Grandi. Are we getting on your last nerve?”  🙂  Yeah, that would be me with Jo.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like to tease Jo. One of those times is when she was watching a Hallmark movie-whether it is the two-month-before-Christmas-movie-marathon or even now. There is a word which describes those movies:

Predictability.

I bug her (not because I chit chat while she is watching the movie or I ask half way through what is happening), but because I tell her what is going to happen. This guy and girl will meet at a lodge or some vacation spot (they like resorts). They might know each other from the past. They will start having feelings for each other but then one will have a close friend (sometimes someone they soon plan to marry) who will get in the way. One will leave but that in the last 10 minutes or so will show up at the shindig. They will realize they have fallen in love with each other and kiss and live happily ever after…or so we assume.

Predictability.

There might be a variation or two depending on the story line, but ultimately they all come down to a couple falling in love.

We like predictability…to some extent. I tend to think it could get boring having the same old same old day in and day out. My vote is for variation, for unpredictability, for adventure, for not knowing.

Have you ever given some thought to our lives as Christ-followers? How important is variety? Truthfully, we should be used to unpredictability by now. We serve a God who might be “the same yesterday, today and forever” and never changes, but the way He works is priceless. There is no “one size fits all.” Nor does He operate the same way each time. Sometimes it is a gentle tap on the window. Sometimes it is in the storm. Sometimes it is in the clear and gentle breeze.

And one thing is sure: no matter how He works, the most predictable part of it all is that He loves us and wants the best for us.

“Father, thank you for being You. Thank You for being both predictable in Who You are, and yet unpredictable in how you will work. Help me to see it as part of Your loving plan.”