Who Knew? (Good Friday Version)

He himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.        I Peter 2:24

The St. Patrick’s Day quiz was so popular, and so many of you said you learned something new, I thought I’d see what y’all know about Good Friday…

Questions:

#1. When Jesus was arrested, which of the following did NOT happen?

A. All the soldiers arresting Him fell down.

B. A rooster crowed.

C. He healed someone.

D. A man ran away naked.

#2. True or false: Before the stone was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb, many other tombs were opened.

#3. At the moment when Jesus died, something was torn in two. What was it, and what was its significance?

 

Answers:

#1. B – Jesus had said that before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny Him three times. The predicted denials took place at later times during the night, before the rooster crowed. The other three things happened at the time Jesus was arrested:

A. According to John 18:6, when Jesus told the soldiers looking for Jesus of                           Nazareth, “I am He,” “They drew back and fell to the ground.”

C. According to Luke 22:51, after Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant,                 “… Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and                     healed him.”

D. According to Mark 14:50, as Jesus was being arrested, “everyone deserted him and fled.” Mark 14:51-52 tell us that “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When  they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” Some scholars believe this was the gospel writer, Mark himself.

#2. True. According to Matthew 27: 51b- 53, “The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”

#3. The curtain of the temple that shut off the Most Holy Place. According to Matthew 27:50-51a, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”  This was the curtain that separated a holy God from men. The only person permitted to enter the “most holy place” was the high priest, and whoever held that office was only allowed to enter once each year, when he came to offer a blood sacrifice to atone for the sins that the people had committed that year. Hebrews 9 has a beautiful explanation of how Jesus, our High Priest, offered Himself as our sacrifice, paying for our sins with His own body. When the sacrifice was complete, the barrier between Man and God was removed.

If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, the barrier between you and God has been removed, and you can approach your heavenly Father as His child, without a priest or saint, or angel, or any go-between. He’s as near as your next prayer. You can enjoy the relationship Jesus bought for you with such a heavy price.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, if you have not yet acknowledged Him as your Savior, the barrier of your sin is still there. I know, that sounds presumptuous and judgmental, referring to your sin. But “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) so that includes you – and me. And “the wages of sin is death” – That’s eternal death. – “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

You can accept that gift today. You can change your spiritual state in a moment with a simple prayer. Maybe you’ve known this but have been putting off the decision for one reason or another. What better time than Good Friday to make the choice that will transform your life – and your eternity? Today’s prayer is one you may want to pray:

Jesus, thank You for dying in my place. I believe You took the punishment for my sins, and that You were raised from the dead. Today I am placing my faith in You as my Savior. Thank you for sacrificing Yourself so that I could have the gift of forgiveness and a new life. Help me now to live out the life You created me to live. Thank you for the promise of eternal life with You. Amen

 

The Only Thing We Should Fear

I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.                                                                                                                                                       Psalm 57:1b

It was one of those trips involving a drive to the airport, parking, a shuttle ride, first flight, layover, changing gates, and a second flight to the ultimate destination. I was not looking forward to a whole day of traveling, but since it was a done deal, I decided to make the best of it.

Of course, the way to make the best of traveling alone is realizing that I’m not really traveling alone. Driving down the highway, sitting on the shuttle, waiting at the gate, and staring out the window of an airplane are all opportunities to pray.

(You know, “pray.” That thing we’re always saying we don’t have time to do.)

When boarding a plane without assigned seats, I usually ask God to seat me next to the person He wants me to talk with. This habit has resulted in some interesting encounters. But this particular day the seat next to me was empty.

(Or was it?)

This was one of those rare and wonderful days when I had an unusual sense of the Lord’s presence. The more I spoke with Him, the more I seemed to hear His voice. I don’t remember if I “heard” anything specific, I just remember thoroughly enjoying being with Him, and I sensed that He was enjoying being with me, as well. My favorite worship songs were playing in my head all day, and happy memories of answered prayers gave me much to thank Him for as well as encouraging me to pray more. I can’t describe how this felt, other than just an incredible sense of peace and joy that made me want to hug somebody. As I walked through the airport, an unusual number of people smiled at me and even said “hello.” It occurred to me later that this was because I was smiling!

