Years ago, I took one of our children to the doctor for a regular vaccination shot to prevent some childhood disease.  I did this because, as a parent, I care about and love my children. Yet the eyes of a small child will see things very differently. When the doctor inserted the needle into my little girl’s arm, I could immediately see her lower lip quiver. A cry and a howl of pain quickly followed. My heart was crushed as she looked up at me with those tearful innocent eyes, in the most pleading and pitiful way, as if to say, “Look at the horrible thing that’s happening to me! Don’t you care about my terrible suffering? How can you just stand there and allow this to go on? Don’t you love me?”

As a parent, however, I know better. I know that, for her, everything is going to be all right in a very short time (even though it had an emotional impact on me to see my child’s distress). Minor, brief pain is the price my child will pay for a healthier life later.

Just as my daughter could not possibly understand the motives of her father (for she is still only a child), so, too, can we not completely comprehend God’s will for us while we are on earth. It’s a matter of perspective: the brief few years of a physical human lifetime, (Psalm 90:9-10) versus eternity—time without end.

God is our ultimate parent. He knows all about the problems we often have, but He also knows that our experiences with pain and suffering, along with all of the good experiences that we may have, will, among other things, help to make us more understanding and compassionate. As strange as this may seem, these are the necessary qualities for those who desire to be more like Jesus, “Who Himself suffered and bore our sin and died so that we might live for righteousness; for by His wounds we are healed” (1 Peter 2:23-25).

Could God eliminate pain and suffering in our lives? In this world? Yes, but He is not obligated to do so. We often have the mentality that because He can and because He is God, He must! Instead, let’s remember that, like a loving Father, God does care. He knows when humans suffer. But let’s also remember that God isn’t a mere human. He is God. His perspective is infinitely greater than ours. He sees the “bigger picture”— that our experiences as mortal humans, however painful or unhappy, will be to our eventual benefit. Make no mistake. The good and loving Creator would not allow such things to happen otherwise.

Advertisements

Many years ago as a Bible student at Moody Bible Institute, I remember going with some friends of mine to a Blackhawk hockey game in Chicago. As I look back, I couldn’t tell you who the Blackhawks were going up against that night, nor could I tell you the final score. What I do remember about that evening, however, was watching the crowd erupt in applause when, after each period ended and the skaters headed for the locker rooms, the Great Zamboni would make its way on to the ice. If you’ve ever been to an ice rink before, the Great Zamboni (named after its inventor, Frank Zamboni) is a machine that maintains the surface of the ice by repairing the rough and gouged areas that the hockey players make as they move the hockey puck from one end of the ice rink to the other over the course of the game. I watched as the machine glided over the surface and almost immediately erased any previous defect, making it look brand new again.

As an adult, I reflect back on that evening and see so vividly how Christ’s love is like that Great Zamboni. And we come to Him with lives gouged by our own sin, selfishness, and stubbornness and because of His great love, He repairs and restores not just the surface of our lives, but goes much deeper to the heart. The damage has been repaired, the roughness has been made new, and because of His sacrificial love, we are free and forgiven to live another day.

Truly love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)

It was 1966. I was three years old. Lyndon Johnson was President. Vietnam was escalating, the hippie movement was rocking the world, the Beatles would come and go, and the economy, like today, would rise and fall and rise again.

Change is bound to happen. It always does. If you’re looking for a place with no change, try a coke machine. Life comes at us fast and change is inevitable. With change often come fear, frustration, and insecurity. So what do we do? Hole up somewhere till we get our bearings? Take no chances? Be in denial?

A better idea might be to look up. To set our coordinates on the one and only North Star in the universe: God. Through all of life’s ebbs and flows, God is constant. Never wavering, never a doubt (see Hebrews 13:8).

Consider His strength for a moment: unending. According to Paul, God’s power lasts forever (Romans 1:20). His strength never diminishes. Yours and mine will and has. I’m reminded of this as I’m bent on completing my 8 week running program. There are days I’m energized. But there are also those days when the mind says go, but the body says no. It’s in those times we need to push through the pain, knowing there is a reward on the other side. I say all this because we won’t run as fast when we are 80 as when we are in our twenties. Even the strongest among us must eventually rest. Lance Armstrong can maintain a bike speed of 32 mps for a solid hour. Healthy college guys last about forty-five seconds at that pace. Even Lance must rest at some point.

God, however, never rests. He never grows tired or weary, but rather He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (see Isaiah 40:28-29). Today or tomorrow when you swing those legs out of bed and your feet hit the cold floor and you’re tempted to pull the covers over your head and clock out from the world and its ever-changing times, remember that His strength is just an asking away.

Okay, so I’ve never seen a happy jogger. Faces of pain, grinding out the workout, sweating profusely— now that’s what I usually picture when I think of running, not scampering through life’s meadows covered with lilacs and dragonflies and grinning from ear to ear. It’s because of this that I’ve always avoided running. Never saw the value of pounding the pavement, agonizing shin splints, or that burning sensation you get in your lungs when you’re winded while death chuckles and watches close by.

But this winter I thought, “Okay, I’m feeling sluggish. I’ve gained a few more pounds over the holiday.” I found that my stamina was lacking and my overall work-out was, well, non-existent. So a friend told me about runnersworld.com and an 8-week beginners running program that truly starts out nice and slow and builds over the eight weeks. The goal is that at the end of the 8 weeks, you will be running a full 30 minutes without stopping and (this was in their words) “you will feel so good, the energy and sense of accomplishment which you will receive will be almost euphoric.” “Yeah right,” I thought. My idea of euphoric is watching 24 while downing a bag of chips and some hot wings. Now that’s euphoric!

