The Old Man and his Horse

As we are turning the page from 2015 to 2016, I would like to share with you one of my favorite stories. This legend has a wonderful lesson about patient wisdom and not stating too quickly whether something is a curse or a blessing. Enjoy…

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Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. People offered fabulous prices for this horse, but the old man always refused. One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came out to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed. “We told you that someone would steal your horse. You could have sold him before he was stolen, but you refused, and now you are left with nothing.” The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know. The rest is judgment.” The people of the village laughed and thought he was crazy.

But after fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen, but had run into the forest and returned with a dozen wild horses. Once again, the people gathered at the man’s house and said, “You were right and we were wrong. This was not a curse but a blessing.” But the old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that a dozen horses returned with him. That is all we know. The rest is judgment. If you read only one page of a book, then how can you judge the entire book?”

Maybe the old man is right, they thought to themselves, but deep down they believed he was blessed because he had a son who could now train those wild horses easily and then sell them for a nice profit. The old man had his only son train those horses, but after a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both of his legs. Once again the village gathered and said, “This was a curse. Your son has broken his legs and you have no one to help you.” The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that my son broke his legs. That is all we know. The rest is judgment. If you read only one page of a book, then how can you judge the entire book?”

It so happened that a few weeks later the old man’s country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded because of his legs. Once again, the people gathered around him and said, “You were right. Your son’s accident was a blessing. Our sons are going to die, but you still have yours.” The old man said this: “No one really knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”

As something happens to you this new year, don’t judge the event too quickly. Be patient. Be wise in how you respond. We do not know how God is working out His purpose in our life.

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Angels in the Operating Room

 

The last twenty-four hours have been some of the best hours of my life. Little Annalise Joy was born. She is a perfect conclusion to our family. During the last day, I have had two thoughts which keep coming to mind. And I think they are somehow connected.

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Thought #1: “Four daughters.” Every time I think about the fact that I now have four daughters, my mind shifts to another thought: four son-in-laws. And then my mind shifts yet to another idea: “What are the odds of my four daughters finding four great guys to marry?” I fear the worst. I am concerned that my daughters will have a hard time finding a boy who loves God the way she is brought up to love God. I am sure that I am being unreasonable here, but that is what my greatest fear is with having four girls.

Honestly, I love having daughters so much that I wouldn’t mind having ten of them. A few people have asked if I wanted at least one boy in the family, and I tell everyone that I am used to being the only boy. I grew up with three sisters and I was the only boy. I am now in a home with four daughters, one wife, and a girl dog named Sally (and we think the fish, turtles, and lizard are all females). I like all these “little women” around me. What I don’t like is the thought that in the future they might introduce a young man to me who doesn’t measure up to what God wants for them.

Have you ever heard of the term “arranged marriage?” It has a great ring to it. All joking aside, hoping my daughters find a godly man is a concern of mine and I have wondered why this is my greatest fear. Maybe it is because I have observed too many immature boys tease my daughters. Maybe it is because this is what most dads want for their daughter: a good, godly man. But then there are times when I meet a nice, young man who impresses me, and it gives me hope. But are there four of them out there? I sure hope so. My greatest hope is for my daughters to find a man who seeks after Jesus Christ and His supernatural presence. My greatest fear is that this won’t happen for all four of them.

Thought #2: “I could feel the presence of angels standing with us in the operating room.” If you are not a Christian, you will probably not understand what I am about to write because I am going to share an experience which was supernatural. When I was standing by Amy in the operating room, there was a moment when I could feel the presence of angels standing around us. If I had to guess, I would say there were probably at least four to six angels standing there. I sensed that they were right beside us, and yet much taller than us. And my heart confirmed this truth, as if an angel were whispering this to me: “A few thousand Christians are praying for you, and we are here to protect your wife and your newborn baby so that everything will happen according to God’s perfect plan.” I was so overwhelmed by the presence of this small angelic army that I almost crumbled to the floor sobbing, but then I was given the strength to hold it all together as I was holding our little baby girl and watching them operate on my wife.

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Why was it so important for those angels to be near us? A few hours before the scheduled C-section, our doctor noticed that my wife Amy was having several contractions close together and asked if she wanted to consider doing a natural birth. We talked about it for a few minutes, but decided not to do a natural birth because there was a slight chance that the uterine wall might rupture and the baby could possibly die. Then, when the doctor opened her up in the operating room, she could see what is called a uterine window. The wall was so thin you could see through it and it would have ruptured and that could have been a disaster for the baby and Amy if she would have gone into labor. But God’s holy angels were protecting us with giving us wisdom to make the right decision.

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It was important for those angels to be near us because my wife had an emergency hysterectomy yesterday. She didn’t have a choice. We were not planning on having one, but because the placenta was intertwined with the uterus, our surgeon made the difficult, yet right call: hysterectomy. If this wouldn’t have been done, my wife could have lost her life. God heard the prayers of His people, and He protected my wife with the surrounding angels.

I have had this feeling of angels around me several times before, and it is always filled with a comfort that caused me not to fear the future. Today, I thought about the Christmas story, and how angels appeared to four different people: Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, and they were all told the same thing: “Do not fear.” They were all told at different times to not be afraid of what was about to happen to them. For a believer, the presence of angels should be a comforting experience. Even though I have never seen one, I know that I have felt their presence in my life. And it has almost always been connected with how many people are praying for me at that particular moment in time.

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(A dear friend gave this bracelet to Amy early in the pregnancy when a subchorionic hemorrhage threatened Annalise’s life)

Even though I have not told my daughters yet, my greatest prayer and highest hope is for each of them to eventually find a man who loves God with all of his being. I want them to find a man who is moved by the Holy Spirit of God to be a righteous leader in his home. I know that he will not be perfect, for I am not perfect (far from it), but I want each of them to find a man whose heart lives to please God. And in those sacred moments, when God and His holy angels are near, I want these men to be spiritually sensitive enough to feel the presence of the Almighty Creator of the universe.

 

 

 

 

 

The Baby is Coming!

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In one week, my wife will be having another baby. Yes, we do know whether the baby is a boy or girl. But we are not telling anyone until the day of the baby’s arrival. My wife wants there to be at least one surprise on this important day.

The journey of pregnancy is about ready to end. In less than seven days, our doctor will perform a C-section on my wife so that we can welcome our final child into this world. The journey began this spring when my wife found out that she was pregnant. If you have been following our journey, you remember that we were not sure if this baby was going to survive. You have probably prayed for us. Thank you.

Even though this journey of “being pregnant” is about ready to end, a new journey of taking care of a newborn is about ready to start. This is exciting and exhausting to think about at the same time. But I am not going to focus on the future in this article. I will let the future take care of itself. I will trust that God is in control.

My focus in this article is the last ten years of our life.

In 2004, we had our first child.

In 2006, we lost our second child.

In 2007, my wife had an unviable ectopic baby.

In 2008, we had a baby who almost died and needed to stay two weeks in the NICU.

In 2010, my wife had another unviable ectopic baby.

In 2011, we had a healthy baby…but mom almost died.

In 2014, we are having another child.

