Why Do Children Die?

Last night, I watched a movie about Progeria, a genetic aging disease which affects approximately 250 people worldwide.  These children are born with the disease, their cardiovascular and skeletal systems age progressively fast and they live until the average age of 13.  Sam was born to a couple who went to Brown Medical School and were both finishing up their residency.  When the parents discovered, (yes, they discovered what other doctors could not diagnose in their child) that their child had progeria, they went to a geneticist who told them there is nothing that can be done to help him.

In the movie, Sam’s mother asked how there could be a God who could do this to a child;  Sam lived a life of struggle and pain.  I do not pretend to know His ways but I have found scriptural evidence to at least give somewhat of an answer to her question.  Why did innocent Sam have such a sick body?  “There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another…The body that is sown (earthly) is perishable, it is raised (heavenly) imperishable.” (1Cor 15:40, 42)  In other words, when the faithful reach heaven, we will see Sam in his new heavenly body which will be rid of all disease and aging.

How do we explain the death of a young person?  Why do children die of cancer?  Why do fatal accidents happen to innocent children?  These are all extremely tough questions and we cannot fathom the grief associated with the loss of a child unless you have lost one.  “…devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.  Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” (Isaiah 57:1-2)   In Psalm 116 verse 15 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints,” helps us to view death from God’s perspective.  Heaven is the prize and being in God’s glory is unfathomable for us humans.  We can only imagine.

Searching for Calm in a Sea of Noise

It is incredibly stressful to read or watch the news today.  Doing so causes one to become overwhelmed with a sense that the world has gone crazy.  The various media outlets gleefully report on the latest disasters, falls from grace, murderous acts, accusations of abuse, bias and generally bad behavior.  We’ve become desensitized to it all.  If we wake up tomorrow and someone we lift up with respect is accused of the most heinous crime, most of us would not be surprised.  However, when we do hear of even the mildest act of selflessness, or some example courage in the face of evil, we amplify it to a national spotlight. It seems the world has gone dark, so dark we are getting used to it, and yet the slightest light still grabs our attention.

God created us to live a peace-filled, joyous existence as a member of His family.  We are wired to desire that idyllic existence.  This is why we all are constantly searching to find that place of refuge from the world, the escape away from the distractions, noise and mayhem to find rest.  Books are written about ways to find it, motivational speakers make a living claiming they have the “secret” to inner peace, and yet what the world offers us is fleeting and illusory.  Nothing seems to last in our search for that calm place.

Christ is our refuge.  He is the source of all lasting peace and tranquility.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

When you begin to feel overwhelmed by the noise of life, seek Him.  Take the Word into your heart. Find refuge in prayer and you will find a place of peace.  Don’t let world get you down, simply look up!

(T)he peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

When Judgment Comes, Will He Know You?

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3

When we look back at Sodom & Gomorrah, it is easy to recognize their sin.  We wonder how they could not see their bad behavior and wonder how they could turn their backs on God so blatantly.  Jumping forward to the days when Jesus walked the Earth, we cannot help but shake our heads in amazement at Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum and their failure to recognize the miracles Jesus performed in their town as evidence of His authority.  The time the Jews had been awaiting had come;  The Son of Man had arrived and it was time for them to turn from their sinful ways and repent.   We marvel at how blinded they were.  Why did they not fall down to their knees and confess their sins;  Why did they not put on sackcloth and ashes and turn from their evil ways;  Why did they not kiss the ground Jesus walked on with thanksgiving and gratitude and follow Him?  It is so easy for us to comment on what they should have done, but would many of us have really acted differently, I wonder?

When we allow God to be pushed out of our schools, government and sometimes churches, we are heading for a BIG fall.  When we allow adultery, blasphemy, disobedient children, murder of unborn children, lying, theft, and greed, which all run rampant through our society, we are outright disobeying God’s commandments.  God is merciful but He is also a jealous God who wants to come first in your life, family and community.  He is not an afterthought, He should be our first thought!

Too many preachers extol the warm fuzzy Jesus, and nothing but the warm fuzzy Jesus.  As long as he is a little baby, or he is the loving Savior he is embraceable, and we have nothing to fear. This breeds complacency and erodes fear (respect) of God.  Even though God loves us, He expects obedience and even the New Testament promises tragedy and destruction for those who fail to obey Him.  I fear that a new Gospel is being taught, one that highlights all the blessings (and there are many) and skips over the warnings.  Unfortunately just like giving all of our children trophies even when the lose every game runs counter to common sense and logic, expecting that everyone will earn a place in Heaven regardless of our behavior and our obedience is foolishness.

