Surviving Private Ryan

“Private Ryan”, my son said to the account manager at the bank.  “I call my minivan Private Ryan.”

We were there opening up his first checking account in preparation for going off to college in the fall.  The account manager and my son were joking about the names they had given their first automobiles.  I just sat there laughing as I contemplated how grown-up he had become.

It was an ordinary day.

I ran to the grocery store quickly as it was our day to “feed the team” for basketball.  We were trying to get all the necessary things done to provide sustenance for our son’s basketball team.  I walked in the door, put down my things, and looked at my phone.

A text read, “Guys, pick up your phone.  I totaled my car.”

Panicked, I called my son.

“Mom, I totaled my car.  I’m near the reservoir.  Come quick.”

I called to my husband, and we rushed out the door.

Driving up to the scene, the horror of seeing our first family minivan crumpled up awaited me.  I jumped out of the car.  As I was running to the scene, I saw my 6’3” baby boy clad in his red Letterman jacked walking toward me.  Yes, my boy was walking toward me.  I examined him all over as I asked, “Are you all right?  Did you bump your head?”

There were no visible injuries, no blood, nothing.  There he was saying, “Yes, I’m all right.”

He proceeded to explain what had happened, how he lost control going around a curve because he over-corrected a bit when he felt his tire go off the road.  After swerving all around, he panicked, let go of the wheel, and hit a tree going 40 mph.  The van landed away from the tree, so I can only imagine how it go there.  It was smoking, and a nice gentleman had stopped to help my boy.  Soon it became a whirlwind of law enforcement, fire trucks, and EMS.

When all was said and done, the car was totaled and the tree was cracked in half from top to bottom.  Mulberry, I am told, is one of the hardest woods, so it had to have been quite an impact.  Yet there my son stood uninjured with the exception of some bruises from the seat belt.

Later, I took him to the emergency room just to be safe.  After several X-rays and examinations, the verdict came back that there were no injuries other than bruises from the seat belt…the seat belt that by the grace of God saved his life.

My son is with me today surviving what happened with Private Ryan because he wore his seat belt.  I call it a miracle and praise God everyday that he gave us more time with this remarkable boy.

At any moment, at any time, on any ordinary day, life can change drastically.  We may think we have control, but we do not.  God decides when we enter this world, and He decides when we leave.  I could be sitting here with a very different story, but by His grace, God chose to let us have a story of survival.  This is not always the case, and we have since heard many stories from others about teens who did not make it.

I asked my son, “If you would have died today, do you know if you would have gone to Heaven?”

“Yes, mom.  I’m convinced,” was the reply.  “But God didn’t want me there with Him yet.”

Ordinary days happen all the time.  They can turn into something that you never would have expected.  Are you ready?

Where Will You be Spending Eternity?

Recently, the very first person that I know of from my graduating class died unexpectedly.  I had not seen her in years, yet now she is gone.  And it hits very close to home because it reminds me of just how mortal I am and how quickly life passes by.

The first thought that comes to my mind is, “Where is she spending eternity?”

I feel like I should know the answer to this question, but I don’t.  If what I believe is real and true – and it is – then it should be the most important thing that I share and know about the people that God brings into my life.  So I am going to share now for anyone who will listen!

Jesus Himself said that He was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  He didn’t say I am one of the ways, one of the truths, or one of the lives.  He said He was the only way to the Father.

There are a lot of voices in the world today even in the “Christian” sphere speaking different things and claiming different “truths” (I John 4).  However, the reality is that unless we know Christ’s voice and are known by Him (John 10:27-28), we are lost upstream without a paddle.  Our eternal destination is fixed.  It does not matter what any other human being says, has said, or will ever say.  Unless we know the Gospel according to Jesus…the Gospel according to God…we are lost, hopelessly lost (Isaiah 53; 1 John 5).  The only voice that matters is God’s voice, and God has spoken to us through His Word telling us everything we need to know to have a right relationship with Him (John 5:16-47).

You see, we are all hopelessly lost, sinful human beings (Romans 3:23; I John 3).  We are separated from a holy God by our sin (Isaiah 59:2).  Because of our sin, we will die (Ezekiel 18).  God had a redemptive plan though, so not all hope is lost because of our sin (Titus 3:5-7).  He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life and to be the sacrifice for our sin.  Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin (Romans 5:8), then he conquered death by rising again (Romans 4:25).  Without Christ, we will be separated from God forever in Hell (Luke 13:22-30).  With Christ, we will worship God forever in Heaven (I John 5:11-12).  The question is when you die, where will you be spending eternity?

