When I resurrected this blog on July 8, 2011, after deleting the contents from the previous year when I originally started it (July 2010), I published a post I had previously written on March 19, 2011, titled, “Moving Forward.” It was the story of my spiritual journey from the time I lost my job in Houston on April 21, 2009, until that point in time (almost two years later). I followed it up with a post written on March 26, 2011, titled, “Don’t Lose Your Soul At The Crossroads,” which was a continuation of the first post and republished on the same date, July 8, 2011.
Several months later, I wrote a post titled “Second Chances” (published January 23, 2012), written almost a year later from the original dates when I wrote the above two posts and also as I was coming up to the end my third year of unemployment. In it I wrote about being a “late bloomer” much like what Jesus talked about in the parable about the workers in the vineyard who were hired throughout the day (from dawn right up until the very last hour of the work day) and how they were all paid the same amount of money regardless of how long they had worked (see Matt. 20:1-16).
Well folks, I’m about to end my fourth year of unemployment in early (April) 2013. Who knew, right? And it’s been a very long haul . . . . Looking back, I’m glad that on the day I was fired (April 21,2009) I had no idea what was up ahead and that I would still be unemployed several years later. If I had known that at that time, I would have requested that they take me to the roof of that building (a six-story building) and throw me off. The upside to that is that I wouldn’t have spent the last three years and eight months in an absolutely futile attempt to find employment and I would have been in Heaven all this time, too!!! However, that was obviously not God’s plan for me (and no doubt somebody at that former place of employment would be in jail for throwing me off the roof). I say all of that tongue-in-cheek as I certainly don’t have a “death wish” even after almost four years of unemployment. But this is getting WAY OLD, folks!!!
If you’ve read any of my previous posts (176 including this one since July 8, 2011), you are familiar with my journey and how it has taken on a whole new perspective and direction beyond the initial (and frantic) search to find another job, which is still certainly something I keep looking for as I need an income. However, God graciously kept it a secret from me that I would be unemployed for so very, very long. Not only that, but all of the thoughts I had back then about how I thought God would work in my life after being fired bit the dust (e.g., that I was sure God would bring me a new job within six months or at the longest a year since I am self-supporting and knew I’d be financially destitute by the end of that first year without another job). Well, here I am almost four years later and I’m not broke yet (that–in and of itself–is no small miracle).
Years ago I read a book titled, “Your God Is Too Small,” by J.B. Phillips (1906-1982). Originally published in 1952, it was republished several times (the latest in 2004) and is available through Amazon.com. While the copy I owned has long since been lost (no doubt among the 1000+ books I lost when I left Houston in 2009), the title has always stayed with me. The book is broken up into two parts: Part One: Destructive (Unreal Gods), and Part Two: Constructive (An Adequate God). There is a long list in the “Destructive” section that I’m sure many of us can relate to–here’s some of the chapter titles: “Resident Policeman,” “Parental Hangover,” “Grand Old Man,” “Meek-and-Mild,” “Absolute Perfection,” “Heavenly Bosom,” “God-in-a-Box,” “Managing Director,” “Second-hand God,” “Perennial Grievance,” “Pale Galilean,” and “Projected Image.” Several of those titles most likely ring a bell in all of us as to how we personally view God. However, the one that really intrigued me was “God-in-a-Box.” A PDF of the book in plain text is available at this link but be aware that it is 97 pages in length.
In the chapter titled, “God-in-a-Box,” the topic of which is regarding denominations (pp. 22-25 in the PDF) J.B. Phillips states, “There are doubtless many reasons for the degeneration of Christianity into ‘churchiness,’ and the narrowing of the Gospel for all mankind into a set of approved beliefs (e.g., within denominations); but the chief cause must be the worship of an inadequate god, a cramped and regulated god who is ‘a good churchman’ according to the formulas of the worshipper. For actual behavior infallibly betrays the real object of man’s worship” (pp. 24-25). I think many of us would agree that those of us raised in a certain denomination tend to believe what we have been taught about God in that particular denomination. And in so doing, we put God in that particular denominational box and this extends into our own personal relationship with Christ and our own image of who God is. Unfortunately, most of the time it is very small . . . e.g., “destructive.”
We do put God in a box all the time whether we realize it or not. For example, we say we believe in miracles but do we really? Here’s an example from my own life: I was sure (well, greatly hoping) that God would not leave me unemployed for longer then my savings (and unemployment checks) would hold out (a year at the max from the time I was fired as normally unemployment benefits only last six months and my savings added to it would keep me going for an additional six months). I couldn’t “see” beyond what my bank account told me was “impossible” at the time–e.g., that I could survive almost four years of unemployment and still not be broke when my actual funds at that time would only last a year. When we find ourselves in a tight spot and look to our own resources, we forget all about the fact that Jesus twice fed crowds of 4000 (Mark 8:1-10) and 5000 (Mark 6:34-44) with a few fish and a few loaves of bread.
In the routine of our daily lives, we tend to live in a very small world when it comes to understanding God. And at times, He will intervene through circumstances to get us to see Him and this world of ours as being much larger than we can even imagine. Initially when I lost my job I viewed it as God’s way of taking me out of a bad situation (which it was) and in my way of thinking He was going to place me in a job better suited for whatever it was He wanted me to accomplish and do it within a year due to my financial situation. Of course, at that time I didn’t realize how small the box was that I had put God in until my “new” life of unemployment began to unfold. And unfold it did sometimes very painfully when I came close to getting a job but didn’t get it, and I didn’t understand why.
When God intervenes in our comfortable world, it turns our world upside down. For example, the Apostle Paul had it “made in the shade” when he was a Pharisee–highly respected, publicly recognized, most likely well off financially–he had all the trappings of “success” in his profession, and he was “religious” to the core–a Pharisee of Pharisees–and he didn’t even recognize that he was heading down the wrong road. Indeed, he wasn’t even looking for a different road because he thought he had it right. And then Jesus met him on the Damascus Road, and his encounter with Jesus Christ changed his life forever. He wrote about the change that happened to him in Philippians 3:7-14:
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
In his comfortable life as a Pharisee he couldn’t see beyond the facade. But when Jesus intervened in his life, he couldn’t go back to what he once knew. Everything changed, especially his focus. It went from “living by the rules” to “knowing Jesus Christ personally” and the whole course of his life was forever changed . . .
. . . And that is what He wants to do with us–get rid of the box we’ve put Him in and the “religious” games we play and our assumptions about Him and how He works in our lives and in the lives of others. We need to stop judging what we don’t understand and realize that miracles DO happen everyday, and many times they are disguised in trials, and in my case, it has been this very long “trial” of unemployment. What He did for me wasn’t about just “finding another job.” No–it was about finding Him–not from a salvation standpoint as He has been my Savior since I was ten years old, but by taking Him out of the very small box I had put Him in which made my world small and self-contained.
I still don’t know what the future holds nor do I know how much longer this trial of mine will last, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is moving me forward and has given me a second chance. He has broadened my world and my view of Him in ways I absolutely couldn’t have imagined before I lost my job. He has become more real to me then a next door neighbor. And He is the God of second chances, and He loves to do it even when we initially shake in our boots and don’t understand because it is disguised as a crisis or trial. After all, as Isaiah stated a long time ago:
“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
“Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
“Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
“So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
“They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.”
~Isaiah 55:8-11 MSG
I’ll end this post with two of my favorite verses which hold the key to taking God out of the box we put Him in (you’ll most likely recognize them, too):
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
He does, indeed, make all things new.
YouTube Video: “Moving Forward” (2008) composed and sung by Israel Houghton and the Lakewood Church Worship Team:
I Corinthians 10:13-14 (MSG) states, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can.”
To be tempted means “to entice or allure to do something often regarded as unwise, wrong, or immoral” (source: Dictionary.com). When we are tempted to give in to sin what’s the first thing we usually do? We rationalize. We redefine what we think is “unwise, wrong, or immoral” to fit what we want to do. And why do we do this? Because our conscience has been seared.
