Tag Archives: Hope

Cheers

Some time ago there was a television show called Cheers. The setting was a neighborhood Image result for friendshipbar and the by-line was “Where everybody knows your name.” The idea was that a wide variety of people from the neighborhood would stop in, not so much to wet their whistles, but more for the conversation that would happen there.

Having lived in eight different communities, I have to say that each city, each neighborhood, each circle of friends have brought different things to my life. There were communities within the communities. We have community with our colleagues in our work, with those in our neighborhood, and among those with whom we worship. But one is forced to ask, why do we have so many lonely people in this world? How is it that we know people, but don’t have any relationships or friends?

As humans we are made to need and to have relationships. A relationship with God first, and then relationships with each other. When we don’t have those relationships, we have a sense that something is missing. We are unique among all of creation, because we alone have the need and capacity for selective relationships.

If this is a basic part of who we are, why are so many of us lonely? Might it be that we will not give others the opportunity to love us for who we are? Might it be that we hold back feeling that we may not be accepted? Maybe it is because we live in a closed garage door world. We go to work, are cordial but not really friendly with our co-workers, then go home, drive into the garage and close the door until we start the cycle all over again.

Now, I’m not so naive to think that this isn’t a gross oversimplification. But I do think it worthwhile to consider whether there aren’t some simple things we can do to know and be known, love and be loved.

Suppose for a moment that you would pick one day in a week when you reach out to a neighbor, yes, that one that you would like to get to know, or that one that you are thinking needs a friend. What if you reached out just to invite for a cup of coffee, or you found a reason to talk to that person on the phone. The worst that could happen is that they are not available or just hang up on you. What have you lost? Nothing. You have the satisfaction of having reached out. You may have to reach out to multiple people before you get a taker. Don’t give up on inviting others into your world.

Now someone accepts your invitation. Now what? A great place to start is to ask the other person about who they are, where did they grow up, what hobbies do they have, what about their family, what makes them really happy? Perhaps there is something that you could really use their input on. Think about it. Do you really have all of life figured out? With minimal thought, there are questions we could pose. You’ll be surprised how many things you’ll find that are common concerns, common viewpoints, or common interests.

This is the beginning. The next time you see that person you greet one another, exchange pleasantries, and ask about that thing that was a concern for that person. No need to make a federal case about it. Just show the other person that you’re interested in them and the things that concern them. Even something as simple as remembering names. I met a couple in church one Sunday. A week later, they came back and I greeted them by name. This simple act made them feel like they mattered. After all, isn’t that we all want? We want to know that we matter to someone? It’s even true of God. We want to know that we matter to God. When he answers our prayers, our deepest heart cries, we then know that we matter to him.

The fact that other people know our names gives us a connection. It is the beginning of relationship. Hey, I know who you are, and it matters to me. I am blessed to live in a neighborhood community where neighbors connect at an uncommon level. We care for one another, pray for one another, have meals together, support one another in causes that are important, not necessarily to me, but to different ones. We’re learning how to carry each others’ burdens.

I write this just to encourage you to sit back to think about how you might encourage your neighbors and colleagues or even family members who have become distant. We’re all on a journey. Some make friends easily, others not so much, but we’re learning. What if you joined with that neighbor to do a good deed for someone? None of us was made to do life alone. Find a way to connect with someone who needs a friend. For all the people in this world there is no need for anyone to be lonely.

Can’t We Just Get Along?

Many people are really getting tired of all the verbal dart throwing that is dominating our news feeds on social media and the news feeds from the so called news media. Several in Image result for loving vs judgingmy circle of friends have recently posted in social media that they just want us all to get along with each other. During the Christmas season we are longing for the promise of the angels, “peace on earth, good will to all men.”

As much as our world wants to believe that mankind is inherently good and that our world is improving and will continue to improve, reality is not showing that to be true. Instead, tensions seem to be increasing and our respective views are being used for division rather than building unity. Forgiveness and understanding seem to be in short supply. Many seem to be wandering into their own peculiar world of isolationism alienating those who disagree and even casting doubt on the intelligence, integrity and even the character and faith of “those people.”

