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June 2015 entries

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I am weary of trying not to offend others. I have come to conclude that is a burden I have not been called to carry. So I lay it down.

I have been asking myself how we got to where we are. I believe it is to some degree due to governmental policies and Supreme Court rulings. But these things have not happened in a vacuum.

A nation that was forged by and founded on Biblical truths and divine absolutes has declined to such an extent that its citizens have discarded such ideas as primitive and superstitious. What is retained of God's standards of morality are reduced to what is socially palatable and politically correct. "Everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes." (Judges 21:25

All the while the majority of Christ followers in America have enjoyed the benefits of our founding father's prayers and sacrifice while offering neither of our own. We have fiddled while Rome has burned. Now we point fingers at others and appeal to God to return us to the environment we once enjoyed where we can be comfortable and complacent again.

The church has become impotent by forsaking the source of her power in exchange for tolerance by a society that is increasingly hesitant to be so. We have traded the bold and confrontational truths of God's Word for a desire to fill our houses of worship with people who do not pray, do not tithe, do not witness and are unwilling to commit. We have, by our desire to be tolerated, lost our seat at the table.

The light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train. It is the reality that the church was birthed and thrived in contention and public opposition. Early believers were forced to live out their faith or defect. The truth is that the church in America has lagged behind His followers in other countries in powerfully changing lives for decades now. God is moving in supernatural ways in places where He is least tolerated. He is radically transforming individuals, families and villages where persecution of His children is certain. If opposition is what it takes to make the church in America a force to be reckoned with again then the best days may yet be ahead of us.    

God and Evil

Of all the worthwhile charities out there today I know of just one that people universally support; St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. I don't mean to say that everyone financially supports the hospital, but I have never heard anyone publicly rant and rave that the organization is crooked or the whole thing is just a scam to rip people off. Why do you think that is?

For one, they have given no reason to make such accusations. Not only was our son one of their patients; he also worked for them right out of college. So I know first hand that they are honest and spend the vast majority of donations to make sick kids better.

Secondly, children who are ill is a universal concern and anyone who is actively engaged in making them better is widely supported. The underlying motivation is that we all hate to see children suffer. Which brings me to the reason for this post. The opposition to faith in God I encounter most often from unbelievers is the question of a good God and human suffering. How can the coexist?

No follower of Christ should ever consider this just a smokescreen used to avoid committing ones self to Christ by faith. It is a legitimate question not to be taken lightly. I've presided over too many graveside services of young children. I've left the hospital sick with emptiness after watching a mom stubbornly lose her fight for life to think this is a diversion. I have had to struggle with it myself.

What I have concluded has come from study, personal experience and observation. My wife and I experienced an unexplainable peace the night our son was diagnosed with cancer. I have talked with parents who have experienced that same peace even after death took their child away. What I have come to realize is that God does not alleviate all our pain or even remove us from the horrible consequences of evil. That is the issue I have never been able to settle. God does not remove His followers from the consequences of sin in a fallen world. If I am allowed to ask Him someday I certainly will.

However, one truth I have learned. He does not desert us in our pain. He may not eradicate evil from the world, but neither does He leave us to face it alone. I have known Him in the hospital room. I have felt His presence at the cemetery. I have watched Him dry the eyes of a crying child. In a sense, we are never closer to God than when we are in trouble or in pain. I have observed those who have neglected or rejected His love in good times embrace Him in their pain. Even after long periods of silence and tears He has broken through the darkness when those tears have achieved their divine purpose; to make us thirsty for His presence.

So I have learned that the reality evil does not obscure God. It is His invitation to know Him better. If it were not for pain we may have no need for Him. So many who try and alleviate the pain through drugs, experiences or isolation also miss an appointment with God. The substance or experience become a poor substitute for meeting with the Almighty.

So while I cannot explain why a good God allows evil and pain. I am eternally thankful He does not leave me to face them alone.        

You Asked For It So Here's My Thoughts on Bruce

Ok, so I have been asked on several occasions recently to comment on the whole Bruce Jenner situation. These are my thoughts. They only reflect my opinions and no one else; not my family, not my church, and not my denomination. Just mine.

Any person who is not a believer in Jesus Christ is controlled by his flesh and his flesh alone. Only followers of Christ have the Spirit of God dwelling within Who is committed to leading us to truth and convicting us of sin. I have very little knowledge of his faith, but I have never heard of Bruce professing to be a believer in the sense that he has trusted Christ as his Savior. Thus, he is following the inclinations of his flesh and has no access to the Spirit of God within him. I have been there and know first hand what that is like. 

How about how the media portraying him as a hero? Personally, I find it very distasteful and inappropriate to use the same word used to describe the brave men and women of the military who face the enemy to secure our freedom to describe Bruce's decision to live life as the opposite sex. Or to speak of his decision with same reverence we speak of a child who resolutely faces radiation and chemo treatments to battle cancer with courage. I'm sorry, the media and I disagree greatly as to the definitions of courage, bravery and heroism.