One of the gravest temptations facing Christians today is the accommodation of sin in our lives. The reason? Giving in to temptation is no big deal anymore. Procrastination, compromise, rationalizations, apathy, pride . . . you name it, we accommodate for it. And we don’t even think twice about it. Sin no longer sears our conscience. Need an example? Okay, here’s one (and it’s only the tip of the iceberg): Do you gossip about others behind their back?
So what is a seared conscience? “The seared conscience is referred to in 1 Timothy 4:2 where Paul talks about those whose consciences—their moral consciousness—have been literally ‘cauterized’ or rendered insensitive in the same way the hide of an animal scarred with a branding iron becomes numb to further pain. For human beings, having one’s conscience seared is a result of continual, unrepentant sinning. Eventually, sin dulls the sense of moral right or wrong, and the unrepentant sinner becomes numb to the warnings of the conscience that God has placed within each of us to guide us (Romans 2:15)” (quote source here).
“Sin dulls the sense of moral right and wrong . . . .” We rationalize, we compromise, we make excuses, and it’s all idolatry (e.g., putting anything or anyone ahead of God as having first place in our lives, and that includes ourselves and our pride). Dr. Charles Swindoll has written an excellent devotion on this very topic:
I don’t know anyone who would build a summer home at the base of Mount Vesuvius, and it would be tough trying to get campers to pitch their tents where Big Foot had been spotted. No family I know is interested in vacationing in a houseboat up the Suez Canal.
And yet there are Christians running loose today who flirt with risks far greater than these. And they do so with such calm faces you’d swear they had ice water in their veins.
Who are they? They are the ones who rewrite the Bible to accommodate their lifestyle. Whenever they run across Scripture verses or principles that attack their position, they alter them to accommodate their practice. That way, two things occur: (1) All desires (no matter how wrong) are fulfilled. (2) All guilt (no matter how justified) is erased.
Here is a sampling of accommodating theology:
God wants me to be happy. I can’t be happy married to her. So I’m leaving . . . and I know He will understand.
There was a time when this might have been considered immoral. But not today. The Lord gave me this desire and wants me to enjoy it.
Look, nobody’s perfect. So I got in deeper than I planned. Sure, it’s a little shady, but what’s grace all about, anyway?
Hey, life’s too short to sweat the small stuff. We’re not under the law, you know.
If that’s true . . . if that’s right, then what in the world does it mean to be holy?
“Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (I Peter 1:15).
“For this is the will of God, . . . that you abstain from sexual immorality” (I Thess. 4:3).
Or under grace?
“Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” (Rom. 6:15).
The simple fact is this: If we sow a lifestyle that is in direct disobedience to God’s revealed Word, we ultimately reap disaster.
The consequences of sin may not come immediately . . . but they will come eventually. And when they do, there will be no excuses, no rationalization, no accommodation. God doesn’t compromise with consequences.
When the bill comes due, the wages of willful sin must be paid in full.
The themes of “God wants me to be happy” and “we’re not under the law, you know” are thrown around a lot these days to give us license do just about anything we want to do; however, the Bible hasn’t changed to accommodate what we want. When it comes to sin, even 21st Century living with it’s instant access to anything we want hasn’t changed it’s definition and what it does to us. Galatians 6:7-8 is still in the Bible, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” The Message Bible states it like this, “Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.”
We want and crave the same things as everyone else in our society and yet I John 2:15-17 clearly states, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
So what exactly is it that we don’t get? Oh, we get it all right, but we want it our way. We want life on our terms, and we forget that we have an adversary who watches our every move and is more than ready and willing to let us have everything our “lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and the pride of life” (I John 2:16) desires. That is why we are warned to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).
Devour . . . think about that, folks.
So the next time you’re “tempted” by something or someone in thought, word, or deed (most likely within the next few minutes), remember what James had to say in James 1:13-15: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
I Corinthians 10:13 has the solution if we are willing to take it. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
God has promised to provide a way out so that we can stand up under temptation (and yes, that includes ANY type of temptation), but are we willing to do it His way, or succumb to the temptation and do it our way?
Choose wisely . . . .
YouTube Video: “Gotta Serve Somebody” sung by Aaron Neville (composed by Bob Dylan):
Photo credit here
“I’m ready for change, ready for rain, ready for favor, I know You are able to turn it around . . . .” (from the song, “Turn It Around”–YouTube Video below). As my continuing saga with unemployment is about to enter yet another year in just a little over a month from now, I have to shake my head and wonder just what is up with that. What’s up with that??? What’s up with almost four years of unemployment when we live in the greatest and most prosperous nation on the planet? Not one open door after applying for at least 500 jobs in my field of work plus in other areas, too. Not one!!! Why is that?
The bulk of those job applications took place in the first two plus years, and this past year it did slow down some–after all, past history showed me it was a futile effort on my part to keep applying for everything and anything I could find with little or absolutely no response (even for some volunteer positions hoping to get my foot in the door). Oh, and that number doesn’t include the many times I’ve personally inquired about work at the various work places I’ve been in or shopped in over the past three plus years. And, if you’ve been reading my blog post you know this past year I even visited Atlanta and Houston in an effort to secure employment and nothing came from those visits!!! NADA!!! So what’s up with that? It’s not like I’m walking around with green skin and purple hair, folks.
What happened to the America I grew up in? The “Land of Opportunity” isn’t so much anymore. Part of the motto engraved on the Statue of Liberty states, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Well, that description now describes a large and growing number of us, folks–living right here in America. What happened to “the golden door”? We have huge numbers of homeless as well as those now living in tent cities all over our nation–just read an article published at NewsBusters.org in March 2012 titled, “U.S. ‘Tent Cities,’ Sharp Increase in Homelessness Ignored by Almost Everyone Except the BBC.”
The “Land of Opportunity” with it’s “golden door” is becoming less and less so at a discouragingly fast pace. Most of us have grown up believing that if we do the right thing and give our employers the best that we have that we will be fairly secure in our work. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s “here today, gone tomorrow” and it’s usually in the employer’s favor. In many (maybe all) states, employers don’t even need to give us a reason to let us go. We can literally walk into work one day without any warning and be told it’s our last.
The middle verse in the Bible, Psalm 118:8, states the following: “It is better to take refuge (e.g., to trust) in the Lord than to trust in man.” The people we thought we could trust most often fail us, but God never does. We really do live in a dog-eat-dog world nowadays with lots of folks “looking out for #1.” Trust is a hard commodity to find in people. That’s why we are admonished to put our trust in God, and God alone, and leave the rest to Him.
I am very weary from looking for a job after looking for over 3 1/2 years now. And the real kicker for me is that I’ve spent my entire work life trying to always do the right thing for any employer I’ve worked for over my lifetime. I’ve never tried to screw anyone over for a promotion, or be mean to any coworkers or superiors, or go along with coworkers who play games with or gossip about other coworkers (and that stuff goes on at a shocking rate in today’s workplace), or even retaliate when injustice has been done to me. So it’s hard for me to understand why I’ve been unemployed for so very, very long now, with no end in sight. I have excellent credentials, some stellar annual evaluations and references, and I’m a very hard worker, yet nobody seems to care about any of that. Nobody seems to care, period.
Just this morning I read a devotion by Dr. Charles Swindoll that addresses this issue not so much regarding unemployment specifically but regarding life in general titled, “Divine Preparation.” Here it is:
Americans like things to be logical and fair. We operate our lives on that basis. Meaning this: If I do what is right, good will come to me; and if I do what is wrong, bad things will happen to me. Right brings rewards and wrong brings consequences.
That’s a logical and fair axiom of life, but there’s one problem. It isn’t always true. All of us have had the unhappy and unfortunate experience of doing what is right yet suffering for it. And we have also done what is wrong on a few occasions without being punished. The latter we can handle, but the former is a tough pill to swallow.
