When Life Gets Messy

lhStan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were known for their slapstick comedy, and they appeared in many films from 1926 to 1944.  The signature dialogue in their scripts was the disdainful comment: Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.

I know I’ve gotten myself into many fine messes, and when my life has been a wild mess, God’s taken me to the wilderness to get my attention. In fact, this is an underlying theme of the Old Testament: God intervenes in the wild messes of life.

No one likes to be taken to be taken to the woodshed, but there are times when God disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness (Hebrews 12:10). God does this to, instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you (Psalm 32:8).

I’ve come to realize that some of my problems are self-inflicted due to the poor choices I make; but, it is also true that I’ve been an innocent bystander caught-up in the circumstances of life. Like Joseph, we need to realize that God can be at work; and, we need to take an eternal perspective on life: As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day (Genesis 50:20).

While it’s hard to see the silver lining in the dust clouds of the desert, when we learn to trust God, we eventually make it to promised land and enjoy His blessings.

Jacob as an individual and Israel as a whole learned this lesson:

He found him out in the wilderness, in an empty, windswept wasteland. He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him, guarding him as the apple of his eye. He was like an eagle hovering over its nest, overshadowing its young. Then spreading its wings, lifting them into the air, teaching them to fly. God alone led him; there was not a foreign god in sight. God lifted him onto the hilltops, so he could feast on the crops in the fields. He fed him honey from the rock, oil from granite crags, curds of cattle and the milk of sheep, the choice cuts of lambs and goats, fine rams, high-quality wheat, and the blood of grapes: you drank good wine! ~Isaiah 32:10-14 (The Message)

Because the messes of life will either define you or refine you, I’ve learned to ask a question:  What can I learn from this?  Then I make the decision to trust God, and I’m confident that He is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan (Romans 8:28).

Valentine’s Day: Spoiler Alert

hqdefaultTHE WORLD ENDS TOMORROW!  If you want to do something special for your sweetie, you better do it today.

You may ask: “Why has Stan become a prognosticator of end time events?”  The answer is easy, and I’ll give it to you in one word:  “Ghostbusters.”

If you have about 12 seconds, you can watch the 1989 prediction that is the inspiration for this post.

 

While I have serious doubts about Ghostbusters ability to see into the future and the credibility of the movie’s prophecy, I do place great value on a time-related statement from Proverbs 27:1:  Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

I agree with Solomon: It’s best to make the most of today and don’t waste time in a boast about what you will do tomorrow. 

 

What Did Mary Know?

Have you ever taken a moment to consider the momentous thoughts of Mary? I have, and I do, whenever I read  Luke 2: “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

When Mary pondered the magnitude of the angelic message, and the adoring words of the shepherds,  did she fully comprehend the magnificent meaning of that first Christmas?

When she gazed into the eyes of her innocent son, could she mentally grasp what she would emotionally gasp 30 years later when he took on the sin of the world?

How could she know that the son nurtured in her womb would have such a significant future and manifest awesome and miraculous power over creation?  Did Mary have an aha moment when Jesus changed the water into wine at the marriage supper at Cana?

Was she pleasingly puzzled when her son had a leg up on the religious charlatans of the day and healed the legs of a crippled man?

When Mary saw a crowd of hungry faces suddenly satisfied by a sack lunch that was multiplied 5,000 times, did she realize that her son could also satisfy the spiritual hunger of the world?

When her son of a carpenter was dying an excruciating death on a wooden cross, did her anguish confound her comprehension of God’s ultimate plan?

How fast did her heart beat when she heard that her three-days-dead son had removed his grave clothes, rolled away a massive stone, run off a squad of soldiers, and then became the resurrection and life to all who would believe?

There are some things that I ponder in my heart:
• How could Jesus understand everything, but be misunderstood by most everyone?
• Who was his best childhood friend? Could it have been a boy named Barabbas or Judas?
• What did he and his cousin John (later called the Baptist) talk about?
• Did his brothers and sisters see him as unique or annoyingly odd?

I wonder, Mary Did You Know?

From Zilch to Zero

zilchAfter watching the evening news, I wonder what the prophet Jeremiah would say about the world in which we live?  In his own day, he summarized the condition of mankind by saying the heart of man was full of deceit and wickedness.  I think the news confirms the prophet’s prognosis.

Like Jeremiah, Saint Augustine voiced his concerns regarding the plight of mankind.  Even though he was a theologian, and not a heart doctor, he was concerned with healthy hearts.  He thought a vibrant heart would manifest itself when a person showed love for:

  • the right thing
  • in the right degree
  • in the right way
  • with the right kind of love

Augustine’s focus on the importance of love may have come from his study of the Apostle Paul, who said:  “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2).”

If your life is void of any expression of love, you have a zilch to zero chance of doing “the right thing, in the right degree in the right way, with the right kind of love.”

