Category Archives: God is our Life

Finding the Silver Lining

(Every cloud has a silver lining – John Milton)

 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

(II Corinthians 1:9)

 My boss Frank called at 6:00 am. Slurring his words, he told me he couldn’t teach the computer class our client so desperately needed. He’d been out all night partying. “You’ll have to teach it,” he said.

“But I’ve never taught the class before, Frank,” I strongly protested.  Frank mumbled something and hung up.

Placing the phone down, reality swept through my still groggy mind. This was an impossible situation. I was gripped with a wave of panic. I could either crawl back in bed and quit my only source of income, or teach a three day class covering subjects I barely knew.

Though my chances of success were very slim. I had to try and teach it. My wife and four kids were depending on me.

Later, riding the elevator to the class room on the tenth floor, I prayed. “Lord, you have to do this. I’ll do what I can and open my mouth, but please teach this class through me.”

During every break, I crammed to prepare for the next segment. I kept my Bible opened to the Psalms, jotting down prayers for guidance.

Three days later the class was over. By God’s grace, no one knew it was my first time teaching  it. And amazingly, the marks were good on the evaluation sheets the 23 students had to fill out. God taught this class through me and He was the only reason it was successful.

Month’s earlier, I  prayed for God to help me trust Him more. Looking back, I think this was his answer. The only way I could learn to not rely on me, was to be placed in a situation I couldn’t handle. I learned more about trusting God in those few days than I had in years before.

Paul wrote, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”[1]

“Good” is not just smooth circumstances and good feelings. True “good,” eternal “good” is wrapped up in our nearness and dependence upon God.

Paul was in such dire circumstances in Asia that he despaired even of life.[2] But he saw the “silver lining”.[3]  He knew there was a deeper good in his very hard circumstances. “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”[4] The very difficult circumstances kept Paul trusting in the Lord and not in himself.

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;[5]

A most important lesson we all need to learn is that “good” does not always mean easy. What is truly “good” is what draws us closer to God.

Blessings can come in strange packages.

Our ability to find a silver lining (a reason for hope) in each and every situation is directly proportional to our belief that being with God and depending on Him is our ultimate good.

Lord, I’m so sorry for the times I have longed only for smooth, easy circumstances. I’m learning to experience the joy of your presence in all circumstances. Please teach me to long only for you. You are my life.

 

Challenge: What hard circumstance are you facing? If you haven’t already, surrender it completely to God. Ask him to use it for your good by deepening your awareness and dependence upon Him.

[1] Romans 8:28

[2] 2 Corinthians 1:8

[3] Originally from a John Milton poem referring to light bursting through a cloud, yielding the phrase “every cloud has a silver lining”

[4] 2 Corinthians 1:9

[5] Psalms 73:28

Dead Bugs on the Windshield

The clouds opened up and the rain poured.

We sure need it, thought Peter as he stared at the drops disappearing into his brown, parched back yard grass. Looking out his porch screen, he noticed the holes.

There were a hundred things  needing to be done between the house repairs, his duties at work and his other responsibilities. Peter was completely overwhelmed.

To him, life was one big problem. He didn’t even know where to begin. Exhausted, he laid down on the chaise lounge  and shut his eyes. Before long, he was asleep and began dreaming.

In his  dream, Peter was driving  a convertible in the mountains. Around a curve,  he came upon a lake nestled in a valley between rolling hills of lush meadows and trees. Peter gasped at the  beauty and pulled into an overlook parking area to take in the view.

The sun was low in the sky and the colors of the sunset were beginning to dance across the lake. Peter reclined his seat. The air was cool. The wind gently slapped his face and he detected a sent of mountain laurel. The more Peter pondered the scene, the deeper and richer the splendor appeared.

In his spirit, Peter knew he was looking at  heaven. He felt a  deep security and hope. The problems, which  had seemed so gigantic moment ago were like nothing compared to the beauty and magnificent splendor before him.

The rich implications of being a child of God began to flood his heart. He realized, as never before, how unbelievably awesome it is to have been forgiven of all his wrongs.

He had done nothing to earn God’s love. God loved him with an eternal love, unaffected by life. Joy and peace welled up into euphoria.  He just laid there soaking it all in, like parched, cracked soil drinks in an early morning rain.

Peter was not sure how long he lay in bliss, but before long and very slowly at first, he began to notice tiny specs on the windshield of his car; little bits of dirt, smudges and dead bugs. He hadn’t noticed them before, but as he shortened his focus he could see them clearly. The closer he looked, the more he saw. Soon the imperfections began to distract him from his appreciation of the grandeur he had been enjoying.