People keep asking me if we are done having children. And my answer has been: “We better be done!” This chapter of my life is about to close, and I am ready. We all go through different chapters in our life. Some chapters are longer than others and some of them are filled with more joy than others. Here are a few things I learned along the way in this ten year chapter of my life.

It didn’t go the way I thought it would. When we started having children in 2004, I thought we would have a few healthy children and then eventually decide to stop on our own terms. We didn’t know that we were going to become the poster child for “what can go wrong in the pregnancy, will go wrong.” I had a plan. We were not going to get pregnant until after the first four years of our marriage. That went according to plan. And I also wanted to be finished having children by my early thirties. You could say that I missed my goal by a few years. Even though nothing went according to plan for these ten years, it was still worth it. God still gave us a family. And we are grateful. Here is something that should comfort us all when things don’t go the way we think they should: “God was never surprised by any of the events and He was in total control…and ultimately, God knows what the best plan is for you family.” So, hold onto your plans lightly, because if God has different plans, prepare yourself for a difficult, but rewarding journey.

Children are a gift, not a burden to raise. When you lose a child to death, or when you try month after month to get pregnant, but it is unsuccessful, it gives you a profound appreciation for the little one(s) that you do have with you. When we had “just Lily” for the first four years of our parenthood, we learned what a gift she was to us because we weren’t sure if we would have any more children. The trials I have had to go through in these ten years have given me a desire to show my children how much they are loved. They can count on their daddy hugging and kissing them several times a day. Just yesterday I was visiting with another dad at his house. Two of his children were trying to get his attention, but he kept telling them, “Go and play, I’m busy.” This dad has four children. When I have been around him before, I get the indication that he would rather not be bothered by his kids. That makes me sad. I wonder why some families even have kids if they spend little time with them. What’s the point of having kids if you don’t want to hang out with them? Soon enough, those little four year olds will turn into fourteen year olds and will not need your attention like they do now. In fact, the tables will turn and you will try to get their attention, but they might tell you to go off and play because they are now too busy for you.

Stories give evidence of God’s goodness in our lives. Maybe it is just my kids (I doubt it), but they love stories. Every single night before they go to bed, they beg for me to tell them a story. Most nights I tell them at least one story. Just last night, I told them each a story about them when they were younger, and they loved it. That is the power of being a parent. When we can reach back into our memories and bless our children with a past event from his or her life, it teaches them a few things about themselves. It teaches them that they are maturing and don’t do some of the silly things they did in the past. But it also lets them know that we, as a parent, were there for them when they were younger. We remember. We cared. We changed that “awful diaper.” We wiped up the vomit. We drove them to the ER when they broke their arm. We have a picture of the first fish they caught. We held them upright all night when they had the “croup.” We are mom. We are dad. And we have stories of God’s goodness to us in the trials and triumphs of life.

Being “okay” with the chapter ending. In my heart, I know that this should be our last child. But I will miss the excitement of having babies and getting to see little ones grow both physically and spiritually. I was talking with a man the other day whose wife had her final child when he was 46 years old. And what he told me shocked me: “Jeremy, I wasn’t done yet. I wanted to keep going, but my wife had to stop because of a procedure.” It is really hard for some people to end a chapter, but I believe God gives us the peace when it is time. Amazingly, God didn’t give us a peace after our most recent baby was born in 2011. I always wondered why. But now, I know why. He wanted us to have one more. Just remember, in order to experience the joys of a new chapter in life, the previous chapter must end first. Be willing to shut that chapter if God is gently calling you to. Listen to His voice. His voice is calm and yet there is peace associated with His voice.

Let me give you one last thought. Amy and I have to admit, that as December 17 gets a little closer, we have a few fears that well up within us. Look at our past story. Search the last ten years of our lives and I think you would agree that we have reason to be apprehensive. But we trust in God. And we appreciate your prayers.

 

Should Christians Carry a Gun

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One of the most controversial subjects over the last few years has been “gun control” and whether or not the government should regulate the use of weapons in the United States of America. There are good people on both sides of this argument. This is a complicated issue because there are various types of weapons. There are also two extremes that we must avoid; yet sadly, too many people place themselves within one of these groups:

Extreme Group #1: All guns should be banned…just let the police and military protect us.

Extreme Group #2: Every kind of gun and weapon should be legal to use.

With this in mind, let us look for the truth in this complex issue. In this article, we will first look at what the founding fathers have to say about “gun control” and then we will take a look at what the Bible has to say about “defending” yourself. Also, let me state that this is not a comprehensive study. All your questions will probably not be answered.

Those who argue for the right to “bear arms” often say something like: “It’s my second amendment right to carry a weapon!” What does the second amendment actually state?

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Over the last two hundred years, most United States’ citizens have interpreted this amendment in a straight-forward way. Most citizens believe that this amendment ensures that one can defend themselves against any kind of illegal force that comes against them, whether that is from a neighbor, an outsider, or even from your own government.

Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794) was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He helped frame the second amendment in the First Congress. This is what Mr. Lee wrote:

“… to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…”

Yes, life was very different back then. Most people had guns. Hunting was more of a necessity back then. And there wasn’t a developed police force to protect people. Yet, part of the freedom the signers of the Declaration of Independence were envisioning was the ability for every free person in this country to be able to protect himself or herself from evil. This should always be our vision as a country. We have gotten to the point where we want everyone else to protect us. But that is not always possible. If we truly live in a free country, we must give people the right to “bear arms” to protect themselves. Therefore, it appears that our founding fathers saw freedom as the ability to protect yourself from evil.

Does the Bible say anything about the right to bear arms? Obviously, the Bible does not specifically address the issue of gun control, since firearms like we use today were not manufactured in ancient times. But accounts of warfare and the use of weaponry, such as swords, spears, bows and arrows, darts and slings were well-documented in the pages of the Bible. I’d like to make four statements based on biblical truth.

Statement #1: A weapon can be used for good or evil.

You have probably heard the statement: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Guns are not the issue here. The heart of mankind is the issue. When someone is determined to murder someone else, he or she will use whatever weapon is available to succeed in the evil plan. For example, the Bible doesn’t tell us what kind of weapon the first murderer, Cain, used to kill his brother Abel in Genesis 4. Cain could have used a stone, a club, a sword, or perhaps even his bare hands. A weapon was not mentioned in the account.

Weapons in the hands of law-abiding, peace-loving citizens can be used for good purposes such as hunting, recreational and competitive sports, and keeping peace. Beyond self-defense, a person properly trained and prepared to use a firearm can actually deter crime, employing the weapon to protect innocent lives and prevent violent offenders from succeeding in their crimes.

Statement #2: The Israelites were expected to have their own personal weapons.

Every man would be summoned to arms when the nation confronted an enemy. They didn’t send in the Marines. The people defended themselves. Each man had a sword in this passage:

David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies” (1 Samuel 25:13).

Could you ever envision the United States in such turmoil that citizens need to be able to protect themselves from terrorists who infiltrate the country? “No way, that would never happen,” you might say. But just look at other countries. It is happening. Go to the movie theater. It seems that countless movies are based on this premise. And look to the news. It is happening on a small scale in our country. What makes any of us think that things are going to get better before they get worse?

