Tag Archives: Faithful

Why Not Me?

A person’s days are determined;
you have decreed the number of his months
and have set limits he cannot exceed. (Job 14:5)

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

Bad things happen to good people. Why are we so surprised? As Christians we look to scripture for guidance and answers. And yet in this holy book we find bad things happening to good people. It’s not something new so why are we so surprised when it happens to both non-Christians and Christians alike. Many believers take such events in stride when applied to non-Christians but become worried and shout out in anger to God wondering why a “good” Christian is the recipient of sad or tragic events. I don’t understand the disparity.

I understand that God loves and protects his own and, in some instances, provides miraculous protection. However, His grace and love are doled out for believer and non-believer alike. We understand the activity of God’s grace in our lives as His children. It is one of those things it’s hard to explain to a non-Christian. But, God’s grace exists throughout the world on all people. It’s just that some don’t recognize it in their day to day lives.

Our very existence is based on God’s grace and redemptive spirit after our fall from grace in the garden. There is a disparity between non-believers and believers. Redemption came through God’s law and later eternal salvation was offered and made universally available to all who believe and accept God’s sacrifice in Jesus Christ. So, when it comes to God’s eternal kingdom the distinction is made according to belief and acceptance of God’ love and grace.

But I’m not writing about eternity and salvation. I’m looking at the trials, diseases, and disasters which impact all humans, globally, without the distinctions of God’s laws. I will not discuss the few to whom I believe God applied special grace and protection in a particular time of need, those are exceptions. But we aren’t, (at least I’m not), normally exceptions to the diseases, natural and manmade disasters in this fallen world.

Rejoice in the Lord

Rejoicing in the Lord with my beautiful wife.

I have cancer. It is life ending. No cures, only possible delays available with the current status of medical knowledge. I pray for a cure but am satisfied and at peace with God as I pass through these pending days. A cure might be found. A cure might not be found. Either way I’ve trusted God knowing He has been in control in my life not only up until now but into the unknown future. I’m not worried nor concerned about what good (in man’s eyes) or bad (in man’s eyes) is coming down the road. This is the way things are and because I believe God is the only God and he has all things under control I press forward resting in his loving, graceful, caring hands.

Some wonder, even in their faith, why something like this would happen to me. I’m a missionary. I’m a pastor. I’ve served the Lord around the world for 35 plus years. I’ve lead music, sung praise and honor to God, preached His word and proclaimed the Gospel around the worlds. I hope I’ve been faithful to my walk with God. I’ve made more than my share of mistakes in the world.

What would make me so special to be singled out as an exception in God’s world to insulate me from the disease and trials others in this fallen world would experience. I can think of nothing. I do believe there were times in our ministry when God provided extra protection but those were one off instances. I’m not special. I’m a child of God and take comfort in the eternal life I’ve been promised. With all the wonders I’ve experience in this world I look forward to the more spectacular adventures in God’s eternal kingdom. I think it’ll be a blast!

There are many more auspicious people in this world who’ve accomplished more to relieve the suffering in this fallen state of the world. Many have worked tirelessly to find cures for so many diseases. Many have worked hard to build a better world. Many have worked hard to end hunger, thirst and other maladies impacting so much of the global population.

So why do such things happen to good, young, faithful, whatever people? I don’t know. Only God knows (If you believe in Him). For those who follow another mystical god or set of rules you don’t know either. We all guess this side of our death bed. So, let’s stop guessing and get real and practical.

How do we personally react when we receive the news we tell others is just part of life? How do we react when the doctor says we’re dying? How do we react when that loved one mysteriously and unexpectedly dies? Nobody expects their loved one to suddenly die. We think we’ll all live into old age. But that just isn’t the way things work.

Instead of questioning why this or that impacted someone we know or love, why don’t we instead work on how to deal with the disease, injury, loss. Trying to understand the whys and wherefores is a useless proposition which only leads to personal depression and loss.