He tried to ignore the windshield, but before long he had been completely overtaken by the details of the mess in front of him. The reality of the brilliance beyond the windshield had been lost.

Suddenly a voice came from the seat beside him.

“What happen, Peter?”

Startled, Peter turned to see a man dressed in a white suit seated beside him in the car.

“How long have you been sitting there?” asked Peter.

“The whole time.”

“How did you get here?”

“It doesn’t matter, Peter.

Why did you take your eyes off of what you were looking at; the reality beyond and what has been done for you? You were focusing on truth and hope and enjoying your inheritance as a son, but then you chose to stop looking at it. Why did you  start focusing on the things close up on the windshield?” The man asked.

“Who are you?”

“I’m a messenger, Peter.

Why did you start focusing on the windshield? That stuff was there the whole time you know.”

“I don’t know?” Peter explained. “I  began to notice how dirty it was. There’s so much needing to be cleaned.”

“Is that your goal, Peter, to have a clean windshield?

You’re forgetting something very important. How did you feel when you were focusing on what was beyond the windshield?”

“It was the most unbelievable feeling I’ve ever had!” Peter exclaimed, a great big smile returning to his face as he recalled it.

“Everything about this world seemed insignificant! My problems and obligations were like little bits of sand on the floor.

All that seemed important was the splendor beyond the windshield. I wanted my family and others to see and experience it.”

“That’s good, Peter,” said the man. “That’s exactly what you should have been feeling. But then something changed. You began to believe a lie that has haunted you.”

“What lie?” Peter asked.

“You began to believe  that the way you handle your cares and problems can change God’s love for you.

Did you really think a few dead bugs on your windshield could effect all that brilliance?

You fell for one of the greatest deceptions the enemy uses to rob God’s sons and daughters of their joy and strength.

All he has to do is to get you to take your eyes off the marvelous truths of the gospel for a moment and to begin to focus  on your problems. Before long, you think  it’s all up to them again. You start living like an orphan and your joy is zapped..”

“But we have problems and obligations. We can’t just ignore them, right?” questioned Peter.

“That’s right, Peter. We can’t just ignore them. But if your goal is carefree living, you’re end for a weary journey of endless striving.

Can you prevent bugs from running into your windshield and dying? Can you prevent dust and dirt and rain?”

“No.”

“Of course you can’t! Dead bug end up on the windshields of life. Until you realize your goal is not to prevent them, you won’t  see them in the proper light. Does that make sense, Peter?”

“I think so”, said Peter. “But I certainly can’t just ignore all this stuff. How do I look at this filth?”

“Peter, when you were looking at the mountains and the lake, were the smudges and dirt and dead bugs on your windshield?”

“Well, yea. I think so.”

“Look at the mountains again, Peter. Tell me if you still see the smudges?”

“No, not while I’m focusing on heaven, I mean the mountains.”

“Now, look back at the windshield again and pick one of the worse dead bugs, the one you think should be cleaned off first.”

“OK, I’m looking at it. It’s that one, next to the rear view mirror.”

“Good. Keep your eyes on that bug, but begin to focus on the mountains again. And tell me what happens to the bug and the mountains?”

“Well, the bug seems really small and insignificant when I focus on what’s beyond the windshield. And when I focus on the beauty beyond, but still have the bug in sight, the mountains and lake seem even richer than before. Why’s that?”

“Peter, beauty is magnificent to gaze upon, but it’s even more marvelous when seen in light of something not so wonderful.”

“I can’t believe it!” exclaimed Peter. “You mean all this time I was fighting and striving and working myself weary to prevent these dead bugs and this dirt from landing on my windshield. And all along, they were going to end up there whether I wanted them to or not?

And not only that, the very things I was striving against the wind to prevent are the very things that God is using to help me focus on his truths more deeply?”

“Amazing, isn’t it Peter,” said the man.

“Yea.” said Peter. “But what should my goal be if it’s not to reduce the problems in my life?

“Great question Peter, but I think you already know the answer. What do you think your goal should be?” asked the man.

“Well,” said Peter.  “All I can think about is what I was experiencing before I noticed the bugs on the windshield. My mind was filled with thoughts about God and how much He has done for me and how much He loves me. I was amazed at the fact that He actually sent his son to die for me, so that I could become one of His children.

All I could think about was how I wanted to be the best child I could be for him. I wanted to please Him in my role  husband, father and friend.”