Statement #3: Weapons were used in the Bible for the purpose of self-defense.

Weapons were never forbidden. In fact, we see clear commands in the Bible for people to defend themselves when someone is trying to attack them.

If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed (Exodus 22:2).

From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked (Nehemiah 4:16-18).

Jesus is well-known for his statement about teaching his followers to turn the other cheek when an enemy strikes them. When I was younger, I remember listening to a kind-hearted Christian husband stand up in church and state that if an intruder broke into his house and started to assault his family, he would try to turn the other cheek and allow the intruder to do what he wanted because this is what Jesus taught. Even at a young age, I knew this wasn’t truth. My heart burned with anger at this man’s poor interpretation of the biblical text. Whenever we interpret the Bible, we must take the entire context of the Bible into account. What else did Jesus have to say about weapons and self-defense?

I believe that the “turn the other cheek” principle applies to individuals. If someone wants to harm me, I will try to get away from them, but I will try my best not to harm them. On the other hand, if they are trying to harm my wife, children, or someone else, I will definitely step in and try my best to protect them. And I think Jesus teaches this principle.

Jesus appears to promote the use of weapons for self-defense in a statement he makes right before he is executed. While giving his farewell discourse to the disciples before going to the cross, he instructed the apostles to purchase side arms to carry for self-protection. He was preparing them for the extreme opposition and persecution they would face in future missions:

He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied (Luke 22:36-38).

It appears that Jesus is preparing his followers for a revolution. But when Jesus is later arrested by the Roman soldiers, Jesus lives out his “turn the other cheek” philosophy. As soldiers seized Jesus, Jesus warned Peter to put away his sword:

“For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Some scholars believe this statement was a call to Christian pacifism, while others understand it simply to mean in a general sense that “violence breeds more violence.” Jesus told Peter to “put your sword back in its place.” The phrase “back in its place” is important here. That “place” would be at Peter’s side. Jesus didn’t say, “Throw it away.” After all, he had just ordered the disciples to arm themselves. The reason was obvious: to protect the lives of the disciples, not the life of the Son of God. Jesus was saying something like this: “Peter, this is not the right time for a fight.”

Here is something interesting: Peter openly carried his sword, a weapon similar to the type Roman soldiers employed at the time. Jesus knew Peter was carrying a sword. He allowed this, but forbid him to use it aggressively. Most importantly, Jesus did not want Peter to resist the inevitable will of God the Father, which our Savior knew would be fulfilled by his arrest and eventual death on the cross. Scripture is quite clear that Christians are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), and to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-40). Thus, any aggressive or offensive violence was not the purpose for which Jesus had instructed them to carry a weapon just hours earlier. This leads me to the last statement.

Statement #4: To allow evil to happen and not do anything about it is morally wrong.

According to the Old Testament Law for the Jews, if a thief is caught breaking in and is killed by the homeowner, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed (Exodus 22:2). But…

If it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed. Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft (Exodus 22:3).

In this passage God stated that it’s okay to protect yourself and your family. In the dark, it is impossible to see and know for certain what someone is up to; whether an intruder has come to steal, inflict harm, or to kill, is unknown at the time. In the daylight, faces can be seen, weapons can be seen. We can see if a thief has come just to swipe a loaf of bread through an open window, or if an intruder has come with more violent intentions.

To permit a murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong.

To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil.

To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable.

Not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Ultimately, the decision to bear arms is a personal choice determined by one’s own convictions. As a believer, the use of deadly force would be applied only as a last resort, when no other option is available, to prevent an evil from being committed and to protect human life.

Here are three questions to ask yourself as you ponder this issue:

  1. If I am placed in a situation where I might need to “pull the trigger,” have I thought through the domino effect of killing another person? The legal battle? The family of the deceased and their reaction? Being convicted of murder and losing my own freedom? The idea of sending someone to eternity when they are most likely not saved?
  2. Are some weapons (and accessories) just completely unnecessary for the common citizen, or should all weapons be available to us?
  3. Even though the disciples (Peter, James, John, etc.) all had swords to defend themselves, none of them did, even when they were persecuted and ultimately were martyred by evil authorities. What does that teach us about our high calling of being a peace maker as an individual?

The “C” Word

Cancer. It is one of the most dreaded words in the English language. When someone hears the phrase: “You have cancer,” their mind immediately fears the worst. I heard the other day on a medical commercial that one in every two people will get cancer at some point in their life. That got my attention! Those kinds of statistics are scary, because it means that there is a good chance that you will get cancer eventually. And it guarantees that someone you love dearly will get cancer.

My first experience with the word “cancer” came when I was only six years old. Because I was so young, I did not remember many of the details of the challenges that cancer can bring into a family’s life. But I saw enough to know that cancer had the ability to take away someone I loved deeply.

His name was Gilbert. He was my grandpa. He battled lung cancer. He developed this kind of cancer because he was a smoker. He smoked for approximately five decades. For almost fifty years he inhaled harmful smoke into his lungs. He started when he was only thirteen years old.

One of my fondest memories of my grandpa was his willingness to let me help him make his coffee. He put me in charge of determining how much sugar and cream would be poured into his cup of Joe. After I had stirred in the cream and sugar, he allowed me to take the first sip. I would dip a spoon over the top of the coffee and slurp the tablespoon of coffee into my mouth. I can still taste the sweet liquid on my tongue. This was a yummy memory.

Many details are overlooked in the mind of a six year old witnessing his grandpa dying of cancer. My parents protected me from the ravaging effect that cancer has on a human’s internal organs. They did not share with me the details of the doctor visits that ended with bad news. They did sit me down and tell me that grandpa was very sick and that he might be going to heaven soon.

“But I don’t want him to go to heaven!” I wanted him to stay here on earth so that I could grow up on his farm and play with the chickens, pigs, and dogs. I wanted him to lay right beside me in the living room as we would watch The Price is Right on a lazy week day. I did not want him to die. But he died anyway.

Even though I do not remember every detail of the struggle cancer brought into my family, I do remember one profound picture of love that I would like to share with you. I believe that when people go through a tragedy, no matter what the age, they remember acts of love like nothing else. Often, we forget what people tell us to comfort our grieving hearts. We seldom remember the daily details of living with cancer or living with someone who has cancer. But we almost always remember an act of love shown to us in our most challenging moments.

In the latter stages of his battle with cancer, my grandpa was too weak to walk. He could not place his feet on the floor so that he could walk to the bathroom to take a bath. He could not engage in an act that is normally viewed as simple and routine. He just did not have the strength to walk. My grandpa served in World War II. He worked in the factory. He was a farmer. His strength was above average. He was once chased by a frenzied bull on his farm, and with those same legs was able to jump over a fence just in time to avoid the horned beast. But those same legs would no longer work. That is the destructive power of cancer.

I will never forget the first time I saw my dad carry my grandpa. He placed his hands gently under my grandpa’s back and lifted him to his own chest. He then walked my grandpa to the bathroom and laid him into the bathtub. This act of love touched my soul at the tender age of six.