I sat “alone” again on my second flight, a little “puddle-jumper” flying from one Michigan town to another. There were few seats, and fewer passengers, one of them a woman who had never flown before. I’m not sure how I knew that, probably something about the way she gripped the armrests and asked the person next to her a lot of questions in a trembling voice…

In mid-flight we hit a patch of extreme turbulence that made the passengers gasp in unison. (I later learned that a tornado had passed that way moments before, and the airline had had no business letting us take off.)

While the plane bounced around, I could hear the poor first-time flyer muttering, “I’ll never fly again, I’ll never fly again…”

Meanwhile, I was having the time of my life. Though I sensed no fear whatsoever, I tried to suppress a giggle for the sake of the terrified. But I was feeling something I hadn’t experienced in many years – the joy of a small child being bounced on Daddy’s knee. I knew my Father was not going to allow me to leave this earth one moment before (or after) it was my time to “go home.” And since “home” was a good place, one way or another I was perfectly safe. Even if this turned out to be the last flight of my life, that meant I could be in heaven by the end of the day! Besides, as some would point out, statistically I was much safer in that airplane than in a car on the freeway.

A fellow blogger recently posted, “Are we afraid of the wrong things?” (Yes.)

Hikers in the desert might fear a rattlesnake bite more than excessive sun exposure, but skin cancer is much more common than rattlesnake bites. – True.

A father obsessed with the fear of not performing well at his job should possibly have more concern over what is influencing his children while he is working long hours. – Also true.

A young lady obsessed with losing weight should perhaps be more fearful of her tendency toward self-destructive behaviors than a few extra pounds. – All true.

The newest form of fear these days seems to be “FOMO” – “Fear Of Missing Out” –  especially with internet access 24/7. With this window to the world, the ability to communicate with anyone and everyone through messaging, videos, and pictures of what everyone else is doing can be overwhelming.  Trillions of articles and advertisements of what projects we “should” be embarking on, activities we “should” be enjoying, classes we “should” be taking, parties we “should” go to, causes we “should” support, places we “should” travel to, health supplements we “should” be taking – all these can leave us with a fear that we won’t be able to cram everything into our lives that we “should” be including.

[How long is your “bucket list”?]

Bottom Line

Of all the things that clutter our minds with reasons to fret, here’s the one thing we should really fear:

Many will reach the end of life and realize that they don’t have a relationship with the One who created them and had a purpose for their lives. How tragic it would be, at the end of a life of pursuing endless goals and avoiding our fears, to be taking our last breath and realize that, whatever we’ve “gained” in this world over our lifetime, we’ve actually missed everything.

If you suddenly find yourself concerned about this final fear, I invite you to check out the claims of Jesus Christ, who said He came to give us life abundantly. (John 10:10) He even claimed to be the only way to eternal life. (John 14:6)

(I believe Him.)

Prayer: LORD, we know it is not Your will that we should fret and be fearful about things in this world. Draw us to Yourself in an intimate relationship. Order our lives, making them what they should be. Teach us to trust You, so that, rather than living in fear, we can enjoy being the children You delight in, in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

 

 

 

Finishing Well

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”                 II Timothy 4:7-8

 

“So, if everyone else jumps off a cliff…”

Our Bible study group was in I Samuel, reading about Israel’s wanting a king so that they could be “like everybody else,” and the prophet Samuel’s reluctantly agreeing. (I Samuel 8) He anointed the young man Saul, (I Samuel 9) and later Saul was chosen by the people to be king (I Samuel 10) – although finding him hiding in the baggage did not give a great first impression!

According to Scripture, there were some “troublemakers” present who spoke ill of Saul and despised him that day. Most of the people, however, judging by outward appearance, accepted the tall, handsome man as the leader they had been wanting.

Yikes!

