Thursday, January 27, 2011

Don’t sit down in the dark—fight

The white wolf called winter has dealt Western Minnesota a hard blow. For example, since winter season set in, I don’t believe our schools have had a full week of school; late starts, early dismissal or they have cancelled the entire day.  All of this, the relentless pounding snow, wind and cold has caused some of us to sit down in the dark. We have become despondent.

As Christians, as human beings, we will struggle with depression or despondency. Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” This is a clear call that the soul of a saint needs to be “revived”. If it needs to be revived, it also means the soul was “dead”. A familiar verse is Psalm 23:2-3 “He leads me beside quiet waters” He restores my soul.”

The intent of this blog is not to point to our collective misery but we need to be encouraged that we are not alone in this. Rather than sit in the dark, we need to mount a personal and collective fight against spiritual depression. How do we fight?

Jesus is again our example. The God-Man Jesus was facing the reality of going to the cross, the devil tempting him not to do it. Thus Jesus was “troubled” (John 12:17: "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour.’ "No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.; John 13:21: After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.") But in the same gospel, Jesus tells us, his disciples, in John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
When we are tempted to give up or tempted to give in to despondency, it is not sin. We must fight. How did Jesus fight the devil’s temptation to give up on the purpose Jesus was sent to do? Jesus purpose was to redeem fallen man by going to the Cross of Calvary.

Matthew 26:36-39 says:  "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

We can learn how to fight the temptation of despondency from Jesus. Note:

  1. He chose some close friends to be with Him (v.37)
  2. He opened His soul to them (v.38). He told them He was grieved to the point of death.
  3. He asked for intercession and partnership in battle (v. 39) “Remain here & keep watch”
  4. He poured out His heart to God the Father in prayer (v.39)
  5. He rested His soul in the sovereign wisdom of God (v.39) “Yet not as I will, but as Thou will.”
  6. He fixed His eyes on things beyond the cross (Hebrews 12:2 – “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We must not dwell just in the present; we must look beyond our moment of despair like Christ did. The white wolf of winter may buffet our soul but we must not sit alone in the dark. We must fight the temptation to give in; Jesus shows us how. Let’s follow Him. That is why we call Him “Savior”; that is why we call Him “friend”.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Seeing the tears in each others eyes

We have a group of “old friends,” yes, they are “old” like us but we have known them since we were just married. We have moved away from each other yet we have maintained contact. Each winter we, as a group, have a winter outing. We go to plays concerts or just go out to eat and visit. We all look forward to it.

This year we received an email from one of the group suggesting a certain outing. It was a blanket email sent to the other five couples. People have responded by email.

I am not an anti-technology guy but we hear much about the increase in loneliness, depression, and isolation, yet at the same time we have the highest level of so called connectivity with one another. Phones, cell phones, letters (do they still exist?), Facebook, email, texting—have I missed any??

Just in our group of 60-ish geezers, we started with the phone (land phones—yes, we are that antiquated). In the past, in order to organize a proposed winter outing, five phone calls needed to be made initially. The proposed outing was discussed, plus much more. More joys, concerns, more laughter, more tears and sometimes pure jubilation. Yes, we talked about more than the outing. Our response to the email was “Yes, we are interested, count us in”; quick, efficient but cold.

In this age of “high connectivity,” we’re quick, efficient, and cold. We have less and less opportunities to look across the table and see the tears in our friends’ eyes; they can be tears of sadness or tears of joy. The result is this—we are the loser for it all. We have lost compassion for one another (it can’t really be this bad). We have become impatient with each other (I don’t have time for this). We have withered away losing true concern and love our brother and sister. In our increasing isolation and superficial relationships, we pass ourselves off as having in “all together”. We live a lie and we know it.

Let’s slow up and look into each others eyes. Visit, share a cup of coffee and for once in a long time, and see someone else’s tears, happy or sad. We will be the better for it.

To attest to this, the women of this group gathered for coffee recently. We shared laughter, joys, and happenings in our lives, we talked about the outing as well. In fact, it was so intense and enjoyable that we did not notice that we were in the midst of still another snow storm! We all made it slowly but safely home. We vowed to get together again soon. (We used to do it every week when our kids were young.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Five Years Later

It has been five years since I wrote the following on our CaringBridge site.  It was the day before I went in for prostate surgery.  God is good!  Five years later I am still cancer free.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  ~ Jerry

Sunday, January 8, 2006 2:28 PM, CST

This week someone asked me “why did you have to get cancer?” My unspoken response was, “Why not me?” Is the God who is sovereign worthy of praise and thanksgiving only when He does what we judge to be good or what we want to have happen? God is not our cosmic “butler” on call to do only what we please or desire when we want it and how we want it. We need to be reminded He answers to no man. Does God bring cancer into our lives? In John 9:1-12, Jesus heals a man blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples ask him “who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus responds in verse 3: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Why did I get cancer? So God’s glory can be displayed. If I come through the surgery, “to God be the glory.” If I die, may I die well “to God be the glory.”

