Trials

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October 11

Monday, October 11th, 2021

Our small group has been discussing the topic of suffering. Last night we talked about suffering being fair or not.

We all came to the conclusion that suffering being “fair” should not be in our vocabulary.  It most certainly is not a biblical word. I think (personally) what happens to many of us is we begin to compare our situation with someone else’s and the word “fair” comes out. How many times have I heard, “I don’t understand. I give my life to Jesus, serve Him, and this is what I get”? How many times? Innumerable. We need to ditch the “It’s not fair talk” and get back to “God-talk.” We need to start saying, “What does God want me to learn or to become out of this?”

Here are some one sentence thoughts I gleaned and wrote down from last night’s study:

  • Right in the middle of his suffering, Paul broke out in the doxology. See Romans 11:33-36.
  • In our future and about our future, God owes us no explanation.
  • Society has become a victim-driven society.
  • When you throw a pity party no one wants to come. (I love this one)
  • When we open the door to victimhood, we allow ourselves to be slaves.

And to close this devotion, here is a thought from something I read from John Piper just this morning:

Do not think that because you experience adversity in your little world of experience, the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity or our fame but our holiness that He seeks with all His heart.”  –“Good News of Great Joy”- p. 34

“Father, may I see suffering, not as something unfair or to avoid, but as a tool to help me grow into being more like Jesus.”

October 5

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

It was 1:00 a.m. I was awake.  I was uncomfortable (I’ll tell you why in a mom). But even in my discomfort a word came to me “out-of-the-blue.” Blessed. It got me thinking (yes, even at that time in the morning).

One of my favorite people (whom I have never met in person) is a woman from Georgia named Martha. She blogs at http://marthaorlando.blogspot.com/2021/10/be-lifted-up.html. She ends every comment on my blog (and others) with “Blessings.”

Our local sheriff, Sam, is a Christ-follower. You ask him how he is doing and he will answer, “I’m blessed.”

My secretary, Diana, has a t-shirt she likes to wear: “Blessed and highly caffeinated.” Since she drinks very little coffee, I suspect it is the “Blessed” she likes.

Jesus used that word “Blessed” 9 times in the Sermon on the Mount. They are called the Beatitudes.

This past Saturday as I was walking from gassing up my truck to the store to get my change and to meet Jo to get something to drink, a car backed into me and knocked me over. My left hand slammed the pavement and immediately was on fire. I now have the black and blue and sore hand to prove it (hence the 1 a.m. discomfort). Of course, they both got out of the car to see how I was and to apologize. As I waiting in line (I think in a little bit of shock), the man came into the store to see if I was okay. I said, “Yes” and he said, “Well, God bless you.”

As I was driving down the interstate a few moments later (and after the reality of what had happened dawned on me…my hand reminded me), I told Jo what he said. I then said, “I wish I had been more with it because I would have said to him, ‘He has. He does. He will.'”  But I didn’t. I didn’t even think of it. And since they are from Rhode Island I doubt I ever will (unless I see them in heaven).

In spite of the pain in life; in spite of the stumbles and falls; in spite of the missteps; in spite of the times of loneliness and feeling of hopelessness and abandonment which sometimes invades our space, we are blessed. 

I know I am.  It just takes me taking my eyes off of me and my circumstances and looking at Jesus to realize I am blessed beyond measure.

So are you. Do you know that?

“Father, help me to see how blessed I really am.”

September 20

Monday, September 20th, 2021

Sitting the bench is no fun.

Because I was a fairly good athlete I seldom sat the bench. That is, until I hit high school basketball. I started playing Little League baseball at Age 8. There no such torture chamber as T-ball or “coach pitch” back then. It was us playing ball. I seemed to have a knack for baseball. I didn’t start basketball until 9th grade. I was tall but grew 3-4″ in one year (I had the achy knees to prove it). I didn’t know how to dribble a basketball and run so while the team practiced I did too-on the sidelines running up and down the side of the court dribbling the ball.