Physically, my dad carried my grandpa. As a young child, I did not make the spiritual connection as I watched this act of love. But as an adult, I now see that my dad did something with both physical and spiritual implications. My grandpa had the burden of a weak body. My dad carried his weak body. And in this He fulfilled the law of Christ, which is love.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

From a spiritual perspective, my dad showed compassion to his father-in-law. The kindness in my dad’s heart overflowed into a simple act of meeting someone’s basic needs. Society often paints the wrong picture of what a real man looks like. We falsely believe that a real man is rugged, independent, athletic, and overly confident. But that night I witnessed a real man, and this man was filled with a tremendous capacity to care for a sick human being.

My dad did not carry another man for notoriety. My dad did this act of love in the privacy of a home where only a few people were present. My dad did not carry another man because he felt pressured to do the right thing. Professional medical staff can meet those same needs. And there is nothing wrong with people asking for help from medical professionals when these needs arise. But my dad carried another man because of love. He genuinely loved my grandpa and wanted to honor the father of his bride.

Do you love other human beings with that kind of love? When the need arises, do you make yourself available to care for them in their weakness? Is there someone in your life right now who needs your loving touch? Don’t make excuses to avoid carrying this person’s burden.

At some point in our life, we all might find ourselves asking this question: “When I am old and dying, will someone be there to carry me to the bathtub?” And we hope that the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes.”

(This article is dedicated to Leland…a great dad!)

 

 

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’57 Chevy my dad restored

We’re Pregnant!

Guest post by my wife Amy

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Yep.  Baby is on board.

God is in control. I am not. You would think I would have gotten it by now, but no. I have to keep reminding myself, God is in control. I am not. Never has this been more evident than in the joys & pain of being a mother.

In March 2006, after our baby Claire died, the guilt set in. I racked my brain about what I could have done to cause this. The doctor said it wasn’t my fault. It was a fluke thing but I couldn’t help but place the blame on me. I mean, I was the only one who had any control over the health of that precious little baby, right? Did I eat the right foods? Did I exercise too much? Was I too stressed? Did I take the right vitamins?   Thankfully the LORD knew my heart and what I needed to hear. The Holy Spirit whispered to me, “God is in control. You are not.” I am responsible to be a good steward with what He has given me but I cannot control the outcome. God is in control. I am not.

After a poorly executed surgery, I was diagnosed with a rare complication called Asherman’s syndrome which often means infertility. I tried to figure out what I could do to “fix” it. We tried to plan when it would be best to have another child, but that only ended in a tubal pregnancy. Again I was reminded. God is in control. I am not.

My pregnancy with baby Ellie was virtually uneventful until labor began. However, as soon as my water broke, things rapidly turned critical. As I was being rushed through the hallways to have an emergency c-section, I quickly realized I had no control over the situation. Within a matter of minutes she was out of my womb but the situation was dire. After having lost half of her blood due to an undiagnosed rare pregnancy condition (vasa previa) she was barely clinging to life. I spent many long hours in the NICU watching her struggle to live. Again, I wondered what could I have done differently to prevent this condition? But again I was reminded, God is in control. I am not.   It is such a helpless feeling to see your child struggle to survive and to be able to do nothing. I believe that is one reason God brought this into our lives. We could do nothing but trust Him. In a world where reward comes only to those who work hard and do something, doing nothing and trusting Him is unnatural. And hard. I remember thinking, we just wanted a normal pregnancy/birth. THIS IS NOT HOW I HAD PLANNED IT! But God is in control. I am not.

A second tubal pregnancy and the realization that we may be at the end of our childbearing years, brought me another reminder that God is in control. I am not.  We briefly talked about fertility options but before we followed through with anything,  we found out we were pregnant again. God is in control. I am not.

The nine months of expecting Charlotte were filled with fear and joy. Every Dr appointment was spent extensively searching for any signs of threat to her life. We wanted to control the outcome of this birth. No surprises this time. The routine c-section went as planned but my recovery was anything but routine. I was back in my room while Jeremy and the nurses were in the nursery with the baby. I started to feel like I was losing consciousness. I could not move and tried to call for help but nothing came out of my mouth. I felt completely helpless and like I was fading away. The nurse walked in and immediately called for backup.  The room was flooded with hospital personnel to identify what was happening. After multiple tests and multiple blood transfusions, it was determined that I had massive internal bleeding. I would survive but the recovery would be slow. Again, THIS IS NOT HOW I HAD PLANNED IT! But God is in control. I am not. 

The funny thing about recognizing that God is in control is that it releases me of the burden and guilt that tragedies bring. The only things I can control are my actions and my attitudes. I am not responsible for the result. So if I truly trust Him, I can rest easy in the fact that what He determines will bring Him the most glory. Whether by life or by death. If I place the outcome in His hands, then worry and fear have no place in my life.  Can worrying add a single hour to my life? No. But it can certainly rob my joy.

Several weeks ago, we were again reminded that God is in control. We are not. Though I thought my body had not fully recovered from Charlotte’s birth 2 ½ years ago, we found out that we are expecting again.

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December 25. Merry Christmas! Excitement, fear, and joy, all wrapped up in one present. The last 5 weeks have been rather emotional as complications have arisen. During one of my weak moments Jeremy pulled me close to him and said, “God is in control. We are not.” At this point, the baby looks okay, but the placenta is bleeding. If it doesn’t resolve itself there is a good chance we will lose the baby. Again, there is nothing we can do to control the outcome so we have to trust that His will is best, even if it is not the way we would have planned it. God gave us this baby and whether we are parents to this precious little one for 11 weeks gestation or many years to come, it is still a gift that we cherish.

I can spend this pregnancy worrying and fearing the worst. Or I can choose joy. Some days and moments the enemy whispers fear into my ear, but today, for this moment, I choose joy. Since God is in control of the outcome, I can lay aside the pressure, fear, and guilt, because He already knows what will happen and will allow whatever brings Him the most glory.

10 Good Things About Tragedy

10 good things about tragedy

Every person wants to avoid hardship. There is something inside everyone who wants to walk the smooth path filled with blessings. But sooner or later, tragedy strikes us all. In the midst of these trials, it is important to remember that there is good which can be discovered. Here are ten good things each person can find when he or she is struggling with adversity (note: if you are still “raw” from a recent tragedy, it might be too soon to read through all of these).

Good Thing #1: Drives us to PASSIONATE PRAYER. King Hezekiah became ill and was told that he was going to die. He was told that he would not recover from this mortal illness. His initial response was this:

“Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord” (Isaiah 38:2).

God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and he ended up living many more years. Hezekiah looked at death in the face and he knew that the only One who had power over death was the One he needed to talk to. There is something inside a Christian that draws them to prayer when tragedy strikes. Christians who have a shallow prayer life become mighty warriors in prayer when life socks them in the stomach with a trial.

Good Thing #2: Awakens us to the SWEETNESS of SCRIPTURE. We can find comfort in reading God’s written word in the midst of the storm.

“Trouble and distress came upon me, but your commands give me delight” (Psalm 119:143).

