Sobbing, they shouted, “Murdered?”

The young parents couldn’t speak.  Tears choked their words.  The nausea of shock rippled through their body.  Clinging to each other, the distraught mother and father trembled in a sorrow they had never known.  They cried together until numbness finally dulled their senses.

A true story.  A child was murdered.  Where was God when this tragedy took place?  Why doesn’t He stop the horrors of the world?

God created the world without evil.  Mankind chose, of their own free will, to walk a path that led to darkness.  Hence, today we suffer the consequences of a fallen world.  To all of God’s children, He promises His own hope, strength, and peace to get them through the tough and horrific times.

Children are always in God’s special care.  We know that because of something Jesus said in Matthew 18:10,  “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones.  For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.”  So here we have it: proof of guardian angels.  In the case of the devastating tragedy above, during those moments of approaching death to that little one, God’s angel was already wrapping arms around the child, whispering assurance, delivering the peace of God.  In a moment when the deed was done, the angel carried the little one straight to the arms of Jesus where the terror would not ever be thought of again, and only perfect heavenly joy would reign in that child’s heart for eternity.

Angels of help are God’s promise to us.  His Word tells us they are sent to “minister to us.”  They are not to be worshipped but appreciated before God.  They work according to the will of God.  We cannot see them but they are here among us, bringing God’s hope in this fallen, dark world.

 

The Landlord’s Responsibilities

Most people have had the experience of renting a home before they could purchase one. The renter is expected to make good decisions about keeping up the home. They are not to destroy it. They are to take good care of it. If something goes wrong, like the roof needs repairing or the plumbing needs fixing, the owner of the home is responsible to take care of those needs. The renter is like a steward, keeping the home in good condition; the owner is the one who makes the ultimate decisions for the upkeep of the home.

It’s the same with our spiritual lives. When we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, we are acknowledging that God has now purchased us with the blood of His Son. We now belong to Him and it is His responsibility to make the ultimate decisions for our lives. We who belong to Him have the responsibility of being good stewards. We learn what the owner wants and we take steps to stay within what He wills for us.

If major repairs need to be made, like the roof of our understanding gets blown away by a tornado of unprecedented problems in our lives, it’s up to God, as our owner, to repair the damage with His love, restoring peace while easing away frustrations. Isn’t that wonderful news? We are not responsible for cleaning up the debris of pain and confusion that blows across our paths by any storms of life. Our Father has promised to repair all the damage and to clean up the hurt, mopping up all the pain that floods our hearts.

He has made a promise to all His stewards. It’s found in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Is that not the most amazing promise by the most amazing Landlord of our lives? Why would we even attempt to repair our own pain or clean up our own confusion? Why would we dare to draw up architectural plans for all our tomorrows when the Master Builder has already logged in the blueprints to give us a hope and a future?

When we try to take on responsibilities of the owner of our lives, we are destined for certain disaster, but when we look to the Master Landlord to take care of all repair and remodeling, we are then destined to be made into something more beautiful than our dreams could imagine and much stronger than any storm that bursts into our days.

 

One Of Those Days

So, I typed my blog yesterday ready to go but – it has disappeared. Other things on my computer have also vanished. Computers are great – as long as they work. They are technical monsters when they get a mind of their own.

I started to type another one but wifi connection is down. So now I’m sitting in McDonalds,  a cup of coffee nearby, writing my thoughts.  

My mother is understandably a little tense because another possible hurricane is headed our way. Irma tore up our roof and a tornado tore it a second time along with two trees and the garden shed. 

I feel a headache starting in my right eye. Yes, it’s one of those days but – I choose to dwell, not on my wayward computer, or the hurricane, or the headache. I choose to count my blessings: my health is good, I have a home, a car, family and friends. There are many sick and dying, homeless and hungry.

It’s one of those days of frustrations but also of continued blessing.  Signing off now. My coffee awaits – and a headache pill. I’m thankful I have one of those, too, to help ease away the tension.

It’s one of those days but Jesus is in the midst bringing peace in the storm.

A Time Is Coming

The earth is groaning with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and forest fires.  People are groaning with poverty, physical sickness, mental illness, and broken relationships. In it all we ask ourselves — why?  I’m sure you’ve heard people ask the question, “if there is a God and if He cares, then why doesn’t He stop the suffering?”

Many of you will know that God created the earth and its people in perfection.  The first man had an opportunity to stay in this paradise by following the ways of God or to suffer consequences of imperfection, destroying a once flawless life, by his own choice.  Man chose the latter; therefore today, we all suffer the consequences. The earth suffers, mankind suffers, but what does God do?  He goes on loving.  He goes on comforting us in our suffering, and most wonderfully, He provides a way out.