In chapter 11 of I Samuel, we read that the city of Jabesh had been besieged by the Ammonites. Although all the men of Jabesh surrendered and offered to serve their enemies, for the sadistic Ammonite leader, Nahash, surrender wasn’t enough. He wanted to gouge out the right eye of every man in the city and “bring disgrace on all Israel.” The men of Jabesh negotiated with Nahash and managed to buy seven days in which to send messengers throughout Israel and see if anyone would come and rescue them. (Since Israel was scattered at that time, we figured Nahash probably didn’t expect a rescue. Perhaps he was anticipating further humiliation for the city when no one cared enough to help them.)

“My, how you’ve grown!”

But when Saul got their message, he appeared a far cry from the young man who had hidden himself, not wanting to be king! “[T]he Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power, and he burned with anger.” (I Samuel 11:6) He forcefully mustered 330,000 men who ambushed Israel’s enemies in their camp on the last night, continuing to slaughter and scatter them into the next day. Jabesh was saved!

While celebrating this great victory, some fiercely loyal men wanted to kill those who had formerly despised Saul, but “Saul said, ‘No one shall be put to death today, for this day the LORD has rescued Israel.'” (I Samuel 11:13)

Okay, that’s enough…

It would have been  a great encouragement, seeing how a timid young man had risen to be a great and humble king, who gave Jehovah credit for Israel’s victory.

Trouble was, I had already read this story, numerous times.

“Can we just stop here?” I asked sadly, knowing the answer. I really didn’t want to go on to “the rest of the story.”

Saul was one of those tragic characters in the Bible who started out with the Spirit of the LORD empowering him to do great things. But by the end of I Samuel, Saul had deteriorated into a paranoid, irrational tyrant, whose reign ends like a Shakespearean tragedy, with his taking his own life.

What went wrong?

There were multiple factors – ego, selfish ambition, jealousy, even going so far as consulting a witch to bring up the spirit of the departed Samuel. But it all began with taking his eyes off the God he was so quick to credit at the beginning, and onto self. 

Although I don’t like to read about the fall of people who had been so promising at the beginning, it’s a good thing for me to do. I have known the LORD most of my life, and He has done marvelous things for me and through me – things I never could have done myself. Now one of the prayers that I pray repeatedly is:

“Help me finish well.”

Salvation is not something you do once and then go back to business as usual. It isn’t walking an aisle, signing a card, raising a hand or standing up in a service.

It’s a commitment of one’s whole life, and renewing that commitment daily, “offering your bodies as living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) and being daily “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (verse 2)

It’s confessing every known sin and receiving forgiveness, letting God purify you from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9) It’s taking sin seriously enough to confess and repent immediately, and taking God seriously enough that you don’t continue to condemn yourself after He has forgiven you.

It’s recognizing and rejecting the lies of the enemy: that God isn’t real, or that He’s unfair, or that He’s given up on you, or He doesn’t really care about you – and why would He, since you’re so [fill in the blank]? It’s knowing God’s Word well enough to combat those lies with Truth.

It’s acknowledging daily our utter dependence on the LORD and His utter dependability. It’s asking Him to make us sensitive to the first hint of proud or self-sufficient attitudes, and running to Him for help when they rear their ugly heads.

It’s never letting the thought cross your mind that you have arrived and don’t have any more growing to do. It’s always looking for what God’s next plan is for your life, and believing that as long as you have breath in your lungs, He has a purpose for your being here.

It’s believing that God works all things together for the good of His children. (Romans 8:28) It’s looking at every situation for the good in it, and if you can’t find the good, trusting the LORD that it’s there, and He has a plan for you that is better than you know.

And all the while we are running the race, it’s realizing that nothing we do saves us. It’s still all God. It always has been.

Prayer: LORD God, source of all life and everything that’s good, You have brought us so far. Now help us to finish well, in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

 

 

Joanna’s Sacrifice

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel, will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age … and in the age to come, eternal life.”

                                                                                                  Mark 10: 29-30

People in general don’t like making sacrifices, and young people, it seems, are especially reluctant to let go of the things they enjoy for the sake of an unseen or future reward. But when God lays it on the the heart of a teenager that something’s got to go, that teenager just might surprise you. And he or she just might get surprised at what transpires, as well.

