What’s your storm right now?
Life is fraught with storms. Unexpected difficulties that test our resolve, our character and our hope. Storms come at us in various forms; sickness and disease, sudden, unexpected death, a car wreck, getting fired or even natural disasters that leave us scrambling to survive.
Other storms are relational – Husbands leave, friends betray us, pastors fail…. people sin against us and we sin against people. Conflict is everywhere. Some days it seems like bad news is waiting at every corner.
In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus takes up the topic of storms. He warns us of a few things and one of them is to make sure you’ve built your existence and purpose on immovable bedrock so you’ll be able to withstand the storms of life. If you don’t, he cautions, your whole life will be swept away in the raging weather. Maybe you will die, maybe won’t, but you’ll risk living a wasted life.
And each of us has a choice on how we respond. I heard somewhere, “If you want to find out what’s in a man, squeeze him.” Storms of life do that very thing. Consider the following.
Read Matthew 7:24-27 then answer these questions:
1. How many men does Jesus refer to? What does each one represent?
2. What made one man wise and the other man foolish?
3. Which one are you? Maybe you hear. Many you know. But these things alone don’t make one wise.
Currently, I’m facing some decisions that involve obedience to God as a wife. God has spoken very directly, plainly and repeatedly about this topic. I’ve heard and I know what He has to say. Like Eve had a choice that day when she was faced with the decision to act on what God had told her or what a deceiver had told her, I have to make a choice. I better be wise. Or else my home could be swept away in the next bad storm. What should I do?
God, help me to be obedient. I need you.
This is my second blog post in one day. But I just couldn’t stand to let this go.
As I was crafting my last post about the benefits of learning the Bible, I thought of my friend, Cape, and a vision I have of him nearly every Sunday. Check out this picture. Zoom in on it and really give it a closer examination. It’s worth a thousand words, but I’ll share only a few.
He needs a magnifying glass and a flashlight
This is Winston Caperton (Cape), 88 years old. I secretly took this picture in June, 2017, as he and his wife, Barbara, were sitting right beside me in church in Warrenton Baptist Church, Warrenton, Virginia. As you can see, he is using a magnifying glass that he brings with him to church because he suffers from Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This disease causes vision to get increasingly dimmer with time. But he’s so serious about reading the words of the living God, he is overcoming the barrier the best he can by using a magnifying glass. He even brings a flashlight and struggles to hold the Bible close enough with the magnifying glass and flashlight all at the same time…… Think about that with me for a moment…. who does that? Who loves God’s Word that much?
Easily Put Off or Committed to Digging In?
I was thinking how just about anything can derail me from reading the Bible… But not Cape. At 88 (89 now), as much as he knows the Word already, he’s not done yet. He’s not done learning and trying to change. The far easier thing would have been for him to have just sat and listened to the sermon and other people to read the text out loud to him. But he wants more… he wants to dig, he wants to go farther and learn all that God is saying.
And I want you to know I see Cape doing this just about every Sunday, right beside me. It has had a profound impact on me… it took me an hour to go find this picture I knew I took sometime in the last year. But I show it to you today as a reminder of the importance of reading God’s Word for yourself. By reading, you will learn who God is, who you are, how much He loves you, what His purposes are for your life and what’s going on in the world and why. You’ll learn about sin and how far God has come to rescue you from it. You’ll read about the creation of the world and the destruction of the world and where you fit into the plan. Also, if you read and study God’s word on a regular basis, you’ll know when someone makes a false claim about it.
“The Bible is an inexhaustible fountain of all truths.” ~ Robert Murray M’Cheyne
Turn On the Lights!
Lastly, can I speak up about a slight frustration? It is common in many church gatherings today to dim the lights, like you’re in a concert or something. Trying to create a mood… I get it. But I gotta tell you, I don’t need the lights to be dimmed to worship God. If you do, you’ll be out of step with the way we’ll worship in heaven. Revelation 21:22-25 tells us in heaven there will never, ever be darkness and we will worship God just fine.
Yes, keep the lights on folks. Cape wants to read his Bible.
P.S. In the last several months, Cape has gotten tech savvy enough to download the Bible onto his iPad to read the Scriptures. The screen is backlit, which helps tremendously.
Rain is Falling
Mother’s Day, 2018. I woke up to a slow, steady rain outside. There was a little rolling thunder, too… and it was comforting. As I looked out at our lush green, spring lawn, I thought to myself how helpful REAL rain was going to be a boost to all the stuff we’re trying to grow outside. We rushed to get our ferns and other covered plants out there for a soaking. Why? Well, we water our flowers and the grass regularly, but NOTHING can take the place of REAL rain. Have you ever thought about that? Why exactly does rain give our plants the boost that watering from a water hose cannot? What’s the difference?
