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Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Day to Remember

This Monday is Memorial Day in the United States. It is also known as the “Unofficial Start of Summer” as most Americans have the day off from work and school. It is common to grill meat outside and have friends and family over; in general, have a good time.

And there’s nothing wrong with this. I’ll be doing this with my family and we all look forward to it every year. We’ll be grilling steaks and potatoes, having cake decorated as an American Flag. I’ll probably play catch with my sons, definitely lounge around the backyard and enjoy the day.

But I will also share with my sons what Memorial Day is really for – the reason we have this day in our nation’s calendar.

It began as “Decoration Day” by freed negro slaves in 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. They had created a cemetery near the place where many Union prisoners of war had died and were buried in a mass grave. Out of gratitude – it is said – of the soldiers’ sacrifice for their freedom, they reinterred the bodies and decorated the graves with flowers.

The following year cities in the Northern United States began to hold what would become yearly observances of memorial and decoration of those who had died during the United States Civil War. After World War II, Decoration Day became more commonly known as Memorial Day and in the 1960’s it was officially designated as such by an act of Congress.

Today there are no survivors of the Civil War nor the Spanish-American War. There are also no living veterans of World War I. The last veteran died in 2012.

The veterans of World War II have reached their late 80’s and older.

For World War I and all previous wars, they are truly second-hand history for us. World War II and more recent wars are still “memories.”

We must never forget what these men and women did to ensure our freedom. I say we should also thank God for their sacrifice, especially those who gave their lives during the conflicts. And that is what Memorial Day is for.

Remembering is a biblical thing. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He celebrated remembrances such as Passover and Purim. In the “Law” as recorded in Deuteronomy, God instructed His people to remember what they have gone through to get where they are now and to pass on those memories to their children and their children’s children (Deuteronomy 6:7).

This is a basic to the Christian faith: that what is believed about Jesus Christ is passed on to others, to teach and confess it to especially to children.

Memorial Day is a great opportunity to do both: to share a bit of the history of our country and to share our faith in Christ. I pray that you will do this and also have a blessed Memorial Day.

©2013 True Men Ministries.

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LiveJournal Tags: Memorial Day,Jesus Christ,remember

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Experience of Pain

“And they all lived happily ever after.”

That’s a good ending to a good story.

But is it true?

I think it is, for the most part. I think it is based on what we mean by “happily.”

For a Christian, it might mean that heaven is awaiting us. It might mean that we will live forever with Christ in paradise. It might mean that we live – in this life – with the joy of the presence of God in our life.

I’ve heard from several people that have gone through sickness or injury about how God got them through, calmed their hearts and minds. How they had a sense of peace because they could feel the presence of God with them.

But I’ve come to realize that being a Christian doesn’t mean that this kind of happiness comes automatically. Sometimes it works out that God changes your circumstances to give you happiness. But sometimes, God changes your perception of happiness to fit the circumstances you find yourself in.

I think that’s what has happened to Craig.

Craig loves to climb. He climbs with ropes carabiners, and he climbs with just his hands and feet (bouldering). He’s also really, really good at climbing – as is his wife, Cyndy and their two children.

One day Craig was climbing with a friend in Colorado and, through a misunderstanding and miscommunication, he ended up falling.

Statistics tell the story – that if a person falls 10 feet, they have a 10% chance of dying, and if they fall 20 feet they have a 20% chance of dying.

Craig fell 100 feet. Statistics tend to not lie.

But Craig did not die. He fell straight down, starting out horizontal, but about half-way down he hit a tree branch and it turned him vertical. He hit the ground practically standing straight up. He landed on his feet at nearly 55 miles per hour.

His story is told in “After the Fall” – which he wrote with Bill Romanelli.

Craig is honest about his Christian faith and where he was in his relationship with God before and after the accident.

Craig says, “I thought about how I had worked hard to fit God into my life where it was most convenient for me, and wherever there was a conflict it was as if God was just the kid I played with because he had cool toys. I saw how I had always put my faith and trust into my own body, and the fall had taken away the one thing I had put the most stock in, myself” (After the Fall, page 51).

During his recovery and rehab, Craig documents how sometimes he felt that God wasn’t there. I’ve heard this called the “Silence of Heaven” and I know from experience that it happens. Not that God isn’t there, but sometimes He’s not saying anything. I wrote about this in what I called “The Silence of Heaven.

Craig says it this way, “But as the weeks went on [after leaving the hospital and was going through rehab], the apparent absence of God became like a huge hole. I kept thinking God would keep guiding me, and He wasn’t. Where I should have seen his hand at work all around me, instead almost every experience was a muddled collage of good and bad, as if joy and despair were waging war inside me, and to the victor would go my spirits” (After the Fall, page 80).

Planet of the Apes Wall 1This is what Craig is teaching me: that while God is always in my life, and is always there through good times and bad, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to have a life that is all “sugar plums and lollipops.” Craig has taught me that life will have pain. God in my life doesn’t change that. But God in my life does change how I deal with the pain.

