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A firestorm recently started in the media when Dan Cathy took his stand for the biblical definition of the family unit. It will come to a head this week as Christians rally support for Chick Fil A Day, a day when 500,000 people on Facebook have pledged to have a meal at a Chick Fil A in support of Dan Cathy’s stand for “biblical values”.  Essentially, we will sit down and have a meal, figuratively, with Dan Cathy to show our solidarity with him.

I will preface this by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with Dan Cathy’s view of the family as defined in the bible.  It is a plain truth taught in scripture, and I agree with God’s word on the matter.   I do believe that we have gotten so far away from God’s design for the family that it seems as though we cannot find the way back.  And there are multiple sins involved in that evolution, however, the church in the United States chooses, all too often, to focus on only one.  To admit that divorce, pornography, adultery and even too much television and not enough focus on God are equally destructive to the family would put all of us outside of the ability to rightly celebrate Chick Fil A day.

The email I received from a Christian organization asking for my support of Chick Fil A Day had the following tagline, “Liberals vs. Companies That Operate With Christian Family Values”.  I am very disturbed by the “vs”.  Is Christianity really us vs. them?  Is that what Scripture teaches?

If Jesus is the friend of sinners, shouldn’t we be?  Let’s take a look for a moment at where Jesus ate, who He ate with, and try to imagine how he would handle the Chick Fil A debate.

Who Did Jesus Eat With?

Luke 19:7-But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Matthew 9:10-13-Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Luke 15:1-5-Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. …

Jesus did not condemn the “sinners”.  John 3:17 is clear that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world.  He ate with them.  He taught them.  He offered them grace and invited them to come and sin no more.  He did not rally all of the believers together to stand against the world and their sin.  He made them to know that they themselves were such as some of these and that their repentance is a work of the grace of God in their hearts.  He came, according to Luke 19:10 to “seek and save that which was lost”.

On the other hand, He did condemn the religious people.  He did not encourage the separatism displayed by the Pharisees.  He encouraged His followers to be like Him.  Eat with them.  Love them.  Treat them with dignity.  Offer them grace.

 Who Will Judge Those Outside of the Church?
1 Cor 5:11-13- But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

Who Convicts the World of Their Sin?

 Is it our job to convict the world outside of the church of their sin?  Or is that a job belonging to the Holy Spirit?
John 16:8-11- When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

I will not be eating at Chick Fil A today.  I feel more comfortable going to Home Depot, a business being boycotted by Christians for similar reasons, and buying a gallon of paint.  I am not even worthy to lift my eyes up to look into the face of Christ.  I am a great sinner.  It is only by the grace of God that I am saved.  I want to stand with Christ as a friend of sinners, being a sinner myself.  Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean.  The woman caught in adultery found comfort, love, grace and forgiveness at the feet of Christ.  Would the world find the same grace in our churches?  Or would we love them only if they have already completely conquered their sin and cleaned up their act?  Do we really want the world to see the church as their condemners?  Or do we want them to see us as humble, loving, broken people who know the risen Lord, the forgiver of all sin and the healer of all brokenness?

Jesus is not a Republican.  He does not hold the family up as a beacon of light to the world.  He was and is the light of the world, and his church is a city on a hill.  A city filled with love and grace, not tolerance, but grace.  We should tell the truth about what the bible says.  But we should do it as we sit in the ashes with the sinners, mourning over our own sin.  We should not stand far off in “versus mode” and throw stones and proudly stand separate from them.  We ARE them.