I have come to believe that as much as many of us really do want to get along with the rest of the world, somehow the world of dialog has been reconfigured for us. It seems that it is socially acceptable to love our neighbor so long as they agree with us. Love is a choice, therefore, the prevailing patterns show that we will love those who agree with us and castigate and eviscerate all who disagree, or at the very least avoid interactions with them. It is as though there are other forces at work in our world. As many as there are that say they just want to get along, it seems that lines are being drawn for us that are beyond our control or at least at work in our subconscious. Those lines tell us that as long as you agree with me, we can get along. It is not even alignment of truth systems that matter. If you can’t support my train of thought or behavior, we can’t have rational discussion or cordial relationship, and I may even take you to court. Even though we profess to value congeniality, we seem to have lost our ability to disagree with civility.

I am going to suggest that we need to be careful about discerning what is going on in our world. As much as we claim to be in control of ourselves and our destinies, the Bible tells us that there are other forces at work. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We need to keep in mind at all times, who and what we’re really fighting against.

It is not “those guys.” There is a spiritual battle that is being waged and, if we allow it, we will be pawns in the battle between good and evil. The end result that until Christ returns to this earth, the purposes of evil will sway heavily in our world. The Apostle Paul wrote that we once lived following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. What Paul is saying here is that the world is and has been following the lead of Satan (the prince of the power of the air) and that pursuit takes us in a downward spiral. We need to acknowledge that.

Our current mindset and behavior does not line up with the teachings of Jesus, nor should it be representative of Christians or evangelicals, Catholics or whatever brand a person of faith has these days. How can I say this? Jesus was criticized by the Jewish leaders for having dinner and socializing with those who didn’t live up to the standards the leaders of the faith had interpreted from the Scriptures. To be sure, some of them had made up a lot of rules that were not part of God’s word, and they replaced the relationship that God desires to have with us with a code of rules upon which man would be able to assess our true spirituality. When asked which is the great commandment in the law, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:34-40) Think relationship, not works, not rules.

In another scene, the Jewish leaders challenged the disciples because Jesus was dining with “tax collectors and sinners.” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:9-13) How would Christ hope to draw sinners to himself if he disassociated himself from any who sinned? The reality is that he would not have come to this world because we are all sinners. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He paid the ultimate sacrifice of love before we believed and while we were still sinners. The self-righteous condemnation of others has no place in Christian circles. It only plays into the hands of the forces of evil engaged in the heavenly battle. It destroys the message of love that Christ brought into this world when he came as a baby, and died on the cross, out of love, for our sins. We are the sick and the sinners that Jesus came to call, and continues to call.

So why can’t we all get along? There is a very real battle being waged for the minds and souls of mankind. In his first letter to the early church, the apostle Peter wrote, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him …” (1 Peter 5:8) It is a battle of good and evil that was set before this world was created when Lucifer, now known as Satan, rebelled against God and led a group of angels to challenge God. This battle is ongoing and is being waged over the souls of mankind. It is interesting to note that God could have obviated this battle over the souls of men by creating us to be automatically obedient to him. But he loved us so much that he created the human species to be unique among all of creation as the only beings capable of making choices of love, hate, indifference, conscious obedience, or rejection. He wanted us to have the ability to love him in return and that ability also required giving us a choice for obedience or rejection of our Creator.

We need to discern and acknowledge which battle we are fighting. It is not against “those guys.” People who make different choices than some of us have made, have ultimately been directly or indirectly influenced by the rulers and powers playing in the heavenly battle over our souls. When all is said and done, we are all human beings put here on this earth for a purpose. Those of us who love God (the first great commandment) need to learn how to pass along the love with which God has loved us to love our neighbors as he has loved us. Does this mean that all of our behaviors are in keeping with his commandments? No, but it means that we still need to love each other so that we aren’t inhibiting others from seeing the God who loves us all, and gave himself up for us.

Would I like to see us all get along? Absolutely. Do I acknowledge that there are forces at work dividing us as people? Yes, for sure. Are there behavior patterns that go against God’s design for us? Yes, there are. Is it my job to poke a finger in your eye to point out those behaviors? No. It is God’s job to judge. It is my job to love the person next to me so that they can see God through me. It is God’s truth that brings light to our path. Don’t take the toothpick out of your brother’s eye before you have taken the log out of your own eye.