So today is Monday, January 12, and I just completed my first day of what I call “closure.” I have started way too many things in life with great intentions, only to fizzle out and never see closure to the intended goal—trumpet and drum lessons, peewee football, reading the Bible through in a year, consistent family devotions, just to name a few (you get the picture). I find myself so often giving a piece of myself to projects, people, even the Lord, but rarely the whole.  And quite frankly, I’m sick of it. I’m tired of being sluggish. So I’m seeking closure this year. Yes, in this jogging program, but it goes much deeper. I’m seeking closure to life. I used to tell people, “It’s not in how you start; it’s in how you finish.” That’s nonsense; if you’re not going to start well, I can tell you your finish will probably be lousy. So let’s strive to start well and finish with closure and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a little sense of euphoria when we finish this race of life and we have far more victories to share than sluggish stories.

So our family decided this last summer that we wanted to do Christmas differently this season. The kids were struggling to come up with what they felt they couldn’t live one more minute without. I was at a loss for the latest and greatest gadget. Besides, when you’ve got good looks, what more do you need? (smile) So we launched the idea to our kids about doing a missions trip down to Mexico (no, not Cancun) and be a giver of the gift of light, not just a recipient of it. Shockingly, our kids were all in agreement to go. So on December 20, we are headed down to Mexico with about 120 other people from the U.S. There is this awesome medical mission out of San Antonio called T.I.M.E. for Christ Mexico Ministries. I have done three short-term missions trips with them and have seen God do some incredible things in the lives of the Mexican people, as well as the caravan of professionals that take time out of their busy schedules to give medical attention. The medical assistance provided for the people is secondary to them being introduced to the Great Physician.

Over the course of the week we will see thousands of people come to the compound that we are stationed at. From pre-op to post-op to x-ray to dental to eye care to surgery, this medical group does it all. It’s not a stretch when I say hundreds will come to the Lord and get plugged into a strong evangelical church in the region. Pray for my family. Pray that our family would show the love of Jesus, experience His grace, and tangibly touch lives with His worldview in mind. May our family never forget this Christmas.

How will you spend your Christmas this year?

Will it be a Christmas that goes unremembered?

Or will you do something this season with a Christ worldview in mind?

Merry Christmas.

tightropeSo I’m getting ready for this really cool series I’m calling “Tightrope” that I’m going to be launching for the men’s ministry at our church in January. The question I’m asking is, “Are you walking the fine line between faith and foolishness?I find myself telling my kids and even adults who are making unwise choices, “That was just foolish.” But what I really want to say is, “That was just plain stupid; what were you thinking? What’s going in that mind of yours?” It’s the proverbial, “The lights are on, but no one’s home” kind of stupidity.

Maybe it was how I was brought up, but I’ve never like the word “stupid,” even though some of my actions as a teen and even in my adult years may have reflected that. But then the other day, I looked at Proverbs 12:1 where Solomon says, “Whoever loves discipline love knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” There it is! There are stupid things we say and sometimes do, and then there are the just plain stupid that Solomon speaks of, when we hate correction, when we lack common sense (Eccl. 10:3), when we go our own way (Eccl. 10:2). See, every day is a choice. Every day is a tightrope walk that stretches the gap between right and wrong, peace or painful consequences, faith and, yes, stupidity. At times our choices are foolish and the results can be damaging, if not life-threatening, to our souls and the lives around us. At other times, the tightrope of life and the choices we make can bring blessing, maturity, and spiritual growth.

Maintaining balance as we walk the fine line between faith and foolishness is critical. Today as you walk this planet which God has created and fashioned with His own hands, remember to “never grow tired in doing what is right” (2 Thess. 3:13).

Make the right choice and there’s joy; make the wrong one and. . .well, it just might be plain stupid. Have a great day!

Kids have an innocence about them that always amazes me. Their childlike trust and faith do my heart good. I love looking in on my kids when they least expect it—when they are reading or doing homework, or when they are focused and concentrated on something that takes them out of this cruel world, even if it’s just for a moment, to a place of peace, contentment, and safety. Without a doubt, I believe that inner sanctum for my kids is the shower.

They are at the age where they want total privacy. So from the moment they enter the bathroom to the moment they depart, the room is off limits. DO NOT ENTER! It’s amazing when they’re in the bathroom. They become oblivious to what is going on in the rest of the house, or for that matter, the world. This truly could be seen as their safety zone. They can let their guard down and be themselves with no reservations, no putting on a front, if you will. But it’s when they are in the shower that you hear an outward expression of the inner peace, serenity, and joy of a child. It’s in the shower that they leave this world of chaos and enter a world where all is calm and all is bright. Without any reservations, my children will sing at the top of their lungs. Some are songs they know, but often they’re songs the kids make up off the tops of their heads, that reflects their inner spirits and beauty. Songs to God, we’ll call them. They are not meant to be heard by anyone else. Only God. Only God has the green light to enter in as our kids put on the concert of their lives to an audience of One.

As my son this morning was performing before the Almighty, I grinned, shook my head, and wondered why my “songs to God” seem few and far between these days. Have I somewhere lost my desire to connect with Him in my own inner sanctum (wherever that might be)? Just something for all of us to think about…

vlrg_singshower