Our daughter Joanna always loved the Lord dearly. She seemed to enjoy the praise and worship music at church and the contemporary Christian music we played on the local radio station. But somewhere along the way secular music started seeping into our home, and although I didn’t object to the idea of secular music per se, as a parent (and former teen), I knew some lyrics could be inappropriate for a Christian to be listening to.

Joanna’s favorite secular songs were fairly innocuous, but when she bought a CD of her favorite band, a few of their songs made me cringe. When I questioned her about them, I was met with an eye roll and assurance that they weren’t the songs she liked on that album. I dropped the subject and decided I would just pray about it for then.

The weekend of the high school retreat was a quiet one at our house until I answered the phone late Friday night.

I could hear loud music and singing in the background. Apparently the kids were really getting “into” the worship. But something else grabbed my attention: Joanna was crying.

“Mom?” she sobbed.

“What it it, honey?”

“Would you do something for me?”

“Sure, sweetie.”

“You know that _____________ CD?”

“Your favorite?”

“Yeah. Would you go get it?”

“OK … Got it.”

“Are you holding it?”

“Yes …”

“I want you to break it.” (I’ll skip the dialogue where I made sure she was serious and wasn’t going to be livid with me when she got home.) I agreed and did as she said, although I must say, they made those things tough! I struggled for some time while Joanna impatiently kept crying, “Just break it!” (“I’m trying!“) She said she’d explain when she got home, but I already knew God was doing something that weekend.

As I suspected, the youth leader, Chad, had been speaking to the youth about dedicating themselves to the Lord in every area of their lives, including entertainment. Chad had always been passionate about bringing kids into a strong relationship with Christ, and his messages were as emotional as he was. Joanna had commented once, “Even when he yells at us, we can tell he loves us.” During the closing, as the students sang and some went forward for special prayer, God had been dealing with Joanna about the songs she had been listening to. And Joanna had responded in a characteristically emotional outpouring of devotion.

Back home, she spent the rest of the day sitting on the floor in her room in tears, breaking CD’s and pulling tape out of cassettes, until a pile of shards and streamers surrounded her.

I sat next to her and told her how proud I was, but that didn’t seem to cheer her up much. I suggested she take the shards and tape and make a piece of art out of them as a gift for Chad. We got two pieces of driftwood from the beach and nailed them together to make a cross. Joanna then used the tape to hang pieces of broken CDs. Joanna thought it looked like “junk.” I liked it and assured her that Chad would love it.

We named the masterpiece “Sacrifice.”

I was right. When presented with his gift, Chad got tears in his eyes (He and Joanna related.), and said it was about the greatest gift he’d ever received. He told us that he would hang it in his office, to encourage him next time he started feeling that none of the kids were listening to him.

“So, how do you feel now that you’ve purged that music out of your collection?” he asked her, smiling.

“I feel terrible,” she answered frankly, tearing up again. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to listen to now!”

Chad knew just what to do. He brought us to his study, where he had shelves full of dozens, if not hundreds of CD’s – all Christian music.

“I have pretty much every style of music you would like. And you can borrow any of it any time you want. There’s a lot here I think you’d love.”

That day opened up a whole new world for Joanna. She discovered great Christian artists that she could listen to all she wanted, guilt-free. Never without an opinion, she began writing reviews of new albums every month for the youth group newsletter. When a well-known Christian band was in the area for a concert, as a published “music critic,” Joanna was given a backstage pass to interview the band members in their dressing room. (An official badge told the world she was not a “groupie” but a bona fide member of the press!) Her peers had to admit this was “totally awesome.” I was elated for her.

But what made me happiest was knowing that she had obeyed the voice of God, not knowing whether or not she would ever gain anything from the sacrifice she was making.

After all, that is the definition of “sacrifice.”

Prayer: Jesus, You gave everything for us. Forgive us for clinging to things we consider ours, when You long to give us better things. Help us to trust You and make whatever sacrifices necessary to bring You glory. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Question 4: Do you stand out for God?

