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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 and the Meaning of the Cross






The call came at about 5:55 am (pacific) and when I answered the phone, the voice at the other end was my best friend telling me to turn on the TV. Since I never got up before 7:30, I could barely comprehend what time it was let alone what she was saying.

So, I begrudgingly trudged into my living room, turned on my television, and sat in stunned silence looking at the billowing smoke coming out of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Eight minutes later, I watched as another plane crashed into the South Tower of the WTC, and that's when I knew that the United States of America was under attack. Still sitting there in stunned silence, I called my mom and told her to turn on the TV. Since my parents never watched TV in the morning, I knew they would have no idea what was happening. In turn, she called my Dad and told him to turn on the TV in his office.

The next call I made was to my boss. I woke him up, and he was about to start yelling at me until I told him what was happening and that he needed to go turn on his TV. I also called my assistant and told him the same thing. Though he was young and ticked off that I woke him up, I knew that this moment in history was too important for him to miss.

Like the rest of the nation, I sat glued to my TV for the next three hours, watching in horror as a third plane crashed into the Pentagon and both towers of the World Trade Center collapsed upon themselves.

It wasn't until a few years later when I learned that one of my high school classmates was in the Pentagon when it was hit. To this day, I am still glad that it was he, himself, who was able to tell me the story of how he and some of his colleagues had to climb out of the building -- instead of reading his obituary in my high school's alumnus magazine.

When I turned on the TV this morning and watched the news coverage of the events that took place on this fateful day twelve years ago, my eyes once again filled with tears. It seems like only yesterday when those phone calls with my best friend and my mom took place, and the world as we knew it changed forever.

But it wasn't until today, while I was looking through images of 9/11 on Google and saw this photo of a cross, that my thinking about this event really began to be challenged . . . Namely in relationship to what Christ's death on the Cross should mean to those of us who declare ourselves to be His followers.


Now, I realize that what I am going to say next may really anger a few people. And, please believe me when I say that I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone, in any way, shape or form, when it comes to the loss of life (and friends and family) that was suffered on 9/11. I have friends who lost loved ones on that day and it was, and is, a tragedy that will stay with each of us until the end of our lives.

However, as I was watching the news this morning and thinking about the photo above, it struck me how much we, as a nation, grieve for the loss of life that took place on 9/11, yet, at the same time, how little we, who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, truly grieve for Christ's death on the Cross due to the nature of sin in our own lives.

There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God ...
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
~ Romans 3:10-11, 18

Scripture clearly tells us that NONE of us are righteous! We neither seek after God, nor do we fear Him. Instead, we fear man and what he can do to us. Instead of the righteousness of God, we fear another terrorist attack. 

Which got me to thinking . . .  

Why is it that when we contemplate the meaning of the Cross, we do not get tears in our eyes the same we do when we think about the loss of life suffered on 9/11?

Have you ever  wondered what our lives would look like if we were to grieve our sin, and Christ's resulting death on the Cross, just as we grieve for those who lost their lives on that fateful day in 2001?

 

In the same way that September 11th will forever be a single date on which we remember those who lost their lives as a result of multiple terrorist attacks on the USA, I pray that the Cross will forever serve as a daily reminder that:

[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, 
So that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:21 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Spiritual Depression - Men as Trees, Walking



 As I continue to struggle with my health, I have spent some time reading the book Spiritual Depression by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here are some of the things that gave me cause for thought today, in the chapter entitled Men as Trees, Walking . . .

~ The most comfortable type of religion is always a vague religion, nebulous and uncertain, cluttered up with forms and ritual ... The more vague and indefinite your religion, the more comfortable it is. There is nothing so uncomfortable as clear-cut Biblical truths that demand decisions.

~ If only we came to the Scriptures as little children and took them at their face value and allowed them to speak to us ...

~ This is God's Word which is timeless, and because it is God's Word we must submit to it and trust Him to employ His own methods in His own way.

~ There is nothing that so clears a man's spiritual sight as the apprehension and understanding of the doctrines of the Bible.

~ Come to the Word of God. Stop asking questions. Start with the promises in their right order. Say: 'I want the truth whatever it costs me'. Bind yourself to it, submit yourself to it, come in utter submission as a little child and plead with Him to give you clear sight, perfect vision, and to make you whole.