This can even happen in the life of servanthood. You will give, forgive, forget, release your own will, obey God to the maximum, and even wash dirty feet with an attitude of gentleness and humility. And after all those beautiful things, you will get ripped off occasionally.
For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to following in His steps.
If a person does wrong and then suffers the consequences, even though he or she patiently endures the punishment, nobody applauds. But—now get this clearly fixed in your mind—when you do what is right and suffer for it with grace and patience, God applauds!
When you feel as if God is taking things away,
maybe He’s just trying to make room in your life
for better things that He wants to give you.
“When you feel as if God is taking things away, maybe He’s just trying to make room in your life for better things that He wants to give you” (quote from above). God has allowed a lot to be taken away from me in these past 3 1/2 years (material possessions, money–my savings is totally depleted and my retirement account is heading in the same direction, and, of course, employment opportunities, and also one thing that I held on to for way too long and I finally let go of it this past summer). Guess sometimes I’m a slow learner. But I am so ready to move on and have been for a while now (ever since returning from my trip to Houston over two months ago), but I’m not sure how to move forward (and I don’t have the finances to do so, either).
I need a miracle . . . so God, I’m asking!!!
When I lived that year in Houston (September 2008 – September 2009), I attended Lakewood Church (church website here) for nine months and my most favorite part of the service was the worship music (I also did some volunteer work on Sunday mornings, too). Several of the songs the worship team sang became favorites of mine and the one that came to mind this morning is “Turn It Around” (composed by Israel Houghton–YouTube Video below). The chorus goes like this:
Turn it around
Open the windows of Heaven
Pour out a blessing, overflow
Turn it around
Open the windows of Heaven
Pour out a blessing we cannot contain
Let it rain, let it rain
Yes, I’m “ready for change, ready for rain, ready for favor, I know You are able to turn it around,” God. So I’m asking . . .
Let it rain . . .
YouTube Video: “Turn It Around” composed and sung by Israel Houghton and the Lakewood Church Worship Team:
Photo credit here
“Big Brother is watching you.” Of course, Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell’s novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (published in 1949) and “he is the enigmatic dictator of Oceania, a totalitarian state taken to its utmost logical consequence – where the ruling Party wields total power for its own sake over the inhabitants” (source: Wikipedia.com).
“In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’, which is the core ‘truth’ of the propaganda system in this state. Since the publication of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ the term ‘Big Brother’ has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance” (quote source here).
In 1949 when Orwell’s book was first published, this story-line most likely made for great science-fiction reading; however in today’s world, not so much . . . .
Do you own a cell phone? A GPS system? Any other type of electronic device such as a computer or laptop, iPad, etc.? If so, your every conversation can be recorded, your every communication via technology can be traced, and your every move can be tracked. And even if you don’t own any of these devices, you can still be tracked without knowing it. In fact, “a new type of speed cameras which can use satellites to measure average speed over long distances are being tested in Britain” to track a network of streets or an entire residential area (quote source here). Also, “The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires that all U.S. telecommunications companies modify their equipment to allow easy wiretapping of telephone, VoIP, and broadband internet traffic . . . . The Total Information Awareness program, of the Information Awareness Office, designed numerous technologies to be used to perform mass surveillance” (source: Wikipedia.com).
Now, granted, the average person walking the streets is not necessarily in fear of constant surveillance, but the technology is there to do so. All it takes is someone with evil intent and a fair amount of money to do it. Private investigators did this (and probably still do) before the proliferation of technology and satellites and other types of surveillance devices blanketed the earth. Now your own computer, iPad, cell phone, GPS system, etc., can be used to record and track you.
I say all of this not to scare you, but to make you aware of the world around us. And even with all of this 24/7 “tracking” that is available to private individuals, corporations, governments, military, etc., for not altogether altruistic reasons, there is still One who keeps track of even them (as well as all of us, too).
I read a devotion this morning that got me thinking about this topic of surveillance in the first place. It’s from “Our Daily Bread” and is the devotion for today, November 17, 2012, titled “Eye In The Sky”:
Eye In The Sky
“The Lord will guide you continually . . .” ~Isaiah 58:11a
Creating a system by which an “eye in the sky” can help guide cars and planes and boats all the time is complicated. For instance, the Global Positioning System (GPS) that most people are familiar with works because there are always 24 to 32 satellites orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 12,500 miles. These satellites must maintain a constant speed and altitude if the guidance they provide is to be accurate.
Today’s complicated GPS is just a tiny analogy of what God can do. God promised the nation of Israel: “The Lord will guide you continually” (Isa. 58:11). The psalmist was aware that there was no place he could go without God knowing where he was (Ps. 139:7-8). Long before GPS, God sat “above the circle of the earth” (Isa. 40:22) and saw everything.
The knowledge that there is someone who tracks you wherever you are can bring fear to those who are trying to get away. But for the Christian, this brings great joy and assurance. No matter where he was, the psalmist was confident that God’s hand would lead him (Ps. 139:10).
God has promised to guide and lead you today. He’s the best Guide you could have, and He wants to lead you along the right paths. ~ C.P. Hia
We need God’s guidance from above;
And as we trust Him for direction,
His daily leading and His love,
He’ll give to us His full protection. ~Fitzhugh
To avoid going wrong, follow God’s leading.
One of the most encouraging passages of Scripture in the entire Bible is Psalm 139. Here are the first sixteen verses of that psalm from The Message Bible:
“God, investigate my life;
get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in!
“Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”
~Psalm 139:1-16 MSG
I find those last three lines enormously encouraging: “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” In a world where personal privacy and individual rights are being replaced at an ever increasing rate by “Big Brother” no matter how you define it, to know that God has prepared every single one of our days on this earth before we even lived one day of them is mind boggling. And even “Big Brother” can’t hold a candle to that kind of tracking!
I personally find Psalm 139 of great comfort right now as God is fully aware of these past three and a half years of unemployment, and He knows exactly where He is taking me. Read those verses in Psalm 139 above once more and really think about their implications.
. . . He knows everything we are going to say before we even say it
. . . He’s always been there in every circumstance–in the past, right now, and up ahead
. . . And He’s always present — always . . .
I don’t know about you but such knowledge is almost more than the human mind can comprehend . . . “The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day” (v. 16).
WOW . . . .
And think of it . . . not even the latest technology and tracking devices available today can keep up with God’s tracking system. None of them! That should give us great confidence no matter what the future holds for us and this old world of ours.
God is in ultimate control, not man.
And He gets the last say, not us.
“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”
~Isaiah 58:11 NKJV
YouTube Video: “Hail to the King” (2007) by Shannon Wexelberg (from the “Faithful God” CD):
Photo credit here
If you’re 40 or younger, chances are you haven’t heard of Corrie ten Boom. It’s been almost 30 years since her death on her 91st birthday on April 15, 1983, but her legacy lives on.
Corrie “was a Dutch Christian, who with her father and other family members helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her family was arrested due to an informant in 1944, and her father died 10 days later at Scheveningen prison. A sister, brother and nephew were released, but Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp where Betsie died. Corrie wrote many books and spoke frequently in the post-war years about her experiences. She also aided Holocaust survivors in the Netherlands. Her autobiography, The Hiding Place (1971) was later adapted as a film of the same name in 1975″ (quote source Wikipedia.com).
In an interview with Pat Robertson in 1974 (available on YouTube), Corrie mentioned that she was confined by the Nazis a total of eleven months with the first month spent in solitary confinement before ending up in a concentration camp with her sister, Betsie. From a letter Corrie wrote in 1974, she stated that “Seven hundred of us from Holland, France, Russia, Poland and Belgium were herded into a room built for two hundred” (quote source here). **Stop for a minute an imagine being one of 700 people herded into a room built for 200 and left there.** While Betsie died in the midst of that horror, Corrie was released on December 28, 1944, due to a clerical error. The women prisoners her age in the camp were killed the week following her release (source Wikipedia.com).