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I worked through  my lunch on August 23rd as I seem to do a lot lately.  Shortly before 2 p.m., I heard a strange hammering noise and thought someone was running in my office.  It was alarming, because I instantly felt that something was wrong.  Within seconds, as I tried to figure out what the noise was, it became very clear, because the noise was louder and the building began to shake violently.  I couldn’t believe it.  I immediately thought it was the end of the world and Christ was about to sound the trumpet.  It’s amazing when that happens, because instantly (at least for me), I began to wonder if I was truly ready to meet Him.  If it’s possible to have your whole walk with God flash before your eyes in 10 seconds, it sure happened to me on that warm, late August afternoon.    The second instinct was to run, an instinct apparently shared with about 60 co-workers as we all headed for the stairs.  Now, I know that if you live in the Ring of Fire, a 5.8 is actually a bit laughable.  But try to remember, this is the East Coast, and we’ve never felt anything like a real earthquake over here.  The last one this size was 100 years ago, after all.  It was terrifying, and surreal, and…exciting.  After we got out of the building, and the immediate fear passed, I felt joy, strangely enough, because I truly did begin to wonder if this was the return of Christ, and like 9/11, you just didn’t know what was coming next.  Would there be aftershocks?  Maybe even stronger?  Was this worldwide?  Where are all of my loved ones, and are they safe?  There were so many questions, but a sense of panic began to mix with excitement that the God who can make the whole earth tremble…loves me.  There is an overwhelming comfort in that revelation.  Ponder that one for a moment before you continue.  It will overtake you with gratitude.   Something inside of me said, my life is going to change today.  I did not know where my family members were for a few minutes because our technology failed us as people all around me tried frantically to reach loved ones and the cell phones were not working.  I truly realized that I had to trust God that they were in His care, and that my constant need to try to control and protect was taken from me, as if that job was ever mine to start with.

I’ve always been afraid of flying, and have never set foot on an airplane.  My family will tell you that I always tell them that I prefer terra firma, and my first flight will be the Rapture of the church.  But on August 23rd, the earth below me was no longer so firm, and my own mortality and fragility hit me in the face.  We are completely dependent on God.  He truly is sovereign and omnipotent, and we have absolutely no control over anything.  This is where it gets good.  We have to trust Him as a little child in order to enter His kingdom.  And if we aren’t doing that, and we are His, He will take away other things that we trust in so that we will trust Him as a child.  

Before we could even get past the aftershocks, we found out that Hurricane Irene was slinking up the East Coast and had her eye on North Carolina, Virginia, and all the way up into New England.  Our yard has a lot of very large trees, so as it began to look more and more as if the storm was going to come through Richmond with sustained winds of 50 mph and gusts even higher, we contemplated leaving for the night as the storm made its way through.  As we left on Saturday morning, the storm was just beginning in the city, and yet we passed two downed trees on our way out of the neighborhood, one on a home and one on a car, and the storm was just getting started.    When we came home the next day to no trees on our home, but trees blocking both entrances to our neighborhood, we realized again how quickly life can change, how closely mortality looms for each of us, and how helpless we are to change any of it.  The neighborhood began cleanup.  We had a whole truckload of tree limbs and debris that my son cleared from the yard, and as night began to fall, we were in darkness as the power had gone out for most of the city.  We were almost 5 days without power, and we realized how dependent we are on it.  The first night, we did great.  We had flashlights, we packed all of our refrigerated food on ice, we read a book together on the grace of God, played cards…it was kinda like camp.  The temperature for sleeping was a balmy 78 with nothing to stir the air, and that’s when I began to realize that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.  I prayed that God would help me to see what He was showing us.  I knew it was big.  As I lay in the dark, I asked Him not to turn the power back on until we got it.  That was a hard prayer to pray. After a couple of days, the Lord began to show us how much we had become dependent on our things.  Air conditioning is a luxury.  It really is not something we are owed.  Much of the world lives without it.  Many live with no running water even, and they have to walk miles each day for water to drink and wash themselves.  In America, we take a few steps to a faucet.  But you know what?  I heard an awful lot of complaining.  The power company was doing their best to restore 1.2 million people removing hundreds, maybe even thousands of trees off of downed lines one at a time.  Some patiently waited, appreciative of the hard work being done to restore us to our comfort.  But many completely unraveled, became angry, and showed the sense of entitlement that lives just under the surface of most of us.  If the darkness hadn’t come, I would not have seen it, ironically.  And the principal player in all of this was me.  I began to realize that I turn the tv on shortly after dinner each night, and it stays on all night.  I depend on its noise.  It keeps me company.  It drowns out the silence.  What’s wrong with silence?  For me, it makes me uneasy.  I’m realizing that I have an addiction to technology, to comfort, and it’s not good for me spiritually.  We live in a unique era.  We are the first generation that has been successful in drowning out the voice of God with our noise.  I heard Him in the silence calling out to me.  And the cry was obvious…repent.   Each night after that first night, my family and I would talk about this.  We began to see that we are more dependent on comfort than we are on God, and that in order for us to hear Him, He took it from us, temporarily.  The day may come when He removes it altogether.  Will we be ready?  Can we bear up to it if something changes and we have to live like the generations that went before us?   It is much too late in the game for slumber.  The Son is beginning to rise in the East, and He is waking His children up to prepare their hearts for that Day.