Yes, many, if not most, will not accept the truth of God’s word. But let’s not put ourselves in the position of being the arbiters of who has and who has found grace under his truths. Scripture tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This is taking the log out of your own eye before worrying about the speck in your neighbor’s eye. I have many logs to remove. Perhaps you do as well. Let’s learn how to love one another and be distributors of God’s grace in generous amounts as has been given to us. Let’s help our neighbors see who God really is.

Why Do I Do The Things I Don’t Want To Do?

Romans 7 is a classic passage for those who fight against our human reactions and responses to different situations. The Apostle Paul begins by telling us that the wages of sin are death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (6:23). None of us wants to sin, but as long as we’re in these earthly bodies and until we inherit our glorified bodies we will have a battle with sin. Paul says beginning in 7:18, For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So what’s the point? This week I received an article regarding a well known golfer who, while he is a believer, is known for brash comments, angry reactions to poorly played golf shots, and a reputation in the club house of being less than cordial at times. The media have pretty much diminished this man’s Christian witness by pointing out his judgmental and behavioral shortcomings as a juxtaposition against his claims of faith. It is a sad situation, indeed, when the media pick up on such things to point out our behaviors that don’t honor God. Yet, if we all lived in the public eye as this man does, how would we be appraised in the public square?

I, for one, am reluctant to pass judgment on such a man because I too have banged my club to the ground when a golf shot is poorly hit. No, I’m not a professional like he is, but at times, I experience the same frustration. The frustration is unwarranted because I don’t commit the time to the game that might limit the number of errant golf shots. In this arena and others, I find Paul’s words to be so appropriate for me and my life. I am just glad that I’m not in the public eye like the tour pro is. But wait! Is that the end of the story? Is this all there is to the story of redemption and forgiveness that we find in Christ? To use the words of Paul again, may it never be!

This same Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi (3:12 ff), not that I’m already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Jesus has made me his own. I forget what is behind me and strain forward to what lies ahead. Let those of us who are mature think like this. Let’s not be discouraged by our past failures. Let’s press on, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us into right thinking and the resulting behavior. Let’s grab hold of the progress we’ve already made and claim that land.

Now here’s a bold statement, Paul tells the Philippians to imitate him. Imitate those who are following our example. Don’t follow those who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ, and whose end is destruction. Don’t follow those who celebrate their accumulated wealth, or are proud of their “don’t give a damn” attitude and lifestyle. Live as a citizen of heaven whose priorities are aligned with the teachings of Scripture.

Paul writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it [heaven] we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.” (3:20-21) We ought to live as though we are anticipating the arrival of Jesus returning to take the people who have placed their faith in him, to heaven to be with him for eternity.

Are you living in expectation? Are you living in realistic anticipation, believing that he will come like a thief in the night, knowing that he will come without two weeks notice? None of us is perfect, but are we confessing our sins so that he can forgive our sins as he has promised? (1 Jn 1:9) You know confession is good for the soul. It keeps us mindful of our true condition as unworthy recipients of God’s grace. At some point we’ll talk about not living in a perpetual pity party, but for now let us understand that it is healthy for us to understand what we have done … or not … to deserve our salvation. God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8) It is by grace (undeserved favor) we have been saved, through faith. And this (faith) is not of our own doing, it is the gift of God.

My friends and family, please let us live lives in such a way as to express our love and appreciation for the love that was so lavished on us.

Grace and Peace …

Let us consider …

This week I saw a post from a friend asking for others to share stories of what God was doing in their lives. I thought it was a good entry and one that we should see more of. I sent her some of our story going back to the time we left Atlanta. She thanked me for the encouragement. But this raises a fundamental question in relation to the Hebrews 10:24 passage calling us to consider how to stir one another up to love and good works. How should we, as Christians go about encouraging one another? Is there a set of rules that guides such behavior? Ephesians 5:19 tells us to be filled with the Spirit, talking and singing with one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.

We are to consider how to spur one another on. I am in a Bible study with a group of men whose stories and journeys are becoming well known among the group. When we talk of God’s goodness and faithfulness we have our own set of stories that are sort of a library of battle wins that we can use to encourage one another. When we see the instruction of scripture, we have case studies and examples that we can use to create the picture. Some of these are stories that we share with others, and some we keep within the walls of that room.