Trust Him…Just Trust Him

Amazed, humbled, speechless…these are words I would use to describe my reaction to the goodness that God blesses me with.  He works in ways that I could not imagine.  Just when I think things are hopeless, he imparts hope.  When I think things won’t work out, He creates a way such that I would never have imagined could be possible!  When I am faithless, He stays faithful, oh so faithful (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

It amazes me that God considers important anything about my everyday life, yet He does.  What am I, Lord, that you are mindful of me (Psalm 8:4-8)?  I am the sheep of your pasture (Psalm 95:7).  I am your child…I am really your child (I John 3:1).  You are my Father in Heaven who gives the best gifts of all (Matthew 7:11)!  “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Psalm 139:6 NIV).

It is easy to look at God as being “up there” and not concerned with down here.  Yet He’s not.  He is concerned with us.  He is concerned with His children.  And everything He does is ultimately for my good and for His glory (Romans 8:28).

I run around trying to exert control over my life, trying to make things happen.  When they do not happen, I am brought low.  I am brought to the brink of utter disappointment and hopelessness.  This is when God does His best work.  He wants His children to remember that we are completely and totally dependent on Him and on His provision in our lives.  How often we forget.

God has a plan for this world.  It is His redemptive plan to redeem His creation.   His plan includes my life.  As the Psalmist said, God is acquainted with all my ways (Psalm 139:3).  Trust Him.  I need to remind myself constantly to just trust Him.  His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30).  Just trust Him!

Fundamental Truths About God

Going through some old papers, I came across some notes I took somewhere at some distance time in the past called “Fundamental Truths About God”.  I am not certain where they originated, but I thought I would share them because they are so helpful in thinking about Who God is.  So here are 15 fundamental truths about God:

  1. God knows everything (Hebrews 4:13; John 2:24; Romans 1:20; Matthew 12:25; I John 3:20; Job 26:6, 34:21; Psalm 139; Proverbs 15:3; Isaiah 44:7; Ezekiel 11:5).
  2. God is unchanging (Numbers 23, 19; Isaiah 1:17, 15:29, 45:19; Psalm 33:11, 119:89; Malachi 3:6; Acts 4:28; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 1:12, 6:17, 13:8).
  3. God created everything (Genesis 1:1-31; Psalm 100:3; Revelation 4:11).
  4. God loved me and sent His Son to die for me (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4-10; I Timothy 1:15-17).
  5. God hates sin (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Romans 1:18, 6:23).
  6. God is merciful and just (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Titus 3:4-5; James 5:11).
  7. God is powerful (Ephesians 1:19-21; Hebrews 1:1-3; 2 Peter 1:3; Revelation 15:8; Romans 1:20).
  8. Through Christ I can approach God (I Timothy 1:5-7; Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:19-25; I Peter 1:17-21).
  9. God desires a relationship with me (I John 1:5-7, 3:1-3; Ephesians 2:19-22; Philippians 2:14-16).
  10. God has a plan for my life…to do His will (I Thessalonians 5:16-18; James 4:15; Hebrews 10:36; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:18, 2:10; Philippians 2:13, 3:10-14).
  11. God is patient (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 78:38, 86:15, 103:8, 145:8; I Peter 3:20; Isaiah 42:14; Romans 2:4, 3:15, 9:22-24; 2 Peter 3:9).
  12. God chose me. I didn’t choose God (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5; Romans 3:10-12, 8:28-30; Colossians 1:19-23, 2:13-15, 3:12; Titus 3:4-7).
  13. God is holy (I Peter 1:15-16; Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7; Revelation 15:4).
  14. God will meet my needs (Philippians 4:19; Isaiah 55:1-3, 54:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
  15. God is light and in Him is no darkness (I John 1:5).

This list is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it inspires you to explore a little more about the nature of God as He discloses more about Himself in His Word.

Only Part of the Picture

Today, I wanted to share something my pastor said a few weeks ago.  He said that our comprehension of God falls short of all God truly is.  We only see God in part inasmuch as our feeble minds can grasp Him (Sherban, 2018).  Yet God knows all things.  He knows things that we could never comprehend or even imagine.  Of all the things that God knows, He has revealed only a small portion of that knowledge to us in His Word.  So who are we really to question anything God does?  Our vision, indeed our knowledge, is limited.

Imagine you were looking at a picture of a famous historical figure.  Let’s say it is George Washington.  The caveat?  You only can see one of his ear lobes.  The rest of the picture is missing.  You may have all sorts of guesses as to who the person is based on your experience, knowledge, and education.  But they would be just that:  guesses.  Unless someone with the right knowledge (i.e., truth) comes along and clues you in, you don’t see the whole picture.

God sees the whole picture.  He sees everything from beginning to end (Isaiah 46:10).  It is God’s purpose that will prevail no matter what we think or how much knowledge we gain.

