Tag Archives: Hope

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.

Our Thoughts and Prayers …

As we rush to push God, Christ, and references to the Ten Commandments and nativity scenes out of our public visibility, schools, and politically correct conversation, when tragedy strikes we are quick to offer our thoughts and prayers for the people impacted by tragic events. A question might be asked about to whom the prayers are being offered and what exactly we’re thinking about. It all seems to beg the question about the value of thoughts and prayers.

First let’s talk about offering our thoughts. I can sit on the Ponderosa and think about a lot of things and perhaps some might argue that that karma is oozing out of the windows as I post pictures and thoughts on social media. The net result is negligible because other than having the other person “feeling good” that their friends are thinking about them, there is no outside power or support brought about through our thinking about a situation. One might argue that thinking of your loss or pain might give me additional empathy for you, but I’m not aware of any healings or changes of circumstance that have been brought about through the thoughts of friends and neighbors. Because of this, my friends will need to excuse me for not offering my thoughts. I have found them to be ineffectual.

The book of James chapter 5 tells us a couple of things in verse 16, “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Many would like to lean on this passage for the power of prayer, but we have to remember that this is prayer by one and for another person who have submitted themselves to a truth system and faith proposition that believes in God, the Father, and the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. So this is not a one-size fits all kind of prayer.

In Matthew 21, Christ talks about His Father’s house being a house of prayer. How many have darkened the door of a house of God honoring prayer recently? Later in verses 18 – 22, Christ again talks about what is required for effectual prayer. In the closing sentence of that section He tells His disciples, “And, whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” He talks here about moving mountains. I’m here to tell you that this really works and that I’ve seen mountains moved just in the past few months. God has responded to some BHAG requests (Big Hairy Audacious Goal to borrow a term from Jim Collins’ “Good to Great”) in ways that leave little doubt as to the effectiveness of prayer! God has moved mountains!

There has been a lot of bad news of late in our world. So bad, in fact, that the New York Daily News published a headline boldly stating that “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” The front page went on to pronounce the futility of “thoughts and prayers.” This is the world’s view. In scripture we see that Christ regularly retreated to a solitary place to pray. If prayer was of no effect, why would Christ go away to pray? Why would He tell us to pray without ceasing? Why would He say that He hears our prayers from afar?

If we look again at the James 5 and Matthew 21 passages, both (and many others) talk of prayers being offered by men and women of faith and in faith. By “in faith” I mean that we who have placed our faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and know that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God, must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6) We’re talking about prayer and relationship here, folks. We can’t deny God’s existence or relevance and expect him to respond to our foxhole cries for help.

When Noah built the ark, he was scorned until the day it started raining. Only 8 people from all of earth’s population were spared by getting into the ark. God promised that He would never do that again and from that promise, we have rainbows that color our skies. There was a time when the prophet Elijah despaired of life itself, sensing that he alone was left to serve and honor God among all the people of Israel. God took him to a quiet place and when Elijah had calmed down, God assured him in a quiet whisper that He had preserved some 7,000 people who were faithful. Elijah was not alone. Neither are we alone nor will we be wiped out!

So, where do we go from here? Those of us who are faithful need to be praying for those who lead government in our country and all over the world, that God will provide wisdom as they carry out their duties. God has said that He has established the authorities. Also that He would preserve a people faithful to Him. Since the beginning of the story of mankind, there have been nations bent on evil and destroying what God has made. Yet, through it all, God has preserved a people who are faithful. Some would say that until recently, the U.S.A. was that city on a hill that was a beacon and whose laws represented biblical values. I think it is safe to say that those days are quickly fading into history as our courts banish the name of God from public mention.

Still, as the mores of our country sliding away from biblical values, His church remains as the bearer of eternal hope in our communities and true believers shine light in their arenas of influence and within our society. Some will be those who have huge audiences and some will be those who touch one life at a time. Let’s not cower in a dark corner. Let’s have our lights shine and let our prayers impact our world as never before. May your prayers be among those that are powerful and effective.

Peace on earth, good will toward men!