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The Reason Why

Have you ever asked God why something is happening? We tend to question God’s goodness and his justice when we see the evil in the world around us. There are even times in our lives when we look at our circumstances and ask, “Why is this happening to me?” I wish there was a simple answer to this question, but there’s not. Now, let’s clear up one thing. Sometimes bad things are happening to us, and it is because we have made bad decisions. That does not seem to be the case when we look at Job.

Most of the time, when we face suffering, people turn to the book of Job. You probably know the story well. Job loses everything dear to him: 7 sons, 3 daughters, and much of his property. His own wife turns against him in 2:9. Job’s friends wanted to know why this was happening. Surely, he had done something wrong to have all this happen.

As we read the words of his friends, we see there was a prominent idea that good things happened to good people and bad things happened to bad people. It was taking the concept of “you reap what you sow” to a whole different level. This left them in a perplexing situation. They knew Job was a righteous and devout man, but since all this was happening to him, there must be something he had done wrong. We even see his friends suggest that he confess sins he didn’t commit just to appease God, but Job never did this.

What do we see in this story? What do we learn about suffering? First, sometimes we never know the reason why the suffering takes place. Job was never told about God’s conversation with the Adversary. He was never given an explanation by God. However, we do learn that God is good and just. Therefore, whatever is happening, we can trust God. Second, we learn that God sees what we cannot. It takes a big picture of faith to understand that our current trials are only temporary. We have this big picture faith because we know that we serve a “big picture” God. He sees what we cannot, and he knows what we cannot. He sees the beginning, the end, and everything in between.

I do not know what you are struggling with or if you are watching something unfold in the lives of those you love. I cannot give you a specific reason why these things are happening, but I know that when we lean into God, he will build our faith.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in Just a Thought

 

In His Image

It is a statement that did not pertain to any other living being in the creation account.  This declaration would separate man from beast, allowing dominion over the creation.  However, with the establishment of authority, there would also be a responsibility to treat the creation as a gift from God, meant to display His glory.  What was this declaration?  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . “ (Gen 1:26)

In fashioning the man out of dirt and the woman from the flesh of man, humanity bore a distinct mark from the rest of creation.  Christendom has stood fast on the truth that human life is valuable, because of its creator and its design.  Life is meant to be esteemed and seen as the opportunity to glorify God because it is a gift that bears the image of the giver.  If we adhere to this biblical truth, it must change the way we seek to uphold human life.

The Obvious

Sometimes an opportunity to stand for life comes in obvious situations.  We mourn over the fact that abortion is the leading cause of death worldwide – innocent humans killed in the place where they should be safest. We fight against the aberrant practices of human trafficking where humans are treated as objects for sinful, personal satisfaction.  These evils call us to action, and we rightly stand against those injustices based on a biblical view of the unique creation of humanity.  

The image of God in humanity stirred the hearts of those that fought against racial injustices and the immoral and unethical view of racial superiority.  Any attempt to lessen the value of human life, treating them as property or like livestock affronts the design and desire of God. These atrocities get our attention and call us to stand for life, and rightfully so.  However, there is something else that calls us to degrade life, and sinisterly holds us as we justify its presence.

The Hidden

If we claim to uphold the sanctity of life because humans are created in the image of God, then it means all life should be treated with dignity – even those that oppose a biblical worldview.  It does not take long to find in any form of social media, those that claim to hold a biblical stance on the value of life degrading a person created in the image of God. If the church is going to stand for life, we must stand in a way that holds all life as valuable.

In argumentation, this personal degradation is called an ad hominem attack.  It happens when the opponent begins to attack the person instead of the idea.  In this form of assault, mocking and juvenile retorts replace solid arguments and refutation of ideas.  It is something that is common among the discussions of the world and sadly it has become like a cancer in the life of professing believers as they engage opposers.

It is subtle at first. It creeps into emotional topics that rightfully shake us to the core.  We are so overwhelmed by the issue that we lose control of thoughts and composure. At that moment, the idea is no longer the topic we address – we attack the person.  