Due to Corrie’s own experience at the hands of the Nazis combined with what happened to Chinese Christians in 1949 as Mao Tse Tung brought China into communism (forming “People’s Republic of China”) led her to speak out about the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” doctrine that is widely taught in American churches today. In a letter she wrote in 1974 entitled “Prepared for the Coming Tribulation” she wrote:
“There are some among us teaching there will be no tribulation, that the Christians will be able to escape all this. These are the false teachers that Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days. Most of them have little knowledge of what is already going on across the world. I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution . . . .
“In America, the churches sing, ‘Let the congregation escape tribulation,’ but in China and Africa the tribulation has already arrived. This last year alone more than two hundred thousand Christians were martyred in Africa. Now things like that never get into the newspapers because they cause bad political relations. But I know. I have been there. We need to think about that when we sit down in our nice houses with our nice clothes to eat our steak dinners. Many, many members of the Body of Christ are being tortured to death at this very moment, yet we continue right on as though we are all going to escape the tribulation” (quote source here).
Many Christians in America today have been taught by pastors who espouse a “pre-tribulation” rapture of the Church that they will be “raptured” right before the final seven years of the “tribution” period that unfold here on earth (see Revelation–the last book in the Bible–for details) and, thus, will not have to endure the horror of those final seven years. There are also two other “rapture” views known as “mid-tribulation” rapture and “post-tribulation” rapture and all three views are espoused by well known pastors and theologians (a few names of those espousing each of these views can be found here). I don’t believe that all pastors who teach the “pre-tribulation” rapture are false teachers as is stated in Ms. ten Boom’s statement above, but the whole idea of a “pre-tribulation” rapture is a modern day theory that was “developed in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, and popularized in the United States in the early 20th century by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible” (quote source: Wikipedia.com).
I was raised under pastors who espoused a “pre-tribulation” view of the rapture; however, as I’ve gotten older, I began to question it. Why should Americans be immune from persecution when Christians in more than 40 nations around the world today are being persecuted for their faith (source here)? In America, our Christianity is a soft, easy Christianity ripe for teachings that endorses a “pre-tribution” view of the rapture, but here’s what Corrie had to say in her 1974 letter regarding what happened to the Christians in China who were taught the same type of teaching back before the Communist revolution in 1949:
“In China, the Christians were told, ‘Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated – raptured.’ Then came a terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly,
‘We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution, rather than telling them Jesus would come first. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when the tribulation comes–to stand and not faint.’
“I feel I have a divine mandate to go and tell the people of this world that it is possible to be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are in training for the tribulation, but more than sixty percent of the Body of Christ across the world has already entered into the tribulation. There is no way to escape it. We are next” (source here).
These are the words of Corrie ten Boom written back in 1974 who survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. You can read the entire contents of her letter here. She traveled the world telling others about her experiences and how faith in Jesus Christ regardless of circumstances sustained her as it does many, many other persecuted Christians around the world even in the very face of death. Christians living in America are no different from Christians living around the rest of the world. Jesus clearly tells us what to expect in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”
While I questioned the teaching of a “pre-tribulation” rapture for years, these past three and a half years of unemployment have allowed me the opportunity to open up my world in a way it never would have opened up if “life as I knew it” hadn’t come to an abrupt end when I lost my job in Houston. Granted, I expected to find a job within the first six months but that didn’t happen, and while I continued to look for work (right up through today) a whole new world opened up before me–a world out there that shouted, “there’s more to life than the ‘American way’ . . . a whole lot more. Pay attention.”
We’ve been sold on a soft, easy Christianity (compared to those millions who are severely persecuted around the world) that not only doesn’t require much from us but also promises that we’ll be “raptured” before the really awful stuff starts. Sounds like what the Chinese Christians heard before Communism took over in 1949 and the widespread torture and murder of Christians proliferated. Even today living as a Christian in China is daunting (read here for up-to-date reports).
I believe Corrie ten Boom was right, and, indeed, it is coming to our shores. In fact, it is my belief that it’s already here and growing. If you doubt that, here’s an article to get you thinking about it titled, “Persecution of Christians Growing in the United States” and it was written back in 2001. And it hasn’t gotten any better since then. Also, there’s an article at RenewAmerica.com written in 2008 that you might want to read titled, “Preaching a Pre-tribulation Rapture Weakens the Church.”
I Peter 5:8-11 (MSG) states, “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.”
If a “pre-tribulation” rapture theory has you coasting in neutral thinking you’ll escape the hard stuff before it comes, wake-up! Sound an alarm, and be alert. We don’t want to be totally caught off guard like the Chinese Christians were in 1949, do we? They didn’t escape and we won’t either. But it’s not about “escaping” before the bad stuff happens anyway, read that passage in I Peter 5 again–“You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.”
Did you get that? God, through Jesus Christ, has great plans for us, but they are eternal and glorious plans not earthly and temporal plans. Eternal. So let’s start living with eternity in mind, instead of always seeking what we can get here on this planet, which is at best temporary; or escaping hardships, which are also temporary.
Bob Dylan wrote a song years ago titled, “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (YouTube Video of the song sung by Phil Collins is below). While times were certainly changing back in 1964, they are certainly changing at an unbelievable pace today. Here’s the words to the last verse in that song:
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.
Indeed, the times they are a-changin’ . . . so don’t let them catch you off guard!
Take heed . . . .
YouTube Video: “The Time They Are A-Changin'” sung by Phil Collins (composed by Bob Dylan, 1964):
Photo credit here
“Are you walking around thinking that the world owes you something ’cause you’re here?” Sometimes I think that’s become a lifestyle for many folks living in America today. It’s actually a line from the 1971 song titled, “Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers (You Tube video and lyrics below).
Dictionary.com defines “respect” as “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability; the condition of being esteemed or honored.”
W-O-W . . . I haven’t seen much of that attribute around lately, have you?
“Rights” and “personal freedom” have replaced respect in our society today (just read the comment made by “METALheadMom” at SodaHead.com if you need an example–and most of us don’t as we experience it on a regular basis). And an attitude of disrespect is not respective to age. No, kids right on through to old people have an amazing capacity in our society to disrespect others. I can’t tell you how many women have barged into me lately (okay, it’s not huge but enough . . .) in a grocery store (and yes, right in my own personal space and literally–and intentionally–bumping into me or grabbing something off a shelf right in front of my face) without even saying a word. Some of them have even been little old ladies. And no apology, either, or an insincere one at that . . . .
You have your examples, too. I don’t need to give you any more of mine. That list is endless (yours and mine) . . . . All we have to do is get behind the wheel of our car and get in traffic to experience disrespect. It even has a name . . . “road rage” (the term originated in the United States–specifically in California–in 1987-1988 according to Wikipedia.com). I used to think that the high level of disrespect we show each other in our society might be a perception on my part because I was getting older and noticed it more. NOT . . . . Not even close.
Disrespect is out there everywhere today. Just look at all the garbage about people that the media publishes that is considered “news” today. It’s voyeurism at best, and nasty at it’s core at the very least. But, inquiring minds want to know, right? RIGHT? That kind of “news” sells big time in our society nowadays. We’d rather hear about an affair (and give us the details, please) of some politician or public figure or movie/rock star then concern ourselves with the human tragedies going on over in Syria, Libya, and many other parts of the world. Ours is now a “Google” world with massive amounts of information available 24/7 on just about any imaginable (and beyond imaginable, too) topic–not all bad, mind you–but it’s there if you want it. However, that’s another topic for another time.