People put a lot of confidence in what they know and what they experience.  Have you ever thought about how many people there are in the world?  Have you ever thought about how many people there have been and will be?  Knowledge and experience come and go.  They often even change with the passing of time.  After all, we with all our supposed knowledge and experience are just blips on the radar of the time that has gone before us and the time that will be after us.

God and His truth remain the same.  They have since the beginning of time, and they will for all eternity (cf. Psalm 90:20; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 1:8).  If we are going to be confident in anything, let the confidence be in God who knows all things, sees all things, and is sovereign over everything and has been all along!

 

Reference
Sherban, A. (2018).  Judging the judge.  Retrieved from http://www.bethanycf.org/file/180018899/180537688/Judging-the-Judge

Be Still

Have you ever just sat very still in a room or outside with no other distractions?  Or perhaps I could ask when was the last time you were just still?  For me, the silence almost seems strange.  I am so often busy, and my household is very, very noisy!

Something happens when you sit in a silence, and I mean complete silence.  For one, it feels strange to not have all the noise and distractions.  You almost just want to flip that TV back on because when it is silent, your attention can really start to focus on things that matter.

When I am being still and silent outside, I am better able to focus on the world God created.  By world I mean the grass and the trees and the sky and the birds.  It is amazing how relaxing this is.  It is almost like we get a glimpse into what peace really should be were our world not marred by sin.  I am reminded of God’s awesomeness and creativity.

When I am being still and silent inside, I look around and started thinking about all the blessings God has given me:  a roof over my head, a comfortable bed, food, clothing, family…my puppy!  I remember God’s goodness.

When I am being still and silent, my attention is drawn to God and those things that make Him glorious.

It almost makes me think that business and distractions might be a tool of the enemy to keep up from appreciating God and the many blessings He gives us in our lives!  It is no wonder that God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).  When we are still we take our mind off those things that keep us busy and distracted and can focus on those things that bring glory to God.

When was the last time you were still?

 

Control is an Illusion

Control is an illusion.  We like to think that we are in control of what goes on in our lives, but the reality is that we are not completely.  Sure we can decide what color socks we wear and what we eat for breakfast.  However, we don’t decide some of the bigger things in life like when we are born or when we die.  We don’t decide what family we are born into or what in geographical location we come into this world.  We don’t completely decide what people come in and out of our lives.  We can try as hard as we might to get a particular job, yet we may not be able to secure that job.  We don’t get to choose when or if we are hit with a sudden illness, disease, or accident.   In fact, there are many things that we don’t even see or know about that are decided for us.

In Psalm 139:5 (ESV) David talked about how God hemmed him in “behind and before”. In other words, the circumstances that surround our lives are hemmed in behind and before by God.  Nothing that occurs in our lives is a surprise to God even though it may be a shock to us.  God is the God of all creation, and He is in control of what happens here.

This can be hard for people to understand.  They even may get angry about it if you tell them that they really have little control.   After all, we want to know that we are safe and secure.  We want to know that things will go our way.  We work hard to ensure that we feel in control of what is happening and that our lives are ordered the way we intend them to be.

I think of it as our longing for Eden.  When God created Adam, God placed Adam in perfection.  The world around Adam was perfect and Adam’s relationship with God was perfect.  It was built into us to want this perfect world and relationship with God.  However, the Fall of man ruined this for us all.  Now there are a lot of things that are outside of our control for us to worry about.

Anxiety is one way that we try to control the world around us.  I have often found that worry happens when people feel they have no other way to control a situation.  The worry is their way of trying to control those things over which they really have little control.  Think about the kinds of things we tend to worry about:  bad things happening, death, destruction, accidents, illness, and so on.  These things are outside of our control, so we worry about them.   Subconsciously, we feel a little more in control when we worry.

This is why I say that control is an illusion.  You walk through your life thinking things are going the way you planned then…BAM! You get hit with a ton of bricks that you never anticipated.  You lose someone you love.  You lose your job.  You are told you have cancer.  The list could be endless.

The only resolution to this dilemma that I have found is to rest in God.  For God, control is real.  He is sovereign over this world.  Psalm 115:3 (ESV) states, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”  God works all things out according to His will (Ephesians 1:11).  In fact, as part of God’s redemptive plan for His creation, Christ conquered death, the thing we all fear the most!

Control is an illusion…for us.  Control is real for God.  Rest in Him because He truly is our strong fortress.  “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2 NIV).

Sparkles in a Broken Road

Traveling down an old, cracked, and pot-holed road today, I saw sparkles all over.  Everywhere was glittering little flashes of what looked like diamonds.  It was something I never really paid attention to before.  The sun was shining just right creating flashes of beauty all over the road.

I have never really looked at the road before as though it were something beautiful.  Roads are usually worn out and damaged, at least where I live.  They aren’t necessarily anything great to look at.  Yet there is was: beauty emerging from what would be considered plain, broken, and perhaps even ugly.

It occurred to me that people are a lot like roads.  People can be plain, broken, worn, and even ugly.  However, when the light of God’s Son shines on them, people can become the most beautiful things in the world.  Where there was nothing but darkness at one time, a new kind of light shines through.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV) says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  God sees beauty where there is none.  God creates beauty from the work of His hand even in the ugliest and vilest of people.

Sparkles in the broken road.  Who would have thought that even therein would be a lesson about the amazing work of God’s hands!

Just Enough Religion

In Luke 14:15-24 Jesus told a story about a great banquet that was being thrown.  The master in the story sent out invitations to this lavish banquet, yet the responses were that the people invited were too busy.  One had land to look at.  Another just got married.  Another had some work to do with a new set of oxen that had just been purchased.  So the master had his servants go out and gather others to come to the banquet.  These people were the outcasts…the people that the important and powerful individuals did not want to associate with.  Those who ended up coming to the banquet were the sinners and the outcasts…the ones who had nothing to bring to the table.  The people who fancied themselves important with more pressing responsibilities did not have time for the banquet.  They had too many excuses!

If you understand the story Christ was telling, you see the first set of invitees were the Jews, the Pharisees, the Scribes…the seemingly religious people.  These invitees essentially rejected Christ.  They rejected salvation.  They chose the things of this world over the kingdom of Heaven to their eternal demise.  Being as they were, self-righteous and religious, they did not know Christ.  They did not recognize the importance of the invitation.  Their eyes were blinded to the truth.  Their faith was misplaced. They had just enough religion in them to not recognize the true importance of the banquet.

But by the grace of God I would be that person.  It is quite easy to think I am a good person who tries to do the right things and make good choices, so I’m good.  I could easily delude myself into thinking I am banquet-worthy even if I don’t really want to go.  I can do it my way.  The invitation and the banquet is not all that important.  I have better things to do.  The banquet is not that pressing.

Titus 3:3-7 (ESV) states, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

By the grace of God, my foolish heart would be dead in my sins, and my darkened eyes would not have been opened.  I could have easily been among the first invitees thinking myself quite more important than I am and refusing the invitation.  Left to my own devices, I would most certainly be completely and totally lost.  “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (I Corinthians 15:10 NIV).  The banquet is mine to attend and by the grace of God alone will I be present!

What about you?  Have you received the invitation?  What is your response?  Is your faith in your own abilities, your own goodness, or even your own exercise of religious traditions?  Are you counting on your own self-righteousness?  Only those who have humbled themselves before Christ will sit at this great banquet feast.  Only those who realize that apart from Christ there is nothing that makes them worthy of such a wonderful invitation will be at the banquet (cf. Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).   If you have received an invitation, make no more excuses.

People are Big…God, Small?

I admit it.  I’m a rebel – a non-conformist of sorts.  It seems contradictory to my nature to say it out loud.  After all, I’m a compliant first born – a reliable German shepherd you might say.   But I’m also a bit rebellious by nature.

You see, I just cannot, nay I will not, allow other people to define who I am or make me think like they do.  No other person is going to take up living with free rent in my brain.  I am not going to spend my time wondering what others think or what they will do or how they will behave if I do this or don’t do that.  I simply refuse to!

When I was in college I read a book called When People are Big and God is Small by Edward Welch.  Although I was already a bit rebellious by nature when it came to putting stock into what others thought of me, this book really cemented my thinking about people and about God.  I was made aware of just how much one’s view of God impacts the way they view the world and the way they view other people.

Most people have things quite backward in life.  They really put a lot of stock in what others say and do.  Concern for what others think about them becomes the focal point of thought.  The focus on most people’s lives is comparing themselves to others and worrying about what others will say or do.  Everything becomes about who they are in relationship to those other people.  Do they measure up?  Are they good enough?  Are they doing enough so that others will like them?  This is crazy to me because other people are just as messed up as I am!  Why would I give them any latitude in terms of defining who I am as a person?  It is just not healthy to make people so big that others determine who I am and what I do.

Now when it comes to God, what He thinks about me is what really matters.  The problem is that most people see God as small.  They see God as someone who is perhaps like one of their parents, some other person in their lives, or perhaps even like themselves.  God is not small.  People are small, and God is big.  God is bigger than we could ever dream or imagine.  God is the creator of the universe.  All that exists is His.  His perspective is what matters!

In a world filled with group think and social comparison that only create dysfunction, anxiety, and distress, it’s high time we put our focus on something greater than other people.  We need to spend time getting to know God and learning what He wants of us, not worrying about what others think and what they want from us.  People are small, but God is big.  He’s ginormous.  He’s incomprehensibly bigger than anything we can imagine.  If you’re going to worry about something or someone, worry about what He thinks of you!   Your perspective will be quite different.