Happenstance or Answered Prayer?

Do you ever feel that your prayers are ineffective? Do you wonder if our Father in Heaven is listening? Does He even care? I suppose we’ve all had such thoughts from time to time, but when I stop and consider my experiences from the perspective of God’s fatherhood, my supposed unanswered prayers look completely different.

Most parents strive to give their children the best gifts; we revel in the delight we see on our beloved child’s face when we give them that perfect gift. I must confess that over the years while raising my three sons I’ve seen my share of disappointment at the gifts I’ve given them. Sometimes the coveted toy or game was unavailable or beyond my budget at the time, but occasionally, I didn’t give them what they wanted because I felt it wasn’t good for them, or because I wanted to give them something I knew would be better in the long run.

Now, nothing is beyond God’s ability or means to give us, but many of our desires are not what is good for us, at least not then.

Giving a four-year-old a motorcycle might make him happy for the moment, but it would be irresponsible and dangerous, both to himself and others. Throughout my childhood, I begged my parents for a horse at every Christmas and birthday. However, we lived in a town, not on a farm, and I was woefully unprepared to take care of livestock. Similarly, God knows what gifts are best for us and when we are ready to receive them.

My sons were never exactly thrilled when I gave them exercise equipment to keep them healthy or educational games to help them learn and prepare for life, and I am not usually too happy when God answers my pray (including helpful detailed instructions, of course) with something else. However, almost inevitably, His “something else” turns out to be the greater blessing.

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? 10 Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.

Matthew 7:7-11 (CEV)

We are certain that God will hear our prayers when we ask for what pleases him. And if we know that God listens when we pray, we are sure that our prayers have already been answered.

1 John 5:14-15 CEV

Next time you feel frustrated by seemingly unanswered prayer, try to look at your situation from a parent’s viewpoint and trust that your good gift is probably already on the way.

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What’s Your Sign?

one waySigns are wonderful things. They can convey all sorts of important information to anyone who can interpret the message.

When driving in Italy for the first time, traffic signs that were meaningful to the locals were unclear to me. It was an unnerving experience. In unfamiliar or confusing territory, directional signs take on critical importance. The same is true in our faith walk.

When dealing with knotty decisions it is not unusual to ask for a clear sign from God. However, if something happens that seems to point to one choice or the other, we wonder if this is truly God’s leading. Could it be wishful thinking, misinterpretation, or even random coincidence? We become frustrated and petition God for something bold; nothing less than “a hand writing on the wall” will do.

I truly believe that God does speak to us today; He speaks through the Bible, first of all. If our choice or situation is addressed in His word, we don’t need to ask for signs or wonders. The clearly recognizable signs such as Stop, Wait, and Yield are there for all to see. He speaks to us through that still small voice of conscience, as well.

While it is human nature to want a clear, unambiguous, unavoidable sign posted at each of life’s intersections, that is not God’s way.

Before He gave us the clear message of His Word and the gift of the Holy Spirit, God anointed prophets to interpret His signs to the people.

Those of us who are not prophets do not have the skills of interpretation to let us know if a leaf blown across our path is a sign from God to turn around, or a sign that it is a windy day. We must rely on our knowledge of God’s Word and sensitivity to His leading through the Holy Spirit.

If I am stymied by my options in a situation, perhaps I just need to get back to those basics and trust God to carry me through.

What’s my sign?  I think I’ll choose One Way: God’s way.

Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105 (NIV)
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Our passions and The Passion

passionplay

The dramatic portrayal of the historical events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion are referred to as the Passion.

For centuries during Holy Week, Passion Plays such as the ones in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and in Oberammergau, Germany, have been performed around the world using Bible era costumes and settings.

A few years ago, on Palm Sunday, the Fox network aired a live musical Passion Play in the modern day city of New Orleans, using contemporary costumes and pop music. Tyler Perry provided narration to bridge the musical numbers and to explain, in simple terms, the series of events being portrayed.

I watched this program with my family. For some of us, the use of the pop music with its secular lyrics was jarring. We felt it trivialized this precious story from history.

A lively discussion followed the show and my daughter-in-law, an ordained minister, pointed out that this production wasn’t meant for Christians already steeped in the truth and meaning of these events. The program was aimed at a culture unfamiliar with Christ and the Bible. It was a palatable introduction which hoped to become a gateway to the truth. Newly born-again Christians are nourished on the milk of the Gospel before they are ready to digest more mature fare.

This contemporary Passion story which felt overly emotional and shallow to me, was meant for the non-believer, to be a sweet sample of what Christ has to offer.

In order to evangelize, or even to serve one another, we must meet people where they are, keying into the things they understand and are passionate about.

Although this production of the Passion story didn’t speak to me, it wasn’t trying to. The faces on the live crowds in New Orleans showed how very well it spoke to them.

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Seeing beyond the obvious

bibleI love the Bible. I love it for all the usual reasons Christians love the Word of God, but I also love it because it always shows me something new.

In the Harry Potter books and movies, the people in the paintings on the walls move about, so the pictures are constantly changing. While the Bible never changes, each reading can offer me something I never saw before.

When I read John 13:12-15, the foot washing passage, I paused over the words saying Jesus, “put his outer garment back on,” after washing His disciples’ feet. It was as if that phrase was highlighted on the page for the first time.

Jesus put His outer garment back on, because He took it off to do the foot washing, of course. When I read this sentence before, I’d assumed He took his outer garment off as a practical matter so He wouldn’t get it wet.

Now I saw something new. I saw a previously overlooked part of Christ’s lesson –  for His disciples and for me.

In order to serve, to really serve, we must remove our protective layer, our outer garment, and become vulnerable and genuine.