Getting back to the issue of respect, “Bell123” asked this question on Ask.com: “Why are people so mean now days? Whatever happened to respect and treating others as you want to be treated?” Two of the responses were (1) “It’s the Internet–no face to face contact so people lose respect for others and think words on a keyboard have no consequences,” and (2) “Many children aren’t taught decency, manners and respect anymore and the results can last for the rest of their lives. Longtime teachers have remarked how the current generation of children are significantly less respectful than previous generations. It all comes down to a lack of self-discipline. People aren’t taught how to control themselves, and the resulting selfishness makes them feel entitled to hurt other people.”
While I agree that both of these answers hit the nail on the head regarding some aspects concerning the level of disrespect we find in our society today, it isn’t confined to those two groups–internet users or young people. It permeates every ethnic, racial, gender, religious affiliation, and age group from 0-100.
Ephesians 5 & 6 has a lot to say about showing proper behavior towards others and starts right off with “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:1-2). It admonishes us to “wake up from our sleep” and “walk in love.” Regarding our relationships with others, we are told that “Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another” (5:21, MSG) and it goes on to tell us how to relate to others in the specific roles we find ourselves in such as wives, husbands, children, fathers, servants (e.g., employees), masters (e.g., employers) and with ourselves (5:21-33; 6:1-9). I’ll let you read it for yourself.
The bottom line is this–for those of us who call ourselves “Christian” showing a lack of respect to anybody (including those who are disrespectful to us and, yes, that includes our enemies–and it also includes our fellow Christians) is not an option. There is no reason big enough for us to disdain others. And do you know why? Because it’s not about us.
Let’s read the last part of Ephesians 6 to get a crystal clear picture of what this life is all about as Christians. It’s a fight to the finish, or have we forgotten that? “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
For the true follower of Jesus Christ that is what this life is all about, folks. It’s about Him, and we are in a spiritual war to the finish line. I like how The Message Bible states Eph. 6:10-12: “. . . and that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.”
“This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps . . . .” Yes, it’s for keeps, folks. Everything that we do or say or act out matters. Every single day we have the opportunity to influence every single person we come into contact with by our actions, words, and our attitudes, for good or for evil. Do we want our own way more than we want to show the love of Christ, even to our enemies and those who disrespect us? Nobody’s perfect and we all fall short in our interactions with others, but does Jesus Christ really make a difference in our lives? If He does, the way He wants us to interact with others should shine through. If it doesn’t, who do we really belong to?
If we don’t like the level of disrespect in our society, then let’s start changing it today by showing everyone we come in contact with (yes, the good, the bad, the disrespectful, and the ugly) that Jesus Christ really does make a different in this world, because He’s made a difference in us, and He can make a difference in them, too. The world is watching us to see if what we say we believe we really do believe . . .
. . . and live it out.
I’ll end this post with the words to the song, “Respect Yourself” (YouTube video below):
If you disrespect anybody
That you run into
How in the world do you think
Anybody’s supposed to respect you?
If you don’t give a heck about the man
With the Bible in his hand
Just get out the way
And let the gentleman do his thing
You the kind of gentleman
That want everything your way
Take the sheet off your face, boy
It’s a brand new day
Respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don’t respect yourself
Ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
Respect yourself, respect yourself
If you’re walking ’round
Think’n that the world
Owes you something
‘Cause you’re here
You goin’ out
The world backwards
Like you did
When you first come here
Keep talkin’ ’bout the president
Won’t stop air pollution
Put your hand on your mouth
When you cough, that’ll help the solution
Oh, you cuss around women
And you don’t even know their names
And you dumb enough to think
That’ll make you a big ol man
Respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don’t respect yourself
Ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
Respect yourself, respect yourself
Respect yourself, respect yourself
NOW LET’S GOES OUT AND RESPECT OTHERS, TOO!!!
YouTube Video: “Respect Yourself” (1971) by the Staple Singers:
Photo credit here
Okay, I’m sufficiently over the “Post Election Blues” and the end of Western Civilization as we know it hasn’t happened yet. So that’s a good sign. However, I’m still unemployed, and that is a not-so-good sign. So are millions of other folks.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Did you get that? Faith is being certain of “what we do not see.” It’s also “being sure of what we hope for.” Many of us may have put our hope in a different outcome for the election, and hence, we experienced “post election blues” the following day when it didn’t happen, but the definition of Biblical hope from the Holman Bible Dictionary is this:
“Biblical hope is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance. More specifically, hope is the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future. This contrasts to the world’s definition of hope as ‘a feeling that what is wanted will happen.’ Understood in this way, hope can denote either a baseless optimism or a vague yearning after an unattainable good. If hope is to be genuine hope, however, it must be founded on something (or someone) which affords reasonable grounds for confidence in its fulfillment. The Bible bases its hope in God and His saving acts” (quote source here).
Our faith and hope are in God—period–and not in the outcome of an election or anything else. I Peter 1:18-21 states, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
We need to repeat that to ourselves again and again–our faith and hope are in God–not in man, not in circumstances, not in election results, not in our jobs or in our employers or in unemployment lines or in government hand-outs, not in savings accounts or retirement accounts, not in the ups and downs of the stock market, not in gold and silver, not in friends or family; NO–not in anything else.
Hard to do, isn’t it? It’s hard to hope in what we can’t see or feel or touch. When Jesus walked on this earth His disciples could actually see and touch and feel and hear Him. We aren’t so lucky. And even with that tangible experience, do you recall what happened when Jesus walked on water out to the boat that the disciples were in? Let’s read the dialogue from Matthew 14:25-32:
“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.
“But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
“ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
“ ‘Come,’ he said.
“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’
“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.”
I believe it was with great compassion and not as an accusation that Jesus said to Peter, “why did you doubt?” Jesus so wants us to believe in Him with an unshakable faith, but sometimes the stresses and the circumstances in life can seem overpowering, and we quake in the midst of them. I know in the midst of this very long trial with unemployment that there are days I just want to stay in bed and throw the covers over my head (but I don’t). And with the election I found myself placing a renewed hope of finding employment in the hands of a new administration, but those hopes were dashed with the election results.
Dr. Charles Swindoll wrote a devotion that speaks to this very issue–trauma and/or stress. Let’s read it together:
Like potatoes in a pressure cooker, we twenty-first-century creatures understand the meaning of stress. A week doesn’t pass without a few skirmishes that beat up on our fragile frames. They may be as mild as making lunches for our kids before 7:30 in the morning (mild?) or as severe as a collision with another car . . . or another person. Makes no difference. The result is “trauma.” You know, the bottom-line reason Valium remains the top seller.
The late Joe Bayly, insightful Christian writer and columnist, certainly understood trauma. He and his wife lost three of their children: one at eighteen days (after surgery); another at five years (leukemia); a third at eighteen years (sledding accident plus hemophilia). In my wildest imagination, I cannot fathom the depth of their loss. In the backwash of such deep trauma, Joe and his wife stood sometimes strong, sometimes weak, as they watched God place a period before the end of the sentence on three of their children’s lives. And their anguish was not relieved when well-meaning people offered shallow, simple answers amidst their grief.
H.L. Mencken must have had such situations in mind when he wrote: “There’s always an easy solution to every human problem–neat, plausible, and wrong.”
Eyes that read these words might very well be near tears. You are trying to cope without hope, and there’s no relief on the horizon. You’re bleeding and you’ve run out of bandages. You have moved from mild tension to advanced trauma.
Listen carefully! Jesus Christ opens the gate, gently looks at you and says: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are . . . overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls]” (Matt. 11:28, Amplified).
Nothing complicated. No big fanfare, no trip to Mecca, no hypnotic trance, no fee, no special password. Just come. Meaning? Unload. Unhook the pack and drop it in His lap . . . now. Does He know what trauma is all about? Remember, He’s the One whose sweat became like drops of blood in the agony of Gethsemane. If anybody understands trauma, He does. Completely.
He’s a Master at turning devastation into restoration. His provision is profound, attainable, and right.
Allow Him to take your stress as you take His rest.