Yes, there may be tears or frustration and definitely sadness. It is a loss when someone dies unexpectedly or receives a end of life diagnosis. And each of those have their place. What doesn’t have any place is the bitter moaning about why? Grieve over the loss but don’t waste time on the why. We can ask our creator being, for me God, but I don’t think he’ll let us in on his plans. We become so self-absorbed in trying to understand the unfathomable mindset of our god, or set of life rules, we lose sight of what is before use.

Someone is in pain trying to survive. It might be personal pain such as cancer, or emotional pain from their loss of a loved one killed in an accident. Let’s concentrate on the living, not the dead. We’re not going to change the dead, but we can comfort, encourage, rejoice with the living, the survivors. If someone is going through an end of life experience we can comfort, lend a helping hand, encourage, and rejoice with them even in their trial.

Don’t waste time on the why, it doesn’t help. Instead understand our days are numbered, we can’t change that either. We can recognize we are part of this fallen world and “why me” isn’t the right question but “why not me” is a helpful question to allow us to see our part in this global population suffering similar things in different places around the world.

A friend shared a story about his wife who was dying. I hope he doesn’t mind my sharing. They were going in for treatment and entered an elevator filled with others arriving for treatment. His wife looked at the sad hanging faces and promptly pressed the stop button on the elevator. She said (not a literal quote), “OK folks, I want you to know this is a party elevator we need to sing and dance and rejoice.” In her frail state she started singing and dancing in her wheelchair. The people looked at her for a few moments then slowly started joining in the celebration. That, to me, is a great way to present your broken body to those around you. There is still joy in this world.

My wife recently read and adopted a new favorite verse as we go through treatment and the days numbered ahead of us. Romans 15:13 reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I trust in him and think this is a great verse and a superlative attitude to maintain whether you the one dying (me), or the future bereaved family member (my wife). There is JOY. Joy in the life we lived. Joy in the life we are sharing through this adventure. Joy in my family, children, grandchildren, brothers, ministry, the people we’ve met around the world, the caring hands of our church members and in too many things go mention.

Let us rejoice God has allowed us into this adventure and look forward to how he will work in others’ lives because of our attitude and our JOY. It won’t be easy but, no one ever said life would be easy.

 

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Bats in the Belfry

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (KJV Romans 8:28)

Over the years, I’ve stayed in a variety of places. These ranged from storage rooms in the back of broadcast complexes, to private homes, hotels, castles and palaces. Yes, I’ve stayed in a palace or two. The first palace I stayed the night in was with my wife and sons on our trip west toward castle Neuschwanstein. While it was considered a “hunting” lodge at one point it eventually was renovated to the status of palace. By the time we arrived it was a retreat center but still spectacular. We stayed in the queen’s room. Yep, the room we occupied was the room normally reserved when the queen came to visit. It was large, luxurious and just the intricate wood designs in the walls and on the ceilings impressed us as we brought in our plastic suitcases and two energetic boys.

Fortunately, it was updated with modern plumbing and heating. We enjoyed the thought of being temporary royalty as we strolled around the room and the grounds. We were traveling with friends who enjoyed the cushy comfort of their own royal chamber.

The second palace we enjoyed a few years later was also converted into a retreat center. In this case it was operated by a Christian group running retreats and summer camps for Christian youth and the occasional adult group. Considering the massive number of steps, we had to climb just to reach our room I can understand why it was more youth oriented than “older” adult oriented.

2008_06_BobPhotos_310Beth and I enjoyed the tallest tower on the south wing. Our room covered two floors within the round tower with a spectacular view of the surrounding valley. We were above most of the rest of the palace with a spire on top of our nice room. The bath and toilet were by the entrance. A few steps up from there was the kitchen and dining area. From there we climbed steep steps (aka a ladder) into the living area. To reach the beds we crawled through a triangular door (like the Krell construction on Altair in the sci-fi classic, “The Forbidden Planet”) where two single sleeping mats were laid head to head. The ceiling over the beds was the roof of the adjoining building giving just enough room to slide in for the night. In truth, I couldn’t sit up without hitting my head on the ceiling. Ah, the comforts of palace living.

