Don’t Forget To Remember

There is a new roller coaster at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO called The Time Traveler. It’s an amazing, innovative ride. It’s a different take on the roller coaster experience because your car spins throughout the entire ride. So, you may be looking forward and see what’s coming, but by the time you get to that point, you may be facing backward. Straight out of the station, you plunge 100 feet down. And as you make the plunge, you may be facing forward, backward or even sideways. The incredibly smooth ride gives you the most strange sense of being able to see where you just were while you head to where you’re going.

Alex and I rode this ride a few months ago when we were there. Unfortunately, Austin was just a couple inches shy of making the height requirement to ride. But he isn’t giving up. He keeps having us measure him. (For the record, he’s only an inch and a half away from the height requirement now.)

We were talking about the ride the other day and how fun it is when Austin… in his ever-insightful way… spoke up about wanting to ride it and said, “Sometimes I look forward so much, I just want to be able to look back and see where I’ve come from.”

Wow! He’s only seven and he already knows the importance of something God has been teaching all of us for thousands of years… Don’t forget to remember. It’s important to look back and see where God has brought us from. It’s important to remember how He has come through for us time and time again. Maybe He healed you when you were sick. Maybe He gave you a child even though you battled infertility. Maybe He caused someone to send you a check in the mail when you had a bill to pay, and didn’t have the money to pay it. Maybe He helped you get free from an addiction. Or maybe He brought joy into your life when you were struggling with depression.

Whatever the case, God has done a lot of good for each one of us. He didn’t have to. He doesn’t owe us anything. He does it because He loves us and wants the best for us. And if we will take the moments provided as the car on our roller coaster life spins to look back where we’ve come from, we won’t be tempted to worry as much about the plunges, twists and loops ahead of us. Remembering God’s blessings of the past prepares us to handle the challenges ahead with courage because we know He will get us through them, too.

So, if you have the opportunity to make your way to Silver Dollar City, be sure to ride The Time Traveler. But if not, on the the roller coaster of your life… Don’t forget to remember all the good things God has done for you!

Why, Lord?

Maybe you’ve been wanting to add children to your family and haven’t been able to… for a long time… even though you’ve asked the Lord to bless you with them. Been there, done that.

Or maybe you or a loved one is battling a health or emotional issue that you haven’t been healed of yet… even though you’ve asked the Lord to heal you.

Or perhaps you’ve asked the Lord to open a door for you to fulfill your dreams and purpose, but every door you knock on seems to be locked up tight… even though you know His Word says He’s guiding your steps and He has a great plan for you.

Could be that you long to be married, but even though you’ve asked the Lord to bring the right person into your life… it just hasn’t happened.

When we come to times like this, it’s easy to wonder, “Why?”

– Why won’t You answer my prayer the way I want, Lord?

– Why is it taking so long?

– Why can’t I seem to have the blessings others have?

– Why aren’t you coming to my rescue, Lord?

The good news is that you are not alone. The man who might have been the Lord’s best friend records a story about some other friends of Jesus… two sisters and their brother… Mary, Martha and Lazarus who encountered their own “Why, Lord” moment.

Lazarus got sick, and so his sisters did what lots of people had done… They asked Jesus to come heal him. They were good friends of Jesus. He loved them, and they loved Him. So they assumed He would come immediately when He heard Lazarus was sick and would heal him on the spot. Why wouldn’t He?

And soon that became their actual question… Why didn’t He? Jesus chose to wait two days before making the two-day walk to their home in Bethany. That’s four days. And by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already died. In Mary’s and Martha’s minds, Jesus was too late… and He didn’t have to be. He could have come earlier. He could have healed Lazarus. Why didn’t He come? Why didn’t He answer their request?

Why, Lord?

When they asked Him that question, His answer sounded odd… To give God more glory. What? How was their brother dying going to give God more game and recognition and praise? How would his death instead of his healing cause more people to think God was amazing?

Then Jesus showed them. He raised Lazarus from the dead. Their pain was eclipsed by their joy. And John records that MANY people believed in Jesus because of this miracle.

Then they understood. But they couldn’t understand till then. It didn’t make sense. It baffled the sisters that Jesus didn’t do what Jesus normally did in the way He normally did it. And their hearts were flooded with that one emotionally draining query… “Why, Lord?”

You probably know the weariness of that question. I know I do. And yet, each time, Jesus comes through and joy swallows up my weariness as it reveals the understanding that God’s plan is so much bigger and more amazing than I had the capacity to grasp before.

So, why do I still ask, “Why, Lord” anymore? Because in each new situation I face, it doesn’t seem like the situations before. And even though I know the Lord loves me… even though I know He is working everything together for my good… even though I know He has also come through for me before… this time seems different.

