Reaching for God

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."  Philippians 1:21

I go in a few moments to conduct the funeral service for Sam Hotchkiss.  He was a kind man and good Christian.  His passing reminds me of a missionary’s son named Matthew Huffman.

Matthew hadn’t reached his tenth birthday when he awoke with a fever at his parent’s home in Brazil.  As his temperature soared, he began to loose his eyesight.  His mother and father put him in the care and raced to the nearest hospital.  As the drove, the boy lay in his mother’s lap unmoving.  Then suddenly he put one hand into the air. His mother gently pulled back down but he raised it again.  So she moved it back again.  Then when Matthew reached out the third time, his mother asked him what he was reaching for.

His answer stunned them both.  "I am reaching for Jesus’ hand."  With those words, Matthew closed his eyes and slipped into a coma from which he did not recover.  He died two days later from bacterial meningitis.

Matthew was a child but wise enough to know who to reach for in the hour of their death.  Sam did the same.  King David was right when he said:

"The good man, the man of peace, he has a wonderful future ahead of him.  For him there is a happy ending."  Psalm 37:37

Well done, Sam.  Well done.

Michael

Naked

"Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart."  Job 1:21

If ever there was a summary statement about life, that is one of them.  It is not comfortable statement but it is revealing in more ways than one.  The ancient man lays bare the secret of surviving life’s terrible tragedies and the secret comes in layers.

First, Job lost all his business holdings.  In one moment, all that he had accumulated was gone.  Then on the heels of that loss came the news that all his children had perished.  We cannot contemplate such sorrow.  Most of us would have fallen at the first blow but there are things much worse than financial ruin.  The loss of our children would have crushed us but it wasn’t over for Job.  His health failed and he lay in physical suffering.  It doesn’t surprise me that such would happen.  The first two events would fail the health of any man.

But what amazes us is that as each level of Job’s life is stripped away, we find him faithful.  Here is the secret of Job.  The trials and losses did not make Job’s faith any stronger because Job’s faith was already there.  The heart of Job held an unwavering trust in his God even if he didn’t understand His actions.

Life has a way of stripping us down and showing us how deep a faith we truly have within.  When the stuff of life is stripped  bare we see how deeply we love God or not.  Job never lost his faith nor his resolve.  It was when he learned of the death of his children that he uttered, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart."  Job knew that eventually all of this world is lost anyway. 

We know that too if we will admit it.  When we are young, we accumulate.  We accumulate wealth, an education, a family and a career.  We have two or more cars, a home and hobbies.  Then time and health begin to strip us.  Our children leave.  Our health declines.  We sell the house and cars for something smaller.  Then in those last days, we are stripped of everything.  There is no injustice in this because this is life.  All of us die and then face judgment.

Sam died that way Sunday.  Disease had stripped him bare but he never gave up.  He had been through war and knew how thin the veil is between life and death.  He did not lament his death.  He walked into bravely because he knew what was on the other side.  I discovered what lay deep in the real man.  Sam had faith.  May we do the same.

Michael

No Explanation Given

While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting…when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house.  It collapsed on them and they are dead… Job 1:18,19

Job never knew what we know now.  We got a sneak peek into heavenly places and witness to Satan’s attempt to deprive and destroy Job.  We watched as God allowed the attack with provisions for Job’s life.  Job never knew the spiritual struggle which had caught him up.

When our lives come crashing in, we feel like Job.  One day, everything seems fine and then the bottom falls out.  No warning.  No explanation given.

You have to follow Job for the next 41 chapters to discover that ‘the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first." (Job 42:12)  Sometimes we have to wait a long time for our ship to right and life get back to some normalcy.  Tragedy takes a long time to heal.

But notice this: we never find out why God allowed Satan to attack Job in the first place.  We have Satan’s side of the argument but are never given God’s side. 

This is hard for us to handle.  Whenever something goes wrong in our lives, we look for an answer.  Was it us?  Someone else?  We say we are looking for answers.  What we are looking for is someone to blame.  We believe that by blaming someone, we can punish that person and get some justice for the tragedy.