In John Flavel’s book "The Mystery of Providence" on p. 182, Flavel asks a question: “Does God perform all things for His people? Do not distrust Him then when new difficulties arise. Why should you think He that has done so many things for you will now do no more?” Isaiah 59:1 reads “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” God will hear. Why would He not listen now? I am ready for whatever He has in store but I know for sure this cancer didn’t slip by when He was not looking or happen when He was asleep (He never sleeps). No, it happened for whatever reason God has in mind, even though I don’t know exactly what it is. I don’t need all the answers. I just need to OBEY and go forward in trust.

What questions should we be asking? I borrow from Jerry Bridges book "The Joy of Fearing God", p. 152. “Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I wholeheartedly acknowledge God’s authority, both in His precepts and His providences, in my life? Do I resent or question any of His providential circumstances in my life?
  2. Do I seek to live all of life under the authority of God’s Word, believing what it says and seeking to apply its teachings to every area of my life?
  3. Am I chafing—either openly or secretly in my heart—under any God-ordained human authorities? Are there any relationships here in which I need to change my attitude or actions?” (Jerry’s definition: internal friction: God exercising control in our lives.)
We need these trials to do some (in my case, much needed) soul searching. 
Thank all of you for your concern and prayers and the love shown to our family. I will close with a benediction I sometimes use in country churches when I preach:
“May the roads rise up to meet you, may the prairie winds be always at your back . May the sun shine warmly upon your face and may the rain and snow fall gently upon your fields, til we meet again, May the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand, and may He keep your hand steady till the setting of the golden sun and His glorious return. In Jesus name. And all God’s people said Amen."
Note: The kids and Judi hope to update from the hospital to keep people in touch. Again, thank you all. ~ Jerry

Scriptures for reading and pondering: Acts 17:24-31; Deut. 8: 1-18; Job 2:9; John 9:1-12; Isaiah 59:1; Job 42:1-6.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Who will tell us the truth in these days?

A doctor in England admitted this week that he fabricated the results of a study linking autism to childhood vaccinations. The original study was published in The British Medical Journal. If we cannot trust them, who can we trust?

This week the new Congress came to power. The power in the House of Representatives has swung from the Democrats to the Republicans. Much has been talked about; a vision staked out, promises made but—I don’t believe any of it.

Yes, I’ve become a cynical doubting old man. Who will tell us the truth and how will we know what is the truth in these days? I mean, do you really believe the unemployment rate is 9.4%? I don’t. Do you really believe inflation is “rising slightly” as I heard on the news today? I don’t. Just look at your grocery cart and you’ll realize someone is lying to us.

In John 8:42-47, Jesus was talking to the Jews, who claimed they were children of Abraham. It says: 42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? 47 He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

These verses teach us some important things appropriate for days such as these.

  1. If God is our Father, we must love Jesus (verse 42)
  2. Verse 44 is loaded.
a.  The devil is the father of lies. NOTE: The battle of the ages is good versus evil. Jesus versus the devil. It is being played out daily in battles of what is truth and what are lies.
b. There is no truth in the devil and there is no truth in his children. When considering something, consider the source. Whose child is this person? A child of God or a child of the devil.

3. Regarding Verse 47 – As believers, when we listen, we must listen to what God says.
a. Read His Word. Listen to His Word. Ask God to open your ears. Ask God to give you a discerning heart. Believers will hear what God says.

b. 1 Kings 3:7-14: "Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child1 and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for--both riches and honor--so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life."
c. This should be our prayer.

God has and will always tell us the truth. Are we willing to humble ourselves and believe him? Trust Him in these days. In John 8:32 Jesus says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Yes, He has set us free from being slaves to sin. We have experienced the ultimate freedom. Listen to Him in these days. Remember, He promised He would never leave us or forsake us. God has kept all His promises and He always will. Good, good news…in these last days. Lies may abound but Jesus is the Truth and the Light. Listen to Him alone.