Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hot, Dry Seasons

Southeast Texas summers can get pretty brutal. With temperatures hovering around 100 and little rain in the forecast, it can seem a little unbearable at times. Any cloud in the sky is a welcome one and one with rain potential is a sight for sore eyes. Usually as we head into August, we begin longing for that first cool front that is at least 6 to 8 weeks away. In the meantime, A/Cs are cranked and pools, and water sprinklers, are used to bring a bit of relief.

Have you ever found yourself in that kind of place spiritually? A dry and weary place with no relief in sight? A place where God seems a million miles away and your prayers seem to be bouncing off the ceiling? You're not alone. We all find ourselves in those seasons from time to time. We all find ourselves at times in a dry season longing for a spiritual deluge from heaven. Day after day goes by and with it comes no rain, and no relief. In the middle of seasons like this we can feel alone, and as if God has abandoned us.

It is so important that we not allow our feelings or our emotions get the best of us here. I love to read the Psalms that David wrote when he found himself in a season like this. They each seem to hold within it a journey from hopelessness to hope. The psalms at some point seem to get so dark and hopeless, but always give way to the hope he has in God. His soul would become vexed, but through it all, when he focussed his eyes on God, the season seemed endurable. In the middle of times like this, we want to give into our feelings and our emotions. Those who live "emotionally driven" lives though will often miss out on some pretty remarkable things that God has in store for us.

Our feelings and emotions can really lead us astray. Let me give you an example. A couple weeks ago I went to see "Journey To The Center Of The Earth." Now, it is nowhere near my top 10 movies of all time, but I saw it in 3D and really got a kick out of it. At one point there are these wicked looking fish that are jumping out of the water and some of them look like they are jumping right into your face. I actually screamed out and moved to avoid one fish that appeared it was going to eat me for lunch. Here's the point. I knew that I was more than a 100 feet away from the screen. I knew there was no way that creatures could fly off the screen and attack me. However, my eyes told me different and my body reacted to how I felt not what I knew.

Here's the truth. In the life of David, there was always hope for him in God. Regardless of how he felt, God was always his strength and refuge in time of need. Sure, things got crazy from time to time, but God was and is always God. That holds true for us as well. When you feel like you're in the middle of one of those dry seasons, remember, God is always there. Regardless of what we feel, he never abandons us. He never, ever leaves us.

Here in southeast Texas, we understand what summer brings with it. We also understand that come late September, we can look forward to the prospect of a cool front carrying with it some long awaited relief. In the same way, during the course of our life, there are seasons that none of us look forward to. But in the middle of those seasons, we must understand, that relief and refreshing are on their way. And regardless of how we feel, God is with us. He's always with us. Look for him. Trust me, He's still God in the middle of that dry season you find yourself in. While you are waiting for that season to come to an end, if you'll search for Him you'll find refreshment in the middle of it all. In Texas we long for that first cool front, but until it gets here, there's always the swimming pool. When you find yourself in a dry season in life, and you're looking forward to that season coming to an end, always remember if you just look for God, finding Him is like that refreshing jump in the pool during the hot summer months.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'll Do It Tomorrow

I had a dentist appointment here about 3 weeks ago. It was just a routine checkup, nothing major going on with the pearly whites. I don't have dental insurance, but I've been able to hook up with a free clinic that takes care of all my dental needs. A couple of years ago, I had a problem with one of my wisdom teeth, and it had to come out. Other than that, I've never had any problems with my wisdom teeth so they all remain, minus the one that was extracted back then. I say all that to say that the wisdom tooth that opposed the one that was pulled now needs to come out. No big problem with it yet, but it is dropping down now since there is not a tooth to oppose it. It may not cause any problems for a couple years or more, but eventually it will.

Of course, the extraction of a tooth is not a pleasant procedure. And I have to admit, I am a pretty big wimp when it comes to this kind of stuff. Naturally, my nature is to put this thing off as long as possible. I'm not sure why, but I just want to delay the painful procedure as long as I can.