This sinful action hides because the magnitude of other atrocities committed against human life act as a justifier.  Jesus brought light to this reality in his teaching.  Jesus was addressing the presence of anger in the heart of man (Matt 5:21-22).  It was anger which he told them bore the same judgment as murder.

How many times in our discussions with the world do we resort to the ways of the world thinking we can convince the world of a godly manner of thinking.  If we hold to the sanctity of life, we must not just uphold the value of life in the womb, but also the image of God in our opponents, no matter how marred that image is by sin.

The Fight

Sometimes we get so focused on the fight; we forget there must be holiness and integrity in our methods.  How do we keep ourselves in check when we engage in social media and conversations about emotionally charged issues?

  1. We keep the Gospel at the forefront.  In our battle, we often forget that we are called to be ministers of reconciliation.  We are called to bear the message of the Gospel to the darkest places on this planet, and those dark places are often in the minds of people who disagree with a biblical worldview.  Yes, we engage in the issues, but the problems should never take the place of speaking the Gospel.
  2. We ground our conversation in Scripture.  Our discussions should never be void of the truth of God.  I am not telling you to quote Bible verses, but I am telling you there should be a Scriptural understanding of the position you hold.  Why do you believe abortion is wrong?  Why is human trafficking wrong?  Every reason you give should be rooted in Scripture.
  3. Battle the issue, not the person.  The way we treat our opponents is often a more significant argument for our position than the ideas we speak.  There is no need for memes on how funny a person looks or to compare them to livestock.  In everything we say, we uphold the image of God in all of humanity.  

Yes, Jesus turned over tables and made a whip.  Yes, he called his opponents out on the sin.  However, Christ never denied the value of life.  He never degraded the value of life in another person.  He wept over Jerusalem and mourned over their lostness. We are called to be voices of truth, but we must do so in a way that holds to the sanctity of life. Let us speak God’s Word, trusting it not to return void (Isaiah 55:!1) and to be the sword needed to fight the good fight (Ephesians 6:!7).

One may say that Jesus called the Pharisees and Sadducees names (Matthew 12:24; 23:33). However, I would like to make two points of clarification. First, He was talking to a religious establishment that claimed to represent Yahweh, God the Father. They were claiming to hold to the teachings and practices of the Old Testament, but instead were transgressing its precepts. Second, Christ always exercised holy anger. The testimony of Scripture is that man's anger is, more often than not, sinful (James 2:20). This is why we are called to be quick to listen and slow to speak. In these statements by Christ, he never degraded the value of the life of the Pharisees and Sadduccees.  
 
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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in Christian Living

 

Is It Sin?

We often like to push the limits.  There are storylines that have made millions in the box office from this idea.  We have all pushed the limits at times and when we reflect on those moments they are met with a “What was I thinking?!?”  Though we can all chuckle, this attitude often invades our spiritual lives.  Let’s face it, we often like to see how close we can get to sin without sinning; we like to push the limits.   We justify our actions by thinking as long as we do not cross some arbitrary line, we are still in a safe zone.  What if there is a mental shift that needs to take place?  

I often get asked if various actions are sinful.  Sometimes this question is birthed out of a new experience or an encounter with a new idea. Other times, a problem comes because they have began to question an action in which they enjoy participating. Within the period of questioning there is often a desire to do right, but also a battle with the flesh. Is there a way we can evaluate these actions?

2 Timothy 2:22 tells us to “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” What does the verse tell us to do?  Yes, we are to flee youthful passions, but we are to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.  Paul gives Timothy a place to run towards, not just something to flee.  Instead of asking whether it is a youthful passion, sometimes we should ask if it helps us pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.  Related to the struggle mentioned above, we ought to ask whether the action helps us to seek the righteousness, faith, love, and peace Paul challenged Timothy to seek.

To live a life of avoidance is an option we might try, but it does not mean we will be pursuing what is right. However, if we will seek the things taught in Scripture and learned in fellowship with other believers, the things from which we need to flee will be revealed.  We need to focus on what or who we are pursuing.  So, instead of pushing the limits of sin, we pursue the righteous life God desires.  Pursue him in everythin.  This pursuit will naturally lead to the fleeing from sin.

