Adversity, Bible, Life's Moments

Awake…Again…’Cus the Lord Knows Me Well.

3:00am, Ricki, do you know where you are? How far have we traveled together? Seriously, oh man, the challenges we’ve stared down, climbed over, worked through, or even ignored…remember? Do you recall that time, really it was a season or should I say siege, during which you just kept wagging your head back and forth muttering “No, no, no, no?” Yeah, that’s the one. And…yup, that one too. Well, yes, that also. Now do you know where you are? Where you always are? Umhmm, you got it.

Remember when I said, “I will never leave you or forsake you?”

Right. That’s how I said it in the later Letter to the Hebrews. But do you remember how I said it first?

Yup, there you go. Moses was finishing. Joshua was getting started. Your brothers and sisters long ago needed encouragement as the time for entering the Promised Land was upon them. So, what did I have Moses say? Exactly, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) That was a long time ago…about 3400 years! And then again, about 2000 years ago, my people needed that encouragement , so I reminded them again. (Hebrews 13:5)

So, “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Now do you remember where you are? Yes, yes, yes, you are with me. We got this.

Thank you, Jesus. O Lord, thank you.

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Bible, Culture, Life's Moments

Memorial Day Thoughts…

Grandpa McGrath’s leggings: WW1

I am thankful I come from a long line of veterans. Some fortunate enough, like me, to never see combat. Others, not so fortunate. I am also thankful I have never had to suffer the ultimate loss of any of those who served in combat. However, for some, to whom I owe everything, the losses of those they fought with are staggering. From my Grandpa Micky on my Mom’s side in WW1, to my Dad and Father-in-law and my wife’s step-father, and uncles in WW2, to my brother-in-law and my cousins in Viet Nam, and my nephew in this long war against terrorism, the numbers are hard to even imagine. Dad and Earl stormed the beaches in WW2…Dad in the Pacific, Earl on D-Day. Both made it from basic training to the beaches, through multiple large battles, to mop-up patrols, and finally home. They literally lost 1000’s of their brothers…all around and very near them on their full assaults, behind their covers, in their fox-holes, and further to the rear and both flanks, but never their fronts…because both served with squads on point. Dad and Earl and Lee separated from service upon their returns home. Dad was recalled for Korea. He fought again. He was recalled for the Berlin Crisis. Thankfully resolution occurred before any fighting started. He was then called again. So he took up his weapon and his aid bag and fought and bandaged and splinted and removed dog-tags yet again in Viet Nam. His service spanned 35 years with 22 on active duty and 5 (possibly 6…we’re not sure) in combat. Through it all he grieved most the condition of his little brother who returned from the Korean War with what we now call PTSD. His little brother never really recovered. Family breakdown and alcohol became his partners until the alcohol consumed him and brought death far too soon. So, actually, I was wrong earlier when I said, “I am also thankful I have never had to suffer the ultimate loss of any of those who served in combat” for surely Uncle Jim’s death was the last fatality due to WW2 to strike so close to Dad’s heart.

So to those in my family who fight no more, to those still with me, to those now on active duty, call me to attention because I owe you my salute, my respect, my love, my freedom, indeed my life. To my dear Brat Family: the same salute, respect, and love do I extend to you and yours. Your Dads and your Moms, who served just as faithfully as their husbands, are just like mine. They are heroes, legends…ordinary people who rose to extraordinary heights. All my love.

Father, thank you for them all. Please honor them. For those gone by, attend them as no human hands ever could. For those still with us, encourage them, keep then, protect them, prosper them.

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Adversity, Bible, Life's Moments

Josh McDowell and My Sister

Josh is one of my true heroes. I remember attending a conference back in the mid 80’s in which he was the keynote speaker. My sister, a single mom with three children, lonely, hurt, abandoned by her one true love, attended with me. I had recently penned a long letter to her. She chose to pull it out and read it again during one of the breaks. Josh saw her. Sat next to her. Asked what she was reading. After hearing it was an encouragement letter from her little brother, a young pastor, he asked if he could read it. She said yes. He read it. Then, with tears of both sadness and joy between them, he prayed for Floria. I’ll never forget her excitement as, later in the day, she told me of the encounter. She made this confirmation, “He is the same up close as he is in the pulpit. I believe I can trust him…and, like you, he says it’s gonna get better.” I’ve read his books. I’ve kept up with his ministry. I’ve seen many of his talks. And I know Floria was right. She’s with the Lord now. I miss her. Josh is still a powerful servant-leader. I look forward to meeting him one day…if not here, then in heaven…with my sister. She will say, “Y’all were right.”