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For years, it has really disturbed me to see an animal suffer.  I find myself wondering sometimes why it seems to bother me not only on an emotional level, but a spiritual one.  Several years ago, I had a dog that was so good, she could be let outside to go to the bathroom, and would come back to the door when she was ready to come in.  It was the first dog I ever really owned, and I didn’t realize that no matter how trained the dog is, she would run out into the street if the circumstances were just right.  Sure enough, one morning, the dog went outside, and never came back.  She ran into the street, probably chasing a squirrel, and she was hit.  I will never forget seeing her in the street, and how she lifted her head at the sound of my voice, even though she was dying.  When it comes right down to it, her death was my fault.  I should have always kept her on a leash.  We have created a world with a lot of dangers for animals and people alike.  But what about the dog I witnessed dying in the street recently that I had nothing to do with directly?  What about the story my co-worker shared about a cat hit on her way to work the other day?  Why do hearing and seeing these things seem to affect me…spiritually?

Recently, I found my answer.  It’s tucked into the book of Jonah, that tiny little book in the Old Testament that has become a jewel to me lately. My answer came while reading Surprised by Grace…a book about Jonah and God’s pursuit of rebels like me.  When Jonah came with his warning, and the king of Ninevah heard it, he immediately rose from his throne and tore his clothes in repentance.  But what did he do next?  He sent out a royal decree and proclaimed a citywide fast.  INCLUDING THE ANIMALS.  The people were not allowed to eat or drink, and neither were the animals.  The people were to be covered in sackcloth, and so were the animals.  Imagine watching your animal suffer alongside you when YOU are the sinner.  Well, according to Romans 8, isn’t that happening all across creation?  The entire creation is groaning under the weight of OUR sin. 

I’m starting to understand now why it is so disturbing to see an animal suffer.  We did this to them.  We sin, and the world is fallen because of it.  Death and suffering are a direct result of our sin.  To me, when I look into the eyes of a dying animal…the reflection staring back at me is my sin. 

God has been hammering this point home with me lately.  I can’t escape it.   Because of my sin, there is sickness, suffering and death…even to an innocent animal.  We are charged with their care.  Proverbs 12:10 says, A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.  Let’s take extra care of our pets as stewards over them in a world growing increasingly dangerous for them.  After all, were it not for sin…our sin…we would never see the sad eyes of a suffering animal.

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Packing for Eternity

If we keep our eyes prayerfully tuned to lessons that God can teach us in our everyday lives, we will find that He will swing wide the doors of wisdom and teach us, providentially, through our day to day conversations and experiences.  I love to study the bible, and God has opened up many great truths to me in my time there.  But recently, I have found myself listening for His voice all day.  After all, if we believe in a Sovereign God who navigated the events of everyday people to unfold His plan of Salvation, then we need to start thinking that this is going to be a big part of how He sanctifies His people as well.  Today was one of those days where God reinforced something profound in me.  A friend was telling me that she went to an estate sale over the weekend, and it was the first time she had been to one where she had known the person. She said the feeling was quite surreal as she entered the home, now devoid of it’s owner and the family that brought it to life over the years.  I know this feeling so well.  When my mother went to be with the Lord a few years ago, her home became an empty shell for me, a mere shadow of how alive it used to be when her love filled it. 

When my friend went home from the estate sale, she told her mother, who is advancing in years, about her experience.  She said her mom reads the obituaries daily, and many times, will know someone personally who has passed on.  Then, her mother made a strange statement.  She said, “Maybe you should bring some boxes over so that I can get rid of some things to make it easier for you and your brothers and sisters when that time comes for me”.  I was so taken by this and made a suggestion to my friend whose mother is a believer.  I said, “Have your mother read the morning paper with the obituaries in one hand, and her bible in the other.”  I believe my friend’s mother was very unselfish in her request and showed me a little more about what the Lord expects from us, as we age, and even more, how her request ministered to me today without her even knowing it.  When we pack for a move in this life, we take everything with us.  We buy a new home across town, or across the country, and we pack our precious possessions into boxes, load them onto a moving truck, and maintain our relationship with them a little longer as we lovingly place them in their new homes. 