A lot of us are like that with many things. There are those things that often need to be nipped in the bud, but for some reason we hesitate and as a result, things usually grow worse. Or, maybe we have a pain, or lump, or some other physical abnormality, and we put off heading to the doctor as long as we can. How about those issues in a relationship that need to be addressed, but we continually put it off, until that day when everything comes to a head and emotions get out of control? What about all that time you were going to spend with your kids one day, only to find them all grown up now? What about those piano lessons you were always going to take, or those vacations you were going to go on, or those letters you were going to write?

What is it about us that wants to put things off? If we could only learn to deal with things quickly how much time spent worrying could be avoided? How much tension in a relationship could be put to rest? How much more could we accomplish in our lives? With me, there are a few different reasons for all this procrastination. Sometimes its fear, sometimes its ADD, and sometimes its just a desire to find the easy road to take. You know that road that doesn't have any speed bumps, curves, or traffic jams. Funny thing is, that easy road somehow always finds it way right back to where it started. Although, I've made great strides in this area over the course of the last few years, I'm still a work in process.

If you're one who often puts things off, hoping and praying they'll disappear, trust me, more times than not they'll still be there in the morning. Learn to address those issues in your life that need to addressed asap. Make a decision to face things head on when they come up and refuse to put them off. Are there relationships that need your attention? Take time out and invest the time and energy necessary to bring about restoration. Start making plans now to do those things that you've always wanted to do.

I've discovered in my life, when I live like this, life is much more fulfilling and not nearly as frustrating. Of course, when it comes to the wisdom tooth, I think I'll put that off another week or so. Remember, I said I was a work in progress.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tiny, Hot Pieces Of Metal

This week on the job, I had to drill some holes in a metal panel. No big deal except it was over my head. Still it wasn't all that big of a deal until the tiny, hot pieces of metal started falling on my flesh. Now I don't do a lot of manual labor type work, I'm more of an office guy, but I've used a drill many times over the course of my life. I just don't ever recall drilling into metal over my head. Of course I knew the friction of drilling caused heat, but I never imagined that those little tiny pieces of metal would be so hot. So, there I am, metal hitting my face, my hands, my arms and going down my shirt, each one of them a couple thousand degrees. Ok, maybe not quite that hot, but trust me, they were a bit hotter than a hot summer day in southeast Texas.

Even though it stung a bit when each one hit, I just kept the finger on the throttle because there were holes that had to be drilled. Sure, I could have stopped, but then the whole job would have come grinding to a stop. The tiny, hot pieces of metal weren't life threatening, they were just a nuisance. A part of the process. Without them, there's no way to get the job done.

Sounds a bit like how God works in our lives. There's a place God wants us to get, but getting there will require a little bit of friction. We'll have to open up ourselves and allow him to work on areas that will be a little uncomfortable. You know those areas in our character, or those habits, or those addictions that we really don't want anyone touching. Sure, it can be a little inconvenient, irritating, or even painful at times. Nobody likes it, but its all a part of the process. Sure, you can refuse to allow him to work, but that will only bring everything to a grinding halt. You'll spend your life never developing into the person that God desires for you to be. Oh, but when we yield ourselves to his "Holy Spirit drill", He begins to do an awesome work in our life. Those parts of us that don't belong, he chips them away. And slowly but surely we become a little more like him, developing into the man or woman he designed us to be.

Yes, I survived those tiny, hot pieces of metal and with those holes drilled we became a step closer to the job getting done. Trust me, you'll survive the working of the Holy Spirit in your life and with each thing he does, He'll be a step closer to getting the job done.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Trust: The Key To Overcoming Fear

A dark room, noises in the night, the sound of thunder, and the creature that lives under the bed are just some of the things little ones fear. None of which makes any sense. You can protect your children by carefully monitoring what they watch on TV, but somewhere, somehow, someway they all face some kind of fear at one time or another. For some it requires little more than a caring, reassuring talk from Mom or Dad while others really struggle to overcome their fears. Whatever the case, fear can dominate and cripple a child whenever it is present.

Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to walk both my boys through several of these "fear" moments. And as I mentioned earlier, most of the time it makes no sense. For instance the simple flipping of a switch to turn off a light and suddenly a room becomes a scary place. Or, you mix that dark room with a tree branch rubbing against the window and now that room is an unbearable place to be. See, what I mean, it makes no sense.