When a Christian opens the Bible and reads it when they have just been given bad news, it is amazing how many times a particular verse speaks directly to what he or she is going through. Just the other day I was with a family who had just been given some really devastating news about someone they love dearly. That morning, the Scripture verse in their devotional applied directly to them. I do not know what I would do without the Bible when storms come into my life that Satan uses to destroy the foundations of my faith. I remain strong when I feed off of God’s promises to me. It doesn’t make it less tragic, but it does give me hope.

Good Thing #3: HUMBLES our HEARTS. Sometimes, when people don’t go through any problems for an extended period of time, they begin to believe that God is happier with them than others. Therefore, they secretly believe that they deserve to be blessed more than others. Pride then finds its way into their heart.

“In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Paul, the great missionary, the spiritual leader of the early church who saw glimpses of heaven, could have become exceedingly arrogant. But he remained humble because God allowed a “thorn” to bother him. I have a thorn in my life that keeps me humble. What is your thorn?

Reason #4: Develops in us PATIENT ENDURANCE. Are you someone who is willing to endure great trials and still remain strong? Will you be faithful to your spouse even when you have reason to throw in the towel? Will you be faithful to your company even when they don’t treat you with the kind of respect you deserve? Will you be faithful to your church after all the opportunities you might have had to leave when things didn’t always go your way?

When we go through situations that are not fair and we endure them, there is something rewarding about it. Endurance satisfies our souls because we conquered…evil.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3).

Good Thing #5: Leads us to spiritual INTROSPECTION. Tragedy motivates us to look into the deep corners of our hearts. And when we shine some light into these dark areas, we almost always find something that shouldn’t be there.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word” (Psalm 119:67).

People cry out all the time to God in the midst of a trial. They say things like, “God, I will eliminate this sin from my life if you fix things!” And they mean it, for a while. But when life gets back to normal, they allow the sin to creep back into the heart. Be that person who is transformed by your tragedy. Allow this tragedy to reshape your heart to such an extent that you grow in your hatred for evil around you and especially in your heart.

Good Thing #6: Proves that you have a GENUINE FAITH. This one is really hard to explain on paper. Peter explains it well in his first letter:

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:6-7).

When you courageously journey through a tragedy, other people notice. God notices. When a storm strikes a Christian’s home, people usually go one of two directions: towards God or away from God. Those who run away from God become bitter and disillusioned with the bad luck of life, while those who run closer to God develop a deeper love for the God who gives and takes away.

Good Thing #7: Awakens others to PRAY. Nothing can unify hundreds of believers in Jesus Christ faster than finding out about a tragedy. Every Christian knows what to do: pray! When I have had thousands of Christians praying for me (and my family) during certain tragedies, I have felt a spiritual blanket of God’s love and protection come over me like never before. I have felt this blanket only a few times in my life. I wish I could experience it more often.

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13-14).

Good Thing #8: Allows us to EMPATHIZE WITH and COMFORT others. When someone is going through a tragedy, there is something comforting about talking with a wise Christian who has gone through some heartbreak of their own. This “battle worn” Christian doesn’t throw out clichés at you. They seem to know how to comfort you in a deeper way than those who have ran away from tragedy in their life.

“God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (1 Corinthians 1:4).

But let me caution you here: just because you have gone through a trial, it doesn’t make you an expert in how to help everyone through their own individual situation. Too many people offer too much advice because they have gone through a “mini-episode” in their life, and they now have all the answers to life’s problems. Don’t be that guy.

Good Thing #9: Heightens our desire for HEAVEN. When we have lost a loved one to death, there is a part of our soul that seems to die with them. If we have hope that we will see them someday in heaven, it makes us yearn for that day when we will reunite with loved ones who have gone before us.

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me” (Job 19:25-27)!

When life is difficult here on earth, our minds naturally drift to the time when all will be well. In some instances, things will never be okay here on this earth again. Maybe someone we know is dying and they only have a certain amount of time left. Life will never be the same from the moment you heard the news to the time when you say goodbye to him or her at the funeral. But heaven gives us hope that life on earth is a blink (75 years) while in eternity we will keep our eyes open forever!

Good Thing #10: We can GLORIFY God with our RESPONSE. Lazarus died. His sisters wept. Jesus even wept. This is what Jesus said about the tragedy:

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4).

Please understand that God does not directly cause bad stuff to happen in our lives. But God can take the bad stuff and turn it into something that will be used for good. This is the perspective all of us need when we go through a trial. Be encouraged that God will use the bad stuff that you are going through for His ultimate purpose. That purpose might be realized in heaven, but if you are a Christian, you must keep that perspective. Live not just for today. Live not just for tomorrow. But live knowing that your soul will live somewhere a thousand years from now.

When Faith Doesn’t Fix Things

when faith doesnt fix things

There is a difference between an assurance that she could be healed, and an absolute certainty that she would be healed.

The night before we found out that Claire died, my wife Amy could not feel Claire move inside her womb. I prayed at least one hundred times that night for little baby Claire to be alive and healthy. I tried to think positively about what God was doing in Amy’s womb. I tried to exhibit the right kind of faith…the kind that can move mountains.

That night, I tried to get to the point where I didn’t have an ounce of doubt. I tried to be absolutely certain that God was going to heal her. I even walked into the ultrasound room trying to believe with all my heart that everything was okay.

She died.

For the next several months, I became disillusioned with the idea of mountain moving faith. I had a hard time praying passionately. Honestly, I doubted that God truly listened to my prayers.

I believed this lie: If we have enough faith, we can do or fix anything.

Many people believe that faith is a type of mind control that when properly harnessed has the ability to change anything. Too many people falsely believe that positive thinking can change an outcome. Sadly, humans incorrectly think that if they can clearly visualize a preferred result, then it will eventually become a reality.

This kind of faith has little to do with biblical faith. So why do we believe in this kind of faith?

We have been told that if we do not doubt, then anything can happen. We read James 1:6, “he must believe and not doubt,” and conclude that if there is any ounce of doubt inside of us, then God will disqualify our prayers and our request will not be answered. But when one is forming a correct theology, they must read all the biblical passages about faith. There are times when Jesus heals people when their faith included some doubt (Mark 9:24). Therefore, James 1:6 must be referring to something other than “genuine doubts.” James 1:6 might be referring to someone who is easily swayed in their beliefs and therefore doesn’t have a right relationship with God. This kind of person should not expect God to grant their requests.

Maybe the answer is found in the Greek language. In the Bible, there is a word in the Greek language that has been translated as three different words in the English language. This Greek word is so complex that English translators have used these three words to try and describe it:

             “Faith (pistis) is being sure of what we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1).

             “Whoever believes (pisteuon) in Him shall not perish” (John 3:16).

             “Trust (pisteuete) in God; trust (pisteuete) also in Me” (John 14:1).

  1. When faith is defined today, it seems that it is often described as having complete confidence that God will come through for you. Faith is the opposite of fear and doubt. When faith is involved, one must not allow negative thoughts to enter their mind. But this doesn’t sound like biblical faith at all, according to Hebrews 11.
  2.  When belief is defined today, it seems that it is often described as having knowledge. We believe in something if we think that it is true. The problem   with this definition of belief is that it makes it too academic and sometimes it can lack action. Our beliefs must lead us to action.
  3. What does it mean to trust someone? When you trust someone, you believe that he or she is a reliable person. You know that he or she can be counted upon to do what he or she has said. If we genuinely trust a person, then it should show up in how we respond to him or her.

