Thursday, November 23, 2006

What Do I Have to be Thankful For?

I am thankful.

God loves me. And he enjoys me. He died for me—exchanging his life for my sins to make me righteous by faith. But as Jesus has said, there are many troubles in this life, until he comes back.

One of the challenges I am facing now is my mother's mysterious sickness. She is getting weaker and weaker. The doctors don't know why. She believes she is dying. But no one knows for sure. She just keeps getting weaker.

Another is with my youngest sister, who is in the hospital right now. She had an emergency surgery last Wednesday, because she suddenly lost feeling in her lower extremities. So they had to do surgery on her back. The surgery seemed to go well, but she can't feel her left leg, nor move it. She is almost resigned that she may never walk again. But the doctor, nor do we, know for sure.

Not to mention that, today, we have a basement leak, and our garbage disposal is leaking.

Through this all, I've been praying. Everything is happening so fast. I haven't had the time to let everyone at my church know about my sister yet. My wife and I have just gotten through some medical issues with her dad, to the point he had to stay with us for a few months. So, we are a little tired. But we are praying.

I admit that I don't know what we should pray for sometimes. But I am praying anyway. God loves me, and he cares about what I care about. He knows how to carry me, my mom, and my sister, and he is capable of bearing with the whole world.

I've seen him heal members of my family before. So I know he is capable of that too. But sometimes the answer is "no," or better, "not yet." I pray he will do so in these cases, but his thoughts are higher than my thoughts. No matter how much faith we have, we will all physically die some day, even if we are healed for a time. So who am I to think that God has to heal right now.

But one thing I know for sure about God. His care for his children will not jeopardize what he knows needs to happen to get the best possible result. Do I know what that is? Not always, but I know he is good. I also know that he will deal with sickness and pain one day by eradicating it forever. But not yet. Right now, he promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Therefore, I always have hope whether God performs miracles or God does not perform miracles (I can see).

One thing to remember: If he was willing to suffer for our benefit, how much more will he be with us during our suffering. The highest gift anyone can give us is not money, physical healing, or wishful thoughts. The gift of himself is the greatest gift anyone can give. And God does so.

Yes, I am thankful.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hearts and Minds is a Very Good Book

I've just finished ready a very good book. It is called Hearts and Minds. I highly recommend this book, whether you are a parent or not.

The book really captures the essence and challenges of passing on a Christian worldview to our children as parents. But this book goes well beyond a typical parenting book. It really challenges me to be aware of my practice and definition of a Christian worldview, as well as acting as an examination of my worldview in relationship with my children.

This book is excellent.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Toys of Trouble

Who would have thought that "Jesus" was too offensive a word for Christmas?

Although I generally think that Toys for Tots is a good program, I think this attitude is going too far. They have rejected a 4000 toy donation of toys, because the speaking toys mention Bible verses. I know they are a secular organization, and I don't expect them to want to promote Christianity, but these are Christmas gifts for needy kids! If some parents don't want their kids exposed to Christ in Christmas, they can reject the toys. (A rare few would do so, I suspect.) But as an organization, don't reject these toys for these people.

It is as if the organization is deciding for the needy what they would be offended by, and thus treating the needy as stupid, and dependent. (I guess that is really how some people think of them.) It is admirable that this organization is willing to gather toys for kids who won't normally get them at Christmas time, but it is Christmas!

Not every organization apparently gets it though. So, it goes to show you that Christian's really need to be more intentional when giving to any organization to help the needy. In other words, let's consider what we intend to accomplish with our donation or help. What manner and group do we wish to support that fits more in line with our worldview? Why give from a temporal perspective, when we can give from an eternal perspective? Why give to help promote happiness in this life, when we can give to help promote what saves both body and soul for eternity?

I am not saying, "Let's just tell people about the gospel of Christ and forget about physical needs." But I am saying that whatever we do, whether it is world missions, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or taking care of orphans and widows, we do so with the intent on glorifying Christ — not ourselves or temporal organizations.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Is God Big Enough?

I got back from New Orleans on Wednesday, November the 8th. I was there for a conference on Marketing for Higher Education — put on by the American Marketing Association. It was very informative. But that's not what I want to discuss right now. I was fascinated with the city of New Orleans, and the people.

It has only been about a year since hurricane Katrina hit, so there is still a lot of damage in the area. While I was there I had a terrible time with allergies. I think there was some mold I was dealing with, because I am very allergic to it. I eventually ended up with a bad cold, which I am still dealing with today. But while there I did have the chance to visit the South Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ and met some friendly people there. The church was packed.

I remember asking a member there what the size of the congregation was. And they said about 100. But they seem to be double in size, because they have a constant stream of visitors. And these visitors always arrive to help in the cleanup effort. Many come to help through the church's rebuilding effort called Operation Nehemiah.

At the conference itself, there were distinguished people from the area who spoke about their experiences, and their current trials. I also got to talk with many folks about what their experiences have been like. Many still have no permanent home. Many are unemployed. Many are upset that they have not received any money from government organizations or their own insurance companies. They are suffering still.

However, in the midst of it all, there is hope. Many in the church come to help constantly. There are New Orleans natives who don't have a home, but are rebuilding their lives, helping their families, and even helping their neighbors. It is tough. But there is real hope.

Which brings up an interesting issue. Some of the people I've met were angry. They were angry with the federal and state government. They wanted their insurance companies to do the right thing, and were frustrated. Some people had their homes intact, but needed some work done, and were frustrated. And still some were discouraged and decided to use violence as a means of making ends meet.

I don't blame most of them for the way they felt. But I kept meeting people with a different perspective. They too were dealing with overwhelming problems and frustrations. And they too were angry about it. But they were different. They spoke like God was real. Their faces glowed with expectation. Their faces always looked up at the sun as they spoke.

For some, God was real. For others, the tangibles of earth mattered most. They both have serious needs. But they view those needs differently.

I have to reexamine my faith. Is it dependent on circumstances? Or am I dependent on God's goodness? Do I look for comfort as proof of God's power and righteousness? Or do I see His power and righteousness in the midst of suffering?

I know I saw God's amazing love when I met two women in particular. They each told me about how good God was even though they had lost everything.