But when a believer packs for eternity, she packs light.  She packs with no intention of bringing the items being packed along for the journey.  Besides the fact that we “can’t take it with us”, why would we want to even if we could?  We serve a God who has made provision for everything.  Every detail is covered.  He even has a new body ready for us, so that we don’t even take that with us on this trip.  What a beautiful illustration of the sufficiency of Christ!  The Lord is our portion.  He is all that we need.  And I believe that we should live each day as though we are dying.  There are two ways to do that, friends.  We can live like the world lives when they are dying, and “eat, drink and be merry”.  Or, we can live as our Father calls us to live each day as if it were our last.  How do we do that?  We spend every moment of every day preparing to meet our Maker.  The more we do that, the more we will toss aside the things of this world.  Believers, we are pilgrims.  We are not made for this earth.  Let us toss aside the things that make us stumble.  We all know those things.  They aren’t the same for every believer.  It could be too much tv, too much internet time, too many material things.  Anything can be an idol.  As we pack for eternity, let’s fill our boxes with sacrifices that will delight the Lord while we are still here.  Let’s think of God first, and then our neighbors as we ponder that day when we shall meet Him face to face.  There is a lot to be learned in the short time we have left.  Even if we live out a full life well into the golden years, the Word says that it is simply a vapour.  It appears for a while and then vanishes.  Let’s pack light.  Let’s run the race before us.  Let’s pack for eternity.

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Covenant Eyes

I often wonder if the great Reformers lived in our day, what would they think of the movies and tv shows modern Christians like myself consider entertainment?  When I think of Martin Luther forking over 10 bucks to see Avatar, for instance, it is downright comical.  Martin Luther was so afraid of sin, so intuned to the devil’s “breathing on his neck”, so adept at discerning the corruptions of his day, I can’t imagine it.  I try to imagine Charles Spurgeon flipping through his tv channels…well, that’s where I have to stop, because I think he would tell me that neither tv nor movies are for Christian consumption.  After all, we live in a day where in primetime, when our children are still awake, we have “men wearing no pants” marching through a  field and singing about it.  It’s a catchy tune.  One day, no kidding, I had that tune stuck in my head all day.  It’s funny.  Nothing wrong with a little harmless entertainment, right?  Hmmm…isn’t that just what the devil would have us believe?  It’s harmless.  Just a little lighthearted humor to break the monotony of every day life.  I guess there is some truth there.  Who wants to be a prude after all.  I certainly don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun.  I just wonder…if we really don’t believe the Reformers would appreciate our idea of fun, maybe, just maybe, they knew something that the modern Western church has forgotten.

Don’t get my wrong.  I watch tv.  I just went to the movies the other night to see The Karate Kid.  It was a really good movie, but it’s what got me thinking.  I compared it in my head to the original Karate Kid which I have seen so many times, I feel like I should have it memorized.  There was a LOT more influence with the Eastern religions.  It was more violent.  The general feel of the movie was just different than the 1984 version.  It got me thinking.  I started to wonder where exactly we draw the line.  I realized that my movie discernment is very subjective.  There is no objective truth there.  It’s relative.  I am more bothered by violence than love scenes, and certain curse words, I can “tolerate” as long as it’s not the “F” word or using God’s name in vain.  Is that the standard I should be holding up, or would God and the reformers of old hold me to a higher standard?  Do we ever just ask ourselves, “was God honored by everything I just put before my eyes? Did that honor the Lord or simply entertain? Would I feel shame if I were watching this with Christ?”  Sometimes, we are shocked by what is allowed on tv, but are we shocked enough to turn away?  Or do we simply make ourselves feel better by saying later to a friend, “I can’t believe they show that on tv.”?

God’s Word is very clear on this.  Here’s what He has to say.

Job 31:1-I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?

Psalm 101:2 I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away;  It shall not cling to me.