You see, God could have washed His hands of all of us because of mankind’s original choice, but His perfect love would not let Him turn His back on us.  Instead, He gave a wonderful promise.  He has promised that there is coming a time when the earth will once again be made new and mankind will never again live in poverty or sickness.  A time is coming when there will be no more sorrow or tears.  A time is coming when joy and peace will fill the earth and all its inhabitants for eternity.

The above is great news, but it also comes to each one of us as a result of a choice.  Like the first man, we too, must choose either God’s way or our own.  The Apostle Paul said in II Corinthians 4:8 & 18, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken.  We are perplexed but we don’t give up and quit. We don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen.  For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”

We do not have to be consumed by today’s troubles; we can walk through them in the very strength of God.  We don’t have to wallow in despair of our current situations; we can live in the hope that a time is coming when tears and sorrow will be no more.

God Himself urges us on like a fan in the stands calling out for his team  to go, go, go!  Cross the finish line!  Be a winner!  A time is coming when a glorious eternal prize will be ours.

The Most Important Thing?

I recently heard a story about a young boy who lived at the turn of the last century.  His family were farmers making their living off the land, planting, harvesting and selling the crops all by hand and with crude instruments.  Sometimes when we think of that period of history, before the age of computers and all our modern technology, we can mistakingly think how simple life must have been; however, it was a time when work days lasted from sun up to sun down, working diligently by the sweat of one’s brow.

The story goes that in one such farm the young son didn’t like helping with the chores.  He complained when it was time to milk the cow in the early frosty mornings of winter.  He labored with deliberate slowness when it was time to chop a store of wood.  He saw no real importance in plowing straight lines.   All he wanted to do was find ways to get out of as much work as possible.

One day his father was toiling long and hard.  He was hot and tired but he worked on.  The mother noticed her son not helping.  She went outside, telling her son that he needed to help his father.  She named the chores to be done:  chop more wood, fetch more water for the kitchen, clean the horse stalls, and relieve his father in the plowing.

The boy thought for a moment and then asked with a clever grin, “what’s the most important thing to do?”  His cunning indicated that he would find out the most important thing, get it done, leaving the less important things for someone else to do.  He thought his question witty but the answer he received rather stunned him.  His mother said,”The most important thing?  The one thing that brings personal feelings of achievement?  The one thing that keeps your heart at peace?  The one thing that crowns you with success and brings to you a healthy pride in your work?  Is that what you want to know?”  He slowly nodded his head.  She answered him with a verse found in I Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The boy’s mother turned to take her dried laundry into the house.  The boy watched her carrying the heavy load but for the first time, he also saw the look of satisfaction and peace in her eyes.  He looked across the field at his father and saw him wipe his sweaty forehead with a cloth, but noticed for the first time the look of contentment on his face.

The advice he received, and more importantly, took to heart that day, changed him from being a boy to a man.  His daily goal, to work hard, play hard, eat hard, sleep hard, all to the best of his ability and to the glory of God, became his aim for the rest of his life.  He was heard saying in later years as he was speaking to a group of children, “whatever you do, do it as if Jesus is right there watching you, waiting to reward you with His own peace and joy, because the fact is — that’s exactly what He is doing — watching, rewarding, encouraging you in your journey, providing peace and strength and joy.  There’s nothing as fulfilling as living out — the most important thing.

 

The Gatekeeper

Not long ago a friend said she wanted to show me a beautiful lake.  As we walked along we passed by a  children’s fun park.  We could see over the walls that there was a maze, a petting zoo, and stalls for winning prizes.  There was one entrance which was guarded by the gatekeeper.  This gatekeeper would take money for the entrance fee and also be aware of anyone trying to sneak past the gate or climb over the wall without his knowledge.

That’s when I thought of the temple in the Old Testament.  There were four gates, each located at the east, west, north, and south.  Gatekeepers were assigned duties to guard illegal access from enemies of God who would seek to steal, kill, or destroy.  As the notion formed in my mind I felt myself shudder with the thought, that’s exactly what Satan, the enemy of God, still does today!  Jesus said in John 10:9-10, “I am the gate.  Those who come in through me will be saved.  Wherever they go, they will find green pastures.  The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.”  Isn’t that amazing, although not surprising, that the tactics of the enemy has not changed?

Today, there is no temple made with human hands as there was in the Old Testament.  Today, all those who have the Holy Spirit residing within them become the living temple of God.  Therefore, we must take caution.  We must be always on the ready to guard the gates!  How do we do that?  Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.”  Isn’t that an extraordinary statement?  Whatever enters the gates of our heart affects everything we do.

