Monday, August 29, 2016

Challenging G^d’s Goodness (Be careful!)

I am reading a book by Jerry Bridges called, “Is God Really in Control?” in the first chapter, Bridges quotes Allan Laing, a Scottish Newspaperman’s comments on the terrific tragedy of the South Asian Tsunami in 2004,

”God, if there is a God, should be ashamed of himself. The sheer enormity of the Asian tsunami disaster, the death, destruction, havoc it has wreaked, the misery it has caused, must surely test the faith of even the firmest believer…I hope I am right that there is no God.  For if there were then he’d have to shoulder the blame.  In my book, he’d be a guilty as in, and I’d want nothing to do with him.”
So, the writer challenges the goodness of God that the writer doubts really exists.  But he does raise an interesting challenge.  If God is God, then He can certainly avert disasters.  But, disasters of many types do occur.

If you could sit down over a coffee with Mr. Laing, and assuming he would really be open to listening, what would you say about his comments above.

How would you challenge Mr. Laing’s argument?  Next post, I’ll tackle this one, but in the meantime, give it some thought.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Fear G^d and Keep His Commandments

I have written a bit about this before, but I think G^d has given me a new perspective.  As I wrote a year or more back, I still believe most of us have little notion what, “The Fear of the L^rd” is ((II Chron 19:7, Job 28:28, Ps 19:9, Ps 34:11, Ps 111:10, Prov 1:7, Prov 1:29, Prov 2:5, etc.).

In my view, fearing G^d, accurately involves a few steps:
  1. 1)      Knowing G^d,
  2. 2)      Understanding G^d’s sovereignty, power, omniscience, omnipresence,
  3. 3)      Desiring to OBEY G^d in things big and small, general and personal, and
  4. 4)      Loving G^d to such an extent that PLEASING Him is our highest goal.

So, when Scripture says, “love thy neighbor as thyself”, our reaction is,
a)      We are eager to do this command,
b)      We SEEK opportunities to be obedient,
c)       We FEAR what we will miss if we FAIL to obey,
d)      We eagerly obey with a greater fear of UNDER-doing it, than of Over-doing it, and
e)      We derive JOY from obeying, regardless of the “cost” to us, because we count the “cost” as NOTHING!

My problem is forgetting these simple truths.  I fear G^d right now, but the test is in fearing Him every day, all day.

So I guess I need to get out there and practice!!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Making Decisions

Making decisions makes life.  Our life consists of a host of decisions made.  Certainly circumstances, or better Providence, determines which are our options, but nevertheless, we do, at least most of us, have lots of decisions to be made.

There are lots of resources to help us decide:
  • Gut instinct,
  • Counsel of others,
  • Experience,
  • Scripture,
  • Prayer,
  • Leading of the Holy Spirit.

As I have gainned experience over the years, the latter two resources have become more and more prominent.  However, I have noted something of some import regarding my decisions.    The BIG decisions get lots of resources, and tend to go pretty well.  But those small decisions…

Maybe what I call “small” decisions are bigger than I think.  Perhaps I OUGHT to devote a bit more prayer and seeking G^d’s direction in these “small” decisions.  The small ones are a lot more abundant than the big ones.

Prov 3:5-6 speaks to this- without distinguishing on the size of decision. “Trust in the L^rd with all thine heart, and do NOT lean on thine own understanding.  In ALL thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path.”

Now, if I can just STICK to my decision on making decisions.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Loving Money

“The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil”, or so the Bible says (I Tim 6:10).

Hmm, I assume most of us, me included, have serious doubts about that verse.  For, as Montgomery Burn s said it, “I’d give up all my wealth… for just a little more.”  Most of us love money so much that we will sacrifice tine (which is irreplaceable), health, family, and too often, integrity, “for just a little more”.

We admire those with lots of money, we listen to their advice, we plot and calculate how to amass as much as possible.  And that is not an isolated Christian, or non-Believer, it is most all of us.