I played some as a JV in grades 10-11 and thought I would have my chance to play as a Sr. I even went to summer ball. Nope. Coach was looking to next year so I sat the bench. I didn’t even get a chance to play in my last game as a Senior (but coach said he heard me yelling for the team.  Big deal!)

Moving onto college I played as a starter all 3 years (I didn’t play my senior year since I chose to get married and actually try to study). The only time I sat the bench was for a breather or coach wanted me to be playing later in the game and stay out of foul trouble.

I hated sitting the bench. I felt like a loser. I never had my parents come watch a high school game so I wasn’t disappointing them. I just felt useless at times. I was a practice dummy-used in practice to prepare the team for the opposing team.

I dreamed of playing professional sports. I know now I was never good enough. And never would have been.

Bob Goff reminded me there is no shame in being on the bench. He said,

The dream He (God) put in your heart are dreams He still wants to fulfill through you today. He didn’t create any of us to just be practice buddies or water boys-there’s no sideline to God’s story of redemption, and there’s no bench. (#262-p.311)

You know? He is right. All that “splinter gathering” I did was molding me to wait, but also showing me I have value-as a pastor-not as a ball player. It just took me awhile to realize it. (I Cor. 12:7)

“Thank you Father for showing me that You have no intention of me sitting on the bench. You have me in Your game and a highly valued member of Your team.”

September 1

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Today I read from Psalm 37. It is, by far, my favorite chapter in the Bible. Admittedly, Romans 8 comes in a close 2nd. But, by and large, this is my favorite. There is so much to digest just at the beginning!!

  • Trust in the Lord and do good. (v.3)
  • Delight yourself in the Lord. (v.4)
  • Commit your way to the Lord. (v.5)  This is my personal favorite.
  • Rest in the Lord.  (v.7)

That alone would be enough to say, “Here listen to me!”  That alone would suffice to say, “Here are the nuts and bolts of a relationship with God.”  But a little later David adds another gem:

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And he delights in his way.” (v.28)

We may face some limiting circumstances. We may face some which are not so good. We may face some that want to take us down and out. While it is hard to remember when we are going through a difficulty, we need to seek God. We can “go” through it or “grow” through it.

The challenge of every pressure situation is to increase our faith and trust, not to decrease. It it is to grow not diminish.

“Father, as I go through those challenging times may my faith increase. Help me to trust, delight, commit, and rest in You.”

I have so much more to say about making this happen but it would make this devotion too long for one day. So I have chosen to split my writing into two devotions. Tomorrow I would like to show how and why  we need to increase our faith not diminish it by using a very familiar passage. See you there!

August 25

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

Whenever Jo and I visit our daughter and grandson, we stay in a hotel. Several reasons which I will not go into. The folks at the hotel are fantastic! Sarah, the manager, whom we have gotten to know over the past few years, knows us and treats us well. All I have to do is call her and she reserves a room for us. We usually spend minimal time in our hotel room so the view is not really important to us.  It seems we either get a picture of the front overhang, thereby obscuring everything, or we get a picture of the construction going on with multiple storage units.  Lovely view.

Except for this past time. Our view was of the NNE, which included some car dealerships (almost empty of cars) and the interstate. AND a beautiful, full moon. We could see it as we drove into the hotel but it was obscured by trees and power lines. But we got to our room, opened the curtains, and VOILA! A gorgeous, full moon. No trees. No power lines. Just the moon.

Knowing the sun would be coming up that way next morning, I opened the curtains and rather than see a beautiful sunrise, my vision was blurred.  It wasn’t my glasses since I don’t have to wear them anymore. It was the windows. More succinctly…it was the moisture on the windows. Late night/early morning dew. Soon though, the sun burned it off and I was able to see the sun it all its glory…and clearly.