This is not the kind of thing that we quote Bible verses to each other whenever we see each other. We know the stories and draw strength from how God has worked in our lives and our faith is built up. There is real value in knowing and being known. I just had a friend go through a very difficult illness, one that threatened her life on at least two occasions. We praise God together now, because he has brought her through the valley of the shadow of death. The stories are endless and in the process of knowing and being known, we remind each other of God’s faithfulness. We can say, “Remember when things were not going well, and we prayed and God answered our prayers?”

Some of this encouragement comes from the Ephesians 5 passage, because we have seen God’s faithfulness in our own lives and sharing an appropriate verse has greater meaning because it is shared in the context of our shared experience and in the remembering of God’s faithfulness. Suddenly you have the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12) intersecting with real life and the word comes to life! This becomes part of your testimony.

You know, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but our testimony ought not to be about the single event or moment in time when we invited Christ into our hearts. Our testimonies ought to be on-going developing stories of God’s faithfulness and how he is bringing growth to our spiritual lives.

How can we live in encouraging community? Who are those whom you would invite to be your guides and encouragers when the wheels seem to be coming off? Think ahead to upcoming interactions. Think about how you can be an encourager to get someone to use their gifts. I love how the New Living Translation says it: Encourage someone to outbursts of love and good deeds!

Have a blessed day!

What Happens to Good People?

Every so often something happens that leaves me a bit flummoxed. Yesterday I lost a friend to cancer who was a very special person. She was smart, vibrant, energetic, an encourager, loved life, faithful colleague, and a good friend. She was what is known as “good people.” Still she had little use for God or faith. She was good at being a good person. How disappointed she must be today, having reached the end of her life and finding that her goodness was not enough.

This is painful for me as I reflect. Not because I didn’t share truth with her, because I did. But, rather, because I did share the truth of Jesus Christ with her and to the best of my knowledge, she died having made a different choice. Choosing instead to judge God and her need for God based on the pain she saw in this world and her confidence in her own abilities. As much as she and I were honest with one another, and trusted each other, she simply could not go with the truth that I had shared with her. She believed I was a genuinely good person, but could not give God credit for that. In fact, she wrote a glowing testimonial to our church elders regarding my qualifications to lead the church. Somewhere in her background, God was the purveyor of pain and suffering, but man, through his goodness, rescued himself from a cruel God.

This is a painful experience because it is real life! It is seeing the reality of “good” people who reject belief in or faith in Jesus Christ slip into an eternity of loss, death, and the torment of eternal separation from God. I’m reminded of a funeral I attended for the husband of one of my employees. The man had committed suicide and no one in the family was a believer. I was impacted emotionally for several days by the lack of hope that was present in that funeral parlor. There was no discussion of the life beyond death’s door. There was just … nothing! Poor Jim did as well as he could, but he’s gone now.

In the current situation, I would desperately like to believe that she made a last minute decision to believe, much like the thief on the cross. God’s word tells us that it is by grace we are saved, through faith in Christ, and that even our faith is a gift from God. How good we’ve been is irrelevant so that none of us can boast in how we earned our way to eternal life. Nor are we able to compare ourselves to those around us, because God tells us not to judge one another, lest we be judged by that same measure. It is God’s job to judge. It is our job to love our neighbors. He also tells us that He (God) loved the world so much that He gave His only Son to be the perfect One who, through His death on the cross, would pay the price for our (yours and my) sins. Then He says, whoever will believe in this redemption story, will not perish (suffer eternal death) but would have eternal life with God.

It’s way too simple for many people to believe, but it is truth. It is the only truth that matters in life. It is so tragic that people who have heard the good news of Jesus, decide that they would rather go to heaven on their own terms. Good people will die wondering how good is good enough. Andy Stanley has written a book entitled, “How Good Is Good Enough.” If you have this question lingering in your mind, pick up that book and read it. I think that once confronted with the question, you’ll be challenged to find some better solution.

While this may be a morbid topic for some, there are some nuggets of truth here that needed to be heard and heeded.

Hoping you have made the right decision for eternity.

