Archive for July, 2014|Monthly archive page

Seed of aspiration

My wife and I are entertaining a young Australian couple, friends of our son and daughter-in-law.

The young wife is pregnant and they are about to return home after a year in California and a few weeks helping out at a Christian camp in Ontario.

For us, it brings back memories of our own adventure in Australia 48 years ago. My wife was pregnant and I was without a job when we left Canada for a year in Australia.

We would never attempt it again at our age. But, in our mid-twenties, it was an adventure we would not have missed for the world.

We still travel a lot but for short periods and with a solid bank account to pay our way. And travel and medical insurance to back us up in case of emergencies.

We were talking with friends in a study group recently about attempting something beyond ourselves.

I think there is a seed of aspiration planted in most of us – trying to do something that calls for faith and hope.

This seed grows differently in different people. For some, it is starting their own business without any money. Or, rising from poverty to gain a university degree.

Or, hearing the call of God and giving up something to answer the call.

Many Christians have done that in the past. I have been reading a biography of George Muller recently and am struck by how single-minded he was about doing what God was asking him to do.

He had a comfortable upbringing but he gave that up when he became a believer. And, instead, he lived the rest of his life depending wholly on God as he cared for thousands of orphans in England without ever making an appeal for money. He died with practically nothing.

And, of course, there is the apostle Paul. He heard the call of God in a dramatic way when he heard the voice of God and was blinded by light on the way to Damascus to persecute Christians. That led to his conversion and a life of constant peril – all for Jesus.

He never regretted that call. Toward the end of his life, he said: “For me, to live is Christ.”

As I reflect on this, I believe we need to nourish this seed of aspiration, no matter how old we are.


Looking in the wrong places

A friend says he has lost his faith in God and is trying to find it again.

My guess is that he has a flawed understanding of God and of faith.

His struggles are sharpening my own views.

He tells me he had faith in God from childhood and finally gave up when the Lord did not answer a prayer of his. He is reluctant to tell me what that prayer was and I don’t probe.

But he tells me he very much wants his faith restored. I can see that longing because he has raised the subject with me several times.

I have told him I believe Jesus loves him so much that he gave his life for him on the cross.

But he believes that God is disgusted with him and that he will never be worthy of God – and will never see God.

I agree that none of us is worthy of God. But the whole story of Jesus is about how passionately he wants a relationship with us despite our unworthiness. This is something my friend finds hard to understand.

I believe his problem is that he thinks God is exactly like us. We lash out angrily at people who hurt us or disappoint us. But God seeks us even when we fail him.

I wonder, too, what he expects faith to be.

Andy Stanley has said that faith is believing Jesus is who he says he is and that he will do what he has said he will do.

It is hard to have faith in Jesus if you don’t believe he is what he says he is.

As I said in an earlier blog post, only God can open our eyes to that truth.

A different way of seeing

Sometimes things are too dark for us to see any light in our situation.

Maybe we need to ask God to give us his glasses to see how he is acting in our lives.

A friend shared something this week about her brother who suffered a brain aneurysm and was brought face-to-face with God. God miraculously brought him back to life.

The life-or-death experience brought him to the Lord and he joyfully tells people who visit him about God’s miracle.

But he was not totally healed. He is still virtually immobilized.

Recently, he told his sister that he is now ready to go to be with God.

She pointed out to him the impact his story is having on many people who have heard it and those who have visited him. He is a living channel of God’s glory.

Some of us are still living nightmares. Some of us have come through.

Often, it is hard to understand why we are going through difficult times. Perhaps we have hung on for years without visible relief from the pain we are suffering.

I find hope in great figures in the Bible such as David, Jeremiah and Mary.

David’s psalms are littered with cries of anguish such as these words in Psalm 55:5: “Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.”

But later in that psalm – in verse 22 – he says: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.”

We are told in the Bible that David was “a man after God’s own heart”. He had many human weaknesses, but he trusted God and stayed close to him throughout his tumultuous life.

Jeremiah suffered through continuous persecution by his own people because he dared to speak the words God gave him. His words have outlived his enemies by thousands of years.

Mary, Jesus’ mother, trusted God when told she would bear the Messiah. She treasured Jesus’ words in her heart. She watched her son die a criminal’s death on the cross.

She has a special place in the Bible and the history of Christianity.

God feels our suffering and knows why we are going through hard times.

Perhaps it is to bring glory to God. As Jesus said in John 9:3, a man born blind was healed to bring glory to the Lord.

Perhaps it is to bring us closer to God. Joni Eareckson’s terrible diving accident left her a quadriplegic. Her story of faith has been an inspiration to thousands around the world.

Perhaps it is to bring others to the Lord.

As I say, it is sometimes too difficult to see why we suffer when we are going through it. All we can do is hang on hard to God through it all.

Then, maybe he will give us his glasses to see what he is doing with our suffering.

Moments of joy

Even the hardest lives have moments of joy. Let’s store them away and call them back when times are gloomy.

For me, yesterday was one of those joyful days to remember.

It was a simple family day. Our two daughters had sent their oldest daughters – aged 9 and 10 – to a Christian summer camp run by our son and daughter-in-law. Yesterday was pick-up time.

It was a beautiful sunny, mild day. We were greeted by our son and daughter-in-law and two of their children along with the two young campers. Much hugging and happy talk.

It was a busy time for our son and daughter-in-law because families were arriving to pick up their kids and to watch a rodeo – the camp is a horse camp.

The rodeo was fun. Most of the kids had no experience with horses before arriving at the camp days earlier, but there were counselors leading the horses for those who were too small. There were games and the kids squeezed sponges full of water over our son and daughter-in-law who are camp directors for the first time.

I had good chats with our son and two daughters and enjoyed our grandchildren.

A perfect day. A day to bring back to mind later on.

Remembering times of blessing is a biblical concept.

We see in the Old Testament that people put up altars of stone at places where God touched the lives of his people in special ways. These were intended to remind the people that God had worked great things in their lives.

Those who wrote the books of the Bible often referred to God’s activity among their forefathers – especially the miraculous escape of the children of Israel from Egypt.

Certain festivals – the Passover and others – marked special events in the long history of Israel. Christians focus especially on the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Yesterday’s outing at the children’s summer camp may not be as world-shaking as the events in Jesus’ life.

But it was God’s gift to me. And I cherish it.