Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Scars Are Just Reminders

     Last year at this time (September 10th at 4:02), we lost our power.  It was not to be restored until ten days later.  The full force of Hurricane Irma swept across our state and hit our rural county with ferocious winds of well over 100 mph.
     I remember trying to play a game with our son, daughter in law and their children by electric camping light as our house creaked and groaned.  We had barricaded our windows, had plenty of gas for our generator and lots of food to tide us over.  Yet, the next day was such a shock to see.  There were trees down everywhere along with parts of our neighbors porch laying in the road.  It took us a long time to clean up the mess.  In fact, a year later, there are still some tarps over area roofs, and we are now just getting several rooms in our home fixed after having some water damage.  Things are never quite the same after a storm of this magnitude, and still, God was with us.
     While there are still scars (leaning trees and dead fallen trees), we have moved on because that is what life in this world does.  We move on after a catastrophe, but we do not forget.  Scars serve their purpose to remind us about what just happened and to be ready in the future should this happen again.
However, scars are also useful in recounting to the next generation how we got them and what we learned in the process.  There are scars not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually.
     All of us have experienced the scars from sin.  In fact, the Bible teaches us "that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  When we live in rebellion to God, there are consequences whether we realize it at the time or not.  Sex outside the bonds of marriage that leads to an unexpected pregnancy, adultery that destroys the covenant of marriage, emotional and physical abuse are some of the sins that leave us wounded.  The GOOD News is that Jesus Christ provides for us a healing balm like no other.  When we come to Him repenting of our sins, He not only forgives us, but begins to heal these deep gashes in our heart.  But there are still the scars we carry as a solemn remembrance of what sin can do in our lives.
     I carry several scars near my left eye from the three times I disobeyed my mother.  Twice I fell on steps when she told me not to run and one time came from jumping on a roll-away bed where I hit the metal frame.  All three times required stitches, and each time I look in the mirror, I remember just how I got those lovely reminders.  Then, I broke my left arm because I was in hurry to get across an icy driveway.  This required surgery and left a not so nice scar.  If I bump it, I am reminded of the whole scene.  I am healed but the scars remain.  The same is true for us in the spiritual realm.
     God forgives us and removes our sins far from His remembrance..."as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12).  The only thing He does not remove are the consequences we may experience as a result of our sin.  King David is a perfect example.  David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband was pointed out by the Prophet Nathan.  While David repented of such evil sins, God told him that the baby they had as a result of their adultery would not live.  David also did not enjoy peace in his own family from that day forward (2 Samuel 12:10).  There are countless other examples in the the Bible in addition to this one that demonstrate why and how sin leaves painful scars.
     Just like a good parent, I believe that God allows these reminders of our sin so that we will learn from our sins and never go there again.  Furthermore, we can use what we have learned to teach our children and grandchildren to avoid the mistakes we have made.  God uses all things to work together for our good so look at that scar as a reminder that Jesus paid it all for us through His sacrifice on our behalf.  His blood brought healing to those wounds caused by our sin.  This is the Good News we need to share!  Selah!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Change of Focus