Reflections on Family

One day a friend asked how it was that we had experienced success as a family. He has interacted with our family and wanted me to write down those things that we felt were foundational to our family situation.

I think it should be said here that any positive family dynamics are the result of people who desire and are willing to work hard at making the family successful. Is there an occasional stink bomb? Sure, but we are committed to working through these things. The list that follows is the beginning of telling the story.

While the list is not comprehensive, nor is it a guarantee for tranquility, I thought it might be of interest to some to reflect on some of the concepts that have influenced our family relationships. It must also be said here that those facing family challenges today should not throw in the towel. It is never too late to start to bring God into your family. It starts with you and prayer; just you and God. Earnest prayers are heard by God and God answers prayer. My prayer is that you will be encouraged by these reflections created over coffee and “donuts” one Wednesday morning in Breckenridge, CO.

Family
A Journey in Progress

Breakfast conversation with the six adults at Daylight Donuts, Breckenridge, CO
Reflection on a 50th Anniversary and what makes a family successful

  • Preceding prayers for the children and spouses of children and grandchildren by previous generations – Dad’s parents began praying for our daughter’s husbands from the day they learned we were expecting each child.
  • Dad invited Christ into his heart at the age of seven, and as a teenager re-committed his life to follow the Lord – Train up a child in the way he should go – raised in an environment filled with exposure to discussions of God
  • After reflecting on the story of Solomon, Dad asked God for two things, wisdom, because God was pleased with Solomon’s request, and a wife who would be strong in the faith when his faith was weak – Solomon’s wives led him away from God.
  • God answers Dad’s prayers by providing a wife of character, strong in the faith to compliment my weaknesses – a woman committed to God first, then to her husband
  • The family celebrates milestones birthdays, anniversaries, graduations
  • Modeling home leadership that demonstrates real faith by living out a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – lives that diligently try to exemplify the two great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors
  • Mimi and Papa respect God’s model of the home by honoring sons-in-law leadership of their homes by communicating home leadership concepts through them
  • Overlooking, yet challenging, comments not well thought out – overlooking each others’ faults – not being easily offended by sins of commission or omission, slight or oversight – forgiveness (both asking and giving) is a key word
  • Abundant gift of hospitality, keeps us getting together at special occasions and random times
  • Sons-in-law knit together as they are great friends and cover for each other – part of God’s answer to the prayers of previous generations
  • Common commitment to faith and faithfulness – a conviction that a personal relationship with Christ is a top priority so the table is set for each family member to recognize the choice before them – prayer without ceasing for the faith and growth of each family member
  • Choosing church relationships and engagement are a priority and important part of family values and extended “family of believers” relationships
  • Trust – freedom, empowerment, and encouragement to succeed in being your own person – all that God made you to be
  • Being for each other – thinking the best of each other – presuming the best intentions
  • Sons-in-law still break bread with “Dad” – one SIL estimates over 1,000 hours of coffee in early morning hours – another mentored in the faith for over a year – investing in the heads of our homes
  • Higher mission and purpose – life is bigger than our family, e.g., FCA, Father Daughter, Father Son Retreats, Entertaining events like CEO roundtable, College and Career Group at church, involvement in church at all levels – lives focused on helping and praying for others keeps self in perspective
  • We all support the mission and purpose calling of each family
  • Investment in posterity – when girls were dating – invested in dating choice decisions
  • Humility that comes from study of and understanding of the scriptures
  • Marriages built on the biblical model; man is the head of the house, husband and wife are to love and respect each other
  • Play together. Family vacation to the beach or the mountains. Hiking and biking with ice cream treats afterwards. Movie nights, bowling, and playing games. A joyful heart is good medicine.
  • Focus on what unites us not divides.
  • We have very strong personalities in our family. All are leaders. The diversity of personalities can divide in a spirit competition or even playing favorites. Yet, a common commitment to a belief bring unity built on love and faith. Some families break under such differences. In love, it unites making us stronger.
  • Mentorship and pursuit of wisdom. Always seeking to learn from friends in the faith, family, and work who may impart insight especially during challenging seasons.
  • There is a glass cabinet in the foyer of our home containing the Bibles of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. This is our way of honoring our fathers and mothers, and thanking God for their faithfulness and prayerful impact in our lives and the lives of our respective family members. There is a rich history of godly people who prayed for their successor generations.