Come . . . unload . . . now! Before I got out of bed this morning I pulled the covers over my head and unloaded to God for a long time. I’d totally had it with everything and the election results was the last straw. Ever since returning from my trip to Houston a couple of months ago I have felt listless, weary, and frazzled from a job search that has gone on for way too long now (over three and a half years) with no end in sight. I was so hoping for a breakthrough during that trip . . . a glimmer of hope . . . anything tangible. Anything . . . but nothing has come from it. And I can’t afford to keep traveling to cities in search of a job that I’m beginning to believe is never going to materialize.
Faith and hope become very fragile when one is weary to the bone. I remind myself that the Apostle Paul wrote many of his letters that comprise much of the New Testament from a prison cell, not a comfortable home or an ivory tower. It is in the very midst of trials and tribulations that our faith and our perseverance grows (or dies if we are not careful). I’m reminded of what my fellow Christians are enduring right now in Syria, and Egypt, and throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world, and that gives me perspective–the kind of perspective I need right now. The Church is most awake and alive during times of trials and tribulations.
It was enormously helpful to unload to God this morning. He’s faithful, and He doesn’t gossip. He is completely trustworthy and, as the song states, “He’s got the whole world in His hands” and that include me (and you, too). And in doing so He has helped me to move on, gracefully. My outward circumstances may not have changed (from what I can see), but internally, I know He’s making a way.
But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands . . .
YouTube Video: Over the past few months I can’t tell you how many folks have mentioned The Beach Boys to me, so here’s one for all of you (and I like it, too) . . . “Good Vibrations” (1966) by The Beach Boys:
Photo credit here
The people have spoken. As of this moment (7:30 a.m. EST, November 7, 2012) we’re still waiting for Florida to decide who takes it’s electoral votes (sigh . . . and I live in Florida and voted by mail two weeks ago). I’m just glad it’s not about the chads that created such an uproar in Florida in the 2000 election. Until Florida decides (97% of the votes are counted as of this moment and the race is neck-to-neck with Obama slightly in the lead by approx. 46,000 votes), the total electoral votes are (drum roll, please . . .)–Obama: 303 (taking 59,412,740 popular votes) and Romney: 206 (taking 56,884,533 popular votes) as of 7:30 a.m. EST. So, Florida, at this point, it’s all over but the shouting (and we are all thankful it’s not about chads!!!).
Well, you have to admit, President Obama does have a great smile!!! Congratulations, President Obama, on your reelection (and I sincerely mean that, too)! While I did vote for the other candidate, God is still on His throne in Heaven this morning and He’s not surprised, and the people have spoken. Let’s see what you can do with another four years (and I don’t envy you your job, either).
I would personally like to submit a request to you, sir, if you don’t mind. Can I have a job now? Please??? I’ve been unemployed since April 21, 2009 . . . and I’m incredibly bored and going broke fast (my unemployment checks ran out–after 99 weeks–back in May 2011 and I’ve had NO INCOME (and no food stamps, either–they say I don’t qualify–go figure as I don’t have a stockpile of cash anywhere) since that time. I don’t even qualify for Medicaid (and can’t afford Obamacare in 2014, either). Guess I fall in that “black hole” that a bunch of other folks are in, too. We need help, sir, and I hope you can help us really, really soon.
For the 56,884,533 voters as of 7:30 a.m. EST this morning who woke up a bit depressed (and while that count does not include those in Florida who have not been added to it yet, it does include those of us who have been adversely affected by the outcome), I want to share some good news (yes, there is some good news) that Dr. Charles Swindoll wrote in a devotion some years ago about the election results that occurred at that time. Here goes:
Sure Cure for P.E.B.
There’s a new virus going around. It’s called P.E.B.–Post Election Blues. The symptoms? Oh, stuff like moping around, whining, and feeling a mixture of self-pity, resentment, and smoldering anger, and even entertaining thoughts of moving to Tahiti or Australia because your candidate didn’t win.
Well, I’ve got new for you. That won’t help. The best antibiotic is to buck up, stand firmer than ever on the solid rock of God’s sovereignty, and face the future with renewed confidence–no matter who’s in office. Nothing that happens in this old world–even in the election booth–surprises or frustrates our Lord. These words are still in the Book: “for not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another” (Ps. 75:6-7).
Somehow those words are easier to read when my candidates get elected; they stick in my throat when the other folks get in! Ever notice that?
And then I happen across Solomon’s proverb: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1).
Remember Daniel? He lived victoriously through strong and weak national leaders, yet he didn’t hesitate to declare that “Heaven rules” and that it is the living God who “changes the times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them” (Dan. 2:21; 4:26, NIV).
So, then, I suggest we start thinking theologically and acting responsibly. Both are hard, hard work. That’s right! Recovering from a bad case of P.E.B. requires being hardy.
The man or woman who is hardy can withstand adverse conditions, is firm in purpose, and has a vigorous outlook on life. We might say that many missionaries and most mountain climbers are hardy folks. The hardy person remains productive under difficult situations, all the while maintaining emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
It should be remembered, however, that hardiness is not an inherent attitude, temperament, or gift. It is a quality that must be consciously developed.
And it’s the best treatment for the P.E.B. virus–and a number of others!
Measure your own “hardy” quotient. Do you measure up?
When I discovered shortly after midnight last night that my candidate did not win, I felt relief. Not relief because my candidate lost, but relief because the whole election thing was finally over and a decision has finally been made and now we can get on with the business of trying to the best of our abilities to move this nation forward in whatever little or big part we may play.
I have to admit that in my 60 years on this planet of ours I haven’t paid a lot of attention to politics; mostly because it is just too frustrating and I didn’t have the stomach for it (aren’t you glad I’m not an elected official?). Except for a few years during the hippie era when I “came of age” I’ve always been a conservative. Always will be, too. And while I’ve gone back and forth registering as either a “Republican” or an “Independent” (mostly as a “no party” or “Independent” as I’m not even close to being wealthy), I do not believe you can give away the kitchen sink, either (“free for all” is really “free for none” in the end); however, believe it or not I did spend a couple of years as a registered “Democrat” during that hippie era. It must have been those raging hormones (women have them, too).
However, America is in serious trouble, folks, and the people have voted to reelect President Obama. These next four years will be the most crucial years we’ve ever experienced in America since it’s inception and I truly believe they will be taking us where we’ve never gone before. Is that a good thing? I don’t know, but I do know one thing and that’s this: God has spoken through the election process here in America and the majority of the voters (almost 60 million for President Obama as compared to almost 57 million who voted for Gov. Romney, sans the Florida results as they are not yet in) have reelected President Obama.
President Obama is our Commander-in-Chief and regardless of our feelings (pro or con) about the election results, he will continue to be our Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. As Romans 13:1-5 (MSG) states:
“Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.
“Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live.”
Because we live in America and we get to vote for our elected officials, that gives us an incredible freedom that most of the world does not experience. And because we can vote, there will always be those who win and those who lose (both as candidates and those who vote for them). That’s a part of the process. Regardless of how we may individually feel about the election results, we need to show a deep respect for those who not only won, but also for those who lost. Name-calling and denigrating candidates should never be a part of the political process (although, unfortunately, it is in a big way every election cycle). In the past few decades we have come to disrespect authority in all of it’s various forms and that filters down to how we treat each other, too. We can disagree, certainly, as that’s what America and freedom of speech is all about, but we should still respect each other and the candidates who have been elected and/or reelected and including those candidates who have lost.
To President Obama and all of the others who have been elected and/or reelected, I wish for you the very best in governing to the best of your ability over these next four years, and I will be praying for you that God gives you wisdom in all that you do and the decisions you make. Oh yes, by the way, we (the red team) still have the majority in the House of Representatives, and that’s to keep you on your toes (just a little humor) . . . checks and balances.