The Ingredients of Rain
About 3 minutes of Googling informed me that rain water is naturally soft, full of nutrients, the proper pH, and even just the right temperature. Reminds me of Baby Bear loving all of Goldilock’s things because they were “juuuuuust right”. So not only does rain water contain what my green things need, it does NOT contain what is harmful. It’s absent of the chlorine (Google says it inhibits growth) and is low in ions of calcium and magnesium (hard water deposits).
Rain is Like the Bible
So standing there looking out across the landscape of green beauty, with the grateful joy of knowing that REAL rain was falling, I thought of a similarity – the Bible. I can read books, daily devotionals and incredible commentary… and I can listen to my heroes in the faith preach with deep conviction and passion…. but NOTHING takes the place of the purity of God’s Word. NOTHING. And frankly… I don’t understand it. In working with clients, I can counsel and counsel and counsel about the truth and they appear to be on the road to change, but then the results are slight or show no improvement at all. Strikingly, however, when the Word of God is read and absorbed, I often get a front row seat to a light show – a supernatural work of God. There is something… some holy spiritual phenomenon that cuts into the human soul in a way NOTHING else can do.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
And this is why professional Biblical Counseling is grander and effects more lasting change – the primary mover is the Word of the living God. Like REAL rain, God’s Word has all I need to thrive and grow through change. It is truly sufficient.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the [man / woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16
Other Books Are Okay
Yes, give me the sermons and the books and the devotionals I dig so much. Indeed they are wonderful… but they can only go so far… After all, the men and women that create them are only human, distorted and tainted by sin – imperfect. But for real growth and lasting change, I need far more than the daily crumb… I need the daily Bread to feed my soul.
So what about you? How often and how deeply do you read the Bible? Wanna be a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, a better follower of Christ? If you wish to truly grow and change to be the person God created you to be, get started on a reading plan today. Let the growing season begin again.
A couple of years ago I camped out in 1 Corinthians 13, well known in Christendom as “the love chapter”. I got to the end and was baffled for the thousandth time about the last verse, which reads,
“Now faith, hope and love, abide in these three. But the greatest of these is love.”
The previous 999 times, I guess it was just doomed to be a forever mystery to me, as are a few other Biblical texts. But this time I decided to investigate more thoroughly. I wanted to know how in the world love could trump faith and hope. Truthfully, I felt kinda stupid because I had never known the answer to this question, but I decided to overcome my pride and seek outside counsel.
Don’t you hate it when you ask a question and someone basically tells you to figure it out for yourself?
I called Jonathan Morris, who at that time was pastoring the church in which I grew up – Union Baptist Church in El Dorado, Arkansas. When I asked the question, he pointed me back to the Scripture, back to the entirety of 1 Corinthians 13… Don’t you hate it when you ask a question and someone basically tells you to figure it out for yourself? Ugh. But he wasn’t leaving me, he was merely guiding me to see it for myself instead of him directly telling me the answer – that’s what great teachers do…. dang it. He challenged me to read through the text again to see, beginning in verse 8, that there was a time element associated with various gifts from God like prophecies (they will pass away), tongues (they will cease), and knowledge (will pass away) and give way to something far better. These gifts are contrasted with love, which will never end.
And then I saw it. Praise God, I SAW IT! Immediately my eyes filled with tears when I comprehended this eternal truth – faith and hope are temporary. We will only need them while we are here on earth. But, when we die in this life and gain entrance into the perfection of our new heavenly home, we won’t need faith anymore – our faith will have been realized – our faith will then be our sight! And we won’t need hope anymore because our hope for the future will be fulfilled as we begin to enjoy the fruits of our labor and finally be face to face with the living God. But love… oh LOVE NEVER ENDS. I know, I know… for many of you, reading this is NOT new news… you’ve known it for a long time. Or you figured it out by yourself. But for me this was a revelation.
This absolute truth is one that I will rest on today as we bury my friend, Sharon Lynn. Besides that great and marvelous Scripture, 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18, I am filled with joy to know she no longer requires faith or hope. She has moved into the next life and will forever enjoy seeing and being seen, knowing and being known, and loving as she has been loved. Forever in the presence of the One true God – our great Lord and King – God the Father, the Son and the Spirit.