Is it really “legalistic” for us to put a better rein on how much time we spend entertaining ourselves and being more choosy about our decisions?  Or is it good to be motivated to obedience out of a thankful heart?  We are not of the world.  We are called to come out from among them and be separate.  I think the temptation is so great to blend into every trend of the culture that it’s probably wise to choose for ourselves an accountability partner.

Just some thoughts to ponder on this beautiful summer evening.  The truth is, God won’t love us any less if we continue to watch the wrong shows or spend too much time pursuing entertainment.  That’s what the amazing thing about grace is.  But what’s true about a thankful heart is that it will become more and more bent towards obedience.  I know we all want to be more like Him.  I guess the question is, if we are what we watch, are we more like Christ, or not so much?

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I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” Philippians 3:10

I love the word, fellowship.  Fellowship, to me, denotes Godly conversation, sharing testimonies, and relishing in all of the wonderful things that God is doing in our lives.  I long for Christian fellowship, because it’s wonderful to spend time with other believers sharing things the Lord has shown us in His Word, and delighting in all of His blessings.  But in this passage from the book of Philippians, we are reminded that God never promised us a life free of trouble.  Paul, in this verse, reminds us of a much more solemn kind of fellowship.  The fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.  What a strange concept to our finite minds! 

I learned this first hand last night.  My neighbor, who I don’t know very well, lost her husband last week.  As we headed over with a bowl of homemade soup to express our condolences, I said a quick prayer asking for the right words to say to someone dealing with such tremendous grief.  I felt really nervous for some reason, like I wouldn’t be a comfort to her or that she wouldn’t want us to intrude.  I have always been comfortable sharing the gospel, or ministering to friends and family, but I found myself feeling completely inadequate in reaching out during such a personal time to someone I don’t know.  How will we find fellowship in THIS situation?  I was about to experience a connection with another believer simply based on an understanding, on some level, of her pain.

My mother passed away suddenly several years ago at the age of 55.  It was Christmas night, and I had spoken to her on the phone long distance that morning.  The next morning, she was gone, taken in her sleep to be with her Master.  I experienced suffering so intense as a result of her death that I thought I would never breathe again.  She was so full of life and love.  She had been the anchor of our family, the glue that held everyone together.  We didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.  She was just gone, and I spent years grieving the loss of the person on this earth who loved me more than anyone.  To this day, I miss her so much, my chest tightens when I think of her not being here.  I questioned God a lot during that time.  I was so mad at Him for letting this happen, but it was through this experience that He taught me my desperate need for Him.  I have greater  fellowship with Christ because I have experienced suffering. And when I was done running from Him in anger, I embraced Him in a greater appreciation of His sacrifice for me.  I saw life for how fragile it really is.  And I realized that the words of Solomon so aptly describe our state in this world.  Life really is a vapor and anything but Christ is just a chasing after the wind.  Life is over in a moment, and the only thing that will count is the treasure we have found in Him.

So, back to my neighbor.  She greeted us at the door and invited us in.  Our eyes met, and we all knew why we were there.  It was as if we’d known her our whole life.  There was instant fellowship.  I felt so much love and compassion towards her, and I know how much she appreciated us being there.  She shared with us that the pain was worse than she could have ever imagined, and that she hadn’t really known what friends who had been widowed before her had experienced until now.  She has gained a greater understanding because of her own suffering.  We talked about her husband, and we talked about my Mom…and then we talked about our Savior, and how much He loves each one of us.  I shared the scripture with her about how God counts our tears and stores them in a bottle, and it seemed like that lit something up inside of her when she heard it.  There is something wonderful about being with other believers.  And now I realize that there is something even more special in being with other believers in the midst of their sufferings.  We didn’t do much talking.  We let her talk, and we listened.  She was obviously consumed with grief.  We are all acquainted with grief, and we have been comforted by the Lord during those times so that we can, in turn, comfort those around us who experience it as well.  I admitted to her that I do not know what it’s like to lose a spouse, and encouraged her to get around other people who do.  They will be a source of so much strength to one another as she goes through this.  Before we left, we talked about the Lord’s coming, and how we all believe it will be soon.  I thought I saw a little twinkle in her sad eyes when we started talking about what it will be like to be with the Lord face to face.  It is, after all, the blessed hope of the believer.  We don’t mourn as those with no hope.  Our future is secure, and we have been given eternal life.  Jack is not gone.  He has simply gone ahead.  And the fellowship we will have at the wedding supper of the Lamb will be epic.  Until then, let us share in our sufferings and hold up those believers who have lost their strength in the midst of a trial.  Don’t be afraid to minister to those you don’t know, especially those in the household of faith.  The fellowship will be there, because He is.