~ Do you believe that the Son of God came from heaven and lived and did all He did on earth, that He died on a Cross and was buried and rose again, that He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, in order to leave us in a state of confusion? It is impossible. He came that we might see clearly, that we might know God. He came to give eternal life and 'This is eternal life, that they may know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent'.

Honestly, I'm a bit surprised by how easy it is for me to struggle with depression when going through a trial like illness. Fortunately, I am not the first person to go through this kind of trial and I will not be the last person to do so. And, no matter what your own trial may be at the present moment, neither are you!


SO BE ENCOURAGED and ENDURE!

Why? Because trials and tribulations are part of the Believer's life . . .

Why? Because this world is not our home; we are only Sojourners here . . .

Why? Because both you and I have the ability to take to take God at His word, and if we choose to do so here is what He promises . . .

If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself.
-- 2 Timothy 2:12-13

O Holy, Heavenly Father, help us to truly remember that this world is not our home. Help us to remember that You promise we will have trials on this earth. Help us to encourage and to be encouraged. Help us to love You more; that we may prove worthy of the calling You have placed on each of our lives. And most importantly of all, help us to remember that a life spent with YOU is the ultimate prize!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hypocritical Faith


Sometimes I feel like an absolute hypocrite when it comes to my relationship with God, and the past few days definitely fall into that category!

To say I am struggling right now would be a huge understatement! So, while I send notes of encouragement to others, here is the reality of my own "truth" (as written in an email to a pastor): 
Between being as sick as I have been (and being out here alone while dealing with it), along with the fact that God just seems so quiet and so far removed from my life, I am really struggling in my walk right now ... 
My time in the Word is going nowhere and even the books I have been reading do not seem to be offering any consolation.

Truthfully, I don't know if my heart is just hard (I certainly hope not), or if God is just choosing to be silent, but spiritually I am in a very low place and am really struggling to find comfort, encouragement, and maybe even a little hope(!) to help me get through this difficult time.


Sadly, the fact that I can no longer be at church w/o getting sick is not helping things, either, in terms of teaching or fellowship! As a result, the longer this situation goes on (i.e. God's silence, as well as any lack of comfort / encouragement / hope), the easier I am finding it to just set God aside and focus on the other things in my life that I can control . . . 
I am tired.

I am tired of being sick. 

I am tired of the seemingly endless trials God has sent - and continues to send - my way. 

And, I am tired of God's silence.

Last night I started reading a book on Job, by Chuck Swindoll, in which he writes: 
Misery and mystery are added to the insult and injury of Job's real-life disasters . . . His misery turns to mystery with God's silence. If the words of his so-called friends are hard to hear, the silence of God becomes downright intolerable. Not until the thirty-eighth chapter of the book does God finally break the silence, however long that took. 
Can you imagine? Job has just lost everything and God remains silent for thirty-seven more chapters of the Bible! Lord willing, perhaps that fact will help me get a better perspective on my own situation . . .

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Food for Today . . .





We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by Faith, and not of our own works or deservings.
~ Creeds of Christendom





God has appointed not only who shall suffer but also when, where, in what way, for how long, and for what truth.
~ John Bunyan
So important to remember that God does not waste our suffering, or any other situation He chooses to bring into our lives!

O Holy, Heavenly Father ...
Help us to love you more, no matter how we may feel at any given moment in time.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Waiting on God

Leave it to God to state the obvious!

Let me explain . . .

Years ago, as I was wrestling with my faith and trying to figure out exactly what I believed about God, let alone whether or not I actually believed in Him, I was speaking with a friend of mine who shared with me that he had had a similar trial. 


He then went on to explain to me that as he struggled through his own situation he came to the realization that he had two choices: he could either pursue God or he could pursue self . . .


. . . HE COULD NOT. DO. BOTH.




At the time, I didn't really understand exactly what he meant by pursue God or pursue self. And, even though I was so angry at God that I had absolutely no interest in reading His Word, I decided to do so anyway and started reading through the book of Psalms because I considered them "pretty harmless!"

And here's what happened . . .


The more I read His Word, the hungrier I became for it (even though I was still struggling with my belief in Him).

As a result . . .

Through my faithfulness, the more I continued to read my Bible, the more God started revealing His Word to me . . . and I actually started UNDERSTANDING WHAT I WAS READING!


