You Should Tell It!

Someone once told Amy Carmichael, “You should tell it!” They were referring to the growing number of children she was able to save from the temple service in India. Time and again they prayed, acted and saw God do amazing things.

As I think back on this year there are things I need to tell. When God works in those we love we need to tell it. And so I begin.

I have a nephew who was traveling in a foreign country with a friend. They were taking a tour on motorcycles. As his friend came around the corner on a mountain road she encountered someone in her lane going the wrong way. She laid her bike down to avoid hitting them and slid under the guard rail that keeps people from falling down the mountain. Miraculously, she barely fit under the railing and just as miraculously she didn’t go flying off the mountain to certain death. They had some tense days as they tried finding competent medical care for her broken bones, but eventually they made it home to America where surgery was done. She is expected to make a full recovery. The only explanation was that God protected her. God spared her for a reason.

I have another nephew who was on his way to work in the wee hours of the morning. Going 70 mph or better on the interstate he came up to an unmoving deer in his headlights. He swerved. His car spun, hit the guard rail on one side, spun again, and hit the other side of the road. When he came to a stop he was facing the right way with no other cars in sight. The only explanation was that God protected him. God spared him for a reason.

I have an uncle who is 89 who lives in a small town in North Dakota. Just before Christmas he was changing the tire on his truck. While putting his jack away in the back he fell while getting out of the truck bed hitting his head on the trailer hitch. They rushed him to the hospital, not knowing if he would make the trip. He suffered two brain bleeds. There was surgery to repair what they could and they patched him together with 45 staples. We all prayed as his brain swelled and it looked hopeless. After spending some weeks in the hospital he recently came home and is gradually improving. The only explanation is that God protected him.  God spared him for a reason.

In October of this year a girl named Jamie was kidnapped from her home after both of her parents were shot and killed. Many people around our state, Wisconsin, prayed. Most of us had given up hope. Then miracle of miracles she escaped and made her way down the country road to someone who could help her. She had been missing for almost 3 months. We continue to pray for the difficulties she has ahead of her, but are praising God that he delivered her from her captivity. God spared her for a reason.

While talking to a friend about the miracle of it all, I mentioned that her kidnapper had put her in a trunk and she could hear the police sirens as he drove her away from her family’s home.

My friend quietly said, “I was in a trunk”. All I could say was “I’m sorry”. I remembered her story includes being kidnapped when she was a teenager and held by an evil man. Miracle of miracles she survived while others didn’t.  I thank God that she survived and that I can call her my friend. God spared her for a reason.

There are other stories.

Today is a good day to remember what God has done and thank him for each breath.

Feel free to leave a comment below. What has God done in your life this past year? You should tell it!

 “… And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8:39 (NASB)

To Be Like Enoch…

My Dad loved to talk about Enoch. If you recall, Enoch was one of two men mentioned in the Bible who went to heaven without dying. This intrigued my Dad.

Genesis 5:24 says “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

My Dad pursued God. Every morning and evening he would sit and read his Bible, pen in hand, leaning forward, eager to learn. He finished every day kneeling in prayer beside his bed.

He led us in family devotions every day. Often at the breakfast table, sometimes after supper. We would read verse by verse taking turns. Then we would pray together.

My Dad longed to be closer to his God. Time and time again he would talk about walking close enough to God so that he would be translated like Enoch. We just shook our heads and said…”Not likely to happen.” Still he pursued his God.

Hebrews 11:5-6 gives us a little more information about Enoch. We learn he was pleasing to God. That he had faith. His faith included believing God existed and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. (KJV)

The Phillips translation puts it this way.

“… he pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him. The man who approaches God must have faith in two things, first that God exists and secondly that it is worth a man’s while to try to find God.”

Enoch thought it was worth his while to find God. Enoch sought God. Enoch walked with God.  God cut his earthly life short to bring him home.

When I was almost 30 my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. A brain tumor was growing quickly despite the doctor’s best efforts to treat it. He lost his ability to write. His violin had to be set aside. He quit chopping wood. He could no longer drive. Every day something new was gone. Finally, he couldn’t walk and even his voice was taken away.

I prayed for healing. This God who my Dad had taught me about would certainly heal him. But God’s ways are not my ways and in less than a year my Dad was gone. Gone home to heaven. And I was devastated.

Why would God cut his life short? Didn’t God know we needed him?  Hadn’t he pursued God? Didn’t he deserve a good long life? I mourned…but I also knew that my dad was home with his God. He walked close enough to God to walk into eternity.

Looking back now, 30 years later, I see a man who pleased God. A man who pursued God. A man who walked with God.  A man who went to heaven earlier than expected. A man like Enoch.

For further study: Job 21:14; Psalm 73:28; Proverbs 8:17

 

 

Choices for the New Year

We all make choices. Hebrews 11:4 reminds us of the first family and the very different choices the brothers made. The more complete story is found in Genesis 4:1-16.

At first glance they look similar. They both were hard workers. They both brought sacrifices to God. But God payed heed to one and not the other.

