Overcoming Evil

It has happened again.

A senseless killing of innocent people. In a church while worshiping, no less.

Where is the God who these folks were praying to?

Does He hear?

Does He care?

These questions flooded my mind yesterday as I heard the news of the tragic shooting in the little town in Texas. A small, unincorporated community where everyone knows each other. The LAST place one would expect such a tragic occurrence.

Just like the place I live.

We know most all our neighbors and wave when they drive by.

I sat in a place of worship yesterday morning, just as those people in Texas did. So did our children and grandchildren in their various locations, surrounded by friends and family.

Christians gather regularly around the world to worship, pray, and learn from Biblical teaching and fellowship.

So did those people in Texas.

I can’t help but think “Why?”

God tells us in Jeremiah 17: 9-10

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?
10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts
    and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
    according to what their actions deserve.”

There is evil in the hearts of some individuals. We don’t understand it. But these verses assure me that God knows, and that He will avenge the ones responsible.

But what about the innocent victims? Those hurting family and friends of those killed and wounded? Why did God allow this?

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis addresses this very question. In his chapter The Rival Conceptions of God Lewis writes the following –

“Of course, that raises a very big question. If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling ‘whatever you say, and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?’

“My argument against God,” Lewis says, “was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?”

This is why God became flesh – in the form of man – Jesus – to redeem this cruel, broken world. Jesus is the hope of the world.

This realization does not change the very real suffering of those people in Texas. It does not change the very real hurt and loss of individuals throughout the world suffering from human trafficking, abuse, neglect, or cruelty.

It does give hope for the future. God wants to bring each person into the Light of His love, grace and restoration.

Denying the existence of God because one sees the real and terrible suffering of this life does nothing to alleviate, diminish, or explain that suffering.

Our grandsons dress up as “super heroes” ready to vanquish the evil in their back yard. Don’t we wish it was that simple? Jesus has promised to be with us through all the battles we face.

Right before Jesus was beaten and crucified He told his disciples the following – John 16:33 –

33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus wants to give us hope and peace in the midst of the suffering of this world.

We must pray – and hold on to hope.

 

 

 

 

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Arise, SHINE!

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Isaiah 60:1-3

Have you ever had something happen to you that seems unique? You feel like you are the very first person to experience it.

Then you share it with someone and they say “Oh, yes. I had that happen to me last week.”  – and they go on to describe JUST what you thought was a first.

Sometimes I feel God does that with me concerning spiritual truth. I will read something in Scripture and sense an illumination of understanding.

Wow! I new revelation for me! Then…

  • I am in a service and the preacher teaches on that very Scripture
  • I turn on the radio and someone shares my very insight
  • At Bible study a speaker shares in the video (which was made at least year or two previous) the very new, freshinsight I just had this week

So, I can either dismiss my excitement over “my fresh revelation” OR I can realize that

God may be trying to get my attention!

I think it is prudent to do the latter. In my over 60 years of being a Christian, God has faithfully used various means to lead me into Truth.

The fact that we Christians are the LIGHT OF THE WORLD and that we must LET OUR LIGHT SHINE  is the Truth that God is impressing me with every where I turn.

Tuesday night at our home group, God spoke to us through Janice that it is dark all around us, but we have the Light of the world.

Now, what does that mean? I know this message is not just for me, (although I sense I am certainly being held accountable) since I am hearing it in church, on the radio, at the Community Women’s Bible Study, our Home Group, and in my personal time with God.

I must respond.

I must let the Light of Jesus shine in all my interactions with others, starting at home. Then I must let my Light shine wherever I go – every day, every place I go.

I also know that my small Light is greatly multiplied in its effect when it is joined with other Lights. We saw this clearly illustrated at the lighthouses we recently visited on the Outer Banks. There was one light, but many lenses that reflected and multiplied the amount of light so that the effect could be viewed for many miles. That greater light had saved many lives over the years!

When we Christians arise and let our Light shine together – the effect will be so much greater!

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Let us arise, and shine the Light together!

Waiting

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“I don’t like to wait, Nana.”

My first thought was, “dear Daniel, you have a lot of waiting ahead of you in life.”

My next thought was “I don’t like to wait either!”

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We were at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The National Park Ranger had given us a time to ascend to the top, all 257 steps. They limit the number of people in the lighthouse at any given time so that everyone is safe, and to maximize each individual’s viewing opportunity. Our time slot was 30 minutes away.

I can understand Daniel’s impatience. The lighthouse was so beautiful, towering over us on a clear October day. We had just eaten our picnic lunch in the park and we had told the children that we would climb the lighthouse after we finished our lunch.

Now we had to wait.

Waiting is part of life.

Yet our culture is programmed for INSTANT response, isn’t it? Not only can we access information all the time most everywhere, we are constantly being enticed to acquire faster service with more data capacity. No wonder our children don’t like to wait!