Christ warned: Woe will be to you in the day of judgment.  Many will come to me in that day saying father, father, but I will not know you!  Paraphrasing Matthew 7:22-23

Now is the time to take action.  Make God the center of your life and your family.  Do not tolerate our society’s current value system, stand firm in your beliefs even if it means losing friends and suffering ridicule.   God’s grace, through the sacrifice of Christ, can fill in the gaps but you need to do more to stay in the Word, stay covered in the Blood and stay rooted not in this world but the world to come!

Have courage…God is with you!

For Goals and Dreams, Sometimes the Process Matters More than the Destination

We all have dreams and goals.  Some people are better at reaching their goals more than others.  Some dreams are easier to achieve than others. What we all experience in the process is a growth lesson that is often far more valuable in teaching us about who we are and what the future holds for us that what we may be facing in the moment.

I have often prayed to God for courage, clarity and commitment when pursuing my own goals and dreams.  Maybe it’s because I dream big, but in any event I know in my heart that I cannot reach the stars on my own; I know that I need God’s steady hand to guide me through the right doors, and to carry me when the road becomes too rough.  I also pray that whatever I am pursuing is in line with what God has in store for me.  I do not want to invest the time and energy (and finances) chasing after something that is attractive in the natural but not intended for me by God.

I have learned that when I am connected to Him, then my goals and dreams are in line with what God has planned for me, that the experience is far more enlightening and rewarding, and my destination more certain.  When I have launched out on a venture that is not part of my plan, inevitably the road has been longer, harder and ultimately fruitless.  Through prayer and communication with the holy spirit, I have learned that only in Him, in a relationship with Christ, can we truly live and move and be who God planned us to be.

In the Bible, Christ talked more than once about vineyards and harvest and being connected to the vine.  We only truly bear fruit, as God intended, when we are connected to Him. “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

More than ten years ago the Lord inspired me in my current business venture.  The road to get here has been very long, with roadblocks, objectors, detractors, low times, high times, angels and demons, profits and losses.  Even today there are struggles as I move forward to complete the mission I first began in 2002.  Yet I remain committed, tuned into God’s guidance. I remain patient and I learn.  The day may come when I must move onto another dream or goal, yet I would not trade the past 12 years for anything because the experience that I have had while traveling towards my destination has helped me to grow as a man and a believer.  It has helped me grow closer to Him and to understand my calling.

The most amazing thing is that there have been times along my journey when I thought I was headed down the wrong road, but the Lord was leading me somewhere to experience something or meet someone who would be necessary to help me later on.  When I look back now I see these apparent diversions, yet each one was carefully placed for future access just when I needed it.  Amazing!

If you are on a journey now and struggling, pray for guidance.  Ask God to walk alongside you, teach you, strengthen you, and protect you.  Have the courage of your faith to make the right decisions and to be discerning in all things along the way.  If you think you are on the wrong road now and cannot see why you are experiencing something, it may very well be a refining or teaching moment to store up for later.  Don’t be discouraged!

May God bless you and may you be victorious…His will be done!

Whose Report Will You Believe?

Satan whispers in your ear that you are flawed and unworthy, causing shame and anxiety.

Christ proclaims that even though we are flawed, we are cherished and should rejoice.

Whose report will you believe today?

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

You are blessed and not cursed.  You are loved and forgiven, not rejected and alone.

Don’t look down just look up!

A Lesson in Forgiveness: How Much is Enough

As the parent of four active, intelligent and independent-minded children, I am too often found offering correction for the same mistakes that they make, sometimes in the span of a single day.  When my teenaged children listen and not just hear me, I figure it is about a 50-50 proposition that they will actually take my instructions to heart and change what I consider poor or improper behavior.  I am sure that I am not alone.

As a spouse of a loving and forgiving wife, I am also struck by the fact that after 17 years of marriage, my wife remains committed to me despite the flaws I have tried to fix to bring her less stress and annoyance in our daily interaction.  Whenever two people live together for nearly two decades, there is no question that personal quirks, bad habits, selfishness and boorish behavior will rear their ugly head.  Even though I know my foibles bother the woman I love, there is something that causes me to do things over and over that I know I should not do…such as walk around the house in my muddy or snow-covered shoes instead of leaving them at the door.

When I must correct my children over and over, and when I myself ignore my wife’s request that I check bad habits at the door, I am reminded of all that God endures from us His children, and I am ashamed of my own judgments and impatience.  I remember how much God loves me despite myself!  I number all of the blessings I have received even though I do not deserve them! I recall all the promises made to Him that have been broken again and again and again!