“Peter, you’ve answered your own question. The longings you have, while focusing on Jesus and his great love for you, become your goal in life, nothing else.”

“But what about the bugs?” pressed Peter.

“You can view them in two different ways,” said the man. “You can view them only as problems and obligations, there to weigh you down. Or, in light of your goal of pleasing your Father, you can develop a passion for serving Him in everything He calls you to do, including approaching the dead bugs that go along with living on this side of the windshield.

Having a passion and resolve to give God glory in all  you do, can unmask the problems. You can then see them clearly for what they really are, little dead bugs and dirt on a windshield, having no effect on the marvelous truths beyond.”

Peter seemed to understand. He was looking again at the brilliance beyond the windshield.

“Peter.” The man said.

“Yes.” Peter looked over at the messenger.

“There’s one more thing I need to tell you.

No matter how many dead bugs and how much dirt and grim which lands on your windshield; and no matter how ugly the mess appears, never, ever think that it’s all up to you to take care of it by yourself.

Remember; the richness of your inheritance. When you were adopted as a child of God, you received the full rights of a child; the wonderful hope of heaven beyond the windshield. But not only that Peter, God gave you something for now.

When you became His son, God came to live inside of you in the form of His Holy Spirit. This is an unbelievable truth! God does not expect you to take care of all this mess alone. God Himself indwells you.  He wants you to depend on Him to work in you to handle every dead bug.”

Peter smiled. Already he was seeing the mess in front of him in a different light. He had the power of the universe inside of him, ready to show forth in strength at each and every opportunity.

Peter looked at the man, but he was gone. Without a second thought, Peter turned his focus again to the soothing, powerful, peaceful truth beyond the windshield.

Meanwhile, back on the porch, Peter’s 8-year old daughter Lisa came crashing through the door to the porch.

“Daddy!”

“Wha, Wha What’s going on? Oh hey sweetie. I was asleep. Is any thing wrong?”

“No Daddy, not really, well yea, we had an accident. Randy had an accident.”

“Is he OK? Is he hurt!”

“He’s not hurt Daddy, but he’s scared. He caused an awful mess! We were trying to reach a game on our closet shelf and we couldn’t reach it. Randy brought in Mom’s paint cans from the bathroom and stacked them up so he could reach it. He was able to get the game, but then he lost his balance and fell. One of the cans came open and blue paint got all over the carpet.

Seeing Peter’s look, Lisa stepped back. “But, we cleaned most of it up Daddy!  Please don’t get mad at him. He didn’t mean to!”

Peter could feel the pressure mount. He could never fully clean blue paint from the carpet and he had no money to spare to get it professionally cleaned or to replace it.

Add it to the list, he thought. One more thing for him to do, one more. Peter stopped in mid thought, paused, then continued his thinking. One more dead bug on the windshield. One more opportunity to see the beauties of God’s truth through a stained carpet bug on the windshield. One more opportunity to see God work in me to handle this challenge of life.

Peter looked at Lisa. He could tell she was scared and worried. “Where is Randy?” he asked.

“He’s hiding Daddy! He’s scared of what you’ll do.”

“Let’s go find him. I’m not mad. I know it was an accident.”

Peter found Randy huddled in the pantry, terrified and sobbing. His bottom lip was trembling as he cried. When he saw Peter a look of terror filled his eyes.

“Randy, it’s OK!” Peter assured him. And then their eyes met. Instead of the anger and rage he was expecting, Randy saw something else in his daddy’s eyes.

“Come on Randy, we’ll figure out a way to clean it up.”

Peter reached out his hand and Randy took it. They walked out to the porch, Lisa following.  They all crawled into the chaise lounge where  they hung out for the longest time,  laughing and enjoying each other until the sun started setting and mom called them in for dinner.

Finding the Silver Lining

(Every cloud has a silver lining – John Milton)

 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

(II Corinthians 1:9)

 

My boss Frank called at 6:00 am. Slurring his words, he told me he couldn’t teach the computer class our client so desperately needed. He’d been out all night partying. “You’ll have to teach it,” he said.

 

“But I’ve never taught the class before, Frank,” I strongly protested.  Frank mumbled something and hung up.

 

Placing the phone down, reality swept through my still groggy mind. This was an impossible situation. I was gripped with a wave of panic. I could either crawl back in bed and quit my only source of income, or teach a three day class covering subjects I barely knew.