God teaches a hard lesson here.  Sometimes, more than we admit, we don’t get answers to life’s dilemmas.  We may never find out why these things happen on this side of heaven.  Here then is the only answer we have in those times: God knows the reason why!  And He cares.  Sometimes that is all we get.  For us, that is always enough.

Sam’s services will be Wednesday at the church at 11:00 a.m.  We will miss his wit and his presence.  Remember Dave, Virginia and Esther along with the family.  Also remember Jim Bode.  He was admitted to St. Vincent’s with heart failure and extensive bleeding.  I go there this morning to see how is progressing.

Remember.  God knows and He cares.  That is enough for now.

It’s Official

With the level 2 snow emergency, we will have only one service tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.  No first service or Sunday School.  Please advise everyone you know.  Do not put yourself at risk.  If you live off the beaten path, use your common sense.  Also, don’t forget that we lose an hour of sleep tonight.  You will have to turn your clocks forward.  So it will be dark even till 9:30 or so. 

Spread the word.  I will put it on the radios and television.  Play it safe tomorrow.  See you then.

Michael

Good for Nothing

Good morning on a very wintry day.  With the time change and road conditions, we may alter church times tomorrow but will still have church.  I will check with police and elders before any decision is made.  Weather doesn’t pay much attention to schedules.

"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?"  Job 1:9-10

As I watch the blowing snow, I realize that we have a tendency as humans to believe things will improve if given time.  Every downturn will have an upturn, every storm is followed by sunshine and every flood will drain away.  It is the way of life but not necessarily the way of faith.

We think that if we are good and work hard enough and pray long enough, every difficult circumstance will turn around.  A sort of formula for blessing.  But Job plays havoc with that formula.  Here is a man that did nothing wrong and everything right.  And what happens to his life cannot be revoked or regained.  He will feel that pain the rest of his life.

Don’t get me wrong.  Doing the right thing is the right thing.  There is reason and purpose for our prayers and our trust in God.  What Job teaches us is that our good living is no guarantee for blessings.  It rains (snows) on the just and the unjust.  But it also teaches that God will never leave us. 

Satan believes that we will crumble at the first sign of trouble or when things don’t go our way.  He thinks our devotion to God is because of the good things God gives us.  Here he makes his fatal flaw.  We believe like Job believes.

"Shall we accept good from God and not trouble.?" (Job 2:10)  There is no doubt that God puts a hedge about us and holds Satan at bay in ways we cannot see.  But He is no respecter of persons.  He does the same for all His children.  And He allows us to deal with life face to face which is sometimes tragic.

No, the world doesn’t understand.  We will love Him even if there is no upturn, the storm persists and flood increases.  We don’t His church because we can afford it or it is the acceptable thing to do.  We are family and He is our Father.  We will do with Him wherever it leads.  So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Michael

That’s The Way It Goes

I moved wood in on my porch so it wouldn’t be covered by snow.  The wind blew more snow on my porch than in my yard.  That’s the way it goes.

It’s official.  We will be moving the Ladies Retreat to Sunday afternoon from 3 to 7 with an evening meal.  Maybe they need someone to pray about mealtime.  I’ll check.

Well, got to make a cup of coffee and settle in for a long winter’s night.  Stay warm.

Lucky You

"In the land of Us there lived a man whose name is Job."  Job 1:1

Lucky you.  It’s snowing and going to get worse and I am doing my meditations out of Job.  So it looks like a double whammy for you.  I hope one can help the other.  Keep Sam Hotchkiss in your prayers.  His Parkinson’s is taking it’s toll.  I’m not sure how much longer he can fight.   Rock is doing great considering what he has been through.  Hopefully home by the first of next week.  God is good.

I read some news releases on the economy and especially retirement for we boomers.  So now I am looking to Job.  (ha)  But few Bible characters provide a better example of how to live than Job.  He successfully managed his family, spiritual life and career.  Realizing how little control he had over his life, he simply tried to do it right today and let tomorrow take care of itself.  Not bad wisdom for us right now.

He also did some deep soul searching.  He discovered that circumstances can change regardless of your piety.  What he learned was that we weren’t meant to live this life alone.  We need each other, especially those who are going down the same road.  Only such a person can provide that iron-on-iron interaction spoken about in Proverbs 27:17.  It we want to deal effectively with our lives we need both truth and accountability. 