I am surprised as to the number of women who have applauded his decision to live the remainder of his days as a female. It seems to me that women who have endured the mental, emotional and physical distress  and discomfort associated with their physiology would not easily welcome someone into their gender who has not also paid the price. Bruce may choose to live as a woman but will never have to endure the pain or inherent dangers associated with childbirth. However, this is only an observation coming from a man and not a woman. I am certain I do not qualify to speak for them; Myself having never had to deal with the challenges I have just listed.

My greatest issue is with believers. That may seem to be a strange statement, but please allow me to explain. Some who follow Christ have expressed their opinion that if this makes Bruce happy then we should be happy for him. So should our concern end there? Is happiness the main objective of life? It may be a true statement that for the unbeliever happiness is the pinnacle of existence. So should we be happy that someone, whether we know them personally or not, is attempting to find fulfillment outside of the forgiveness of sin for which we all are in desperate need. When in reality God's ultimate desire for His highest creation is not happiness but holiness.

I am not angry with Bruce Jenner. I am not disappointed with the media. They are acting according to the instincts of the flesh. Without a Damascus Road like experience they will continue to act this way. (Just for the record, I believe those kinds of experiences still occur.) I am more disappointed with my reaction. I immediately wanted to pass judgment on this former athlete. But God reminded me of the horrible mess my life was in when He found me. The only difference in my life and Jenner's is that I was not a member of the Kardashian family. I am grieved over this man's decision just like I am grieved over the millions of other decisions made every day by people who believe their main objective in life is to be happy to the detriment of their eternal souls.

12  There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12



How Can a Man of God Treat People This Way?

It's been 5 days since a group of us returned from a missionary retreat in the Dominican Republic. We had beautiful weather and smooth travel. The rooms were clean and the food was plenteous and tasty. So why am I still so tired?

We served nearly 250 missionaries from several countries and almost as many mission sending agencies. They were young and old. They were veterans and rookies. It was really a blessing to serve such committed servants of our Lord. So why am I still so tired?

Looking back over the week from my perspective I came to realize why with so many positives, I was exhausted. I spent more time on this trip than any other counseling with missionaries. Whether at a predetermined time or at random moments I was asked to counsel and pray with missionaries consistently throughout the week. What do you imagine were their greatest spiritual needs? You would think they would be concerned about difficult living conditions or Satanic attacks against themselves and their ministries. Not so. Not one story like that. They accept those things as given. What burdens them the most is not their enemies but their supposed allies. Those they work with and work for threaten to drive them from the missionary field they feel called by God to serve.

One missionary shared with me about his priest who attempted to delay his coming to the field. He spoke of his leaders mood changes and ungodly behavior and temperament. His question to me was, "How can a person who is a man of God treat people this way?"

Another missionary couple shared with me how they had been shunned by other team members when they arrived. They described the close knit group of veterans who did not include them or listen to their ideas. They were thousands of miles from their home and all alone.

A couple became very discouraged when their parents tried to talk them out of becoming missionaries. Another spoke of how angry one set of in-laws would become when they stopped at the other in-laws first on their brief visits to the U.S. Still another couple told how letters and sponsorship had ceased since the leadership of their sending church had changed.

I could share many other sad stories I heard. Where support was withdrawn or not present from those who should have been their greatest allies. However, I'll end with this one. After our last night of meeting together of singing and teaching in English. A great treat that many missionaries longed for. The Spirit was strong and the Lord was doing some great things in that room on the last night of the getaway. I was walking alone from the meeting room to the dining area when a young lady called my name from behind me. She had been waiting for several minutes for me to walk by. She looked to be no older than her mid-twenties and was on mission all alone. She told me how much the sacrifice our team had made meant to her. I thanked her and told her we received a greater blessing. She then asked me to pray for her and help her if I could. It seemed that just after the meeting she had words with her supervisor. He became angry at her and told her she should find her own way back to the airport. I assume her boss had picked her up there or had rented a car. "Can I catch one of the buses to the airport tomorrow even though I have not signed up?" she asked almost in tears. I assured her I would make it happen even if I had to pay for it myself. I then prayed for her and walked to dinner.

As I thought about the young lady's story and all the other couples I counseled with last week it has left me with a sadness that has resulted in my physical weakness. I think it is because their stories are not unique to the mission field. Most hurts I hear of and experience myself are not from the enemy; not directly anyway. They are from those who should be our allies. Those who should bring encouragement into our lives discourage us with their words and actions. Many church members leave church for the same reason missionaries leave their assignments. They aren't run off as much as they feel pushed out. They guard against attacks of the enemy just to be sucker punched by their fellow believers while their guard is down. Remember, you can only be betrayed by a friend. Just ask Jesus. 

Our flesh has a tendency to elevate and protect self by de-valuing others. That is why the author of Hebrew finds it necessary to write, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)

Dear Lord, may we die to self and love each other as You have loved us.

"Come on people now smile on your brother, everybody get together. Try to love one another right now."

The Youngbloods