Archive for June, 2017

26
Jun
17

Seasons

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It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am not a fan of cold weather. All those years in the Miami area set my internal thermostat to appreciate a subtropical climate. Perfect for me is a high of 92° and a low of 72° year-round. Granted, I’m not a fan of the humidity, but I will take that over freezing temperatures any time.

 

With that said, one of the things I have had to do since moving to Michigan is to learn to appreciate the different seasons that we experience (sometimes all in the same day) in this state.

Of course, my favorite is summer. I enjoy the whole “up North”, Michigan lake experience, thing.

But as summer begins to fade, I have to start gearing up for sweaters and sweatshirts, bonfires and changing leaves, and everything else that goes along with autumn.

The cold winds blow and Autumn gives way to winter. The first part of this season is a little easier to deal with because of the holidays. But then along comes January – April, when it seems like the cold weather and the gray skies are going to last forever.

And finally, spring arrives with all the hope and promise of life and vibrancy.

Spiritual seasons are the same I’m discovering. Although I wish that I could live in perpetual summer, spiritually speaking, the reality is God did not design it that way. Autumn is going to come followed closely by winter. Things aren’t always going to be exciting, fun, or even pleasant. Difficulties are going to come our way and we are going to have to decide on how we are going to handle them. We can gripe and complain about the cold and gray skies, or we can make a decision to enjoy the fireplace and the hot chocolate and make the best of it.

I think that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

I am coming to understand that the key to living an abundant and overcoming Christian life is not waiting for the day when everything goes right in your life all the time, but rather, learning to embrace the season God has you in. Learn from it. Grow through it.

Most of us are in such a hurry to get through the difficult seasons of our life that we would miss the beauty – yes, I said beauty – of the season if it weren’t for the fact God will not be manipulated, by are our whining, into letting us take a shortcut through the difficulty.

Again, it was Paul who wrote, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

The key for believers is to learn to trust God with the journey. We must believe that God’s plan will never lead us to a place his grace will not sustain us. So, when the spiritual winter comes, enjoy the fireplace and the hot chocolate, and let the Holy Spirit do his work in your life.

And don’t forget, summer’s coming!

 

 

19
Jun
17

the whys and ifs

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It seems my whole life I have been addicted to pursuing the why’s and the if’s. I suppose I could blame it on an inquisitive nature, much like Einstein, who once remarked, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” (I am, in no way, suggesting I am on the same level of curiosity with Einstein, by the way.)

The problem with that explanation is that I know better. I want to be in charge. I want to be in control. Always have it seems. Some would say it comes along with being the firstborn, but regardless of whether that’s true or not, knowing things and having information no one else has, has always been important to me. After all, “Knowledge is power”, the maxim goes.

The desire to have and share information shows up on the personality inventories I take as well. These instruments usually point out that I want to be valued for the insight I have or the information I bring to the discussion.

So, of course, when I don’t have any information to bring I struggle to know my place in the process or find my value in the eyes of the group. It’s never a good thing for any of us not to be able to operate in our authentic self.

But the real problem for those of us with “inquiring minds” arises when we begin to demand of God that He give us an answer for the whys and ifs of life.

Don’t get me wrong the scripture is full of encouragement to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). We should be learning new things about God and the way He works all the time. In fact, 1 Corinthians chapter 2 makes it clear that one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to teach about the things of God.

The problem arises when (pardon my use of an old adage) we get too big for our britches. We become like Job, of whom God said, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” That is quite an endorsement!

Most of us know the story of Job. Wealthiest man in the civilized world. Satan challenges Job’s motive for faithfulness. God gives Satan permission to put Job to the test. Job refuses to curse God, even after he lost all. But Job does have a few questions for God. More than a few actually. Finally, after Job has argued every conceivable line of reasoning about why he didn’t deserve any of this (a significant over-simplification) God says, “Alright Job, I have some questions for you.” God reveals through His line of questioning that Job doesn’t have a context for the conversation he has sought with God. I remember being told in an undergrad class as I was beginning my college career, “with a bachelor’s degree you listen, with a master’s degree you can ask questions, and with a doctorate you can answer the questions.” That’s kind of the point God was making to Job. “You don’t even know how to ask the right questions.”

And neither do we in a significant number of situations. We try to hold God to our standard and demand that he does what we think is best. Even in our discussions with Him we argue from a flawed position not realizing that there is so much more to the situation, that we can’t see. We demand that God present Himself, along with His plans to us for final approval as if we have any inkling of what is best or proper, or even logical.

We worry and fret, proving that our trust in God is tentative at best. And because of our lack of trust in God, the whys and the ifs consume our minds with fear, uncertainty, and distrust, leaving us as ineffective, defeated, and discouraged disciples who live with little joy, peace, or hope.

It seems what God is saying to me, can best be summed up in the words of a contemporary praise and worship song, by Casting Crowns, when they admonish, “Stop holding on and just be held.” Sounds inviting, doesn’t it? When you’re not equipped for it, being in charge is exhausting anyway.