So, is an action sinful? Maybe we need to rethink the question. We ought to ask if the action allows us to pursue the righteous life GOd desires.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2019 in Just a Thought

 

God’s Will And My Special Needs Son

It wasn’t long into the pregnancy that doctors began searching for answers.  We had been through the process before, after all, this human being was the fourth child to enter into our family.  We knew the routine, and the doctors knew our names. I am thankful for thorough and cautious doctors – the medical professionals that sit alongside patients with a bedside manner that voices concern, but also with a presence that calms anxiety.

We knew months in advance that there were malformations in Levi’s brain.  These abnormalities accompanied the absence of a critical set of nerves that join the two sides of the brain.  With the advanced medical technology, there were so many things the professionals could tell us, but there were also many questions for which they could not give answers.  I remember speaking with one of the neurologists, asking him questions, and listening to his response.  Levi could be on a spectrum that ranged from bedbound, in a vegetative state, to acting in ways the world deems normal.  It was a polite way of telling us they were clueless as to any prognosis.

It was during this time that we, along with many brothers and sisters in Christ, began to pray. When I look back on the day he was born, 5,281 people were watching the blog to see how things were progressing. This number does not count the numerous churches that were supporting us through prayer in a time that we had to lay everything in the hands of God completely and trust him.  A conservative estimate was about 10,000 people praying for our family and Levi.

What Were They Praying?

I would like to be super religious and pious, believing that I along with the others were praying for God’s Will.  However, as a father, I was asking God to heal my son.  I remember when they whisked him off immediately after delivery with no explanations or reason.  We didn’t even get to look at him.  The prayers increase.  I was not praying for God’s will; I was pleading with my heavenly Father that he would save Levi.

Some of you that sit reading this know Levi, but there are others that do not.  Levi is now seven years old and doing things the doctors told us might never happen.  He can walk, he can feed himself, he interacts with others, and uses sign language as his primary means to communicate.  I share this with you because God has done so many works in his life and blessed us in more ways than we could number.

Do We Pray For Levi’s Healing?

Every day I pray that God allows Levi to continue to grow and develop, but I do the same for Emma, Charlie, and Caleb.  I ask God to work in Levi’s heart, but I do the same for Emma, Charlie, and Caleb.  I ask God to call Levi to salvation and use him for God’s glory, but I do the same for Emma, Charlie, and Caleb.  

Now and then, some people ask us if they can pray for Levi.  Levi has people that know him well and pray for him often.  However, these people usually are meeting him for the first time or know of him and the situation.  We covet the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ and celebrate that God’s people care for each other.  The aching of my heart begins with these words in the midst of their prayers, “I declare in the name of Christ, that Levi be healed completely and have faith that it is done.”  No, they don’t use those exact words, but you get a general idea.  They pray that God will completely heal Levi, that he would be able to communicate, move, and operate like a “normal” child.  They even go as far as to declare that these things have and already are happening – that God is healing Levi even in the midst of their prayer.

Why My Heart Aches

As a father, someone that desires God to work in and through Levi, this often sends my heart into a period of turmoil.  I do believe that God can heal Levi, but that does not mean that he will.  I begin to doubt my faith.  Is my son not experiencing the fullness that God has for him? Have the prayers I offered over the past seven-plus years been lacking; therefore, is Levi’s current situation my fault.  Why isn’t God healing Levi?  

Then, I begin to think about what Levi is thinking.  “There is something wrong with me.” “Why do they keep asking God to change me?” “Why is God not answering these prayers?” “Why can’t I be normal?” 

I know the people asking to pray have sincere hearts.  In no way am I condemning them for their prayers or blaming them for the rollercoaster that the prayers initiate in my heart and mind.  However, I don’t think they understand what effects their words have on a parent with a special-needs child or the child.

My Peace

God may never miraculously generate a corpus callosum for Levi.  He may not allow him to communicate verbally.  Levi may not be able to function on his own or live independently. So, what if my prayers for these things are not God’s will?

I believe that Levi was knit together in Amy’s womb.  I believe that Levi is fearfully and wonderfully made.  I believe that God has a desire for Levi and a purpose for Levi. I believe that at this moment in time, Levi is precisely whom he is supposed to be with the limitations that are present.