I know you’ll like his powerful testimony in the following video. It’s not too long. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Adversity, Bible, Life's Moments

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart

Adversity often pounds away at the human heart until the heart finally breaks. Then the questions flood the soul…

…what now?
…where do I go from here?
…who do I turn to at this point?
…when will my broken heart
feel better?

Making adversity even worse is the simple, yet profoundly terrible, truth that we never thought it would happen to us. Like the opening lines from the Bee Gee hit, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart:

“I can think of younger days
when living for my life was everything a man could want to do. I could never see tomorrow but I was never told about the sorrow.”

We’re just not prepared. Adversity is random. It’s out of contol. Unexpected most times.

But there is someone who specializes in mending broken hearts. If we’re listening, he’s letting us know all the time. Even while reveling in Michael Buble’s cover (my favorite version) of the Brothers Gibb timeless song, the Lord reminded me yet again with his word…

Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:1-3

What once was a song to bring tears has now become a propellent for thanksgiving, because what was once unanswered is now no longer so. It’s not how can you mend a broken heart, but who has mended my broken heart.

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Adversity, Bible, Life's Moments

In the Still of the Night

In the still of the night, more than any other time, my flesh begins to crawl. No, not like that…not the spooky afraid of the dark sort of thing. I’m referring to flesh in the biblical sense…those old memories, those hauntings, those willowy vestiges of a man long since dead. You know, the memories still lodged in my brain from a time before my Nic at Night moment.

Do you know about Nicodemus? You can read about him in The Gospel of John, chapter three. He came to Jesus during the night and this happened…

” ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.

Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!

Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.‘ ”

I’m not sure about Nicodemus, but I took Jesus at his word and my world changed. I changed. I was born again. Old habits died off. Old yearnings went away. Supernatural change was afoot. I received a new Spirit…but not a new body. My body is not yet redeemed. The brain can still process junk…if I allow it. This is the crawling flesh to which I refer. And, in the still of the night, the hauntings of the past arise. Slowly at first. Being tired, I sometimes fail to rush to the breech. I forget all I need do is submit to the Lord, listen for his word, and rest. If I linger too long sin finds an approach. My thoughts become my worst adversity. Then I pray…

Then I pray…and this happens…the word of God comes from the Spirit of God. Oh no, don’t misunderstand. It’s not inspiration. It’s not a “new word from the Lord.” It’s his word given by prophet, apostle, or Jesus himself and left for us in the Bible. When the flesh crawls his word is the last thing I look for or think of, but then the real me, my new spirit, once again becomes witness to the Holy Spirit testifying within me that I’m not that person anymore. I’m a child of God. Words like “It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your lovingkindness in the morning and your faithfulness by night” (Psalm 92:1,2) begin to pour in. His word. His will. Meant for me…for peace…in the still of the night.

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Adversity, Bible, Life's Moments

Late At Night When the Heart is Troubled

Late at night, when the heart is troubled, the Spirit of God whispers his word to my spirit, “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7). This is what King David knew to be true of the Lord. It is now the very real and tangible evidence of the presence of God for me. As Francis Schaeffer said, “He is there and he is not silent.” It is also the seed of a beautiful song of praise:
You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You
I will trust in You
Let the weak say I am strong
In the strength of the Lord

And, if it was true for King David, it’s true for us when Jesus is on our throne. Amen. Come on tomorrow!

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Adversity, Bible, Life's Moments

If You’re Going Through Hell…

One reference attributed the following quote to Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Seems they were wrong. Upon further research, it seems the quote’s been used, modified, and used yet again over and over. The best I am able to tell, the original came from the Christian Science Monitor from sometime early last century. I decided against using the quote. Why? Well, not so much because of its dubious background, but on account of the simple fact that it is so terribly incomplete. Sure, such platitudes are nice…
“When the going gets tough the tough get going.”

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

“Just do it.”

However, that’s not how the Lord sees it. When adversity is due to no fault of your own, the Lord never asks you to plow through, to find your way through on your own, to light your own way through. In fact, to do so will make things worse…

Isaiah 51:10,11

10  Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.

11  Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled. This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.

Simple…don’t fight darkness with the wrong source of light…keep trusting him.

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