Our best weapon against the thief gaining illegal access to our minds is prayer.  Some may consider prayer to be such an easy thing that it can’t be that effective.  Oh, no!  It’s not to be regarded as some simple pastime; it’s to be held in high esteem for its  power!  Why do you think we can be so easily distracted, putting off talking to God and listening to Him?  Because the thief understands the power of prayer.  He slips by the gate to our mind and climbs over the wall of our heart, whispering his lies that prayer is ineffective, so why bother?  Heeding his advice from his illegal entrance, our minds are immediately affected.  We lose peace and joy.  We become afraid and despondent.  All that negativity because we became negligent gatekeepers.  The enemy’s entire mission is to kill and steal and destroy.  Why let him in?

 

Hello? Can You Hear Me?

The other day a friend and I agreed to meet for lunch.  The night before our lunch date my friend phoned me.  “Hello,”  I answered as I picked up the phone.   I recognized my friend’s voice as she said,  “Hello?  Hello?”  “Hello, I’m here,” I answered again.  I could hear my friend saying once more, “Hello?  Can you hear me?  Hello?”  Over and over I spoke into the phone, telling my friend I could hear, but it was obvious by the repeated attempts, that something was wrong with our connection.  I hung up and tried to phone her.  The same thing happened.  Oh well, I thought to myself, we agreed to meet so I’ll be there tomorrow.

The next day, sure enough, my friend arrived at the restaurant the same time as I did.  We laughed about the phone call.  She said, “I was calling to confirm, but when I couldn’t get through, I just came anyway because we had already made our agreement.”  Our lunch was most enjoyable.

As I later reflected on that episode, I thought of a verse in Lamentations 3:8, “And though I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayers.”  Have you ever felt that way about God?  You call out to Him.  You feel no response, so your heart tells you that He isn’t there. You begin to believe that God is ignoring you, that He has no interest in listening to you.  Therefore, He is not going to help you.  Ever had those thoughts?

Those are the very thoughts that the enemy, Satan, wants of you.  He does everything he can to cause you to believe that God no longer cares; even perhaps, that He never cared in the first place.  What cruel lies.

You see, my friend arrived at the restaurant without being able to reach me the night before, because she knew we had already made our agreement.  She trusted that I would honor that agreement and be there.  It’s no different in our relationship with our Father.

When you call out but it appears He’s not listening, please remind yourselves that the agreements have already been made and your Father will never go back on His word.  For example, He has already told you that He will never leave you or forsake you.  He has already told you to cast all your burdens upon Him because He cares for you.  He has already told you that His unfailing love never ends and His mercies are new every morning.

He has already made His agreement with you.  Therefore, when it seems He can’t hear you on the other end of the line, please go ahead and behave according to His promises. He definitely gets all your messages and all your pleas for help.  He’s listening and responding to you as specified by all His promises.  Therefore, please show up to meet with Him regularly, because of a certainty, He is listening, already carrying out everything He has promised, moving you in the direction to receive all the good plans He has designed just for you.  Never despair at what seems like a bad connection; of a certainty, He is there, honoring his Word.

 

The Pearl Ring

The other morning when I woke up, I did as I usually do; I put on my watch and rings.  On my right hand I wear a pearl ring set in a silver heart.  My parents gave that ring to me on my 15th birthday.  That took place a long time ago, meaning not only is my ring officially an antique, but I am too; however, moving right along, every time I stop a moment to gaze upon my ring, my heart warms with the memory.

I know my parents didn’t have much money at that time, so when I opened the little box they gave to me, I was, at first, without words.  I remember looking from one to the other, watching their own smiles as I stood speechless with my beautiful gift.  My father said to me, “we thought it was time our daughter had something fitting for a young woman.”  I still still feel the elation that swept over me with his words.  There was my father, recognizing that I was no longer a little girl, but one growing into adulthood, and he was pleased with me.  Oh, how I was thrilled and touched beyond measure at the meaning his words held for me.

Then my mother asked, “do you really like it?”  Her eyes shone with an anticipated joy; a hope that I, too, would feel their love in receiving the gift just as they had expressed their love in giving it.  “Oh, yes!” I replied, “I love it! Oh, thank you!”  I pulled them both in a hug, tears blurring my vision.  I don’t know exactly what the pearl ring is worth in monetary value, but to me, it is priceless, because true love can never have a value set upon it.

The other morning, as I was taking this sweet trip down memory lane, another thought came to me about something Jesus said to His followers in Matthew 13:45-46, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a pearl merchant on the lookout for choice pearls.  When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it.”  The treasure our Father has given to us through His Son is priceless, too, because His gift of eternal life with Him, quite literally,  is out of this world!  A thrilling shiver travels through me with such anticipation — to be with our Father in perfect joy and peace — forever!

Our Father’s priceless gift, given with His perfect love, is available to all.  Just take it.  Call upon His Son right now, ask for and receive both His forgiveness and His promise of eternal life with Him.  There is no gift to ever compare.

Why Me?