I’m thinking of the difficulty we all face and the verse from I Corinthians 13: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known.” (v.12) Very often our vision is obscured and our view is disrupted. We don’t see clearly at all. Unobstructed, all is beautiful. But the trees and buildings and fogs of life cause us pain. It is when our mirror is clear that our vision is 20/20 and it is then we know-God is there. He always was. It just took a little less obstruction for us to see clearly.

“Father, help me to see clearly-through all the trees and branches and fog-that You are there.”

August 24

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

Years and years ago. So many I can’t remember when or where, I bought a magnet that has been on my file cabinet ever since and the only time it has moved is when I moved and packed up everything. As you can guess, it isn’t the magnet, but what it says:

The faith to move mountains is the reward of those who have moved little hills.

I thought of that magnet saying when I read a devotion by Bob Goff (#233) recently. He writes about a long-jumper named Lex Gillette.  Lex competes in the Olympics as a long jumper. Oops, I meant to say the Paralympics as…get this…a blind long-jumper. You are probably wondering, as I did, how he pulls that off. He has a coach who yells, “Fly!” over and over as Lex sprints down the 100 meter track.  His voice guides Lex as he sprints. It’s like a homing beacon.

Amazing! Bob makes the point that if we are wondering if we should take a risk or try something, we should think about Lex. Not “If a blind man can do it, so can I” type of thinking, but the sense of learning from his heart, his courage, and his wisdom.

What struck me-hence the magnet reference-are several things:

  1. He has to trust his coach.
  2. How did he learn to run in a straight line, when to jump and how to land?
  3. What made him want to do that to start with? Did someone tell him he couldn’t?

I admire a man like Lex-a man who wouldn’t let his disability keep him down. He started with a small hill. Then, as he stretched his legs, i.e. faith, he began to climb bigger hills. Until…he moved mountains.

Maybe it is time for me, for you, to to allow our faith to develop into a mountain-moving faith.

“Father, help me to exercise my faith. Help me to remember Proverbs 21:31.”  (I encourage you to read the verse).

Bob’s book is entitled Live in Grace-Walk in Love.

August 23

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

This past weekend Jo and I made a quick trip to Ohio on Friday to watch our grandson, Braden, play his first game as a Freshman in high school. We came back Saturday after the game. Driving 4-41/2 hours one way gives one a lot of time to think. Lately, the church family has been hit hard with “stuff.”

  • It started with me getting hit broadside on June 3rd and still working through several ETAs for the necessary part.
  • One of our ladies was heading to Indy for a quilting show and a semi sideswiped her.
  • One of our young men was hit head on. His ankle is broke significantly and may require further surgery.
  • Another had a car pull out in front of him on the way to a wedding. He and his fiance were shook up but the car is toast.
  • One young lady was rear-ended as she was turning into the church lot this past Saturday. She has a concussion and will be very, very sore.
  • One young lady’s 90+ y/o grandmother got COVID and they still don’t know how. She is, at least, able to get up and not lay around.
  • The church secretary’s father had a massive brain bleed on Thursday and was in a coma.  Yesterday afternoon he went to be with Jesus.
  • A 13 y/o has been placed in a center to get help with his anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
  • Our youth pastor, Ryan, is slowly watching his father waste away from cancer.

There are more, but you get the picture. As I thought about all of the “stuff” hitting us, I refused to have a pity party. I thought of Daniel and I thought of something I read this past week:

God is still God even when we don’t understand His ways.

The nonbeliever cannot sync with the idea of trials and suffering and a good God.  But the follower of Jesus can. We must choose to worship God and to trust His goodness, sovereignty, and power. We remind the world around us that we are in the hands of the One who controls it all. God is still God; I am still me; and He is still in charge.

And I must also say that I am not leaving out the idea this is a Satanic attack on our church fellowship. Add to the above the masks, the fear people have, the political sides being taken on social media and yeah…I am a firm believer this could very well be a Satanic attack.

“Father, I don’t understand but I’m certainly not going to blame You. You have been, are now, and always will be in charge.”