Each of these three words carries a different meaning in the English language. But every time you read one of these three words in the New Testament, they are each translated from the same Greek root word. This means that God is not making a distinction between these three words. In many ways, these three words are synonymous.

Faith in the Bible has more to do with actions than feelings. Biblical faith is so closely connected to obedience that if someone claims to have faith without works (action), then their faith is not really faith at all (James 2:19-26).

God doesn’t expect us to excel in positive thinking. When I read the Bible, I read about stories where God answered the prayers of people whose faith was so weak that when God came through for them, they didn’t believe it (Acts 12:15). This is what happened when I was praying for little Ellie after her traumatic birth. I had faith that God was able to perform a miracle, but I doubted the miracle was going to take place. I tried to wipe my mind clear of any doubts, thinking that the positive thoughts would help God answer my prayers, but I just couldn’t get the doubts out of my mind. And God still came through for me. He still healed Ellie’s body.

I prayed with faith (and doubts) for God to heal Claire. She died. I prayed with faith (and doubts) for God to heal Ellie. She survived and ended up thriving. Why? Was my faith stronger with Ellie than with Claire? I don’t think so. In fact, I think I had more doubts that Ellie was going to make it than with Claire.

Even when we doubt when we pray, that can be enough for God to work. Even when you don’t feel like praying, but you pray anyway because God commanded you to pray, God notices your faith, no matter how weak it might be.

God explains what faith looks like in Hebrews 11. He lists individuals who had tremendous victories in life. If one reads only the first part of Hebrews 11, they have an incomplete view of faith. The later part of Hebrews 11 teaches us that many individuals who exhibited faith were stoned to death, thrown into prison, and even killed by the sword. These people of faith did not experience a happy ending on this earth. But they had faith. Faith should have saved them from this kind of persecution, right? Read this verse:

“These were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised” (Hebrews 11:39).

These “faith-filled” men and women were persecuted by this world, and God was happy with them. They were not people who just couldn’t believe enough. They believed so much that it got them killed! Yet, when we study the end of their life, it appears that their faith didn’t fix anything. Many times, their faith made things worse.

Faith might lead us to victory. Faith might also lead us to a pre-mature death. Faith might heal us. But faith might destroy our reputation.

If faith is about trusting God in every circumstance, and yet it won’t fix everything and might even make my life more difficult, then why should I even try to have faith? I’ve thought deeply about this question, and I want to present to you two reasons why we should have faith.

God wants us to have faith. God tells us in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” If the God of the universe wants something from me, then I would be a fool not to give Him what He wants. And He wants me to have faith. This should be the starting point for every Christian. God wants me to have faith. But there must be at least one other reason, right?

Faith is a map which gives us spiritual guidance to reach the right destination. Faith has the capacity to take us exactly where God wants us to go. The road is seldom easy. But it is worth it in the end. It might take some serious blood, sweat, and tears along the way, but it will bring us lasting happiness.

       Faith IS NOT a shield that protects us from all life’s tragedies.

       Faith IS NOT a magic wand that can make everyone live happily ever after.

       Faith IS like a map that God wants us to follow obediently.

When you are going through a tragedy in your life, it doesn’t matter how many doubts you have. It doesn’t matter if you have a hard time believing that the situation will turn out great. What really matters is whether or not you have enough faith to simply follow God. And sometimes enough faith is the size of a mustard seed. If you follow God’s guidance, you will get where you are supposed to go.

Faith is a map which leads us to a path called righteousness. The tragedies in my life of losing our baby Claire and almost losing little Ellie increased my desire to be righteous. I wanted to be holy before a holy God. I longed to be in right relationship with God so that I could feel the comfort of my heavenly Father.

As you are traveling through a tragedy, faith doesn’t promise to fix every problem. Faith won’t heal every disease. But there is one thing faith will do. Faith will take you exactly where God wants you.

Why Does Bad Stuff Happen to Me?

why does bad stuff happen to me

My wife Amy and I will never forget the response a younger couple had to our suffering when they entered our hospital room just moments after we found out that our baby had died. We were surprised by her visit, but not by her statement to us. The twenty-something year old woman said this: “I can’t believe that God would allow this to happen to you, you are a pastor.” She had a terrible past. She was abused as a child. She had several children out of wedlock. She had even spent some time in prison. By her logic, this should have happened to her.

The words of this young woman stuck with me for several months through this tragedy. I knew as a pastor I needed to find out what God tells us about suffering in the Bible. As I was thinking through what God had to say about suffering, my mind immediately thought about Job. So, I started to study all forty-two chapters of Job, not just the first two chapters and then the last (which is what pastors seem to only focus on).

I learned that suffering Job had three friends. When these three friends heard about his struggles, they came to him to simply sympathize with him and comfort him:

Eliphaz the Temanite

Bildad the Shuhite

Zophar the Naamathite

When they first saw Job, the scene was so bad that they tore their robes, threw dust over their heads and shouted and wept. It was so unthinkable that they sat down on the ground with him for seven days without speaking a word to him.

Each of these three men would eventually give a few speeches to Job. But before we look at what these men said to Job, we must realize that the counselors were basically wrong even though their words were often right:

God said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right” (Job 42:7-8).

Each of their speeches have a common theme.  Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar all had the same logic:

            #1 Sinful people experience trouble.

          #2 Innocent people are saved from trouble.

           #3 Job is experiencing trouble.

           #4 Job is sinful.

There is some truth to this, but it is not complete. You see, the three friends only asked one question. They jumped to the conclusion that Job was suffering because of unrepentant sin in his life. Even though this could have been a possibility, it is not necessarily true. And in this case with Job, it was not true. Job really had no known sin in his life at the time. These friends were too narrow in their thinking about why we suffer.

Suffering is not linked to sin unless it’s a consequence of behavior. Instead of just jumping to one conclusion when something bad happens to us, we must be willing to search deep in our hearts with three other questions.

There are three other questions Job’s friends should have been asking as they were trying to understand why bad things were happening to Job. When we are suffering, we must ask ourselves these questions:

Question #1 – Do I have unrepentant sin in my life? God might be disciplining us. He might be correcting us. We have to see if there is any sin in our life. If the answer is “yes,” then repent. It doesn’t get much simpler than what God says to the people of Israel when they are living in sin and they are experiencing drought, famine, and attacks from other nations.

God says, “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve Me” (Jeremiah 15:19).

What does it mean to repent? It means that you confess your sin to God and you stop your sin. But if you have searched your heart and can find no known sin, then ask another question.

Question #2 – How can I spiritually grow from this?  God allows bad things to happen to us to build character in us. If we look ahead to the end of the story, we see that Job grew from this experience. He grew in his knowledge of who God really was. By the end of this story, Job realized that his view of God was so inadequate. Job grew in understanding who God was. 

Romans 5:3-4 states that “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character hope.”

Hope really is all about attitude. And our attitudes will dictate how well or not we will go through a trial and how much we will learn from our troubles. Attitude determines so much in our life. Especially when something does not go right. In your current trial, what are you learning?