If you are a parent I'm sure you've had to deal with some crazy fears like this from time to time. Or, perhaps when you were a child you had your own fears you had to walk through. What is so ridiculous about this whole fear thing is that as we get older, it never really stops. The fears just change. And just like with those little ones, they can be dominating and crippling. Think about it. You get a sharp pain and your chest and what instantly shoots through your mind? It could be nothing more than a muscle spasm, heart burn, or gas, but why is it we often fear the worst? Or, how about when that phone rings at 3am? Or, when you hear economists on the news proclaiming how bad everything is and how it's only going to get worse?

There are millions of different ways fear manifests but often times, just like our little ones, it makes no sense. I think that fear often shows up when we are not in control. A child is scared of the dark because he can't see. He has to trust that nothing is happening even though he can't see to make sure. He fears the noises at night because he can't see what's making them and his mind begins to imagine all kinds of creatures that could make those sounds. We as adults fear the struggling economy because we can't do anything to change it. We fear that sharp pain in our chest because if it is indeed a heart attack, we can't fix it ourselves. Let's face it when we are not in control, it's not a comfortable place for us. We love it when we can fix things and handle things on our own, but when it comes to completely, totally relying on God we get a little uneasy at times.

What is so crazy is that we are talking about the Creator of the universe here. Trust me, he is much better at being in control than we are. We need to learn to trust the fact that when things are beyond our control, that they are never beyond him. When you mix that with the knowledge that He truly loves us, and wants the absolute best for us, then and only then, will we begin to live a life free of fear. It all comes down to trust. And the whole idea of trust means you have to rely on someone or something else. Throughout my life men I have trusted have failed me, and stuff I've put my trust in has failed me. But, through the years I've learned that God can be trusted.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thank God, He's Not Like Us

God's Judgment. It's a fascinating topic that is often misunderstood. Throughout my life there have been earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, fires, terrorist attacks, airplane crashes and other horrible tragedies. One thing I have come to expect is that in the wake of tragedies like these there are always, and I mean always, those who are ready to tell the world how those events are the hand of God pouring out judgment on those who deserve it.

To be honest, those statements have never sat well with me. I mean, something deep down just doesn't resonate with comments like this. I feel like we as Christians sometimes think we are speaking for God and he's screaming at the top of his lungs, "Shut-up!" Ok, maybe he's not saying shut-up, but if you can believe he pours horrible judgment out on people then I can think he says shut-up.

I think the thing that bothers me most is the arrogance in which those "undeserving judgment," proclaim with confidence God's passing of judgment on those "deserving." Have we as Christians come so far in our Christian walk as to think we are no longer deserving of judgment? The truth is we all deserve it. No one is more deserving than anyone else. Sin is sin, and we are all in the same boat when it comes to that. The judgment pronounced on sin is death. Since we all sin, we all deserve death.

I really believe that those who are so quick to jump on the "God's judgment" bandwagon are disillusioned by thinking that God is like them. They often make statements about God judging a group of people because if they were God that's what they would do. Thank God, He's not like us! Here's the way God is. Since, we all have sinned and deserve death, God decided to pass judgment. Yep, he decided to pour his judgment and wrath out on sin. So, scripture tells us that Jesus became sin, and God poured his judgment out on him. As a result justice has been served, by Jesus taking our place. The cross is where God's judgment on sin was carried out. Now, as a result, grace, God's undeserved, unmerited, goodness and favor, is available to us. All of us. Don't get me wrong, I still believe that sin has consequences in our life if we choose to walk down that road. For instance, whether I'm a believer or not, if I was to murder someone, that sin would carry some pretty hefty consequences. Sure, I could capture God's forgiveness for my actions but that act carries with it a huge penalty.

I honestly don't know why calamity hits some, while it never comes close to others. And I'm not saying God can't sovereignly move in a way that opposes my theology. I learned along time ago, God will never fit in the box I consistently try to put him in. I just believe that God is the judge and I'll leave that responsibility to him. I refuse to jump on the religious bandwagon that so arrogantly thinks God is in agreement with them. I just pray that I consistently agree with him. I find that life goes a lot smoother for me when I'm trying to be like him and not trying to get him to be like me. I think we can all be very thankful, that God's not like me. Cause' I would have thumped us all off this planet by now.