And still He loves me. Still He is gracious and kind to me. Still He is patient with me. He lets me ask “Why, Lord” all I want. Then… at the right time… in the right way… in the way that will cause the most people to be drawn to Him… He answers my prayer in a way I didn’t even know to ask Him.

The only reason I can imagine He hasn’t answered your request in the way you want… on the schedule you want… is the same reason He didn’t for Mary and Martha… God has a better plan. Just keep in mind how John laid it all out… Jesus loved Him, but He did it differently than they expected.

When you can’t understand why, you can at least rest in the truth that He loves you… and He has a better way.

Hang in there. He will show up and be there to go through it with you… all the way to the miraculous end!

The Struggle Is Real

My Mom is a saint. Not perfect, but a saint. For years… and by “years” I mean decades… she has battled physical challenges. Since my teens, I can remember her trying to overcome physical pain. Her heart… her back… her knee. Yet she doesn’t complain. She cries. If we ask how she’s doing, she might tell us as her family. But usually she just keeps on trooping through life despite it all.

The struggle is indeed real… and sometimes it’s also really lengthy. Perhaps you’re battling a lengthy struggle of your own today. Maybe you’re dealing with a situation at work which only seems to get worse and keeps happening. Maybe you’re trying to overcome depression and it seems like the battle will never end. Maybe you’re enduring singleness even though you long to be married. Or perhaps you wrestle with why you struggle with infertility year after year as you watch others get pregnant and adopt multiple times.

Sometimes we pray and pray… work and work… try and try… search and search… only to have our challenge keep pace with us. Sometimes we plop ourselves down and say, “I just can’t take it anymore. When is this going to change or end?” I love the quote from J. Sidlow Baxter which so eloquently captures this feeling…

Perhaps at times we suffer more from the length than the strength of our trials.

Most of us can see someone else in life whose problems are worse than our own. So, we estimate that the strength of our trial is not horrendous. We feel like we could probably overcome it if the fight only lasted a few hours or a few days. But when that trial extends into weeks… and months… and years… and even decades… well, even a small trial endured over time can wear us down.

I don’t want to be trite, and yet I want to encourage you today. Please don’t give up. Hang in there. You ARE going to make it. You will win if you keep God the axle around which your life rotates. And Jesus promised that He would be WITH us all the way to the end. So you’re not going through this alone.

Find a friend. Cry if you need to. Vent your frustrations if you need to. That’s normal.

Then choose to get up tomorrow and fight again, with the best attitude possible. You can do this!

Keep Trusting

It is amazing to me how the lyrics to a song have the ability to transcend time and speak to my heart more than two decades separated from the first time I heard them.

For those who are regular readers of this blog… or who have at least gone back and read the first several posts in which I began welcoming you into my world… you know that I am a fan of 80’s & early 90’s Christian glam rock and arena rock. And some of the groups I enjoy listening to are unknown to the casual listener. So most of you won’t recognize the band named Fighter. And the title “Look Me In The Eye” probably wouldn’t normally grab your attention.

But the lyrics to that song stood out to me as I mowed a couple acres of yard around our house today. I got to thinking about how so many people are facing long challenges that they aren’t sure they can endure. People who have received a diagnosis that says they will have to face a physical battle for the rest of their lives. People who long to be married but still have not found that special someone with whole to share their life. People who are out of work and can’t seem to land a job they love. People who long to have kids but still struggle with infertility. People to whom God has made promises but they haven’t seen them come to pass… and it’s been months or years or decades.

Waiting is not new for believers. Joseph of Old Testament fame had to wait about 13 years for the God-given dream about his family recognizing his leadership to come true. Joshua and Caleb had to traipse around the wilderness for 40 years to receive the land and victories God promises them. Scholars suggest it took Noah years to build the ark that God promised would save his family and all the animals from destruction in the great flood. Then they had to stay on the boat for over a year from the time the rain first fell till the time when they could step out onto dry ground and start over.

All of us go through times when we wonder how much longer our challenge is going to last. Each one of us wonders if we have enough left in our tank to make it through. And if that’s where you’re at in life right now, then let the lyrics below from a band who recorded them more than 26 years ago resonate with you, let you know you’re normal, and hopefully stir you to hope… because God has made you strong enough… and all you need is a mustard seed sized faith… and not only is God always with us through our challenges, but He always keeps His promises!