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!”      Revelation 3:15

I was in the market for a new car. Most of the cars at the dealership were not exactly extraordinary. The majority were drab, dented, old-looking, and various shades of dust gray. The only one with any kind of noticeable feature had three bucket seats in the front with a seat belt for each one… weird. But still too gray to suit me.

There were only two cars that stood out in a nice way, and they were beauties. The first was a bright yellow Mustang convertible with chrome that sparkled, and a brand new paint job. I was dazzled.

But then I saw another car, about the same size, a beautiful royal blue. It, too, looked shiny and new, although it didn’t shout “Look at me! Look at me!” quite as loudly as the convertible. 

When I came home, I told my husband which ones I liked, and he agreed to take a look at them. But when we returned to the showroom, neither the blue car nor the yellow car were on display. I asked the dealer if they had been sold, and he said, “No, they’ve just been put away.”

Then I woke up.

The dream had been very vivid, and as it was unusual for me to remember my dreams, I tried to piece it together, recalling things I had learned in a dream interpretation course years ago.

Life is a journey, and our lifestyle could be seen as our “vehicle.”

Colors in dreams have great significance. For example, white denotes purity; black suggests darkness or death, and purple, royalty. Red, like blood, represents sacrifice, and green is the color of life. In the years that I kept a dream diary the interpretation of colors helped me understand many of my dreams.

According to the teacher/counselor, gray is neutral. Blue (like the sky) represents “the heavenlies” or the Kingdom of God. (“Royal blue” makes particular sense here.) The most surprising color in this lesson was yellow. I liked yellow, and had always thought of it as sunshine and happiness, but the counselor said that it can also represent sin, evil, even hell. (Yellow is the color of sulfur/brimstone.) With that suggestion I found that I could suddenly make sense of one of my most baffling dreams.

And now an interpretation of the car-shopping dream began to take shape. (If any of you have any other thoughts, please share them.)

We each have choices to make as to how we’re going to navigate through life. Most people choose a lifestyle that’s pretty neutral. (“I’ll be nice to you if you’re nice to me,” “taking care of me and my family,” “looking out for Number One,” “don’t rock the boat,” “close enough,” etc.)

However, there are a few passionate people who stand out and get noticed.

One group is made up of those who don’t merely opt for pleasure, they go out of their way pursuing it, with little or no thought to the people around them. They plunge head-long into self-indulgence, excess, and “pushing the envelope.” And they do get noticed. Some admire them, others hate them, but according to them, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” They perform their sin publicly, make millions selling recordings of it, and give one another awards for doing it. It is a lucrative and attention-getting lifestyle.

The others who stand out are sold out to God. Although almost always law-abiding, their citizenship is not of this world. The ways in which they seem to shortchange themselves to benefit others doesn’t make sense in this culture. But although seen as “foolish” by much of the world, they appear to be the most at peace with themselves and life in general. These people don’t feel a need to call attention to themselves, and their sacrifices may not be noticed right away. Still, the good that they do cannot be hidden forever. Most people don’t understand why they do what they do, and some even hate them for it. But people can’t help respecting them, however reluctantly.

I had three choices reflected in my dream – buy into the ordinary and blend in with everyone else, or choose something exceptional. One choice was a flashy one – a life of blatant, selfish pursuit of ego-satisfying and pleasurable experiences. Or I could choose something equally beautiful but not quite as ostentatious, a life of radical living for the Kingdom of God. These choices were obvious at first, but if I delayed, they were “put away,” and I would have to search a little harder to find them. It’s easier to choose early.

The habits we form early in life are easier to maintain. Coming to Christ as a child has been a huge blessing to me. Although I have had my times of straying, my Shepherd has always brought me back, and the experience has merely reinforced what I already knew to be true – His way is the way, and He always knows best. Since I don’t know what it’s like to grow up without knowing Him, I can only speculate how difficult it is trying to change a lifestyle as an adult; I don’t dare judge. But I do know that choosing His way is worth more than anything the world has to offer.