And to Gov. Romney and all of those who lost in the election, this country still needs all of you (as well as all of us) to help America get out of it’s deep, deep trouble. Please continue to do everything you can to help America and Americans move in that direction, even though you can’t do it from a political office. And thank you for caring enough about this country to run for office. My prayers go with all of you, too.
With all of that being said, I, for one, am glad another election cycle is over. Now let’s all of us move forward and do whatever we can to help improve this country of ours–and getting along with each other is a good place to start. That doesn’t disallow for disagreements, but let’s remember respect when it comes to dealing with each other.
And now I’ll end this post with a quote from Winston Churchill for newly elected and reelected folks to chew on:
“The inherent vice of capitalism
is the unequal sharing of blessings;
the inherent virtue of socialism
is the equal sharing of miseries.”
~May God Bless America~
YouTube Video: “Glad” + “Well All Right” (Live At Madison Square Garden) by Steve Winwood & Eric Claption:
Photo credit here
Reverence . . . Dictionary.com defines “reverence” as “a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration.” In our fast-paced, frenetic society we have lost our sense of reverence and awe. If we attend church on Sunday (and I’m not pointing fingers as I don’t at the moment), we may sing a few worship songs at the beginning of the service for maybe an hour (usually less), but for the most part the remaining 167 hours in the week are spent frantically rushing around in an attempt get more of whatever it is we are looking for–better health, a better job, maybe a spouse (or maybe a divorce), more money to get out of debt or to buy more stuff and go deeper in debt, a college education, a great career, the quest to become a millionaire or maybe a billionaire no matter the cost to your health, your relationships, or your soul . . . but God, well, He gets put back on the shelf until next Sunday morning arrives and we, once again, give Him maybe an hour of our time (if we can hold our attention on Him for that long).
Back in 2003 the Barna Group conducted a survey in which 84% of all adults taking that particular survey considered themselves to be Christian. Here’s the opening paragraph from their findings which may or may not surprise you:
“More than four out of five adults – 83% – contend that they are concerned about the moral condition of the nation. Given that 84% of all adults consider themselves to be Christian, they have good reason to worry about the moral state of the country: many of their own views conflict with the moral teachings of their professed faith.
“Of the ten moral behaviors evaluated, a majority of Americans believed that each of three activities were ‘morally acceptable.’ Those included gambling (61%), co-habitation (60%), and sexual fantasies (59%). Nearly half of the adult population felt that two other behaviors were morally acceptable: having an abortion (45%) and having a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse (42%). About one-third of the population gave the stamp of approval to pornography (38%), profanity (36%), drunkenness (35%) and homosexual sex (30%). The activity that garnered the least support was using non-prescription drugs (17%) (quote source here).
Surprised? I’m not. We rarely consult with God anymore about anything pertaining to our personal and professional lives. Lip service? Maybe. But actually seeking His guidance on how to conduct ourselves and how to live our lives 24/7? No . . . .
#1: a society which no longer worships or acknowledges God
#2: the decline of the family
#3: a low view of life–abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, etc.
#4: the prevalence of base and immoral entertainment
#5: the increase of violent crime among young people
#6: the declining middle class
#7: an insolvent government
#8: a government that lives off of society’s moral decay
#9: when the ruling class loses its will
#10: the failure of its people to see what is happening
Churches litter the landscape of America but the true worship of God is sorely missing most of the time. Many churches have become “Christian Entertainment Centers” instead of a place to worship the Creator of the Universe. “Worship” is a billion-dollar industry in America but rarely does it change lives. Sermons lasting 30 minutes at the most (and that don’t mention either Jesus or “sin” during that time) are about as long as our attention spans will allow for (if we aren’t thinking about something else during the sermon).
Read that list again–it starts with “a society that no longer worships or acknowledges God” and ends with “the failure of its people to see what is happening.” And folks . . .
We are there . . . .
Tomorrow is Election Day in America and we are at a crossroad–the most significant crossroad in our history to date. There is not one item on President Clinton’s list that hasn’t been embedded in our culture over the past few decades. If you are a registered voter you need to vote if you haven’t already (I voted early by mail). What happens in these next four years will determine what happens to America.
If you are Christian, I encourage you to spend some time in silence before God during the next two days. Here’s a devotion from Dr. Charles Swindoll titled “Waiting in Silence” to help you prepare:
Waiting in Silence
“My soul waits in silence for God only” (Psalm 62:1). Some of the best times in prayer are wordless times. I stop speaking, close my eyes, and meditate upon what I have been reading or upon what I have been saying, and I listen inside of myself. I listen deeply. I listen for reproofs. I think of myself as a home with many doors. As I am meditation–and often it helps to close my eyes so I won’t be distracted–I unlock doors and open them as I want. It is here that the Holy Spirit invades. Then, I take circumstances before Him and I listen with doors open.
Please be assured that I have never heard an audible voice. It isn’t that kind of answering. It’s a listening down inside. It’s sensing what God is saying about the situation. His promise is, after all, that He will inscribe His law–His will–upon our hearts and our minds.
It’s like what you do when you’re in love with a person. Isn’t it true–the deeper the love, the less that has to be said? You can actually sit alone together by a fireplace for an hour or two and say very, very little, but it can be the deepest encounter and relationship you know anything about.
Those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength according to Isaiah (40:31), but remember: the key is waiting.
There’s a sense of stability in trusting the Lord. That’s how we wait silently and with a sense of confidence. When we wait for God to direct our steps, He does! When we trust Him to meet our needs, He will!
God tempers us and seasons us,
making us mellow and mature
when we wait on Him.
In our “instant” society, we know very little about waiting or silence, but we know a lot about impatience. Now is not the time to be impatient. Set aside some time where you won’t be distracted (even if you have to do it at 3:00 a.m.!) and wait on the Lord is silence and let Him guide you instead of your needs. He knows you far better than you know yourself. For a few minutes, “let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20), at least in your little corner of the earth.
You might even think about making it a regular habit. It will change your life and your focus on life. It is individuals that make up a nation. And, if we want to see change in our nation, it starts with us—you and me.
So let’s start now . . . .
And if you haven’t voted yet, VOTE!
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
YouTube Video: “The Lord is in His Holy Temple” sung by the Camelback Church of Christ, Phoenix, AZ (2011):
Photo credit here
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”
Okay, true confessions . . .
If you read my most recent post–“What Would You Do For $10 Million?”–you are aware that a salary increase of $15,000/yr above the salary I made at the job I held at the time in Florida (Sept. 2008) was the biggest lure that convinced me to go Houston. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you the rest of the story. Yes, it was the biggest lure (indeed, if the salary had not been so much higher, I would not have gone to Houston), but it wasn’t the only reason I decided to go.
Most of us are familiar with Romans 8:28, but I want to put it into context with the verses surrounding it. Let’s read Romans 8:26-30: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
In early 2007, I began sensing a growing dissatisfaction with the path my life had taken. I had been working since July 2004 in a Christian setting after years of working in mostly secular environments. While I very much enjoyed being and working around others who shared my faith, and I loved the work I did which was helping adult students of all ages (from early 20’s to 70’s, in some cases) complete their college education, there was another side to me that I had left behind years before that I started to yearn for–a creative side.
I had been working in colleges and universities going back to the days when I was completing my bachelor’s degree. In fact, during the two years I was attending Iowa State University to complete my bachelor’s degree–1983-85–I was the editorial secretary for a journal that was housed there for those two years. My bachelor’s degree is in art and design, and I have always loved the “creative” process to including writing but I felt I was a mediocre writer at best (although I could whip out a memo or letter from scratch in no time as a secretary and always felt at home putting words on paper to express my ideas). My boss at the time even allowed me to put my “art and design” skills to work by creating one of the covers for the journal.