 

Though my chances of success were very slim. I had to try and teach it. My wife and four kids were depending on me.

 

Later, riding the elevator to the class room on the tenth floor, I prayed. “Lord, you have to do this. I’ll do what I can and open my mouth, but please teach this class through me.”

 

During every break, I crammed to prepare for the next segment. I kept my Bible opened to the Psalms, jotting down prayers for guidance.

 

Three days later the class was over. By God’s grace, no one knew it was my first time teaching  it. And amazingly, the marks were good on the evaluation sheets the 23 students had to fill out. God taught this class through me and He was the only reason it was successful.

 

Month’s earlier, I  prayed for God to help me trust Him more. Looking back, I think this was his answer. The only way I could learn to not rely on me, was to be placed in a situation I couldn’t handle. I learned more about trusting God in those few days than I had in years before.

 

Paul wrote, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”[1]

 

“Good” is not just smooth circumstances and good feelings. True “good,” eternal “good” is wrapped up in our nearness and dependence upon God.

 

Paul was in such dire circumstances in Asia that he despaired even of life.[2] But he saw the “silver lining”.[3]  He knew there was a deeper good in his very hard circumstances. “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”[4] The very difficult circumstances kept Paul trusting in the Lord and not in himself.

 

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;[5]

 

A most important lesson we all need to learn is that “good” does not always mean easy. What is truly “good” is what draws us closer to God.

 

Our ability to find a silver lining (a reason for hope) in each and every situation is directly proportional to our belief that being with God and depending on Him is our ultimate good.

 

Lord, I’m so sorry for the times I have longed only for smooth, easy circumstances. I’m learning to experience the joy of your presence in all circumstances. Please teach me to long only for you. You are my life.

 

Challenge: What hard circumstance are you facing? If you haven’t already, surrender it completely to God. Ask him to use it for your good by deepening your awareness and dependence upon Him.

[1] Romans 8:28

[2] 2 Corinthians 1:8

[3] Originally from a John Milton poem referring to light bursting through a cloud, yielding the phrase “every cloud has a silver lining”

[4] 2 Corinthians 1:9

[5] Psalms 73:28

Resting at Work

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Mathew 11:28)

 True rest can happen even in the midst of work.

Have you ever noticed that the same workload can seem easy one day and insurmountably overwhelming the next? A few days ago, work seemed effortless, as I cruised along in the Rivers of Living Water, experiencing the joy of the Lord’s nearness. However, only a day later, I  trudged through a dry dusty riverbed, pulling an overloaded donkey cart of work.

What happened?

As is my plan, when I noticed the shift in my heart, I reached for the  truth of God’s word. This time I turned to  Matthew 11:28. As I read, I knew the Lord was talking to me. I felt weary and heavy-laden, fatigued and over-burdened.

Come to Me, I read

But I’m already with you, I thought. You’re in me and I’m in You.[1] [2]  You hold the universe together.[3] There must be more to it.

Digging in, I discovered that the Greek word for “come” means “come hither” or “come this way”.

Jesus is always with me, but here He is asking me for a deeper “withness”. I thought of being with people in an elevator. They are with me, but unless we engage, there’s no connection.

Conversely, one of my earliest memories was  walking with my great grandmother. She held my hand and  guided me around a swimming pool. Being with her was not an option. I would have been in danger without her.

This is the level of “withness” Jesus is asking of me. When I comply, the rest comes. In my backward thinking,  rest only  comes when all the work is done. Which is never, because there’s always something else to do.

The rest Jesus is offering happens even in the midst of  work, a byproduct of  heeding His call to “come this way”.

Rest – take ease, refresh, refrain, come to an end.  My striving, my focus on work, needs to end.

My dutiful, weary day happened not because of the amount of work, but because work had become my focus. I knew Christ is my life, but I was living as if work was my life.

Being with Jesus is rest. Taking His yoke upon me is literally giving Him my burdens. In His yoke, my burden becomes His. The weightiest task feels light when I’m following Him. “For My yoke is easy and My load is light.” (Matthew 28:30)

Lord, I’m sorry I became so focused on work. You are my Life. Please keep me ever aware of your nearness and strength that I might continually be attentive to your leading.

Challenge: Is there an area of your life where you feel weary and over-burdened? If so, lean in close to Jesus so that He can say ‘come this way.’ His way will be light and powerfully effective. Handling the burdens on your own is not only wearisome, but completely ineffective.

 

[1] Galatians 2:20

[2] Ephesians 2:4-6

[3] Colossians 1:17