Why do we all chase wealth?  For me it is: ego, greed, comfort, culture, competition, a way to “keep score”, status, sinfulness, doubt, insecurity, and probably some darker reasons that I won’t admit even to myself.

“Seek first the kingdom of G^d…”.

Yes, I want to do that.  It will mean I will need help.  I will need help; from fellow Believers, help from G^d.

It will be hard. 

I cry out with that father in Scripture, “I believe, help thou my unbelief!” (Mk 9:23-25)

Let’s see how this goes…

Monday, August 15, 2016

Gone Fishing

One of my best friends I have known since 1980.  This guy, Chuck, is a terrific guy with a great sense of humor.  We met Chuck and his wife at church, and were in Bible study with them.  After I finished my doctoral degree, I worked with Chuck as his assistant in his newly founded plumbing company.  He got a kick out of telling folks about his plumber’s helper’s” education.

Almost every year Chuck organizes and leads a fishing trip to Lake Nippigon, Ontario.  Sometimes 5 guys go, and this latest trip 10 of us went.  There were 4 of us old guys, and the rest were under 40.
Chuck and Penny have 11 kids, and 3 of his 6 sons, and 2 sons-in-law and 2 fathers of sons in laws made the trip.  That made me and Scott the only two NON-relatives.

It is a good trip, each year, and I guess this is about my 5th time to go.  All the folks who go are Christians, and that adds considerably to the trip.  There is no shortage of joking around during the 1400+mile trip up, nor at any time during the fishing.

It is a great Blessing to do such a vacation- a privilege not available to many folks in the world.  Chuck has done this so many times, there is a definite pattern to the trip.  We left at 1730 from Athens, driving all night and arriving at the Cabela’s store in Dundee, MI around opening time.  From there it is a short-day’s drive to Saulte Sainte Marie, MI where we over-night in a Howard Johnson’s.

On Saturday AM, we will cross into Canada and exchange some $$.  Fortunately the Canadian dollar has lost a little value relative to US dollars, so we should get almost $129 Canadian to every $100 US.

We should arrive at the Lake in the late PM, but there is enough daylight this far North to fish a bit Saturday evening.  There’s much more to tell… but we will get to that in the future.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friendly? Wasn’t Expecting that MUCH!

After living in one house for 31 years, my wife and I have moved twice in less than 3 months.
If you recall your last move from a “permanent” residence (we ain’t got but one permanent residence, and it ain’t on earth) you know what this means.

Moves are HARD!

The last house we bought we looked at it LESS than scores of houses we did NOT buy.  We saw it, walked around a bit, then left for a 10-hour drive back to Alabama.

Our realtor told us there was ALREADY a contract on the house, so our hopes weren’t too high.  On top of that we made a pretty LOW offer on it.
I made the CLEAR remark, “IF G^d doesn’t want us to have this house there are PLENTY of ways to stop it”.  I also made the inverse comment to Brenda, “If G^d wants us to have this place, He’ll have to make it happen.
We recently went to the new place to begin moving in.  We were there only 4 days but, in those 4 days we met:
Dan and Ann
Bob Dav
Bob and Gail
Karen and Robyn
Peyton and Berta
David and Sally
Kathleen, Kathy, and Joe
Bob Dar
Mark and dog
Ms K
Brent and Sharon
Sten and Rose
That’s 24 neighbors we met in 4 days.  We were invited to two community events in 4 days.  We hate that we are missing the lecture next Friday on birding.
We see many positives in the new house, but the BIG one is the great friendly neighborhood we have, unbeknownst to us, moved into.  Let me tell you, RELATIONSHIPS matter, and so G^d has provided us a GREAT start.

G^d knows what He is doing!

Monday, August 8, 2016

In Praise of Bad Furniture

In High School, around 1964, or 65, I took a "shop" class in woodworking.   My teacher was Mr.