I was an adult student when I went back to college to finish my bachelor’s degree and I worked as a secretary before going back. At the time it was my desire to finish my bachelor’s degree in art and design so that I could go into a profession (a fairly new one at the time) called “Art Therapy,” but I also knew that would require me to go on and get a master’s degree. It was my desire to use my talents in “art and design” to help people that drew me to that particular profession. I did take 18 hours (six courses) of psychology as an undergraduate to prepare me for graduate work in art therapy; however, by the time I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I did not have the money to pay the out-of-state tuition at a university in Illinois that had an excellent art therapy graduate program. I had already accumulated a small debt in student loans finishing my bachelor’s degree, and did not want to add any more to that debt, especially with the high cost of out-of-state tuition. So, upon graduation, I went back to work as a secretary–first as the assistant editor for a regional fishing magazine that went down the tubes when the owner suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 41, and then as an administrative secretary for two curriculum directors in a K-12 system.
During the time I worked for the curriculum directors– 2 1/2 years–my passion for writing was whetted by the work that I did for them and I seriously started thinking about going back to Iowa State to work on a master’s degree in either creative writing or journalism. I knew if I could get a graduate assistantship it would pay a big part of the tuition so I wouldn’t have to take out any more student loans. In the fall of 1988 while I was working for the two curriculum directors (both women encouraged me to go back to college and get a master’s degree) I applied to be considered for a graduate assistantship but an entire year passed before I got a phone call at work (Nov. 1989) that would change my life’s direction. A man who was the Assistant Vice Provost at the time called to see if I was interested in interviewing for a graduate assistantship as the graduate student they had previously hired wasn’t working out. Well, I was elated (to say the least) and said, “Yes!” It was the first time I had to interview before a search committee but everything went very well and I was awarded the graduate assistantship to begin in January 1990.
Well, I quickly renewed my application to the graduate program in journalism (I had originally applied the year before) and was accepted, resigned my position effective January 12, 1990, as administrative secretary to the two curriculum directors, moved back to Ames and started work in the graduate assistantship that very next week. I quickly discovered in the journalism program that since my bachelor’s degree was in art and design (and not journalism) there was only one track I could take at the graduate level–research–and after my first semester I knew that “research” was not the direction I wanted to take (I could not see myself counting commas and semicolons for the rest of my working life). I worked around several other graduate assistants who were all in a graduate program called “higher education,” and during this first semester they convinced me to look into it, so I did. My graduate assistantship as “Graduate Student Orientation Coordinator” fit perfectly in the higher education program, so at the end of my first semester, I switched from journalism to higher education.
I loved working with graduate students, administrators, and others all across campus to create graduate student orientations/workshops and could envision myself doing this kind of work for the rest of my career (e.g., working on college campuses in some capacity). It was exciting to work with such a wide variety of people and put together the orientations/workshops that also put my creative skills to use. And, with some very frugal budgeting, the salary from my assistantship as well as the tuition stipend allowed me to pay all of my living expenses at the time along with the part of the tuition that wasn’t covered by the stipend. I had absolutely no student loan debt at the time I graduated with my master’s degree from Iowa State (August 1991).
Unfortunately, at that time the economy had tanked somewhat and there were a number of hiring freezes in higher education across the country so I found it difficult to find a job. I visited a friend in Colorado after I graduated in August 1991 and worked for a temporary agency there during the fall but ended up going back to Iowa at the end of November as the hiring freeze had not yet lifted. I found a temporary job at Iowa State as a secretary and shortly after was hired for a permanent secretarial position; however, I also noticed an ad in “The Chronicle of Higher Education” for a one-year doctoral fellowship in Higher Education at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and decided to apply for it. They only awarded two doctoral fellowships per academic year and I never really thought I had a chance in a million of receiving one of them, but long story short, I was one of the finalists and ended up being awarded one of the fellowships for the academic year 1992-93 that started on July 1st. I resigned my secretarial position at Iowa State in June 1992 and headed for Fort Lauderdale. I was able to complete all of my coursework and research projects towards a doctorate in adult education with the exception of the dissertation within that year. Finances along with some other circumstances prevented me from completing the degree within the seven-year time limit deadline.
So that’s the background on how I got into higher education in the first place, and that is where I have worked for the previous two decades until I lost my job in Houston in April 2009 which has left me unemployed right up through today. Throughout those years my very favorite part of each position I’ve held has been working directly with students (primarily adult students) of all ages and from all backgrounds at the undergraduate and graduate levels on-campus and online (which also honed my technology skills).
Now let’s go back to my growing discontent that hit in early 2007. Because my career aspirations in higher education did not include any desire for an upper level administrative position, I found myself really restless by remaining at the lower levels because of the lack of challenge. Also, because I have been a Christian since a very young age–which has markedly affected my worldview over my lifetime even during my prodigal years–I felt that my faith had grown stagnant along with my sense of purpose in the work I’d been doing even though I loved working with the students.
In early 2007, I started praying for God to change my life and to get me out of the field of higher education if that is what He wanted me to do. I knew He’d have to open the door as after spending two decades in higher education, I knew how hard it would be to find a job in another field, especially at my age. The division I worked in at the time had grown impressively since 2004 when I started working there, and we grew from four staff members to eleven and from approximate 80-100 adult students to close to 750 over the course of three years. However, at the end of 2007 the administration at the university informed us that our division was being dismantled in January 2008. This came as a huge shock and blow to those of us who worked in that division.
At that point, I knew that God was at work in my circumstances regarding my prayer that started a year earlier. I was ready for a change, but I had no clue as to the direction I should take and I was fearful of leaving that job; however, the dismantling of my division ended that fear. While I was one of the fortunate staff members who didn’t lose my job and I wasn’t demoted in title or pay, everything changed, and my whole reason for being at that university suddenly ended as there was no longer a separate division known as adult and continuing education. So, I started looking at job openings and I did have an interview for an assistant dean position at another college nearby that didn’t pan out.
In May 2008 I noticed the ad for the director position in Houston that I was eventually offered and ended up accepting. While, in fact, the salary was the biggest reason that convinced me to go (if it had been less even by a few thousand dollars I would not have accepted it), the other reason I wanted to go was because of the environment. You see, it was a very creative higher education environment, unlike any other I had worked in during my two decades in higher education. Those old passions that had died years earlier suddenly came to life again. I figured that once I got settled into the job, I’d take some photography and web design classes, maybe even a class in creative writing (after all, the tuition was paid for by the employer after the first six months of employment), although at this point in time I had fallen in love with the creative side of technology. I’m not sure even to this day that I would have taken that job if it had been just another job in yet another college or university like my previous years of experiences. However, when I was offered the salary at the highest starting level for the position without any negotiation on my part, that–as well as the type of very creative environment it was in–clinched the deal. And so I went.
God has His reasons for everything that happens to us–the good, the bad, and, yes, even the really, really ugly stuff. He really does causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). In the past four years since arriving in Houston and, subsequently, being fired almost seven months later, I’ve been through the really, really ugly stuff, but from the midst of the ugly stuff, God has changed me from the inside out. My faith that was faltering is now vibrant, and I can’t imagine living life on the fringes anymore. While it’s been 3 1/2 years since I was fired from that job, in the past year and a half my passion for writing has exploded on the pages of this blog. In fact, I can’t stop . . . everyday something new crosses my path, and the world has opened up to me in a way that never would have happened if all of that “ugly stuff” hadn’t been a part of my life. And yes, I’m still unemployed by society’s standards, but we who truly believe in God through Jesus Christ “live (and walk) by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Society’s labels don’t matter.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). “He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will . . . for those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Rom. 8:26-30).
“Predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son . . . .” For the Christian, that’s what this life is all about. And it’s in the “ugly stuff” that life sends our way that we come face-to-face and experience this truth, if we let it . . .
. . . because it’s not about us, it’s about Him . . . .
“And the God of all grace,
who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
after you have suffered a little while,
will Himself restore you
and make you strong,
firm and steadfast.
To Him be the power for ever and ever.
1 Peter 5:10-11
YouTube Video: “Beginnings” by Chicago (1969):
Photo credit here