How can we help our children and grandchildren (and ourselves for that matter) learn to wait with patience and grace?

  • be an example of waiting with patience ourselves

when we are placed in situations where we must wait, like traffic jams, long                     lines in the store, for food in restaurants, for a family member getting ready –                   we must show patience ourselves. Our irritation for waiting will send a strong                 message.

  • talk to our children about why we must wait

explain that many things in life require waiting, like a child being born, for                       instance, and we must wait for these occurrences patiently. Young children                       may not understand the concept of time, but they will understand our                                 example of irritation or patience.

  • create “waiting games” that help the child learn to use time in positive ways

 digital devices can be positive tools in our lives, but pressing a “game” in front of a child whenever the child must wait will create a new set of  problems.                        Look around you and name colors, count people, find objects that start with                     “b”. Use the time to plan a special dinner, a birthday party (that the child must                  WAIT for), have the child write out your shopping list, even if they can only                        write the first letter of a word

  • be prepared to wait

carry in your car, bag, large purse – some “waiting” items. Paper to write                              Grandma a letter (YES!), a coloring book and crayons or pencils, a small book                    to read, or ask the child to tell you the story using the illustrations. Use                                waiting time to count money and explain the various values of coins. (not as                      effective with plastic!)

Sometimes we must wait for YEARS before something happens that we hope and pray for. Yet God is faithful, especially as we wait.

Isaiah 40: 30-31 says this about waiting –

30  Even youths shall faint and be weary,
      and young men shall fall exhausted;
31   but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
      they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
      they shall run and not be weary;
      they shall walk and not faint.
What a wonderful promise for those who learn to wait!
Let’s make it a personal goal to be patient as we wait, and to model that for the children in our lives.

How Great is the Darkness?

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We woke this morning to the horrifying news of another shooting. I was planning on writing today about the darkness that seems to be permeating our world. Now it seems even more urgent.

What is happening?

I heard a message at church Wednesday from Joe Ewing, a pastor and Bible teacher from Scotland. His words stirred me and have been ringing in my mind and heart ever since.

“Don’t despair as the world around us gets darker and darker. We as Christians have the Light of the World!  The light shines brightest when it is dark. Let your light shine, Church!”

Instead of wringing my hands, and lamenting the sad state of our world (which indeed is very bad) I need to let my light shine.

What does this mean?

Pastor Ewing shared from Isaiah 60:1-5 which says –

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

 The context of this passage is a very dark time in Israel. The prophet Isaiah wants Israel to know that their hope is in God.

But where is God in the midst of the darkness?

The Light is Jesus, our hope of salvation. Jesus is the Light the world needs. Jesus told us to let our light shine in darkness. Jesus taught us to

  • love instead of hate
  • forgive instead of retaliate
  • give instead of take
  • share instead of selfishness

Paul says the following at a time he has been beaten and thrown in prison. It was a dark time. II Corinthians 4:5-7

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

I don’t understand the darkness, but I do know the Light. In this time of darkness, I MUST let my light shine. I will keep my eyes on Jesus. Jesus is the Light, the hope of the world.

The darker this world gets, the brighter the LIGHT will shine.

Arise, let our Light shine!

 

Feeling Overwhelmed

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” the devastation is overwhelming!”

How do we process catastrophic events when we feel helpless to understand the suffering, much less do something about it?

I felt that way after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 – 16 years ago today.  I felt that way last month when the severe storms hit Texas. Now Florida is being flooded and facing high wind damage. This storm is not over, as it travels north and west, so the wide-ranging effects are still pending.

What should my response be as Christian, as a person who feels deeply for those who have suffered and those who are suffering right now?

Have you ever thought – What can I DO ?- feeling for those who are suffering is not enough!

Jesus had been teaching and healing people who were following him. There was a huge crowd and it was getting time to address a real need – the physical hunger of the people.

John recalls it this way – John 6:5 –

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

I think this story has a powerful message for me when I am faced with an overwhelming need.

First, Jesus recognized that the people were hungry, and He didn’t send them away. In Matthew’s account of this same story – one of the disciples suggests sending the multitude away to get food for themselves.

  • I must recognize what the need is  – not “send them away”.

Secondly, Jesus looked around for what was available right there at that time. A boy had 5 loaves and 2 fish. Bless his mother for packing his lunch! Bless that boy for not eating it ahead of time! Jesus took what was available.

  • I must use what I have available to meet a need. I should not respond like Philip did and bemoan the fact that “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”   I must not think that my contribution is too small to make a difference.

Thirdly, Jesus prayed and gave thanks for those two small fish and those 5 loaves of bread.  God multiplied. God was in charge of the results!