The most successful people in this life have learned from their tragedies and have become a better person because of it. God always wants us to grow spiritually from everything that happens to us. That is why we must spend time searching deep into our hearts to figure it out. After searching, if you have still not found out why, then ask another question.

Question #3 – How can I glorify God in this situation? Our life is not about being comfortable, but it is about bringing glory to God.  This is a hard concept for us to understand at times, because many Christians have turned their faith into what God can do for them in this life instead of what they can do for God in this life.  Psalm 46:10 states: “Be still and know that I am God; I’ll be glorified among the nations, I’ll be glorified in the earth.”

Our main goal in this life is to glorify God with our life among the nations. Too often, we focus on the first phrase of the verse to be still. We turn the verse into a devotional verse where we are quiet before God so that God can teach us something for the day. But the verse is much deeper than that. God wants us to pause and take notice that He will be gloried in this earth whether or not we listen. But when we do calm ourselves enough to think about God, we realize that our purpose on this planet is to live in a way that brings honor to our God.

When we go through trials in this life, people watch how we handle it. And when we handle it with grace and wisdom, people are impressed. They are impressed with us and they are impressed with our God.

Question #4 – Can I graciously accept this mystery? Am I willing to accept this suffering even though I do not understand why it is happening? It seems that when something tragic happens in our life, sometimes we go through a process of understanding why it happened.

Immediate: About 25% of the time, when we are going through a tough time, we know immediately why we are going through it. It becomes very clear to us (The percentage is not exact, but it simply shows us that about one out of four times we face a challenge in life, we know why. And most of the time it is because of sin in our life when it is immediate.).

Eventually: There are other times where it takes a little longer, but eventually we discover why it happened to us. This seems to happen about 50% of the time. Wallace Johnson was born in 1902 and helped start the famous Holiday Inn motels chain. This is his story:

“When I was 38 years old I worked in a sawmill. One morning the boss told me I was fired. Depressed and discouraged, I felt like the world had caved in. When I told my wife what had happened, she asked me what I was going to do. I replied, ‘I’m going to mortgage our little home and go into the building business.’ The loan was for $250. My first venture was the construction of two small buildings. Within 5 years I was a multimillionaire! At the time it happened, I didn’t understand why I was fired. Later, I saw it was God’s unerring and wondrous plan to get me into perfect will.”

Just like Wallace Johnson, can you think about a time in your life where something really difficult came into your life and you were confused for a while as to why it happened, but then eventually you discovered why it happened? After you go through these kinds of trials a few times in your life, you gain a better perspective that God is doing something good behind the scenes. As you mature as a believer, these moments can become exciting if you allow them to be.

Heaven: But there are instances where we do not find out this side of heaven and will have to wait until then to truly find out why something happened to us. This might be about 25% of the time. God marks across some of our days, “Will explain later.”

When bad things happen to us and we don’t receive the answer immediately or even eventually, sometimes we might even think that God is somehow angry with us. Job truly believed that God was angry with him. He was scared to approach God because even though he couldn’t think of anything he had done wrong, he was certain that God was angry with him. He acknowledges that he is a mortal and that it is impossible for a mortal human being to be righteous before God. God could convict him of anything He wants to because God is the One who removes mountains (9:5), shakes the earth (9:6), commands the sun not to shine (9:7), and tramples the waves of the sea (9:8).

But God is not angry with you just because you experience trouble. You must be able to overcome those feelings that well up inside that God is against you when something tragic happens. Because we all will eventually experience something tragic in our lives if we live long enough.

Never: There might even be times when we will never know why something happened to us. When we get to heaven, that does not necessarily mean that we will all of a sudden know everything there is to know about everything. That is reserved for God alone. God is the only One who knows everything and that means that there might be some things that we will never know about no matter what. But I think that we will be able to accept it better when we are in heaven and we will have our new minds and can think at an entirely different level.

While we are here on this earth, God is okay with us arguing with Him. Job 13:15 states: “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.”

You have the right to argue with God and ask why awful things are happening, but always keep your faith while you are contending with Him. There are over 300 questions in the book of Job. Here is one of the questions Job asked:

“Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands, and to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked” (Job 10:3).

Job knew this was not true. But he sure felt like it was in the moment. We know that this question is not true. But there are times in our lives when we feel like the wicked are getting away with things they shouldn’t, while we are suffering. People ask these questions:

Why is “so and so” so wealthy and successful in his business even though he doesn’t follow the correct ethics, when I follow good ethics and yet it seems like I am constantly struggling to pay my bills?

Why does “so and so” produce baby after baby and yet she neglects her children and spends hardly any time with them, but I would love to have my own child and I would take such good care of them, but God has kept me without a baby?

Why doesn’t “so and so” who doesn’t take good care of their body get cancer? Instead, I get it and I make sure that I eat healthy and strive to keep my body in good shape?

Why does my wife have to die before all of my other friend’s wives? We had a great marriage. We loved each other. We were faithful to each other for forty years, and yet now she is gone and I am the only one of my friends who is alone.

Why can’t I find true love? Everyone around me seems to be able to but me? Why does it feel like God doesn’t have anyone for me?

In December 1987, Jami Goldman and a friend drove from Arizona to Purgatory to ski. Jami was nineteen years old and a student at Arizona State. On the way back, they took a wrong turn. The road was closed behind them, and no one checked the road to see if anyone was on it. Their car got stuck in a snowbank. It was December 23. “You didn’t know if it was day or night for the first four days because the snowstorm was so bad,” Jami said. Jami developed frostbite in her legs, then gangrene. They had no food, and had to melt snow on the dashboard for water. They finally were found January 2. Goldman’s legs had to be amputated below the knees. Goldman wasn’t athletic before she lost her legs.

“A lot of kids ask, ‘Do you want your legs back?’ I say, No, because I wouldn’t be able to sit here and share my story with you.’ Or, ‘No, I wouldn’t be in the position of a role model and a mentor, providing hope for people with disabilities.’ I feel really fortunate my life has taken this turn.”

She ran in the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

How can you look at your life storm as an opportunity? What can you do to make sure that God is using you through this tough time in your life for HIS GLORY?

 

 

What Do Babies Look Like in Heaven? (part 5)

what do babies look like in heaven

She wanted to look at the photographs. One of our friends asked us if she could look through some of the pictures we took of our dead baby. Pictures of Amy holding Claire, of me holding Claire, of grandma and grandpa holding Claire. No one else requested this. But she did. The moment I heard her request, my mind registered this thought: “This friend has just crossed a line from caring to just being nosey.”  She was overly curious to know what our baby would look like.  My wife and I politely declined her offer to see them. We told her that those pictures contained some very sensitive visuals for us as a couple and we were just not ready to let anyone else see them at that point in our grieving process.