We’ve observed this kind of vulnerable service from those risking their lives to rescue strangers in accidents, fires, floods, and other natural calamities, but that isn’t the limit to vulnerable service. In our day-to-day relationships we must be emotionally vulnerable to those we serve, as well.

This truth had been in the Gospel text all the time.

I once was blind, but now I see. Amazing, just amazing.

That’s why I love the Bible.

[Original version posted on ]

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Feeling foolish?

I’ve never enjoyed practical jokes like those typically rampant every April 1st. While I don’t mind laughing at myself, I don’t enjoy being made to look like a fool for someone else’s amusement.

This past week, many people have felt like victims of a multi-year practical joke perpetrated by various experts and authorities in the public square. Discovering that so many of these pundits were either not as “expert” as claimed, or else were purposely misleading us, tends to make folks feel foolish for falling for their pseudo-wisdom.

This is a lesson to all of us to look beyond the words of those labeled experts or insiders. We need to pull back the curtain and reveal the motives behind the words.

In 1 Corinthians, chapters two and three, the Apostle Paul speaks about worldly wisdom. His words are especially relevant in light of recent events.

19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”


1 Corinthians 3:19 New International Version (NIV)

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Can our culture ever bounce back?

I have a friend who, through no fault of her own, seems to run into more than her fair share of bad luck. Amazingly, no matter what blows she experiences, she always bounces back, somehow.

Thinking of how she “bounces back” makes me remember a term I learned in Physics classcoefficient of restitution: The coefficient of restitution is a number which indicates how much kinetic energy (energy of motion) remains after a collision of two objects.

red ball bounce

In simplest terms, if an object has a high coefficient of restitution (C of R) it will bounce back when thrown against a hard surface, returning to its original shape, while something with a very low C of R tends to go “splat!”

What determines an object’s C of R, is the material from which it is made, i.e. a rubber ball has a high C of R and chocolate pudding doesn’t.  It is not a matter of positive thinking that makes the difference.

So, why do some people, like my friend, seem to bounce back repeatedly from the hard knocks of  life, while others fall apart like a spoonful of mousse at the first impact?

red splat

We all have the same basic physical make-up, but people have more than physical properties. We have emotional and spiritual components, as well.

I believe it is the spiritual component that determines our C of R, more than anything else.

Faith in a God of love as described in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose,” gives a person the resiliency to bounce back from the assaults and insults of this world, again and again.

Modern culture in the West has received many assaults and knocks, throwing it off the solid center we once knew. Perhaps, if enough of us strengthen our own spiritual resiliency, we might increase the country’s Coefficient of Restitution so we can bounce back to sanity, civility, and morality.

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Why fill our eyes with worthless things?

Psalm 119:37 “turn my eyes from looking at worthless things… “

A few mornings ago, I was listening to Christian radio and happened to hear a message from Joni and Friends. Joni is a mature woman who was paralyzed in a diving accident as a teenager and has turned this tragedy into an amazing Christian ministry. Although the main focus of her ministry is helping other people suffering from disabilities, Joni’s story is an inspirational example to all Christians.

The four-minute radio message I listened to was taken from Psalm 119, where we are encouraged to use our precious time and senses to focus on those things which are worthwhile and turn from the distracting dross available wherever we turn.

You can hear her beautiful, thought-provoking message by clicking this link:. https://www.joniandfriends.org/a-covenant-with-your-eyes/

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippeans 4:8 (NLT)
Captured on July 04, 2014, in GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, USA. Photo: Andrew Gosine
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Looking toward Easter…Now It’s Personal

“For God so loved the world…”

John 3:16

This familiar quotation helps us to understand the nature of God as the words underscore the value to the Shepherd of all of His sheep. In Luke 15 we are told that the Shepherd is willing to leave the massed flock to seek out a single lost lamb.

When I consider God’s love for “the world” I am reassured, in a sort of abstract way, that He is a loving father who wants only the best for His creation, but when I think of the depth of His love for that single lost sheep … and this lost sheep, well … that’s personal.

j0407485

To me, the Christian walk is all about relationship. Relationship with Christ, first of all, then relationships with my fellow Christians. Only these will go with us into Eternity. These are the treasures we are told to store up in Heaven.

It is awareness of the one-on-one relationship I have with Christ that touches me when I consider how He suffered so hideously for my sins; not for some anonymous world, but for me, so that my sins and selfishness are forgiven, even now, these  many years after that first Resurrection Morning.

Hallelujah, what a Savior.

Indeed.

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Feelings are…Stupid!

One day I was chatting with two friends about our lives. As with most women in the prime of life, we have all survived rough patches.

While commiserating on how memories of events long past, even those we think we have come to terms with, can surprise us with their power, one of us blurted out, “Feelings are stupid!”  and we all laughed. As I’ve thought about that comment, I agree with it, more and more. Feelings, emotions, are incredibly powerful, but they are just not smart.

A life guided by emotions is an erratic one, at best. Well-known commentator and columnist, Ben Shapiro, is famous for saying, “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” and he’s right.

We are sometimes urged to rely on “gut feelings” in tricky situations, but if those visceral emotions aren’t actually instincts honed and informed by past experience, observation, and rational thought, we might as well flip a coin.

Emotions can be triggered and influenced by random sensations that tickle our subconscious. They give life color and richness, they separate us from the animal kingdom, but they cannot be trusted. The sixties philosophy “If it feels good, do it” had some tragic consequences and our society continues to deal with the fall out.

A better motto might be “If it feels good, and it hurts no one, and if it is beneficial, then check it out to see if you might enjoy doing it, now and then, in moderation.”  Not so hip and edgy, but a whole lot smarter.

Feelings  are like a high-spirited two-year-old… great fun, cute as the dickens, and requiring constant supervision.

Wise people react to truth, rather than personal subjective emotions.

There is no greater truth than this, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” John 14:6 (NASB)

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