I’d like to think that, had that dream continued, I picked the beautiful royal blue car and used it to “do all things to the glory of God.” But I’m awake now.

Still, I can see to it that every choice I make is one that glorifies Him.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for promising to give me wisdom when I ask. Don’t let me just blend in with the world. Make me the kind of radical Christ-follower who impacts history, whether or not I ever get noticed for it. In Jesus’ name and for His glory, Amen.

Who Knew?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”   Matthew 28: 19

 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

So … How much do you really know about St. Patrick?

Try taking this four-question quiz. Whatever your score, you will probably learn something new. Answers follow each question, so don’t scroll down until you’ve tried to answer each! Then have fun seeing if you can stump your friends.

 

1.) What was Patrick’s nationality?

A.) Irish                                                                                                                                                   B.) American                                                                                                                                          C.) British                                                                                                                                              D) French

 

 

 

Answer: C. Patrick was born in Britain and grew up on the coast of Wales.

 

2.) How did Patrick end up in Ireland? 

A.) He ran away from home.                                                                                                          B.)He was kidnapped by pirates.                                                                                                     C.) His drunken father lost him to Irish gypsies in a card game.                                               D.) He went to the University of Dublin.

 

 

 

Answer: B At the age of sixteen Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and sold into slavery.

 

3.) After escaping, why would Patrick want to go back to where he had been a slave?

A.) He wanted to take revenge on his master and free the other slaves.                                  B.) To kill the snakes infesting Ireland.                                                                                            C.) He wanted to conquer Ireland for Wales.                                                                                   D.) He wanted to evangelize the Irish.

 

 

Answer: D. After escaping, Patrick had become a committed Christian. He had had visions and dreams about sharing his faith with the Irish pagans. As a Christian, not only was he given the supernatural ability to forgive years of slavery, but he wanted the Irish to have the same blessings he had. Hence, Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.

 

4) Why is the shamrock the symbol of St. Patrick?   

A.) It was an object lesson                                                                                                                 B) Irish children welcomed Patrick with shamrocks                                                                    C) Shamrocks in Ireland were infested with snakes.                                                                  D) According to legend, shamrocks sprang up overnight to cover Patrick’s first church in green, symbolizing life.

 

 

 

Answer: A. In explaining the Trinity, Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate one God in three Persons:

  1. God the Father, creator of all things,
  2. Jesus, His Son, who died to save Mankind from sin and death, and
  3. the Holy Spirit, sent from God to live inside believers

(P.S. Snakes are not and have never been indigenous to Ireland.)

 

If Saint Patrick were standing  here today holding a shamrock, he would tell you that

  1. God the Father loves you and wants to be your Father. You can be adopted into His family by believing in
  2. Jesus, His Son, who died on the Cross to save us all from our sin. (Sin can’t just be swept under the carpet – somebody must pay the price, and Jesus paid your debt in full!) Just think – He loves you so much, He preferred to go to the cross rather than spend eternity without you! By repenting of your sins and believing in Him, you can not only “born again” into the family of God, you escape eternal death and be can be filled with …
  3. the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. He will help you discern right and wrong and give you the strength to do the right things – even things you couldn’t do before. You can live the life you were created to live.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Those who believe in Christ are promised ETERNAL LIFE. So, we don’t even need to fear death! Jesus rose from the dead, and because He did, those who believe inHim will, too.

    (That’s way better than green beer, which has absolutely nothing to do with Saint Patrick.)

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    Happy Forever!

 

Prayer: Father, thank You for showing us the signs of Your hand at work throughout history, as You did a miraculous, forgiving work in St. Patrick. May the story of my life give You glory, too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 3: Do You Grieve God?

“Be still and know that I am God;                                                                                                    I will be exalted among the nations,                                                                                              I will be exalted in the earth.”                 –  Psalm 46:10

 

The First Gulf War was brief but memorable. Some believe that the reason it lasted only three months was because our military was made up largely of young adults who were raised on video games. Their exceptional abilities regarding the technology involved in the air strikes would certainly suggest that as a possible explanation.