{Quote from The Daniel Dilemma by Chris Hodges, page 91}

August 17

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

I mentioned in yesterday’s devotion about Psalm 13, so I thought I would follow up that devotion with a deeper look into this psalm.

First, please read Psalm 13 in its entirety. Yeah…all 6 verses. 🙂

The chapter is written by King David.  Here we go:

If God truly forgot David, as he says in verse 1, then how was David able to say he trusted in God’s faithfulness? (v.5a)

In verse 1b David says that God hid His face from him, but in verse 6b he says that God has looked after him.

In verse 2a David wrestled with this thoughts and grief, yet in verse 6a he had a song in his heart.

In verse 2b David said his enemy was triumphing over him but in verse 5b he says his heart rejoices in God’s salvation.

There appears to be a discrepancy, or at best, David is bi-polar.

Here is how I see it: David’s feelings and reality were in conflict. He felt God had hidden, but he believed God was somehow good to him. He felt the pains of inner sorrow, but he believed he had every right to sing. Same with the other two.

Sometimes our feelings are too strong in how we decide. We are often anchored to our feelings. We need to believe. We need to not rely so much on our feelings and more on what we KNOW about God’s mercy, providence, love and grace.

Less feelings. More trust.

“Father, that is a constant struggle for many of us. May I live a life of faith not feelings.”

{My thanks to Randall Arthur’s book Wisdom Hunter for the insights into this passage. It is a fiction book I highly recommend. I cannot even tell you how many times I have read it and how many copies I have given away}. 

August 9

Monday, August 9th, 2021

Okay…slap me with a wet noodle. I didn’t post last Friday. We made a quick trip to Ohio and left Wednesday morning and returned Friday. Rather than throw a devotion together AND try to do it on my phone, I decided not to do anything. But if I was going to post, the following was on my mind.

As followers of Christ we are told to:

Hurt when others hurt.

Cry when others cry.

Laugh when others laugh.

Rejoice when others rejoice.

Love because we are loved.

Show grace because we have been shown grace.

Comfort when others hurt.

The reality is that God often puts us in hard places or takes us through hard moments so that we will be ready when others go through hard moments. When their heart cries out for comfort, we are ready, because our hearts once cried out for comfort.

I think of Mordecai’s words to Esther: “For such a time as this…”  And who knows? All the junk we went through; all the pain we experienced; all the tears; were not wasted just on us. Perhaps it was for us to have a heart that hears and listens and responds to another’s heart cry. Lessons learned were never meant to be kept to ourselves. They are sometimes a path for us to guide a fellow struggler.  Don’t waste the pain or the lessons by keeping them to yourself.

“Father, may I be open to using my pain and heartache to help someone else experiencing that same difficulty.

August 5

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Years ago I remember my brother, Rob, singing a song made popular (I think) by Casting Crowns. I say “I think” because CC is not my style of music. But the song had lyrics that were something like this: “Sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes He calms His child.”

I was thinking about how true that was. We have instances in the Scriptures where Jesus calmed the storm (Mark 4). But we also know He calmed His child. Case in point: Acts 16. Paul and Silas had received a beating at the hands of the Romans and were tossed into jail. Not a nice, soft bed but stocks. I’m not sure I can think of a much more uncomfortable situation than that. But instead of complaining, moping or whining, they were singing praises. Are you kidding me?

No I am not. Then the miraculous happened. An earthquake shook the jail and all the doors and stocks were opened. They could have run but chose not to.

How like God to come through!! He did it for Jehoshaphat and the people of Israel.  He showed His glory when Solomon was dedicating the Temple. God showed up in dramatic ways.

Now…He might not be as dramatic in our lives. But He does show up. Sometimes He calms the storm and says,  “Peace be still!” And sometimes He calms His child and says, “Peace be still.”

Either one works for me.

“Thank you Father for showing up during my time of storm. Calming the storm or calming me…either one is okay. I’m just thrilled You show up and know what I need.”