     Our lives are full of activity whether we are working a job or fully retired.  There is never a loss for projects large and small around our homes; so one thing which I have had the privilege to learn lately is that we can change our schedule to include looking at God's amazing creation.  This did not happen by chance.  It was divine providence.
     When I go for walks in the morning, I like to use my phone app "Map My Walk".  I have it on my watch too so I synchronize them both before I leave.  In the past, this app was able to post directly to Facebook.  However, circumstances changed and the app could no longer post directly.  The creators of this app suggested that we could post a picture with our walking stats if we wanted to and explained how this would work.  Therefore, on each walk, I now look for something beautiful or an animal I can photograph that I can share on Facebook along with my stats.  It helps me to keep accountability for my daily routine.  Plus it gives others a look at some of the beauty that surrounds us here.
     One of the things I have noticed is that my focus has changed as I exercise.  I am not just going for a walk.  I am challenged to observe the things around me more intensely as I search for a beautiful picture I can take.  My exercise routine has taken on a new focus, and I should not be surprised.  After all, the Apostle Paul told us where our focus in life should be.
     In his letter to the Corinthians (2 Corthinians 5:7), the Apostle Paul writes these words:  "...for we walk by faith, not by sight."  We are to walk each day fearing God, trusting in Him and not allowing our circumstances of living to overwhelm us.  We are to see with the eye of our soul rather than our physical eye that tells us a different story.  Our focus in this life is to be on God despite the ups and downs of living in a fallen world.  When we start our day with prayer and reading God's Word, our focus has shifted.  We are seeing life through the Lord's eyes.  What a difference this can make in our day!
     Jesus told us not to worry or be anxious over anything in His "Sermon on the Mount".  Joy-less living comes from stewing over things we cannot change or control.  Unfortunately, we all have this tendency to get upset unless we have learned to see daily events through the eyes of our Savior.  This is not necessarily easy to do, but it is worth the peace that comes when we are faithful.  This is why I likened it to my walks in the morning.
     I really hated my daily exercise because it was hot, humid and generally miserable outside.  I went through the motions but never enjoyed it.  Since I began to look for something beautiful to photograph and share, my attitude has changed.  It has become a fun exploration each day and not just an exercise routine.  The same is true in our spiritual life.  Each day when we seek the Lord, we are on a mission to see others through His eyes.  Rather than the circumstances of the day causing us annoyance, we can begin the day looking for the beauty of His holiness finding new ways to glorify Him.  It will make a great difference in our day!  May we look to the Lord for joy each day; for when we do, we will not be disappointed.  Selah!
   

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Don't Be Afraid to Try Again

     Our family held a birthday celebration for our oldest son this past weekend.  What a joy it was to have our family together again, and of course, there was a lot of noise with grandchildren running and playing.  Among the

activities over the weekend, many in the family enjoyed swimming.  This is a great way to cool off in the hot summer sun.  Thankfully the grandchildren are learning to swim or already have that skill and that's a good thing in a state where there is a lot of water.
     I remember only too well when we took our young family swimming in a neighbor's pond.  Our oldest son had a close call when he got too far out from the shore into deep water.  His sister saw it happen and let us know he was in trouble.  We got him to shore, and I am happy to say it never stopped him from enjoying the water in the future.  He became a good swimmer to our delight.
     When we have a close call as our oldest son did early in his life, most of us want to shy away from ever doing that activity again.  Yet, that is the worst possible thing we can do.  We cannot conquer a fear unless we face it, and having the Lord's help makes all things work together for good.  This is true whether it pertains to swimming or if we have been hurt by someone.  We can either run away and hide from the hard things in life or we can learn from our experience and continue on.
Our son Aaron enjoying his birthday dinner.
     In three of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, the story is told of how Jesus faced 40 days and nights of fasting.  During this time, Satan appeared to Him to tempt Him.  First he appealed to his hunger.  Then he appealed to His emotions and questioning the love of God the Father.  Finally, Satan tempted Jesus with an offer of controlling the world if he would bow down and worship him.  Each time, however, Jesus resisted the devil and quoted correctly the Scripture which the enemy had try to twist.  Jesus did not run away from His adversary, but He resisted His attempts by speaking the truth of God's Word to him.  What a lesson for us to follow!
    James 4:7 tells us:  "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."  Then, in I Peter 5:9, we are admonished:  "Resist him, standing firm in your faith and in the knowledge that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.  "If we stand firm, the devil will flee and so will that fear of failing again.  We are overcomers in Jesus Christ and we must not forget that.
     One of my favorite songs is entitled "The Voice of Truth" by the group Casting Crowns.  The chorus goes like this:
    " But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says 'Do not be afraid!'
And the voice of truth says 'This is for My glory'
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth"

It is not hard for us to know who the voice of truth is...Jesus Christ the Word of God incarnate.  Therefore, we must listen to that voice and put away our fears of failure.  If we have been hurt or had a bad experience, it does not mean that this is the end.  For the Christian, we are to pick ourselves up and listen to what God is saying to us instead.  There is a risk in everything we do my friends.  We can be hurt again but if we never take the risk and try once more, we may miss out on some rich blessings.  To God be the glory as we step out in faith each day resisting the devil at every turn and thanking God for the victories!  Selah!