Friday, November 24, 2017

The Father's Compassion

My Bible Study group recently studied two of the most familiar parables in the Bible.  The first is the story of the Good Samaritan as described in Luke 10:30-37.  As you may recall, this parable mentions a man who was walking from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers.  They "stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead" (Luke 10:30).  A Levite and later a priest walked by him in his helpless condition but opted to do nothing.  Thankfully, a Samaritan "..saw him...felt compassion, and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.'" (verses 33-35).

Isn't that what sometimes happens in life?  The gentleman walking down the road to Jericho didn't do anything wrong.  He was simply viciously attacked out of the blue.  A routine journey became a fight for his life.  Gratefully, the Samaritan came to his aid in a big way.  He took care of his wounds, found him a place to stay, even provided further financial assistance to make sure he would fully recover.

We all need "Good Samaritans" in our lives at times.  These may be those seasons when we may be caught in situations due to no fault of our own and end up broken and bleeding.

Skip over to Luke 15:11-32 for the account of the prodigal son.  In this situation, the son purposefully got himself in trouble.  He asked for his father to give him his inheritance prematurely (before the father had passed away) and promptly spent all of the money.  Luke 15:13 records how he "..went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living."  Starving and penniless, he decided to return to his father, even being willing to be a servant to survive.  Yet, the father welcomed him with open arms.  Luke 15:20 states, "But while he was a still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him."  The father subsequently had a big party rejoicing in the return of his wayward son.

In like manner, there are times in our lives that we may purposefully go against the Heavenly Father's wishes and end up in tons of trouble.  We ultimately "come to our senses" (Luke 15:17) and come running back to God.  Gratefully, we are met with open arms as we repent.

Hence, the common denominator in both parables appears to be compassion.  The Good Samaritan felt compassion for the traveler who had been attacked whereas the father felt compassion for the son who had made extremely poor decisions.

So, whatever situation in life, whether it involves choices which have led to our demise or even times when we are guiltless, the compassionate Heavenly Father is there to bandage our wounds and welcome us back into His family.


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.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Embracing The Pain

The Bible mentions a tragic story of a woman named Naomi in Ruth chapter 1.  She and her family lived in Bethlehem.  However, due to a famine, she, her husband Elimelech and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, moved to the land of Moab.  While in Moab, Elimelech died, leaving Naomi a widow.  But her sons eventually married, perhaps easing some of Naomi's pain.  Their Moabite brides were named Ruth and Orpah.

Unfortunately, further unthinkable tragedy struck Naomi's family.  Both of her sons died, although the Bible doesn't mention the circumstances of their deaths.  Naomi was left alone with her two daughters-in-law.  Upon Naomi's bidding, Orpah  returned back to her own people.  Yet, Ruth demonstrated uncanny allegiance to Naomi and opted to return with her to Bethlehem.

Apparently, there was quite a commotion when Naomi returned with Ruth to Bethlehem.  Naomi, whose name means, "pleasant", was quick to point out how life had changed dramatically with the death of her husband and sons since she left Bethlehem during the famine.  As a matter of fact, she no longer wanted to be called by her given name, Naomi, since life was definitely now "un-pleasant."  She felt that she should more appropriately called "Mara" which means "bitter."  She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20-21).

I feel for Naomi.  Isn't that how some things work out in life?  You supposedly buy a great car (as least that is what the dealer said), yet it turns out to be a lemon.  You think you find a great job, but in time discover how stressful it is and you regret ever taking it.  You believe you have a marriage made in heaven but soon realize the prospects of living "happily ever after" are not possible.  In other words, at one time you felt ready to take on the world as life was "pleasant."  But unthinkable things occur (such as happened with the multiple deaths in Naomi's family).  Dreadfully, life has become bitter.

Yet, with Naomi, we are blessed to know the rest of the story.  Ruth eventually marries a man named Boaz.  They have a son named Obed who later has a son named Jesse, the father of King David.  So Ruth was the great grandmother of Israel's greatest king.  I guess you could say that Naomi was the great-great grandmother of David in a way.

But, when Naomi, returned back to Bethlehem, she couldn't see the future.  All she knew is that her pleasant life had become bitter.  Nothing wrong in recognizing how life is sometimes at its worst and to pray for deliverance.



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Relying On The Divine GPS

Last week, I had to meet with my book publisher about an upcoming writing project.  Although I was familiar with the company, they had recently moved to downtown Birmingham.  Not knowing its new location and being directionally challenge, I was puzzled about finding my way.  As a result, I turned on the "Global Positioning System" or "GPS" on my phone.  As a simple-minded person, I am amazed at this incredible invention, now at my fingertips.  It told me the exact roads to take, which turns to address along the way and even estimated the time I would arrive.  Even if I took a wrong turn, I knew it would graciously redirect my path.  Following the guidelines of the GPS, I arrived at the publisher about the time it predicted.

The GPS on my phone illustrated to me how I am constantly needing direction in life.  What should be my priorities?  How do I stay focused?  How can I be a good steward of my time and resources?

Thankfully, there are a host of heavenly resources available to show me the way, including the Bible, godly counsel from other believers in Christ, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  All of these combined provide the encouragement from Isaiah 30:21 which states, "Your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right or to the left."

Life is so much easier, whether I'm dealing with sickness, financial matters, family situations, etc., when  I rely on the divine GPS.       

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hiding In The Cleft of the Rock

As the days progress, I'm getting more and more pleasure from my cat Maverick.  Although he's still less than a year old and somewhat mischievous, i.e. climbing on things, getting into all sorts of trouble, etc., I cherish the time home from work when I can relax with my boy.  I especially like the way he sleeps in the bed with me for at least part of the night.

When I go to bed, I typically sleep on my left side or on my stomach.  Don't know why, but I've done this for years.  In addition, I usually have my legs drawn up slightly in what I would call a modified fetal position with at least one knee bent.  One night, much to my joy, I discovered Maverick had crawled on the bed and had fallen asleep right besides one of my legs, tucked in behind my bent knee.  Apparently, this was a warm spot for him to sleep, close to his adopted daddy.  You could say Maverick was sleeping in the cleft of the rock.

In Exodus 33, Moses was placed in the cleft of the rock while God's presence passed him by. Not only did Moses experience God's presence, the cleft of the rock signified, at least in my thinking,  security and protection.  While in the cleft of the rock, Moses was completely free of danger.  Perhaps for Maverick, sleeping behind my knee or in the "cleft of the rock" was also a peaceful, warm place of security and love brought about by his master.

Furthermore, years later, Fannie Crosby described vividly the joys of the cleft of the rock in her immortal hymn, "He Hideth My Soul".  These glorious lyrics proclaim:

"A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see. 

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away,
He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And filled with His fullness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God!
For such a Redeemer as mine.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

When clothed with His brightness transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love,
I’ll shout with the millions on high.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand."

Little did I realize when Maverick snuggled up to me, he was demonstrating wonderful biblical truth.  In whatever situation in life, whether sickness, depression, despair, etc.  we all need to hide out in the cleft of the rock for warmth and security.