Recently I met with an elderly man.  He is 93 years old, frail in body; in fact, wracked with pain, but sharp and alert in his mind.  His parents were believers and passed on to him a deep love for God.  He told me the following story which touched me deeply.  I thought you might like it too.

He told me that he was captured in WWII and was held a prisoner in dire conditions.  His guards would taunt him, feeding him spoiled food, and even then, only every several days.  His water was dirty but he had no choice but to drink it.  He had dysentery but was not allowed to use a toilet.  He wasn’t even given a pot or bowl, not that having one would have really made much difference.  He lay in his own waste for days, not knowing what the end would be like for him.  The stench gagged him.  He vomited often and had to lay in that, too.  His cell was so small that he could not get away from the filth.

I listened and watched his expressions as he told me the story.  Then, after pausing, perhaps reflecting more on the severity of what he lived through, I saw a glimmer of a twinkle appear in his eyes.  I waited, intrigued at what I might hear next.  How could these memories provide a smile for him?

“There are people,” he began, “who know God, but when something uncomfortable happens to them, they cry and ask, ‘why me?'”  He paused again and I waited, not wanting to interfere with this moment.

“Once,” he continued with his story, “when I was so hungry and feeling myself grow weaker, I remembered a song.”  He stared at the ceiling as if trying to recall the words.  He hummed a bit but I didn’t recognize it.  “It was a favorite of my parents.  I learned it as a boy.  It tells of God’s unfailing love and of His faithfulness.  So, I started to hum and even to sing the song in my prison cell.”

I leaned forward, straining to make certain I didn’t miss a word.  I sensed something of great value coming.  I was not to be disappointed.

“I could have cried like many and asked God,” why have you let this happen to me?  Why am I sleeping in my own waste?  Why am I hungry and drinking dirty water?”  He paused again, letting a great smile form on his lips, reaching his already twinkling eyes. “But as I sang and hummed the song, its truth took hold of me.  I could feel God’s presence in my prison cell.  His love was greater than the filth around me.  His light shone peace into my weary soul.  Yes, His peace can reach anywhere, but we have to take hold of it.”

Once more he rested before continuing his narrative.  I wanted to say something, but I could feel this was a precious, and yes, a holy moment, so I just smiled with him, enjoying God’s presence that filled the room.  Suddenly, as if someone had pushed a button, he sat up straighter, looked at me and said with the most tender smile, “when I think of all God has done for me, saving me from myself and from my enemies, promising me life eternal no matter what I have done that has been wrong and sinful; well, it is then that I, too, have to ask the question, “Why me?”  He chuckled before adding, “and I know the answer; it is because He is my Father and a good father will always tend to the needs of his children.”

I left this man with a feeling that I was walking on air.  The poignancy of his story and the wisdom of his words has stayed with me.  No matter outward circumstances, no matter how hard Satan tries to make us fall, the truth still stands; God is greater than anything and will be our everything.

“But the Lord is good; He has cut the cords used by the ungodly to bind me.”  Psalm 129:4

When A Crash Is Inevitable

In amazement and dismay I watched a car weaving in and out of thick traffic at a great speed.  Is the driver crazy?  I thought to myself.  Upon further thought I decided he’s probably not literally crazy, but certainly someone who has lost ability to see danger lurking.  There was very likely no thought in his mind that he would loose control of the car.  Perhaps he even pictured other drivers admiring his skills.  The way he was driving was definitely dangerous, not because he didn’t know how to drive, but because he didn’t know how to properly control the driving.  Control is altogether important.

There are many who want to throw control out the window, thinking that to be a controlling person is a wrong thing.  Quite the opposite is true.  To be in control of good, common sense is a very good thing.  To be in control of one’s desires, looking to God for help, when evil would tempt and overtake, is desirable.  To try and control another is never good, but to make right choices for one’s self, to be so in control of one’s thoughts that all thoughts lean toward God Himself, that is the safest place to be in.

When we try to make our own choices with no thought of God, we are like, as David Jeremiah wrote in his book, Is This The End? Signs of God’s Providence,“without God at the wheel of the human heart, we are like a driverless car careening down the freeway.  A crash is inevitable.”  Like the man who was weaving in and out of traffic, putting aside a good choice of safety; when we leave God out of the equations of our lives, we also step outside of the safety of God’s protection.

I love what David wrote in Psalm 25:10, “The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness, all those who keep His covenant and obey His decrees.”  God has given every one of us the right to make our own choices.  We are in total control of what we choose; but what we choose will control us.  Will the choice be God at the wheel?  Will it be our own selves, driving madly through the uncertain highways of our lives?  If the latter, be aware, a crash is inevitable.

“Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You.”  Psalm 25:5   Now, that’s a good choice to be in control of, choosing to ask God to do the driving.