It helps me to remember this: because Jesus endured pain – the pain of the cross and death itself – I can deal with pain, too. Jesus forgives me all my sin and restores true life to me. Jesus restores the life God intended for me to have. In doing this, Jesus never promised that I wouldn’t have pain or trouble or disappointment. He promises that I will have Him! And He promises that He’s preparing a place where all that stuff will never be experienced again – heaven.

Thank you, Craig, for reminding me of this!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Not Why. Rather, What For?

Peter was in a place he never imagined he would be.Why me

Those three years seemed to go by in a blink of an eye. Yet, that day on the beach seemed like a lifetime ago.

He and his brother fished all night, catching nothing. In the morning, an itinerant preacher came by and asked to use his boat to preach from. After the sermon, a miraculous catch of fish, and then Peter heard the words of Jesus he would never, ever forget.

“Follow me, I will make you fishers of men. Do not be afraid.”

Afraid? Peter wasn’t afraid of anything! He would stand up to even Jesus when he didn’t like what he was hearing!

But then the betrayal by Judas, the arrest by the temple guards, and the farce of a trial at the High Priest’s house.

This man who earlier wasn’t afraid to confess boldly that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of Living God, cowered in fear before a servant girl. All she did was ask him if he was one of Jesus’ followers.

Three times, Peter ended up denying he even knew Jesus.

Then the crucifixion and the bitterness of living through that Saturday with the knowledge that he had all but nailed Jesus to that cross.

Yes, all that changed the next day. Jesus was suddenly there! The tomb was empty – he had seen it was empty – and Jesus was there with him in the upper room that afternoon!

Then Jesus was gone. Peter saw Him ascend to the heavens.

Peter mulled that over for 10 days.

He gathered again with his brothers and sisters in the Upper Room. Suddenly a loud sound, like a rushing wind, and what appeared to be tongues of flame!

This was it! The promised gift! Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit and this was it!

This man who stood up to the Son of God, then cowered in fear before a servant girl, now found himself standing before a crowd of thousands.

“Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.”

And when he was finished speaking, the Holy Spirit converted over 3000 people – the Christian Church was born and set into motion!

Ah, those were heady days for Peter. But now he finds himself in a very different place. Chained to a wall, in a damp and dark Roman jail. His death sentence was delivered and he was waiting for his own crucifixion.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials….”

Peter didn’t ask, “Why?” As in “Why me?” Rather, he focused on “What for?” For what reason do we suffer? What will be the good in my own death on a cross?

“…so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

When you go through tough and terrible times, it is only natural to ask, “Why me?”

But I challenge you (and myself!), by the power of the Holy Spirit, to ask instead, “What for?” And to know this answer – to give God glory so others may know the hope that you have within you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Jenny’s Story

I’ve been looking for something. It isn’t really something I lost but something I neverlonely really had. I don’t want to go into the details, but I grew up in a typical family. Nothing really out of the ordinary. But after I moved out onto my own, I found I really needed “completeness.” Its hard to put into words, actually. There was something missing in my life. Maybe you know, or have known, what I mean. Some people call it a longing, a search for meaning, whatever. All I know is that I’ve been looking for it for a long time.

After a while – I don’t know when, really – I began thinking of it in terms of what I want instead of what I need. Maybe I never actually thought of it as a need. At any rate, I’ve searched for something to fill the want. I’ve searched in places I’m not proud to admit. Love, drugs, drink. I’ve searched in all those places for what I wanted – without really knowing exactly what it was I did want. At first I did find what I wanted in them. They filled me with something I didn’t have as a little girl. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t into hardcore stuff. Drugs were never really my thing. I wasn’t a falling-down drunk, and I only had slept with those I really loved. Pretty average stuff, really.

But after a while, I realized that nothing really satisfied me. I wasn’t really getting what I wanted. I still couldn’t put my finger on what it was, exactly, but these things didn’t get it for me.

It was about this time I started to really learn about Jesus. Now before you tune me out, hear me out. I’m not one of those who tell their story of strife and woe and then I found Jesus and he made me all better and my life is full of joy all the time! I don’t knock those who have experienced it like that, but it isn’t my story.

One of my friends took me to church with her one Sunday. The pastor talked about the hope that can fill a person’s life – a hope only Jesus can give. There was no flash from heaven, no fire in my belly from a massive conversion experience. But this hope from Jesus intrigued me. I went back the next week and he talked about it again. I kept going, rarely missing. What I was hearing was comforting. I heard about faith and hope and love. I heard that Jesus died and rose from the dead for me. That all my sins were forgiven. That all my longings would be satisfied in Jesus. The pastor didn’t present this as if it was some one-time, instantaneous solution, either. Jesus’ hope and peace and grace were life-long gifts. I realized that this was what I wanted. I was searching in all the wrong places. I was searching for the wrong things. It wasn’t about what I wanted but rather what I needed. Somehow Jesus knew and He gave it to me.

Is everything perfect now? It sure would be great to tell you it is, but it isn’t. Life is better, though. I have a satisfying relationship with Jesus and brothers and sisters in the faith at my church. Jesus makes the difference because He took my sins away. And He continues to take my sins away as He fills my need. My life isn’t perfect (really, what is in this world?) but it is more fulfilling with Jesus as the center of it.

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