Snuggled in for the night, a hot night at that, we eventually fell asleep. I’m not a big fan of sleeping on futon beds but that was what we had. I like a little more padding. Part way through the night we were awakened by a noise in the living area. Since a youth retreat was in progress we thought maybe someone had wandered in thinking the room was vacant. Beth and I crawled on our elbows like the two legged Krell and looked out the portal.

There, flitting back and forth in the living room, were a couple bats enjoying the darkness of night. Apparently, they were doing us a service by gulping down the little critters who were flying around the room looking to feast on us for dinner. The bats, although spooky to watch, were keeping us off the menu for the night. Thank you bats!

I’ve heard the phrase “bats in the belfry” many times in life. That night it took on a whole different meaning. Granted, this wasn’t a bell tower but it was close enough. When we arose we carefully peaked out the Krell doorway and assured ourselves they departed during the morning hours.

I wonder about what God allows to cross the path of my life. Sometimes I get annoyed or distracted as things can flitter this way and that disrupting what I think needs to be accomplished. I want to shoo the distractions out of the way and get on with things. Now I’m inclined to think these ‘distractions’ are at times little helpers to clear away other obstacles from my walk with Him. The have their unseen benefits, like eating insects we couldn’t see in the night, and protect us from hidden obstacles. Next time I’m in a castle with bats I think I’ll just watch them for a while and think of God’s protection.

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I’d Like to Exchange That

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

Exchange: to give and receive reciprocally, to replace one item with something better.  When I was growing up I remember my mother exchanging ill-fitting garments for the proper fit at the local department store. This adventure, led by my fearless mother, usually occurred after Christmas or a birthday. I always wanted to trade in those extra skivvies, and scarfs, for some toy or game. But, I was taught to exchange it for the same item with a better fit.

The last couple of weeks I’ve been working on exchanging an Exchange for an Exchange. That’s not a typo. Exchange, with a capital “E,” is a mail and information exchange system which we use in our ministry. Without getting into a debate over which software is best, I’d like to say I like Exchange. It does what we need done quite well. For the user, it’s rather straightforward and effective. From the administrator’s point of view, it’s great when it works, and a nightmare when it doesn’t.

Most of the time things go well. But, after several years it was time for an upgrade to the latest and greatest version. The new features and stability would improve our operation. The trick is to migrate from 2003 to 2010, a seven-year change of software, with little or no impact on the users.  We’re not an enormous ministry with thousands of mailboxes but we have a good number of folks to keep happy.

The project also needed to be coordinated between continents so both servers were at the same level. With the assistance of my counterpart in the US we went to work. Step by step we exchanged one version for another and cautiously moved services from one computer to another. I exchanged my Exchange in Europe while my US colleague exchanged his Exchange in the USA. It takes time to set things up, test them out, and then move the data.

20161005_171232916_iosIt’s when we move the data that things get touchy. During the transition process a user has no access to their data. After the transition, most users are automatically directed to the new server while a few need a helping hand to change their settings. Most of the transition was done in the middle of the night, when I should’ve been sleeping, but some moves required daytime activation.

I had a touch of trepidation as we proceeded. The last thing I wanted was 100 plus people ringing my phone or Skyping me that something was wrong. With careful planning, step by step procedures, and tests along the way, things went quite well. There were a few quirks with the Public Folder migration. Occasionally a recalcitrant account or program setting reared its ugly head. But overall things went well. In the aftermath, it took time to iron out the last wrinkles which were sure to crop up as the system assumed regular service.

It appeared the newly exchanged Exchange was a better fit for our ministry and proved a good exchange. Now we can exchange email with the world seamlessly as well as several other nice features. I’ve exchanged my work on one Exchange server for a new set of tools on a new Exchange server.  Overall, it’s an excellent exchange.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words about exchanging one life for another, one law for another. We’ve been given a spirit of life which frees us from the spirit of sin and death. Just as the exchanged skivvies from Christmas fit better, the newly exchanged Exchange server fits our ministry better.

Now that I’ve exchanged Exchange for Exchange I need to learn the new tools and make use of them to be more effective in my ministry. In the same way, I need to concentrate on living in the spirit of life to be more faithful in my walk with God. I need to exchange my old habits for new.

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