Both brothers had heard the first-hand account of living in the garden, the terrible choice their parents made and the consequences. They also must have been told of the need for a blood sacrifice, which was a picture of a Messiah (Redeemer) who would come. (Hebrews 9:22)

Abel realized his great need and brought the sacrifice God required. It was a picture of the coming Messiah. God paid heed.

Cain thought he could win God’s favor by bringing things he had carefully grown and tended. It was a “look at me” moment. “Look at what I’ve done.” …and when God paid no heed he became angry.

God tries to reason with Cain. He pointed out his sin and encourages him to master it. (repentance) God held out hope to Cain. Cain would have none of it. He goes from being very angry to bringing his brother out in the field with him where he kills him. His actions spoke louder than his sacrifice.

Titus 1:16 gives a perfect explanation. “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.”

Once more God approaches Cain. “Where is your brother Abel?” It was another opportunity to repent. Instead he deflects and lies. “I do not know, am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9)

God confronts Cain with the truth. He knows what he has done. Cain will be cursed. He will no longer have the ability to produce from the ground. The very thing he was so proud of is taken away. He will become a wanderer.

Cain responds by complaining, not repenting. He was sorry for his situation or punishment, but not his sin. Still, God grants him protection for his earthly life by putting a mark of protection on him. Sadly, Cain was not concerned about his eternal soul, and he “went out from the presence of the Lord.”

Abel lived and died for his faith. He was killed because he was favored by God.

Which brother are we like?

Cain, who proudly thought he was good enough to approach God on his own merits, or Abel who realized his great need and humbly brought the sacrifice that God required.

“For it is by grace that you are saved, through faith. This does not depend on anything you have achieved, it is the free gift of God; and because it is not earned no man can boast about it. “ (Ephesians 2:8-9 Phillips)

For further study: Genesis 4:1-16; Proverbs 21:27; I John 3:12; Hebrews 12:24

Faith in the Creator

I have been teaching art to some children this year. Each week 17 kids ages 5-12 make their way to my basement and create.  We are in the middle of making miniature hot-air balloons so we can imagine traveling from country to country in our journey around the world.

img_2717_3151.jpg

They have created Giraffes,

20181007_194655_284420181007_195037_2849

Hippos (and a few seals)

20181007_194856_2847

and Kente cloth from Africa,

IMG_2716_3150

big red barns from Wisconsin.

IMG_2703_3060

Pumpkins and turkeys will give a nod to our Thanksgiving holiday.

20181108_144037_2970

 

20181115_142317

We plan on “visiting” England, Australia, France and Mexico in the coming weeks.

As I get to know each student I am learning to recognize their artwork. They each have their own  individual  style. I am amazed at what they can do with the raw materials I give them.

If you would look in my basement you would see their creations hanging up or laying out to dry.  Some things are tucked away in their portfolios.  There hasn’t been an explosion in my basement that caused these things to appear. You would recognize that someone has been at work.

Hebrews 11:3 says “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (NASB)

We are asked to believe that God made the world. It was a purposeful act.

None of us were there. There is no way for us to prove it. We have to take Him at His word. Either He is telling the truth or He is a liar. God gives us the account in Genesis 1-2. If we are to walk by faith we must believe it.  I will let God’s words convince you, not mine.

“Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, The one who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:26 (NASB)

“All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John 1:3 (NASB)

“…since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so they are without excuse…” Romans 1:19-21 (NASB)

“…even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” Romans 4:17 (NASB)

Spend some time looking around today. Does what you see look like an accident or an explosion?

Next,  go back and read Genesis 1-2. That God created the world is the only credible explanation. If we are to live by faith, believing in creation is the foundation.

Take comfort that His creation is all around us to remind us of who He is and what He is capable of. He has not left us here alone. He has a purpose and a plan. Believe it. Don’t let this world’s trouble tear your eyes from your only hope.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”        Psalm 27:13-14 (NASB)

Faith Crisis

Lake_2952When I was little our family would pile into the car every summer, drive to Minnesota and spend a week at the lake. This was before the day of the internet. We didn’t make reservations, we just drove until we found something that looked interesting.

We never doubted that we would spend a week at the lake. The minute my sisters and I got into the car with our suitcases we were already there.

It was as good as done. We weren’t sure about the journey, but the destination was guaranteed.

We understood that we might have to stop two or three times before we had success, but we had faith in our Dad’s ability to find what he had promised.

After driving two or three hours our Dad would stop at a small resort and walk to the office while the rest of us held our breath.

Sometimes the resort was full.

Sometimes it was too much money.

Sometimes our Dad didn’t care for the look of the place once he was closer.

We could tell by how he was walking whether he had success or not. If his head was down and he was walking with a determined gait we knew it was a no. If he was grinning, almost running back to the car we knew he had found the spot.

A couple weeks ago I was reading in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. I turned there specifically because I was struggling. Struggling with weariness, questions, confusion; struggling to believe God had a good plan that He was working out; struggling ____________( You can fill in your own blank).