Another factor undoubtedly was the Commander of the United States Central Command, Norman Schwarzkopf, a.k.a. “Stormin’ Norman.” A capable leader, he had the deepest respect of his troops, and of the American people in general. His picture was even featured on bubble gum cards – “Gulf War cards.”

As unsettling as war is, it was good to see the country united for once, all wanting the same thing – for the tyrant Saddam Hussein to be defeated quickly and our soldiers to return home. Our military had the support of most of the country. American flags and yellow or red-white-and-blue ribbons were everywhere.

Most importantly, there seemed to be an unusual amount of prayer going out. Signs outside churches said “Pray for Our Troops,” or “God Bless America.” Similar signs in store windows, bumper stickers, and lapel buttons all suggested that many people were praying – or at the very least, were thinking about it. Some people were even taking time to attend prayer vigils.

And we saw evidence that those prayers were being answered in ways were beyond man’s control.

One soldier told a story of how frightened his troop had been the night before they were to cross a mine field. But heavy rains in the night turned the field to mud, making every mine clearly visible by morning.

Especially troubling was when the the air strike was over, and the ground war was about to begin. Since the enemy was believed to have chemical or biological weapons, it was expected that we would lose many of our troops on the ground.

Prayers intensified.

The night before the ground war started, there was a distinct shift in the direction of the wind, and whatever weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein planned to utilize were useless to him.

News videos on TV clearly showed that prisoners in American POW camps fared far better than soldiers in the Iraqui army. While Saddam’s men were barely subsisting on meager rations, newscasts showed POWs held by the Americans, well fed and playing volleyball. It wasn’t surprising that the Iraqi soldiers decided to surrender.

The ground war lasted about 100 hours.

I will never forget the scene on the news. Half-starved, exhausted Iraqi soldiers with their hand on their heads marched single file in a seemingly endless line that wound its way through the desert. Especially poignant was the scene where one soldier fell at the feet of Norman Schwarzkopf weeping and begging for mercy. Schwarzkopf raised him to his feet and kindly reassured him that he would be OK.

Of course, the morale in America was high, and in the stores and at the bank and in the schools, everyone was talking about how wonderful it was that the conflict had been wrapped up so quickly.

About that time I was asked to “share” in the weekly chapel service for the elementary students at the Christian school. I chose the passage in John 2, about the wedding at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. At this school that frowned on alcoholic refreshments, I could tell by the teachers’ faces that they were wondering what on earth I was going to “share.”

I pointed out that the servants had done what Jesus told them to do, filling the large jars full of water, then drawing some out, and taking some to the master of the banquet. The master of the banquet – the head honcho – declared it the very best wine and wondered why it had not been served sooner. “He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.” (John 2: 9b)

“Did you notice what happened?” I asked the students. “The ‘master of the banquet’ had no idea what was going on. But who knew? The servants – the ones who had obeyed Jesus.

“A lot of people are talking about the success of our military, and some of the ‘lucky breaks’ they had – the overnight rain on the mine field, shift in the wind direction the night before the ground war, and tens of thousands of soldiers surrendering.  People in ‘high places’ in government, military, and the news media may not know why America and our allies won the war, but God’s servants – the ones who were praying – know, because God answered our prayers.” I encouraged the kids that if they stayed close to God and obeyed Him, He would share His secrets with them.

Of course, I knew that many of God’s “secrets” were not meant to be kept secret. I loved nothing more than to tell people about what He had done.

I’m not sure why I lost sight of that fact so quickly.

A few days later I was at our neighborhood party store, where the Gulf War bubble gum cards on the counter triggered a conversation about the war among the people there. I remember joining in with a vague comment about how great our military was, and what good leadership we had. As I was walking home, the words I had said echoed in my mind, and it was as though I heard the voice of God chiding me…

“Our military”? REALLY?

I gasped, realizing that I had just given man the credit for what I knew perfectly well GOD had done.

I could sense His grief.

I broke down and cried.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for not giving credit where it’s due. You are the source of all good things. May we always give You the glory, in Jesus’ name. Amen.