As human beings we are flawed.  The Bible reminds us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Roman 3:23.  It can be incredibly stressful to be a follower of Christ and expect that once we accept Him into our lives, we will now be perfect, flawless and without sin.  In truth we are incapable of not sinning, and it is for this reason that God offers mercy and forgiveness for those who fall yet remain faithful in their heart.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God offered us a cleansing blood sacrifice.  As long as we remain committed to Him in our hearts, repent from sin and seek His face, we are forgiven.  It is in this spirit of forgiveness that we must ourselves forgive those who fall short in our own eyes, for how can we judge the failures of others when we ourselves have failed Him? When we expect that men are sinners and fallen, we can realize that they are broken and be merciful for them they way that God offers us mercy through Christ.

In fact Jesus commanded his disciples to forgive, and not to judge lest they be judged.  As followers of Christ we must adopt the patience and love of Christ when dealing with the broken and sinful world.  We are to instruct and forgive and to also pray.  We should never judge.

“Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

“…watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.  Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17: 3-4

If there is someone in your life right now whose relationship with you is broken and severed, take the chance to reach out the hand of mercy and grace.  In the manner that God through Jesus Christ offers us mercy and forgiveness, even when we sin repeatedly, we need to offer humility, patience and loving kindness especially to those who let us down, disobey us, and reject us.  In doing so we are expressing the  type of behavior that reflects the love of Christ that is within us….and in doing so reaching out to lift up another lost soul seeking love in a world of anger, bitterness and hate.   It may be hard to do, and will likely require courage, but Christ is there to help us repair bridges and heal wounds.  Pick up the phone, send a card, write an email and offer forgiveness to someone who has wronged you…you may be amazed at how the Lord will use this act to bring blessings to both of you.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13

 

Bad Things Can Happen to Good People, But Don’t Blame God

One of the objections frequently heard from people who reject God’s existence is that a loving supreme being would never allow bad things to happen to good people.  Consequently when children meet untimely deaths, when apparently innocent people are randomly murdered or brutalized, when the neighborhood “good guy” loses his job, some feel that this is proof that God is merely a myth.  Or worse, that God is a vindictive, cruel chess player who manipulates our lives for his entertainment and to our peril.

Similarly, others look at the troubles in their lives and wonder why God is punishing them by allowing (or worse arranging) pain and suffering when they simply do not deserve it.  After all, they attend church, don’t cheat on their income taxes, and work at the food pantry every Thanksgiving.

While God certainly knows us and is a presence in all we say and do (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5) , it is mankind that sought independence and free will, and who by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, set his fate by believing that he could be his own god and control his own destiny.  We rejected God’s steady hand in our lives, one that was poised to ensure a life of beauty, peace and abundance, and instead believed Satan’s lie that our lives were our own.  Consequently each and every one of us has become the captain of our own ship, and every decision we make, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day and year after year, impacts us, our families, and those around us.  These decisions often set the stage for tragedies later, and creep up when we least expect it.  If we stop and ponder why we have a certain trouble, the reality is that it can be traced back in most every case to something we said or did, or chose not to do sometime in the past.  Whether it was to avoid a health check-up, to embrace a friend who brought nothing but temptation and sin, or to fail to resist the urge to say or do something that set a stone path for us towards a fall. We wanted to be the masters of our destiny, and the consequences are frequently harmful.  Meanwhile God sits on the sidelines like a loving parent who has tried to raise an obedient child, offering truths and guidance we reject daily because we “know it all.”  When I realize the parallels between the parenting of my own children and my relationship with God it can sometimes cause me to weep.

“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:  If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God”  John 3:19-21

I cannot pretend to give an answer in this post to everyone who has experienced a senseless tragedy.  There are truly some tragedies that are a mystery, and we may never understand them until the day we face our creator in heaven.  What I can say is that if you are facing troubles, no matter what they are, why not embrace God and seek His face? Take your problems to Him, ask for forgiveness and ask for guidance.  What loving parent would reject that plea?  I have done some terrible things in my long life.  I have abandoned people, used people, lied, stolen, manipulated, acted selfishly, been abusive, failed to be compassionate, and the list goes on and on.  However God gave me the ability, like He gave you, to see my sins as a stumbling block to successful living.  When I stumble I reach out to steady myself and ask for forgiveness, mercy and guidance.  It does not always make the pain and hurt go away, a refiners fire is sometimes needed to educate and correct us, but inevitably I come out of the situation stronger, wiser, and more devoted to my faith than before.  I also am amazed at the patience of a God who in spite of our rebelliousness, remains loving, compassionate and steadfast in His desire to bring us back on track.  The salvation of the Cross and the sacrifice of Christ are the most dramatic examples of that love and compassion.

“Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.”  Genesis 8:21

“In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Ephesians 1:7

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

Whatever you are facing today know that He is with you not against you, that He is waiting for you to ask Him into your life to start you on the road to recovery and restoration!