“Look Me In The Eye” – Fighter

This thing seems so big today

I’ve run out of prayers to pray

Please go away…Please don’t say

I keep thinkin’ things will change

Tomorrow it will rearrange

And soon be gone, it will all be gone

Won’t someone…

Look me in the eye and tell me

I’m gonna make it

Look me in the eye and promise

And end to the storm

Tell me that my heart is tough

Tell me that I’ve faith enough

Look me in the eye

Trying hard to hear God’s voice

I slowly start to doubt my choice

Talk to me…please talk to me

Day to day no change in sight

Evening fades into the night

Take my hand…please hold my hand

Look me in the eye and tell me

I’m gonna make it

Look me in the eye and promise

And end to the storm

Tell me that my heart is tough

Tell me that I’ve faith enough

Look me in the eye

When you go through the valley of questions

Know that time holds the answers, if you trust in God

What’s Your “Only”?

It’s so easy for us to see our own faults, flaws and limitations. For example, when I play basketball, I am acutely aware that I am only 5’8″ tall. Without assistive eyewear, I can’t read the “E” on the top of the Snellen chart in the optometrist’s office. When I look at the balance in our checking account, I understand our spending limitations.

I could go on, but you get the point. We all have stuff we’re not capable of on our own. It doesn’t mean that it is impossible for us to achieve something greater than we can in the natural.

Check out what God said to the Jewish people through His prophet Isaiah…

“Yes, think about Abraham, your ancestor,and Sarah, who gave birth to your nation. Abraham was only one man when I called him. But when I blessed him, he became a great nation.” (Isaiah 51:2)

Abraham was only one guy. In fact, he and his wife were one couple who struggled with infertility. Yet God said they would be the ancestors of many nations/people. God extended that promise to say their descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore… too many to count. And it happened. Abraham’s “only” was that he was only one guy. Sarah’s “only” was that she barren. But when God blessed, generations… people groups… nations began. Abraham was “only” one man, but when God blessed him, he became more.

What’s your “only” today? What’s that thing that limits you… restricts you… prevents you in the natural from being all that God says you can and should and will be? Is it your age? You’re “only” 15. Is it your health? You can “only” walk from the bed to the kitchen without being out of breath. Is it your education? You “only” have a G.E.D.

You may be limited by your “only,” but God is not. When God blesses you, you become whatever He is capable of making you. So, go ahead… state your “only.” That will just show how big the miracle really is when God blesses you and you become more than you could on your own.

—–

And here’s a little postscript for us all… We need to remember this applies to others as well, not just us. The next time you see someone and you are tempted to think they don’t have what it takes, just remember that God can bless them also, and they can become more than they are right now.

For All My Friends Who…

It seems like I have so many friends who are struggling and battling tough situations in life right now. Some have lost a marriage… others a ministry… still others their health. Some long to see a hurt healed… some long to hold their own baby… some long for companionship. And it breaks my heart.

So for all my friends who are suffering and struggling tonight, know this…

1) You are not alone. Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us. He is walking through this tough time with you.

2) You will win if you stick with Jesus. He said that we would have trouble in this world, but we should be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. He knows what it takes to come out on top, and He will help you do exactly that.

3) I love you… I am in your corner… and I am praying for those of you who have told me about your situations. I’m not Jesus. I know I don’t have all the answers. I know I can’t fix most of your issues. But I can be your friend. And I can encourage you. And I can let you know that, not only is Jesus with you, I am with you also. My heart aches with yours, and so I am keeping your need in front of the Lord on a regular basis.

Some of this sounds so cheesy and trite. I promise that I don’t mean for it to be that way. I mean it from my heart. And I hope you are encouraged by these reminders!

Celebrating A Miracle

Like Abraham and Sarah…

Like Manoah and his wife…

Like Hannah and Elkanah…

Like Zechariah and Elizabeth…

We, too, thought we might be without children our entire lives.  But God gave us a promise. And then He gave us a miracle!  Like those listed above, He gave us a son.  Two, in fact! And today we celebrate the birth of our first son 9 years ago!!!

And in light of our celebration, I pray for those reading this right now who long for the Lord to give them a promise and a miracle.

To The “Childless” Mothers

I know… There was more than one Mother’s Day we skipped church because it was just too much.  We had been trying to have children to no avail. We had been trying to adopt with equal lack of success. And it just hurt too bad to go hear one more time how great it is to be a mom.

Of course we love our mothers and did our best to celebrate them. Moms are important people in our lives. It’s just that we wanted to have what they have… but we didn’t.

All these years and two sons later, we are still sensitive to all the ladies who wish they were mothers, but are not yet… at least in their minds. We weep inwardly for those battling infertility like we were. Our hearts break with those who have faced miscarriage.  We ache with those who have had to give up foster children, or those who have seen an adoption fall through at the last minute. And feel sorrow for the one who wanted to marry and have children, but never has for a multitude of reasons which no one has the right to judge.