Sometimes we ignore the truth and don’t want to be accountable.  We are only hiding our heads in the sand.  You reap what you sow and sometimes you reap what your country, leaders and corporations sow.  With so much out of our control, it is helpful to have someone in the same boat.

So the next time you commensurate with your friends, remember to also hold each other accountable.  Accepting bad news is just the beginning.  Dealing with it takes friends.  Ask Job!

Check back.  I will update any church changes.

Michael

Trade-Offs

"In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job.  This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil…he was the greatest man among the people of the East." Job 1:1,3

I appreciate your patience these last few days.  With Rock’s surgery, Sam Hotchkiss in decline, Phil Darlage with severe pneumonia and a funeral service, I haven’t had much time outside of my regular work.  It gives a person pause but I wanted to get this blog off tonight before the weather sets in.  Check back with me for weather related alerts for church activities.

This pace got me to thinking about how people view success.  Some would say being busy is a sign of success.  Others would say finding time to pause is the result of success.  So I thought I would reference one of the most successful men on earth and we could both learn from him.

We tend to view a success person as one dimensional.  They are exceptionally skilled in their career or a wonderful parent and spouse or gifted in their spiritual calling.  It’s more difficult to find someone who  has all three at once.

Job was such a person.  He was aggressively and successfully engaged in commercial efforts, family priorities and spiritual passion.  He was a successful businessman, his family loved him, he was a well-respected member of his community and had an authentic, vibrant relationship with God.  Now this was a success in anyone’s book.

What struck me was that most people concentrate on one area of their life at a time.  They focus on their career and set home and church in the back seat.  They invest in the children and promise themselves they will be more active in their church later.

But here’s the point.  Such trade-offs seldom work.  There are ebb and flows in various areas of our lives to be sure.  We may not be at the top of our game in every area at the same time.  But we need to make sure that we are not focused on just one area of our life.  Neither can we settle for mediocrity in our work, family or walk with God.  As Job so aptly demonstrated, a successful life is an integrated life.

I will take a little more time this week to be with my family and to spend alone with God.  Being busy isn’t success.  Being balanced is!  I pray you will find that balance this week.

Michael

Trivia

Can you answer the following?

Lack of iron in the diet causes what disease?

What first name is derived from Greek for rock or stone – Paul or Peter?

What does a barometer measure?

A plant produced by crossing different species is known as what?

What kind of animal does a chamois resemble?

I will post the answers on the bulletin Sunday.  I missed the last one.

Win Something Today

Today I will conduct a funeral service for a husband whose wife was buried but a few months ago.  His body shall now rest beside hers.  He was a highly successful man with wealth few accumulate but you wouldn’t have known it.  He was one of the most humble men I know.  What really speaks for him is his love for Christ and openness about his faith.  He just loved to talk about Jesus.  No push or shove.  It was natural for him.  His name is Don.

The passion to proclaim Jesus Christ is born from the Christian’s conversion experience, but enthusiasm can fizzle unless we continue learning and growing in faith. We have no reason to speak about someone we barely know.  Don knew Jesus.

Conversely,conviction about who God is strengthens the desire to share. We have the remedy for all of the world’s ills—Jesus Christ!  What good have we done for the kingdom of God or for our unbelieving friends if we stay quiet about Him?  Don never noticed his enthusiasm about Christ as a tool of evangelism.  He just knew what Jesus meant to him and assumed you would want to know as well.  People might start talking to him about money or investments and end up talking about life and faith.

Jesus does more than simply save people from the penalty of past transgression; He frees men and women from sin’s power every day.  When Christ was on the cross, God saw each believer crucified with Him so that sin’s allure was broken. That means we can say no to those things that enslave others.  The Gospel message we are called to proclaim frees others and teaches victorious living.

That is the legacy that Don leaves behind.  He taught victorious living in more ways than one.  Most of all he taught how to enjoy life, to explore life and to expand life.  It all began with Jesus and those around him.  It is the same for us.

Have a victorious day!

Michael

%d bloggers like this: