Monday, September 11, 2017

Surviving An Eclipse

This year there was much excitement across the United States due to a total eclipse which occurred on August 21st. Many people travelled great distances just to see this once in a lifetime event. Residents of Franklin, Tennessee, about three hours north of me, experienced a full eclipse.  However, the area where I live (just north of Birmingham, Alabama) only had 92% coverage by the moon.  Still not too shabby.  Although there was no appreciable darkness in my area, I was happy to witness this event.   I even took a picture of the eclipse over my shoulder when it reached its maximum impact in my area.  As you can see, due to the eclipse, the sun assumed a unique oval type shape (see picture below).

In further reflections upon the eclipse, I became aware of several occurrences.  For example, even though the sun was blocked out (at least, temporarily), the grass was still growing, flowers were still blooming, rivers were unabated in their flow and birds were still flying.  In other words, in spite of the transient darkness, life in the eclipse regions continued as it was before whether the sun could be seen or not.

What a glorious picture of life.  Sometimes the sun (or should I say God's watchful presence) is blocked from our view.  These are the situations where the diagnosis from the doctor is dreadful, the balance in the checkbook is pitiful, or the chances of getting a job are limited.  As a matter of fact, we are prone to call these times "dark" days.  We are not to worry, though, because God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  Everything in our lives will work out according to His plan and His timing.  He is looking after us whether we are able to see Him or not.

Thus, celestial eclipses are a rare event.  Unfortunately, personal eclipses occur more regularly.  But, as Jesus reminds us in John 20:29, "blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Saturday, August 5, 2017

When Life Doesn't Make Sense

It happened the other day, although I really shouldn't be surprised.  I was cutting my grass without incident.  I cut my front yard, was making my way towards the back lawn when, lo and behold, one of the wheels came off my lawnmower.  No warning or anything.  Just abruptly fell off, bringing the lawn care to an abrupt halt.  I grabbed  a few tools and proceeded to attempt to fix the problem.  Much to my dismay, I discovered it would be a tricky repair (as most things I try to repair are difficult).  My lawn mower is a self-propelled variety and the wheel had to be placed back on in tedious fashion.  I struggled with it for a while, trying to get it screwed back on.  After several minutes without success, I called my father-in-law to see if he could help but he was tied up at work.  So, I basically gave up for the moment.  The wheel repair would have to wait in addition to trimming the rest of the lawn.     Later that night, after I got home from Bible study, I again tried to secure the loose wheel.  After struggling with it for at least thirty minutes and resisting the temptation to throw my tools, I finally got the blasted thing back on.  A simple task had turned into a monumental effort with much physical and mental strain.

You know how some people have the "Midas touch", that is, everything they touch turns to gold?  Many times I feel I have an "un-Midas" touch, everything I touch turns to disaster.  The simple home repair becomes the horrific project.  The easy day at work becomes unbearable.   The casual sickness fails to respond to the usual treatment. Basically, nothing seems to go right.  Prayers are reduced to simple utterances of "Please help me, God!".

The prophet Habakkuk was also familiar with distresses.  He ministered in the land of Judah several decades before the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 586 B.C.  He was keenly aware of a time when life as he knew it would not make sense.  Consider the richness of his words from Habakkuk 3:17-19:

"Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet.
And makes me walk on my high places."

Notice his response to his distress, "Yet I will exult in the Lord."  Even though life was turning rotten, nothing was working out like it should have, he placed His confidence in the Lord.  Perhaps, one day, it would all make sense.  Reminds me of the verse from the old hymn, "Farther Along" which states:

"Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all by and by."

So, hold on, don't give up.  God has everything under control.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Touching Others Beyond The Grave

I continue to be amazed at the miracles of Elisha as recorded in the Old Testament.  I hope I'm "handling accurately the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15) in believing the miracles actually have a couple of meanings. 

Consider the last miracle of Elisha as recorded in 2 Kings 13:21 which states:
 "As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet."

Wow! Elisha even performed a miracle long after he had died.  So, at face value, a man died and his body was cast into the grave of Elisha.  The dead man miraculously revived.  Tremendous story.

Yet, I think there is more meaning here, especially in relation to a person's legacy.  Specifically, as a writer, I'm impressed how influence can extend beyond the grave.  Consider the wonderful saints of old, whether it be Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody or Corrie ten Boom to name a few.  Isn't it amazing how you can read something that they said, preached or wrote years ago  and it touches your heart?  Also, just the memory of a wonderful saint can have a healing effect, even just for a moment as you consider their depth of commitment to Christ.  It's almost like you touch their bones and are revived.

So, a person's life, specifically how he or she loved the Lord or even overcame cancer or severe illness, can extend well beyond the grave.  Perhaps my books and blogs will be a healing balm to many people long after I've gone home to glory. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Praying In Moments Of Desparation

I've recently been reading through the Old Testament and have been thoroughly moved.  One story which really captivates me is the story of the man losing the head of an axe in the Jordan River while cutting down a tree. It is recorded in II Kings 6:1-7 as follows:

"Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “Behold now, the place before you where we are living is too limited for us. Please let us go to the Jordan and each of us take from there a beam, and let us make a place there for ourselves where we may live.” So he said, “Go.” Then one said, “Please be willing to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I shall go.” So he went with them; and when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, my master! For it was borrowed.” Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And when he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there, and made the iron float.  He said, “Take it up for yourself.” So he put out his hand and took it."

It's such a simple story, yet so typical of life.  Things happen.  Perhaps they are minimal at best in the broad scheme of life's occurrences, yet, when they happen, it feels like the world is caving in.  In this case, a man using a borrowed tool has the unthinkable happen as the axe head comes off and is irretrievable in the water.  Maybe this unfortunate fellow didn't have the financial means to replace it as he says in distress to Elisha in verse 6, "Alas, my master, for it was borrowed."  He was in an unexpected bind, a tight fix which was not his fault. 

Similar occurrences happen today.  You can't find your car keys.  The refrigerator goes out.  The lawn mower won't start.  The cat disappears. You wake up with a headache or a stomach virus.  Your prescription runs out and your pharmacy is closed.  The list goes on and on.

What to do?  Pray. Pray. Pray.  Even if it's just the loss of an axe head or something more trivial, pray.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, " Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

What happens next?  Sometimes the axe head miraculously floats in the water, the situation is resolved, and you can rest in peace (the peace of God, that is).  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Rethinking Priorities

I've recently been reading about King Solomon in the Old Testament, specifically in the book of I Kings.  I'm especially impressed by Solomon's prayer after he ascends to the throne following the death of his father, King David.  God basically gives Solomon a "blank check," asking Solomon to pray for anything he wants.  Yet, in humility, Solomon asks the Lord to "give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (I Kings 3:9).  This prayer greatly pleased the Lord in that Solomon did not pray for long life, riches or even the death of his enemies (vs. 11).

Think about it.  Solomon didn't pray to live a long time, although there is nothing wrong with praying for length of days. He didn't pray for riches or financial security, although it is definitely okay to pray for God to meet needs.  Finally, he didn't pray for the destruction of his enemies (or removal of his persecutors).  Again, it is acceptable to pray for God to remove times of affliction.

Perhaps, these are things we all pray about when going through cancer of major sickness.  All are legitimate prayers.  For example, we may pray to live a long time, that is, to be healed.  In addition, we may pray for riches or for all needs to be met.  Furthermore, we may pray for the destruction of our enemy, i.e. cancer. 

But, I think Solomon's prayer emphasizes what is truly important in life, that is, to have godly wisdom.  After praying for wisdom, as far as I know, I think God did provide all of the other items, including long life, riches and peace from his enemies.

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).  Healing and riches are nice.  Having wisdom is much, much better.  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Trussville Tribune Interview Re: Bullet Points

I had the privilege of being interviewed by our local paper, The Trussville Tribune, recently regarding my latest book, "Bullet Points: Absolute Essentials For Facing A Fallen World".  Check out the interview at:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

More Importantly, Overcoming Life-My Latest Book Release

Believe it or not, I became an author because of cancer.  After being diagnosed with Stage III bladder cancer and undergoing major surgery along with chemotherapy, I authored two books, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer" (2011) and "Glorified Sickness: Honoring God Through Illness" (2014).  I also began writing this blog. 

However, I have now ventured out into writing about something which has nothing whatsoever to do with sickness.  As I've gotten older, I realize how we live in a dark and dreary world.  War. Crime. Persecution. Ephesians 6:12 states, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

As a result, I'm excited to announce the publication of my third book, Bullet Points: Absolute Essentials For Facing A Fallen World.  In this book, I expound on Romans 12:9-21, a New Testament passage which provides practical advice for how Christians should conduct themselves in this world. Among the questions I address in Bullet Points include:

• How are Christians to love those who are in the world?
• Is it ever acceptable for a Christian to hate?
• What should be a believer’s attitude towards personal enemies?
• In spite of these dark times, is there anything in which Christians can rejoice?
• What specifically should believers hold tightly during these days of peril?
• Is it possible to live in harmony with all people?
• Is it okay for Christians to pay back others for wrongs committed against themselves?
• Most importantly, how can believers overcome evil with good?

Yes, overcoming cancer or major illness is nice.  But, overcoming life in general is far much better.  I would encourage you to get a copy of my latest book, Bullet Points: Absolute Essentials For Facing A Fallen World.  Available on Amazon at the link below.