The “right kind of love,” is a genuine love of obedience: “Everyone who really believes that Jesus is the Christ proves himself one of God’s family. The man who loves the Father cannot help loving the Father’s own Son. The test of the genuineness of our love for God’s family lies in this question—do we love God himself and do we obey his commands? For loving God means obeying his commands, and these commands of his are not burdensome, for God’s “heredity” within us will always conquer the world outside us. In fact, this faith of ours is the only way in which the world has been conquered. For who could ever be said to conquer the world, in the true sense, except the man who really believes that Jesus is God’s Son (I John 5:1-5)?”

Have you gone from zilch to zero, or are you a conquering hero?  The difference is the capacity to love.

Those Between-A-Rock-And-A-Hard-Place Moments

toadLife is filled with those between a rock and a hard place moments. You know what I’m talking about:  You see a light at the end of tunnel and then discover it’s a train bearing down on you.

This was the case with the servant of Elisha and the problems they were having with the Syrian army.  One morning Elisha’s servant went outside to discover that they were surrounded by an army with horses and chariots.   He asked the prophet:  “Elisha, what shall we do?”

In answer to his servant’s question, Elisha said: “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:15-17).”

When the enemies of sickness, death, and the trials of life surround you, consider some of these eye-opening truths:

  • Jesus bore your sorrows and carried our griefs with Him when He was nailed to the cross (Isaiah 53).
  • You can approach God boldly and ask Him for mercy and grace when you are in need (Hebrews 4: 4-16).
  • God is not blind to your needs (2 Chronicles 16:9): “Certainly the Lord watches the whole earth carefully and is ready to strengthen those who are devoted to him.”

In those times when your heart aches the most, you may think of God the least. God has never promised an answer to the “Why me” trials of life, but He has vowed to walk with you.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.  ~ Isaiah 30:18 

The Pull of the Magnetic Pole

magnet_attractAt some time in your life, you have probably heard a person described as having a “magnetic personality.”  When you were a child, there may have been a point in time when you were fascinated by the mysterious powers of a magnet.

When Richard Feynman, a physicist, was asked to explain magnetism he said:  “I really can’t do a good job, any job, of explaining magnetic forces” in terms familiar to the average person.  Feynman did go ahead and in the simplest terms say that all the “electrons in a magnet are spinning in the same direction.”  The spinning gives birth to the north and south poles in a magnet that creates its magnetic pull.

When you think about the pull of the polls, no one seems to be able to answer the question:  Why does every electron have these polls?

Let me change the direction of this discussion from the north and south to the east and west and from poles to souls.  Because the earth has a North Pole and a South Pole, it is easy to measure the distance between the two. There is no  East and West Pole.  You cannot measure the capacity of God’s mercy and His forgiveness for the soul of His children.

In Psalm 103, the Psalmist wrote:

For as the heavens are high above the earth,

So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;

As far as the East is from the West,

So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

When you fail Him, God does not push you away.  He pulls you to Himself with His mercy and grace.  The prophet Micah spoke of this when he said:

Where is the god who can compare with you—
    wiping the slate clean of guilt,
Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear,
    to the past sins of your purged and precious people?
You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long,
    for mercy is your specialty. That’s what you love most.
And compassion is on its way to us.
    You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing.
You’ll sink our sins
    to the bottom of the ocean.

Take one snippet of this verse with you as you go about your business today:  “Compassion is on its way to us.”  Let God pull you to Him, so you can bask in the warmth of His compassion.

 

Easter: What’s Left?

475EF8AB-342D-4D51-885D-64659421391BWhen the last Easter egg has been found and eaten, and the kids have said “good-bye” to their sugar high.  What remains?  I hope it is more than chocolate stains and a few extra pounds that were added by way of the calorie-packed candy, and other Easter delights.

One thing that will always remain is God’s Word, and it is a unique book.  The uniqueness of the Bible is seen in its unity. This book is a collection of 66 ancient documents that were originally written in 3 languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Even though 40 different authors, wrote over a span of 1,500 years the theme and message of the Bible is consistent.

In my Easter sermon yesterday, I mentioned Jesus’ encounter with two disheartened disciples as they walked down the Emmaus road.  To help them understand the events surrounding His crucifixion, Jesus, began “at Moses and all the Prophets, and He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).”

The life of Jesus fulfilled multiple prophecies.  Long before He was born, it was predicted that He would be flogged; die with the wicked; and, He would be buried like a rich man.

Prophecy is important because it confirms the claims of Jesus.  Here are just a few of the many He fulfilled:

  • Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10)
  • He would be from the line of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13)
  • He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  • 700 years before Jesus was born, the Prophet Isaiah predicted in graphic detail the manner in which Jesus would die (Is. 53).

The Bible has stood the test of time; and, when it comes time for you to be tested, it will stand with you.