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Tears in a Bottle

Confession: I am a wanderer.  One of my favorite hymns contains a line written just for me.  Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.  How is it that we can taste and see that the Lord is good, be actively involved in eating the fruit of a life in Christ, yet so often find our hearts wandering from what we know to be the only thing that matters?  I can’t explain it.  Today, I was reading the book of Exodus, and wondering to myself, how can those Israelites see the things they’ve seen, and yet consistently give their hearts over to idols?  I would like to think that after seeing the majesty of the parting of the Red Sea swallowing up all of my enemies, that I would never again entertain thoughts of placing anything above my love for my God.  I would also like to think that if He made water flow from a rock when I was thirsty, that He had a plan for my hunger as well. And I would like to believe that if He loves me enough to provide a way to eternal life in spite of my wanderings, that He will also see me through the wilderness walk of this fallen world.  Psalm 56 clearly states that no matter what we do, even if our heartaches are self-inflicted, He  numbers our wanderings and puts our tears into His bottle. He is infinitely Holy, and yet, He loves us with so great a personal affection that He collects each tear in His bottle, counts every hair on our heads, and plans to work everything out for our good and His glory.

Over the weekend, I watched a movie about the life of Jack Kevorkian, the man who assisted many suffering patients, by means of lethal injection, in putting an end to their affliction with various diseases.  Instead of spending the entire movie debating in my mind the right and wrong of Mr. Kevorkian’s actions, I found myself grief stricken over the suffering being played out on the screen.  There was a young man with Lou Gehrig’s disease, several people with terminal cancer and various other disorders that had pushed these patients beyond their limits of hope.  I believe in his own finite mind and with a heart tainted by sin, Kevorkian was trying to stop the tears.  It was disturbing to see the desperation that pain brings and to come face to face with the end of life.  How can we ever come to that place unless we’ve met the God who is acquainted with our sorrows and who will eventually wipe away all of our tears? Where do we find any comfort?  When our enemies pursue us, when our sins surround us, when our bodies are failing us, when our troubles close in and even death alludes us, it is comforting to know that there is a God who never leaves us.  If we are God’s elect, He has numbered our days and given us the strength to endure whatever may come our way, because His strength is perfected in our weakness.  It’s a promise we can count on, and knowing that He is there, catching every tear gives us a hope that we can make it to the end.  I guess that’s why His future appearing is our blessed hope.  It is with this appearing that all of our tears will be extinct.  Until that day, they are lovingly being counted and stored in the heart of our Creator. What a God!

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Deal or No Deal

Have you ever watched the show, Deal or No Deal and found yourself screaming at the television as the contestant becomes more and more greedy for a bigger and better offer than the round before? The premise of the show is that you have a certain number of cases each containing a dollar amount between $1 and $1 million.  When the game begins, the contestant chooses one case that is her case to keep unless she decides to trade it in for an offer from the banker.  As the rounds progress, the contestant continues to direct which cases are opened eliminating that dollar amount from the possibility that it is the amount contained in the contestant’s case. At the end of each round, the “banker” offers the contestant a sum of money based on the odds of the player holding the million dollar case.  Sometimes, if the contestant eliminates a lot of low dollar cases, the odds of her having a large sum of money increase causing the bank offer to skyrocket.

I have found that whenever someone’s bank offer goes above $100,000, I begin to talk to the television and plead with the player to take the offer and go.  Many times, they continue to take risks to their own demise, eventually opening up the million dollar case causing the bank offer to plummet.