I believe this because I know that God loves Levi more than I do.  I know that he has plans for Levi that are better than anything I can imagine.  

I will continue to ask God to do a great work in Levi’s life, just as I ask him to do so in Emma, Charlie, and Caleb’s lives.  I will continue to pray that God allows Levi to develop into a God-honoring young man. I trust that my heavenly Father has a more excellent plan that Levi’s earthly father can fathom.  I believe God will use what the world deems as limitations display his love and glory to the world.  Therefore, if Levi is never “healed” God is still good and God still loves Levi.

How Can You Help?

I do not dare speak on behalf of parents that have children with special needs.  As I father, I want to share with you what has benefitted our family the most.

Pray  I am not speaking of the prayers I mentioned above.  Families with special needs children need prayers for stamina, prayers for peace, prayers for rest, prayers for faith and faithfulness.  The other children in the family need prayers that they would not be embittered or jealous.  Pray for the parents as they try to meet the needs of all the children.

Help  Does your church have a way for the family to worship together, or a ministry to allow the parents to have times of worship?  Our church is composed of an amazing group of people that continually pour out love on us and our children.  Often, churches are an uncomfortable place for parents to bring their kids with special needs.  They are hard to keep quiet, the atmosphere of people raises the level of anxiety, and the stares of people with good intentions heightens discomfort.  Are there people in your church gifted to work with these children?  Are there people that are willing to learn?  How can your church reach out to these families?

Love  These children are created in the image of God.  God loves these children.  These households were placed together by God.  God chose the parents.  God is at work in a million different ways, and these families have come into your lives for a particular purpose.  Love them well.  Speak words of encouragement.  Build relationships.  Get to know the family.  Let them know that normal is not defined by society or culture.  Instead, normal is learning to operate in the purpose and design of God, trusting him in every step.

Is It God’s Will?

Will Levi be completely healed?  I do not know – maybe not on this side of heaven.  Do I pray for healing?  Yes.  Is his lack of healing my fault, or because of my lack of faith?  No.  Do Levi’s limitations limit what God can do in and through him?  No.  Does God have a plan for Levi? Yes.  Do I know what that is?  No.  Do I trust God?  Yes.

I trust that God’s will is happening today.  I choose to be satisfied with that portion even as it pertains to Levi.  Praying in a way that models these truths is the best way you can minister to our family, and it is a good way to begin ministering to other families that are similar to ours.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2019 in Church Life, Family Life

 

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More Than I Can Handle

“God will never place more on you than you can handle.”  Have you ever heard this phrase?  Have you ever said something like this?  It is common; in fact, it is so common we accept it as truth. Somewhere inside it makes us feel confident that our circumstances are not going to overcome us.  We make the statement, grit our teeth, and then press forward.  Let’s look at two things about this statement.

First, sometimes it is not God that has placed us in our situation; it is our own bad decisions. There comes the point when we have to accept responsibilities for our actions.  We must confess them and ask God to forgive us.  Examples of this are found repeatedly in the book of Judges when the nation of Israel turns their back on God, makes terrible decisions, and then cries out for help.  Their decisions placed them in the situation, and only God could restore things.

Second, there are times when God allows things to happen to us so that we would learn to trust in him more.  They are exercises of faith, much like Job experienced.  He was a man that lost everything material in his life, but the expereince strengthened his faith and displayed that faith for everyone to see.  Simply put, there are times when God will allow things to happen that are more than you can bear.  The good news is, he will walk with you through it all.

No matter which of these two categories you are experiencing right now.  God has the solution for what you are facing.  If you are overwhelmed by your own bad decisions, confess your sins, and he is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:9).  These steps may not alleviate some of the consequences of your decisions, but it will restore a relationship that grants you His strength to face them. 

Maybe you are going through something that is beyond your control.  It came out of nowhere, and you are left feeling helpless and overwhelmed.  In times like these, we trust in the Lord and His strength.  It may be more than you can handle, but it is not more than God can handle.  We must turn to him; “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

Things will be more than you can handle sometimes, but remember God is with you and loves you. He is your strength, and he does not expect you to be able to do things on your own.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2019 in Just a Thought

 

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