 

We then gathered the input of the grandkids (ages 11 – 20)

  • Laughter
  • Loyalty to each other
  • Joyful
  • Mimi’s capability to destroy our will to live in card games – we love to play games together
  • Thorough discussion – talk about real stuff – communication
  • We play a lot
  • Eat together
  • Own their own faith
  • Church is not a chore
  • Grateful – attitude of thankfulness

 

Tipping Point

In many areas of life we tend to take baby steps. We take small incremental steps when
practicing new skills for even such simple things as taking our first baby steps. We are Image result for tipping pointtentative at first and take halting steps while we regain our balance between each step, and our confidence continues to build until one day reach the tipping point of confidence and we start running around the house or out in the yard. This concept is in play when we enter school, take new jobs, enter the grand world of parenting, and, yes, it also includes our faith.

When considering faith, we are prone to take the view that the decisions and commitments of faith are binary. Either you have it or you don’t. However, scripture doesn’t support this. Even Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Lk 2:52). Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth these words, “But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged. (2Cor 10:17). The NIV carries it by saying “… as your faith continues to grow …” Christ talked in terms of the size of one’s faith when He said if we would have faith even as small as a grain of a mustard seed, we could move trees and mountains (Matt 17:20, Lk 17:5-6).

When we take our first steps of faith, the reality is that we are groping about trying to find our way in this new euphoric, yet bewildering relationship with Jesus Christ. What does it mean to accept Jesus into one’s heart? In Galatians and Revelation, scriptures talk about our first love. That initial feeling of suddenly knowing that we have a relationship with the God of the universe brings a sense of love and awe; a feeling of excitement that lasts until our first real challenge when Satan brings back the old doubts, and friends scoff at such a foolish decision. How can we move from our first love to having our faith take hold, to learning more about our God, to finding out that prayer really works because we pray to a living God? How can we grow in the faith to reach that tipping point of having the confidence that God is faithful, that God is not defined by our circumstances, that we really do have forgiveness of our sins and can celebrate communion with grateful hearts?

1 Peter 2:2 tells us, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” This is telling us that in order to grow up into salvation, we should long for pure spiritual milk. Pure spiritual milk is that which brings growth in the faith, taking instruction from trusted teachers, pastors, and friends. We need to look into the scriptures to see how they call us to maturity and talk about the faithfulness of God. To read the stories of God’s faithfulness and then pray that God would show His faithfulness in and through us. I have friends who are seeing prayers answered and are seeing opportunities to help others on their journeys. Through conversations and Bible study, together we learn how much God loves us and died for the sins of the whole world. We learn that unexpected successes come as the result of prayer. When we see such things happen, we begin to pray for our own needs and for the needs of others.

Then one day, we reach a tipping point; that point where we’re able to learn from scripture by faith. We reach that point where we are able to put our preexisting condition(s) to the test against the eternal truths of scripture. We come to a point of rest in the salvation of a loving and living God. We rest, knowing that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that He will guide and protect us just as He did the patriarchs of the Old Testament. We develop a passion for telling others about Jesus as the Son of God and His death and resurrection. We reach a tipping point where faith overshadows questions once unanswerable. Those questions pale in comparison to the hope of spending eternity with the God we loved and embraced when we first opened the door of our hearts to Jesus’ knocking.

I pray that you have reached that tipping point in your life. If not, please let me know how we can encourage you.

Powerful and Effective

There are some topics that are worth second, third and even unlimited visits. Prayer is one of those topics. At this moment, I’m called to pray for a very important time in my family’s life, and I’m encouraged to pray because of stories I’ve heard recently about how God has answered my prayers in ways that were considered impossible. A friend has had a strained relationship with a son. That son was coming to visit his father for many more days than was even considered useful by the father. The father shared his concern for the planned visit with me. So we began to pray.

We prayed that God would do a work in the hearts of both the father and the son. We prayed that God would glorify himself in the building of that long broken relationship. We prayed for healing. At times like this, it is important that we pray things that are in keeping with God’s word. God wants families to be whole. That is how he made them. God wants fathers to celebrate their sons, like the father of the prodigal son. God wants our parent child relationships to mirror those that he wants to have with us. As a son, I always wanted to have a close relationship with my father, yet at the same time I wanted to find my own faith, I wanted to make my own way in this world. Still, in the depths of my heart, I had a desire for the approval and support of my father. For reasons not completely clear to me to this day, my relationship with my dad didn’t become mutually rewarding until I was almost in my forties.