I know it doesn’t seem fair.  I realize you want your miracle, too.  No glibly quotes Scripture verse or trite saying like, “All in God’s timing” will heal the hurt.  The only balm, it seems, would be if your arms could hold the child for which you so desperately long.

And yet… I celebrate the heart of the mother in you. I celebrate that you want to love and nurture.  I see how you teach those kids each week at school or church as if they were your very own. I recognize how you pour yourself into those young girls becoming ladies. You give to help others adopt. You go on missions trips and serve in orphanages. You are a “mom” in the truest sense of what it means, whether or not you have children of your own yet. I know that it’s not the same. I’m not suggesting that it is. I’m simply celebrating what I know is deep down in your heart… all that love.

And this Mother’s Day eve, I believe with you for a miracle. I pray that this would be the last time a Mother’s Day would cause you heartache.  I ask God to step in and give you the gift your heart yearns for nearly as much as your next breath or heartbeat.  If your pillow is to be soaked with tears, I pray it would be with tears of joy rather than sorrow and longing.

You are not alone. You are not abnormal. You are loved. And you are known deeply by a loving God.

Do not give up hope.

While It Was Still Dark

Childless

We tried for seven years to have children to no avail.  We were doing everything right but could not have kids of our own, while people who were doing wrong were being allowed to have kids. We signed up to adopt internationally, and even that wasn’t coming together. It was a dark time in my life.

I’m a preacher… that’s no secret.  And I often traveled to preach at different churches during that time frame. I can remember on more than one occasion driving on a Sunday morning to preach somewhere and asking the Lord what I was going to tell people that day as I preached because He wasn’t even answering my prayers. It was a dark time in my life.

More than one night, we soaked our pillows with tears. More than once we got our hopes up, only to have them dashed. I remember wishing that people would quit saying trite little things to try to make us feel better.  It was a dark time in my life.

Hope

But it was during that time when, in one of my routine daily times alone with Him, the Lord brought me to John 20:1 in Scripture. It says that “while it was still dark” the women came to the tomb. They expected to find the dead body of Jesus. They expected to do their duty of preparing His body for proper burial. They expected life to remain as dark in their hearts as it was outside.

They didn’t realize the Son had already risen. They didn’t realize the miracle of resurrection had already taken place. They didn’t realize the stone had been rolled away so they could see the tomb was empty. They didn’t realize they were only moments… and steps… and heartbeats away from their world springing back into glorious light like never before.

And that’s what the Lord spoke to my heart that morning… that though it was still dark, the miracle was already in the works for us to have children.

Those Praying Kids

A couple months later, as I headed out to preach at yet another church, Angela told me to pick up a pregnancy test on the way home. I told her I would, and I hit the road.

In the service that morning, as the pastor was about to introduce me, his wife interrupted and said she wanted to do something. She told our story of struggling to become parents and suggested that since we wanted kids, the kids of their church should pray for us to have kids.

Honestly, I thought to myself, “Well, why not… what’s it gonna hurt? We’ve been prayed for a lot.” I was no man of great faith and power at the moment.

But then the kids started praying… I mean really praying… someone had seriously taught those kids how to connect with God when the talked with Him. Suddenly, I got very serious about believing with them for a miracle.

We had a great service, and after lunch with the pastor and his family, I headed home. As I promised, I picked up the pregnancy test on the way home… but with faith in my heart this time.

PREG-NANT!

Angela took the test the next day and informed me it was positive. Not having spectacular faith, I doubted to accuracy, went and bought the most expensive test I could find (because more expensive surely had to equal more accurate) and brought it home for her to try. Again, positive.

We went to the doctor and the doctor told her she had never in all her years of practice seen anyone with levels of positive results so high. She said, “Baby, you’re not just pregnant… you are PREG-NANT!”

Sure enough, God blessed us with our first son. And as miraculous as that was, we did not know if we could have any more. But two years later, God blessed us with our second son.

Your Turn

I share all that on this Easter eve… while it’s dark outside… to encourage you.  We all go through some dark times in life… some times when we think all is lost… it’s all over… there’s no hope of things turning around.

But Easter is all about the fact that, with God, nothing is impossible.  Sure it may be dark and you may simply be dutiful at this point, but the miracle is already started. Another few steps… around that bend in the path… and you will find that God was working before you ever knew it! And life will be bright again. Take heart! Grab hold of hope!

The Son rose as surely as the sun rose. And you will smile again soon.  There will be a day when you tell someone your story like I’ve told you mine, and you will find it amazing that you ever doubted God.

So, take those few more steps… but may they not be heavy… because just a little way ahead of you… your miracle awaits your arrival!