Isn’t our walk with God similar to this at times? We hold a case containing Jesus.  He is a sure thing, and He has given us a promise that no matter what the world may offer us, He is greater than all of it.  The Apostle Paul, in a letter to Timothy, noted that godliness with contentment is great gain and that if we have food and clothing, we should be content. But we continue to seek more things, more riches, more entertainment, more distractions instead of resting in Christ alone as our Portion. Does my life always reflect that I actually believe that Jesus is all I need? If my devotional time each day is 1 hour, and I spend 3 or 4 hours watching television or some other form of entertainment, isn’t that eerily similar to Deal or No Deal? With a $100,000 offer on the table that will make my future financially secure, why would I risk losing that for the hope of something more?

Even more compelling is, why do I so often risk my relationship with Him for these inferior pursuits? Knowing that He is my Treasure, why do I pursue so many other avenues of contentment for myself? There is an enemy out there, and he will do everything in his power to get me to give up what’s in my case. While I realize my analogy is not perfect, I think you get what I mean. We live in a day with so many distractions, I often wonder if we will eventually pay the price for it in our relationship with Christ. We study the nightly television lineup more than we study the Bible, yet we say He is all that we desire.

I spoke with a believer in Christ recently who tried her best to convince me that godliness is a means to financial gain. Even when I pointed out the verses in which Paul taught the exact opposite, she stood her ground.  She insisted that her relentless pursuit of earthly wealth through the teaching of her church took nothing away from her relationship with Christ.  There is much to be said for balance, but even more to be said for radical faith, isn’t there? Francis Chan, the author of Crazy Love and Forgotten God has a pretty firm grip on the kind of faith that brings genuine revival.  It starts with us.

Let’s keep what’s in the case.  Bank your entire life on it, and pursue Him with all that is within you.  Nothing the “banker” offers us can even come close to the wonder and majesty of knowing Him.

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My 15 year old son loves to play basketball and has dreams of reaching the height of 6 foot.  I have to admit that it’s been a roller coaster ride since he started his growth spurts at about the age of 12.  I see how much it means to him to make that mark, and we diligently track his progress on the kitchen door frame.  If we ever move, I guess we will take the door frame with us since we have all of the progress of Adam’s dreams documented there.

Tuesday night, Adam dislocated his pinky finger playing basketball, and off we went to the emergency center to see if it was broken.  While there were no fractures, we were excited to leave with a copy of his hand x-ray to view on our home computer.  Oddly enough, this past Sunday, a friend was telling us how orthodontists will sometimes x-ray their teenaged patient’s hands to help decide where the patient is in the growth pattern. So, Wednesday night Adam and I sat down at the table to do our own research and get to the bottom of this whole “how tall will he be” business.

We were in for a treat.  As I surfed the internet and read a lot of really fancy doctor lingo, I began to realize the depth and intricacy of the human hand.  I don’t know why I’m still surprised when I see how amazing our Creator really is.  But I am taken by surprise every time I see his “handiwork”.  Do you realize just how much detail and planning are involved in the human growth process?  Each section of each finger, and each little bone in the hand has a pattern that is distinct in each developing human.  Several changes are made in certain fingers in order, and the gaps left for growth are closed one by one, followed by fusion of certain parts of the bones where the spaces were left opened.  The last piece in the hand to fuse is the radius (wristbone).  Then, the body is almost done growing, and the knee growth plates close, followed by the spine and finally the clavicle (very noticable in boys as their shoulders broaden considerably).

The longer I sat and looked at the x-ray, the more excited I got.  Let’s face it.  The growth pattern of the human body is just another signature of God.  No one can convince me that all of this came from nothing.  As Hank Hanegraaff always says, “nothing comes from nothing…nothing ever could.”

As you can see by the big bone on the bottom right, there is only a VERY small gap left in Adam’s wrist bone.  Can he squeak out 2 and a half more inches?  Well, it’s already encoded in his DNA by a very loving Potter.  He makes the clay and forms it into His finished design.  He loves each of us individually.  I think Adam can trust a Designer who has every hair on His head numbered.  If he doesn’t hit the 6 foot mark, He will have still realized the dream His God had for Him before the foundations of the world.  You just can’t beat that.  What a God we serve!  Who says the devil is the one in the details?  Our God is intricate, completely divine, completely trustworthy with all of our dreams, and His Sovereign will over them.  Rest in that, Adam.  There really is no greater joy.

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