Claire died at only six months of age inside Amy’s womb. We were curious to know what she would have looked like if she would have grown up.  Would she have had Amy’s dark hair? My blue eyes?  When I held her little body, I noticed how skinny she was. She had not yet reached the stage where a baby starts to produce fat around their bones. When they measured Claire, she was twelve and ¼ inches long. I wondered during this time of grieving if she would always be twelve and ¼ inches for eternity. Will she look like this miniature human being walking around heaven, while other people who grew up to adulthood are walking around at five feet, eleven inches, or six feet, two inches?  Or will everyone be the same height in heaven? People have had questions like this throughout the centuries.

Last week, we looked at the biblical evidence concerning whether or not babies go to heaven. This week we will focus on the question: What will babies who die prematurely look like in heaven? After losing our second daughter, Claire, I wanted to know what she might look like when I see her again in heaven someday.

By the late thirteenth century, the church believed that “as each person reaches their peak of perfection around the age of thirty, they will be resurrected, as they would have appeared at that time—even if they never lived to reach that age. The New Jerusalem will be populated by men and women as they would appear at the age of thirty.”

The great theologian Thomas Aquinas argued that we will all be the age of Christ when He was crucified, about thirty-three.

It appears that the ancient church believed that people in heaven would appear to be thirty years old. This is interesting because science tells us something about “age thirty.” Research has proven that our DNA is programmed in such a way that, at a particular point, we reach our full development. It appears that we reach this stage somewhere in our twenties or thirties. It might be reasonable to presume that our bodies will be resurrected at the best stage of development determined by our DNA. That stage might just be around age thirty. Therefore, even though Claire didn’t even make it out of Amy’s womb, it is entirely possible that she is walking around heaven right now looking just like a thirty year old woman. To be honest, that is really hard to picture because my oldest daughter is only nine years old. Yet, in some ways, I might always have a hard time picturing my daughters as thirty year old women because I will always picture them with their child-like faces.

Does this mean that children who go to heaven won’t be children once they get there? It seems that the answer is “Yes.” Scripture seems to hint at this. In 1 Corinthians 15:35, the apostle Paul asks this question:

“How are the dead raised?”

This is a great question! How was Claire raised when she died? What kind of body will she have? Paul gives us four characteristics of what our eternal bodies will be like. Here is the first.

Imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:42). We are born perishable. Did you know that you were born to die? From the time you were born until you reach your late twenties or early thirties you are still developing. But around that time in your life (for some it is sooner than others), you physically begin to die. That is why many men start losing their hair around that age. That is why you wake up with sore muscles from yesterday’s basketball game, remembering when you were eighteen and could play for hours and feel no soreness the next day. I hate to break it to all of us, but once most of us hit our mid-thirties, physically is it all down hill.

All of us were born to die. But when a Christian dies, he or she will be resurrected with a body that will live forever. Even though it is hard to comprehend this reality, we will live forever. This feeling of living forever is instilled within each of us. For example, even though we know that we only have approximately eighty years on this earth and then we will die, we usually do not like to talk about it or even think about it. We were created to live forever and this thing called death is so unnatural for us. That is why even when we are in our sixties or seventies, we still feel like our minds are a mere thirty years old.

In heaven, I wonder if we’ll see people as we most remember them on earth. I’ll see my parents as older, and they’ll see me as younger. I’ll see my children as younger, and they’ll see me as older. I don’t mean that physical forms will actually change but that the resurrection body will show the real person we have known, and we will see each other through different eyes.

Glorified (1 Corinthians 15:43). We are born in dishonor. In other words, we are born in sin. None of us would ever claim that we are perfect. Some might live better lives than others, but we all have sin that separates us from God.

But when we die, we will be raised in a glorified body. Glory is a word that is not used very much anymore. The word glory has lost some of its clout that it once had. Glory in its most simple form means to be perfect. We will be without sin. The most important aspect of being perfect means that we will be like Jesus.

“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).

What will it be like to have a body like Jesus’? It means that we will not experience sin anymore. That will be one of the best realities of heaven: no sin! Everyone will get along. No relationships will be strained. No one’s words will be misconstrued. No one will ever feel unsafe. Everyone will be an encourager. You will only feel uplifted by others instead of discouraged by the sin around you. No more lying, cheating, unfaithfulness, bitterness, envy, drunkenness, diseases, or pain. Life will be perfect. We can’t even comprehend it at this point because every day we see some effect of sin in our life and the lives of those around us. But there will come a day when there will be no more evil to content with, no more devil to flee from, no more temptations to destroy us. Yes, earth can be a great place to live, but once you experience a moment in heaven in your glorified body that is sinless and you interact with others who are sinless, you will realize why God made you! He made you to have a perfect relationship with Him that was boundless in love and affection.

Powerful (1 Corinthians 15:43). We are born weak. Claire died because she had a thin, weak umbilical cord. I have witnessed people whom I love dearly have their body decimated by cancer and chemo treatments. Eventually in life, our bodies will break down. Some bodies sooner than others. And we are powerless to control our weakness.

But when we die, we will no longer be weak. We will have power. Our bodies will no longer get tired from hard work. Our hearts will beat strong with healthy blood pressure. Our sugar levels will be exactly where they need to be. We will feel more alive and healthy than we ever have in our entire life here on this earth. Even the air that we breathe will taste sweeter than before, because we are now totally healthy in every aspect of our life. Death from eating of the forbidden fruit will no longer have any power over us. Death where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?

I believe that our heavenly bodies will demonstrate the qualities of youthfulness that Jesus so valued in children. Curiosity, gratefulness, laughter, care-free attitudes, loving to learn and explore, and eagerness to hear stories and gather close to loved ones.

Right now, we use so little of our brain power and our muscle power and the older we get, the less power we can exhibit. But in heaven, we will have full capacity of every aspect of our being. God will recreate that which was broken down and give us a body that will live forever and never break down again. This body will last forever. It will last for eternity. For billions and trillions of years our bodies will remain strong. And then time will begin again as if only a few minutes had passed. And we will be strong in our minds (i.e. we will never get bored), strong in our muscles (i.e. we will not have a need to rest), and strong in our organs (i.e. we will never have to worry about disease again).

Spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:44). Paul is telling us that if there is a natural body, then surely there is a spiritual body. The natural body is what you see when you look in the mirror. If we were facing each other right now, you could see my flesh, and I could see your flesh. What we can’t see, but can sense is that we have an immaterial aspect to our bodies. Only a fool thinks that our brain and hearts are simply physical. When we think too hard, where does it hurt? Our brains. When we feel like crying and we anguish over something, where does it hurt? Our hearts. Why? Because we are spiritual people, not just material. We are not simply a material girl or boy. We are also spiritual.

Everyone reading this sentence knows that there is something inside of them that is not just material. Call it a soul. Call it a spirit.  It is eternal and will live forever. Our spirits will live forever. Since we have something spiritual that is part of us, we can hope that this life is not the end. That after we breathe our last breath on this earth, then we will wake up in another place. And I believe that place is called heaven. A place that Jesus is preparing for you and for me if we believe that He is our way, and our truth, and our life (John 14:1-6).

Heaven takes on a new meaning because Claire is there and I will someday meet her face to face. Perhaps Claire will take my hand and show me around heaven. Then one day, after the final resurrection, we’ll enjoy each other’s company on the New Earth, and have all of eternity to catch up on the fifty or so years we lost together here on this earth.