I have two sons in law who, like so many, have had awkward relationships at times with their fathers. For a short season, I wanted to step in to fill that gap, until I realized that these two men were coming to grips with the way God has made all of us. We are all made to desire the love of our fathers. Sadly, too many men will never experience that warm relationship, but that doesn’t mean we don’t desperately  desire it. So too with my friend, who for a variety of reasons has been distanced from his sons. With the one son coming to visit, we prayed for the time to be such that would allow for the relationship to be healed.

Despite the dismal outlook for the pending visit, prayer was critical. I was reminded of the scripture found in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power and is working.” Another translation calls these prayers powerful and effective. We need to pray for each other, building each other up not only with encouraging words, but also in prayer, asking God to do his work in the lives of those we love. Hebrews 10:24-25 provide this instruction, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This stirring each other up and encouraging one another comes through exhortation and encouraging words, yes, but also through prayer.

If you had been able to hear the story told by my friend a day after his son’s visit, you would have known that these things happen only when the power of God is released through much prayer, calling on his character and desire to draw the hearts of the children to their fathers. The prophet Malachi describing the Day of the Lord says, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” It is important when we pray that we know the heart of God in these matters so that we can pray, knowing his will with all confidence asking God to remain faithful.

Christ gave us a great model for intercessory prayer, i.e., praying for each other. In John 17 he prayed for all of his followers, present and future. Christ prayed for you and me on that day. In the same way, we need to be praying for each other to be released from the guilt that so easily sidetracks us, to be filled with love for those around us so that we will model for the rest of the world what love of our brothers really means. Christ instructed us to follow his example of how he loved us, by loving each other to show that we are his disciples.

God bless.

Why Do We Hide From God?

This is the second article that my grandson, Matt Northway sent to me on Easter Sunday. The first is posted below this one. I have to admit that it warms the cockles of my heart to read what God is stirring in the hearts of my grandchildren. It is called a blessing! I won’t repeat the intro that I wrote on Matt here, so without further ado, Matt poses the question, why do we hide from God?

And why do we hide from God? We act like He doesn’t know everything. He has seen you at your worst and He has seen you at your best. He has seen your shame and He has seen you sin. But even then, He sent His son to die for you and forgave you. All through your troubles, He was painting a picture and He still is. He knew you before you had a heart beat. He knows what you have done in the past and He knows what you will do in the future. He’s painting a picture for you. He is the brush and we are the canvas. The paint is His plan for us and His promises to us that shapes each and every one of us to give us hope for the future of what is yet to come. “For I know the plans I have you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Why Are You So Afraid?

The following came to me on Easter Sunday. It came from a very special person in my life. The author of this post and the next one is my grandson, Matt. He is a junior at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, CO where he throws the shot put and discus. He is also a student leader in his schools chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). His mother was convinced that he was the original strong willed child. I think you’ll see in these next two posts that God has done a work in this young man’s heart. Through him, God has touched my heart and I’m not ashamed to say that pieces like these make me very proud.  Matt is growing in in his faith and in the knowledge of God. Here is what Matt shared from his heart on Easter Sunday … Why Are You So Afraid …

Jesus will protect you no matter what. Even though it may not seem so at certain times in
our lives, God has a plan for your life and a reason for everything. For God did not give you a spirit of timidity. So why are we so afraid? I strongly believe that it is because we have a lack of trust. If we say we trust in God and in His promises, why do we fear? There is no reason to fear because God says that He will protect us. “The fear of man is snare, but those who trust in the Lord are protected.” (Proverbs 29:25). We need to rebuke the fear of man. The devil puts a fear in our hearts of worrying about the future. We cannot look to the future and here’s why. First, only God knows what is going to happen so why worry because God will get His way. Second, looking into the future is leaning on your own understanding and not God’s. The best we can do, is to try our hardest and let God do the rest. We have to put our faith in Him. That’s all we can do.