I know God is faithful, but I needed to be reminded just how faithful.

The first verse got me headed in the right direction.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NASB)

William MacDonald has this to say about that verse.

“…it is a definition of what faith does for us. It makes things hoped for as real as if we already had them, and it provides unshakable evidence that the unseen, spiritual blessings of Christianity are absolutely certain and real…Faith is confidence in the trustworthiness of God. It is the conviction that what God says is true and that what He promises will come to pass.”

I would encourage you to read the rest of Hebrews 11. Think long and hard about the men and women listed there. Their faith was not in their ability to overcome obstacles, but in God’s ability to walk them through extreme difficulties. Sometimes the results were glorious, other times the immediate results were trouble and even death. Both are examples of faith in a good God.

As a child I had utter faith in my Dad. I never doubted that he would bring about what he promised.

As a child of God I need to have utter faith in the one who made me for His good purpose. He has been faithful in the past. He will be faithful in the future. Although the journey isn’t always easy, I can trust that my destination is sure.

For further study:

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” II Corinthians 4:18 (NASB)

“…it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:18-19 (NASB)

“In this confidence let us hold on to the hope that we profess without the slightest hesitation – for he is utterly dependable.” Hebrews 10:23 (Phillips)

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 41:11 (NASB)

Grace in the midst of Storms

Wisconsin has had some rough weather in recent weeks. Our dry summer caused many of us to pray for rain. The rain came and then the storms.

We were just sitting down to eat supper when we heard there was a tornado warning. Since it didn’t look that bad we quickly ate. Soon our lights started flickering and went out. When we noticed the rain going sideways outside our window we hurried to the basement.  About 30 minutes later we came up to peek outside. We noticed one tree down and then another.

20180829_074853_2710.jpg

20180829_100227_2713.jpg

We were feeling bad until we started seeing other people’s damage.

My sister and her husband lost the roof to their barn and a huge maple in the front yard. My brother-in-law spent the hours after the storm trying to remove the branches that were covering the road. The sheriff saw and stopped to help.

 

20180829_124838_2734

 

 

Another friend had a big tree come down next to their house, knocking the glass out of one of their windows, while another tree took out part of their shed.

One of our neighbors down the road lost 18 big trees.

In our little town there were big trees across the road in several places. Many of the trees took out power lines. We were without electricity for two days. (Small towns aren’t a priority.)

Another friend who lives 30 miles away had the electrical box ripped out of their house while they huddled in their basement. Every tree in their yard was damaged or knocked over. They were without electricity for almost a week.

What surprised me through all of this was how much interaction was going on. We were all talking to our neighbors. We were going out of our way to check on each other. Those with chain saws were walking down the street to see how they could help. Those with big machinery were lifting heavy trees out of the way. Local churches were providing water and hot meals.

We saw grace played out. The first grace was that in all the destruction and close calls, no one was hurt. Some garages, barns and trees were lost, but no loss of life. The second grace was seeing people in action helping one another. We are usually too busy to stop and chat. The storm gave us an opportunity to check in with each other. We tended to the important things and put our regular routines on hold. So while I don’t pray for storms to come, I pray that I can learn from them.

Learn to see my neighbors…to remember to check on my friends…to be thankful for the calm…to see God’s grace in the midst of it all.

 

Don’t Be Unreasonable!

We dread dealing with the unreasonable person, yet more and more we are a people who demand our rights, voice our opinion and complain when things don’t go our way.

Our hearts ache so much from our own issues that sometimes we take it out on the next unfortunate soul who comes across our path.

We are masters at blaming those in leadership, those who sit across the aisle, those with a different view or conviction than ours. We blame anyone but ourselves. “Freedom of speech!” we proclaim loudly, but only wish it for those who agree with our way of thinking.

Yet, as Christians we are called to be reasonable. (Not doormats, but reasonable.)

Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” That verse implies they had something to be unreasonable about. We tend to excuse unreasonableness when we have a “good reason”. The trouble is we always have a good reason, but Paul doesn’t include a qualifier. Not just our friends and those we love. “Everyone”, even those we disagree with.

This verse is sandwiched between; “rejoice in the Lord always” and “do not be anxious about anything.” (vs. 4 & 6) The words always and anything don’t allow for exceptions either. How is this kind of life even possible?

If God is our life, like we claim, storms won’t shift our eyes off of Him. We rejoice that He is with us in the storm. We rejoice that this life isn’t all there is. We rejoice that this “momentary light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17) is just that; momentary in the time table of eternity.

We won’t be anxious knowing that our God sees, hears and knows our difficulty. That to worry about what might happen shows a lack of faith in the one we have put our trust in. To know that whatever happens, good or bad, He is there with us. We will brave the storm together. We will learn more of His faithfulness through it.

And so as His redeemed children we rejoice, we put anxiety aside, we learn to be reasonable. In our own strength impossible. But our God makes all the difference. If He can raise Christ from the dead he can transform us as well.