  • I must be faithful to offer what I can. I should be thankful with what I have to share no matter how small it is.  God is faithful to accomplish His will, even multiplying a small offering if He wills.

I am praying for all those suffering around us. I am asking God to show me what I have available to share. I am thanking God for all He is doing and will do in this time of devastating loss.

 

Stay Connected

We have two grandchildren starting kindergarten this year. Our oldest grandchild is starting 7th grade. How time has flown by!

For several years in a row, Phil and I were invited to give a talk to parents of kindergarten students at Scotts Creek School where Phil taught 7th and 8th grade Language Arts.

We would introduce ourselves as parents of four grown children, and say that between us, we had many years (40+) of teaching experience. This was meant in no way to give the impression that we were experts. Yet we did want those listening to know where we were coming from. The purpose of the session was to encourage parents to start at the beginning to take an active role in their children’s education – then maintain that involvement throughout their child’s career in school.

It is evident at any school open house, the higher the grade, the less parents come to meet their child’s teacher. Why do parents start out involved and present at school activities when their children are young, then fade into the background as their child grows?

Unless it is an athletic event, it is difficult to get parents of teens to show up at school.

Children NEED their parents to stay involved in their education!

Phil would share this comment as we began – “I want to share some strategies with you as your child begins kindergarten so that by the time they reach my classes in 7th and 8th grade, they know how to be a responsible student. It will make my job a whole lot more effective and enjoyable for your child and for me.” (This usually got several polite laughs. 🙂

If we think that the moment we turn our children over to a teacher, our responsibility for their education in over, we are sadly mistaken.

As parents, we have a vital role in supporting, monitoring, advocating, and (only when absolutely necessary) intervening in our children’s education. There is no excuse to abdicate that role to a teacher. As a dedicated teacher myself, I admit that I did not see and hear everything that went on in my classroom. I also know that I was not aware of some of the special needs or circumstances my students faced – unless the child or parent told me.

We gave the parents of kindergarten students a handout with four suggestions as follows:

Follow Through –

  • If you say, “No video games until you pick up your toys” stick to it.
  • Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.
  • Don’t take excuses. This leads the child to believe that your instructions are negotiable.
  • It takes effort but it will pay off!

Read to (and with) your Child –

  • This is the MOST important activity you can do to encourage your child’s academic growth
  • It will help them be the best student they can be.

Talk WITH Your Child – Listen

  • It is important to ask them about school, then ask the “next question”,
  • i.e. “Did you learn anything new today? “What was it? “Did you enjoy it?” Why or why not?”
  • “Did anything funny happen at school today?” “What happened?”
  • “Did you do your homework?  “Let me see it.”

Limit Screen Time –

  • Using devices, watching TV, videos, playing video games, even educational content, may rob children of doing many things that are important to their physical, emotional, and social development, like playing outside or reading a book.

God speaks to the children of Israel and says the following:

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Verse 19 encourages a continuous connection with our children. Stay connected.

May God bless our children and grandchildren with a great school year that helps them grow in God’s grace. May we be faithful to encourage them.

 

The Mighty Power of God

 

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Last night as we sang around the campfire, our daughter Abigail suggested this song –

“I sing the mighty pow’r of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.”

Isaac Watts wrote this triumphant hymn of praise to Creator God in 1715. It expresses so powerfully the fact that our universe is one of order, sustained by the mighty power of God.

We are in the middle of the excitement over the eclipse and our community will experience totality around 12:34 today. We have family and friends staying with us and anticipate a once -in-a-lifetime experience.

I recalled reading the book Miracles by Eric Metaxes. In the chapter, The Miracle of the Universe, Metaxes cites scientific evidence that demonstrates the wonder of our existence on planet Earth. The following is one piece of that evidence –

” For life to be possible anywhere in our universe, there needed to be vast amounts of carbon. In 1953, Sir Fred Hoyle – the Cambridge astronomer who coined the term “Big Bang”  – discovered that nuclear ground-state energy levels of helium, carbon, oxygen, and beryllium had to be extraordinarily fine-tuned for enough carbon to be created. If any of the ground levels were just 1 percent different, there would not have been enough carbon in the universe to allow for the possibility of life. To Hoyle, an atheist, the notion that this fine-tuning had “just happened” was statistically quite impossible.” p. 51

As we view the eclipse together with friends and family, let’s make a conscientious decision to give glory to the One responsible – our Heavenly Father.

Isaiah 40: 26

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

Eric Metaxes says this –

“The slimness of our being here is so slim that it’s enough to leave us goggle-eyed with terror – until in the next moment we realize we are indeed here and explode with gratitude for our very existence. This really can be the only proper and logical response to it all, to marvel and rejoice and rest in the genuinely unfathomable miracle of our being.” p. 54

As we watch this amazing display of God’s sustaining power at work in our universe, let us praise the mighty power of God.