Eugene Cline.  Some said Gene spent more time in class working on his own stuff than teaching, but I never noticed because I was working on the ONLY piece of furniture I have ever built.

He had given us 2-3 projects, from which to choose.  These were quite simple and didn't require too much instruction or supervision.  I vaguely recall meeting in a classroom a little, but mostly enjoying a huge workshop filled with all sorts of equipment that are far too dangerous for today's more genteel pupils.

Thus the PROCESS began.  Transforming wood into something useful, and maybe slightly attractive.

I worked and worked on my project- a coffee table,  The design required that I glue two 1x12's together to form the top, and also fasten the slanted table base and legs with glue and nails. Sheetrock screws had NOT become available in that ancient era, so nails it was.  Everything was of cheap, but clear pine.  In fact the whole project couldn't have cost too much, since my family was poor, poor.

The handiwork I did then is superior to what little crafting I do now.  I sanded and sanded the table top using a very good belt sander.  Someone, likely Mr Cline, pointed out that some of us were sanding our projects to the point of leaving the wood far too thin!  Sanding was easy with the belt sander, and we were getting a bit carried away.

The end of the term came, and I stained my table a dark mahogany, and put some sort of slick finish on it.  I don't recall polyurethane being de rigor in those days, so not sure what I put on it.

When the table was all done, and a bit to my surprise, my mother put it in a place of prominance as THE coffee table on the "sun porch"- an old enclosed porch that served as the chief den of an otherwise den-less small house.  It remained at it post, serving faithfully until my Dad, then my Mom passed on to their great reward.

Not too surprisingly none of my brothers wanted it, or hardly any of my folks furniture.  I borrowed a trailer from a friend in Tuscaloosa, and drove over to Canton, GA and retrieved the old table along with quite a few items from my parents' home.

Without so much as a touch-up we put the table to use in our own den, It served there for the last 13 years.  Now Brenda says it will live on in our VA home, if I get it refinished.  And so it goes.

Memories.  G^d changes us.  I am not the guy who made that original coffee table.  I am better is some ways, yet worse in others.  G^d uses sandpaper, and hard knocks to mold us, to make us into better Christians.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Little Letter, and a Big Impact

"Dear Ms. B (house seller),

Please consider our offer to purchase your home.  Our home in Alabama is very similar to yours.  You have kept your home in excellent condition.  If you will sell to us, we hope that the home will continue to be a Blessing to many, for years to come.

Thanks for your consideration.

Phil and Brenda Bishop"

Brenda had the terrific idea of writing the potential house seller in Virginia, and older lady, a letter introducing ourselves a bit.  The above is an approximation of that brief letter.

At the time of our purchase, the house, we thought, was already under contract with a contingency for the sale of the potential purchaser’s home in PA.

According to the listing realtor, there were multiple offers for the home when our offer arrived, and he laid them out before the seller.  Again, according to the listing agent, she read the letter and selected our offer, even though it was NOT the highest offer.

True story?  Who knows.  But it is a story.

Thanks be to G^d, it is a wonderful home.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Leaving Everything- Impossible!

As most readers might realize, Brenda and I are in the process of moving away from our home town of the last 32 years-- obviously longer than we have ever lived anywhere.  We have loved our time in Tuscaloosa, because of our friends and family here.  We have many, many fond memories.

So why leave?

Good question.  I had a great job with great pay!  We have NO complaints regarding our place here, or anything else.

Why mess up a good thing?

We have two daughters here and 4 grandchildren, all of whom we will miss sorely.

So why move?

There is but ONE answer to your persistent questioning!  G^d is directing our path.  In fact, this is the ONLY reason we would be doing this!!

We have seen ample confirmations in how G^d has orchestrated events in miraculous ways.

One of those is from Mark 10:28-30, "28 Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 [a]but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in [b]the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life."

100 times as much??

There is NO safer place than the center of G^d's will.

See you there!