You Are Not Alone When Facing Troubles

The enemy wants to isolate us, separate us from a relationship with God so we feel abandoned, hopeless, stressed and weak.  In that natural state the door is wide open for sin and temptation to barge in and cause even more destruction.  People in low places need to look up.  Instead many turn to drugs, booze, sex, crime, and violence (even, sadly, suicide).  This is Satan’s greatest victory.  If he can convince you that you are a loser, that your life is worthless, that your troubles are too big to handle, then he can make you forget about GOD.

The truth is that GOD has the ability to help us through any trials and troubles we face.  The death of Christ on the cross was a gift of mercy and grace, freely and lovingly given, to lead us out of Satan’s lying distractions into the light of truth, peace and salvation.

God has promised never to forsake us.  He is waiting on us to call out to Him, to ask for forgiveness, for assistance, for direction.  Like the worried parent, He wants to make life better for us and only wants the rebellious teenager to come to Him and say “come into my life and help me.”

Throughout my own life I have faced many trials, some seemingly insurmountable and incredibly painful, and yet once I learned to turn everything over to God, to lay them at His feet and look up and say “Father, forgive me and help me,” I have found relief, restoration, recovery and rebirth.  Always when I have fallen, the Lord has lifted me to new heights.  I say this not as one who has lived a perfect life, who has always done the right thing, but as one who has never lost my heart for God nor been afraid to come to Him and admit my failings and seek His help.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

For the Lord will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance. Psalm 94:14

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Whatever you are facing today, you are not alone.  You are not weak.  You are not a loser.  Ignore the enemy’s whispers, embrace Christ and be reminded how very special you really are!

Are You Ready for Your Miracle This Year?

The Lord has promised us in John 14:7 “If I am in you and you are in me, ask what you will and it shall be granted to you.”

2014 will be a year of promise and blessings.  I feel it.  Those of us who struggled in 2013 were fighting and not feeling any victories but we were only in TRAINING and gaining EXPERIENCE to knock it out of the park this year!  Here is wishing all of you the strength, courage, and discernment to take what you were dished out last year, learn from it, and see success beyond your wildest imagination in the next 12 months. For me, having FAITH in the Lord gives me strength beyond what I could handle in the natural and there is no foe I cannot overcome with Him by my side.  I’m ready to receive those amazing blessings this year…are you????

 

There is a Proper Order to Things

“For God so Loved the World….” from John 3:16 is probably one of the most quoted Biblical passages, and for good reason.  It let’s us know how much God loves us that he would allow his son to be sacrificed so that we could bridge the chasm between God and man forged in the Garden of Eden, and find a path home.

In reading the passage in Greek , one can find a slightly different possible translation.  In Greek the word used is “cosmos” which can be translated into “the order of things” and “harmonious arrangement of things.”  Taken this way, the passage could read, “For God so loved the order and relationship of the things he created…”  He missed the order of the world he created in Genesis…and sent Christ to fix things!

When we realize that God created the world in His own special order, we recognize that we too must live our lives in an orderly manner, the manner God set down for us in the Bible.  And when we live in “order” we find peace and joy in our lives.  Life is easier, relationships better, the daily burden of living is lifted from the chafing against God’s plans for us.  When the order is disrupted, chaos, suffering and pain occurs.  The Bible provides an order for marriage, for child rearing, for relationships, for work, for daily life, for our very existence, and we ignore it at our peril.

Disorder in the family is devastating America.  Men are no longer spiritual leaders in their families, when they have time for them at all.  God has been banned from public discussion and replaced with new faith-based religious doctrine focused on the environment, social causes, wealth building, self-aggrandizement, physical pleasures and the like.  While uttering the name of Christ, even at Christmas is deemed intolerant and discriminatory, the foulest most vile language and behavior is championed and promoted with admiration and glee.  The order of things has certainly been turned on its head!

Yet, we must not be surprised by the world’s rejection of Christ and God’s order. Christ warned us that to follow him, to follow the orderly way back home, would be costly.  We would suffer for him.  Families would split, neighbor against neighbor, and persecution would surely come.   Today we see how a commitment to faith in Christ has, instead of binding the world, caused believers to be segregated from the world and chastised.  The order that God created in Genesis, that he desperately wished to restore through Christ, is under full scale attack.  Is there any wonder there is so much pain, suffering, anger and confusion around us?  Why straw gods we elevate daily come tumbling down so quickly to our disappointment?

Christ is, was, and will always be the way, the truth and the life.  God’s order for us is THE order for peaceful living, all else descends into chaos.  How orderly is your life?  Who do you follow? Where do you place your faith?  These important questions could very well have a direct relationship to the state of your life right now.

I pray for peace, understanding and restoration for you today and everyday.