Now, just to give you a better idea of how I previously "read" Scripture, there were times when I would say, "Okay, Lord, I'm going to open my Bible and point to a passage of Scripture, and ask You to show me what you want to say to me today."


And then I would do exactly that: I would open my Bible, turn a few random pages until I "felt" like I was on the page God wanted me to be on; close my eyes; point to a Bible verse and read it to myself.

And it would say . . . 

. . . AND JOB WENT TO THE BATHROOM.



Okay, it really didn't say that but I am willing to bet you know exactly what I'm talking about! :)

Which brings us to today's reading and today's "light bulb moment" . . .

I wait for the Lord,
My soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
~ Psalm 130: 5

Ummm . . . Can I be honest with you? I think I have been fooling myself over this whole health situation, because as I read that verse I realized one very important fact: I have NOT been waiting on God over this situation . . . AT ALL! See, here's the real scoop:

While this is what waiting on the Lord should look like . . .


This would be a more honest representation of my situation . . .


The good news is that I finally understand the pursue God vs. pursue self concept, and, as a result, I have spent a great deal of time in prayer about this situation with my health. I have prayed that God would help me to love Him more; I have prayed that He would be glorified in this situation no matter how it turns out; BUT . . . actually waiting on Him? Yeah, I don't think so!

My doctor said it would probably take about two years before I would start to feel better. I was expecting to feel better after two days. Then two weeks. Now I have had my sights set on feeling better after two months (August 28th). But, two years? Oh, just shoot me now!

As I stated in my opening sentence of this blog . . . Leave it to God to state the obvious . . . especially through His Word!

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
~ Isaiah 40:31

Sounds like a good plan, doesn't it?

If so, then perhaps you and I can learn how to wait together!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Not Forgotten

Let's face it: today's world moves at an exceedingly fast pace, and the general mood among most people seems to be ...

LEAD ... FOLLOW ... GET OUT OF MY WAY! 


 Which is what made yesterday so tough.

If you have ever gone through a really difficult trial, or if you are going through one now, one of the hardest things about it can be feeling like you are going through it all by yourself, and that is exactly how I felt yesterday! Not because people don't care, but rather because we are all so wrapped up in our own lives that unless the person in need is right in front of us, they are usually not even on our radar.

Sometimes I think that serious illness is one of the most difficult trials God allows into our lives simply because of its complexity and complete unpredictability.

Right now there are things happening within my body that are leaving me tired, weak and in pain. And, while I have seen a doctor who has put me on a protocol designed to help me with all of the issues that need to be addressed, after having two really great days a few weeks ago, I now feel worse than I did before I saw her! On top of that, I don't know when I am going to feel better -- or if I will ever feel better.

I don't know when the pain and inflammation in my joints and connective tissue will be gone -- or if it will ever be gone.

I don't when I will have enough energy to simply make it through the day without laying down -- or if I will ever have that kind of energy again.

I don't know if I will ever have the lung capacity I once had to swim, ride horses, play my flute or sing -- or if I will ever be able to do those things again.

On top of that, it is hard to feel this lousy all the time without being near my parents. And while I do have some friends out here, they are all married with families and busy lives of their own.

 


For the needy will not always be forgotten, Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.
~ Psalm 9:18







This morning I read this verse in the book of Psalms, and as I thought it through, it gave me hope to know that my life will not always be like this!

While I know that God brought me to Montana in order to do some work in my life that He wanted to do out here (specifically), I am often very lonely. BUT ... I will not always be lonely! And, although I spend a great deal of time alone, I will not always be alone. And, while I feel like I am going through this trial with my health alone (and the truth of the matter is that I am -- it's my health), it will not always be like this.

Yes, I feel that way now. And because I am single, and because I live far away from my family and close friends, I may always feel that way while I live in this body on this side of Heaven. But it won't be like this forever!

I will not always be forgotten ... and neither will you.

My hope will not perish ... and neither will yours!

Because here is what God promises to us, if we will just cling to His Word and seek His face always:

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.
~ Psalm 9:10

Amen, Lord ... Amen!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Morning By Morning

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is Your Faithfulness.
~ Lamentations 3:22-23


Rough day today, Lord, and so desperately in need of Your mercy right now . . .