My Communication With God #28

I am convinced Jesus never intended the Christian life to be difficult to understand. Jesus chose shepherds, a carpenter, fisherman, and children. ”Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential.” 1 Cor 1:26

I believe the Christian life is to be lived, not just thought about. Through the teachings of Scripture, our God given brains, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the benefit of wise counsel, we can know what God desires us to be, to do. At DL we sing “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God’ (Matthew 6:33) Many of us know Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” God desires that we know His will for our lives – when it is important to know His will.

Here is our challenge: “If you love me, you will obey what I command… “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. John 14:15, 23 And the summary of the general challenge: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27

It is my experience that God guides me to the extent I have obeyed His previous guidance, and desire to continue to be obedient to Him. He is God, and He knows what is best – God alone can see the total picture. Is God patient with us? Of course. And He fully forgives. We judge a person’s character. God, who knows the hearts of men, judges our character perfectly! He knows the desires of our hearts. I am glad God knows the desires of my heart, for then when I do disobey, actively or passively, God will seek to bring me back to right thinking. My choice? Continual choice.

During the course of an average day I find myself talking to God. I praise God when I see something beautiful. Often I feel the need for wisdom…and I ask for what I need. Yes, God knows what I am thinking, what I am in need of. My praying to Him causes me to recognize my need, often a need only God can fill.

As I seek to live out what I already know He desires of me, I must keep an open mind to the nudge of the Holy Spirit. By nudge I am referring to an internal feeling of what I should do. Soon after Sally Jo came home from the hospital I had an evening when I was very tired and about to get into bed when I thought I should select some verses and a few pages from a familiar book that I could read to Sally Jo in the morning. I finished my “home work” and crawled into bed. A couple hours later Sally Jo woke up…and could not go back to sleep. No fun! Fortunately I had responded to the internal nudge of the Holy Spirit and was prepared to encourage her through verses and the selected pages.

Here are a few examples from the DL context.

  • During my first candle light service I suddenly thought I should say: “Be strong and of a good courage…”
  • One summer we had a real discipline problem with an Indian one summer. As the Indians went into the dining hall for breakfast, I “pulled” the tall young man out of line and we went for a walk. I simply asked what was troubling him. He was quiet for a long time and then started to cry… His mom and dad had just gotten a divorce and… This type of thing happened to me many times each summer.
  • I had a former Deerfooter apply to be a counselor. When he applied he told me the sin which he had committed during the fall of the school year. He came totally clean with me. I had a choice of excellent people to hire. I “felt” I should go with the person who choose to be candid with me. He continued on several summers in key positions.
  • In May, 1987 I went alone to a place where I could fast and pray as I wrote my 44 After Breakfast Bible Study Outlines. On the night of May 11, I woke up with a dream clearly remaining in my mind. I wrote down the dream. In summary “You know how to run a camp, now teach others how to run a camp.” Today former Deerfooters direct camps in NY, ME, PA, TX, CA – together they were at DL well over 50 summers. And there are others in key positions in NY, MN, and MT. I worked at God’s directive….He blessed the work He had directed me to do.

There will continue to be times when I feel as if God has gone on vacation…without me! My challenge at such times is to obey God’s directives and to wait patiently for Him. As I seek to live In Partnership With God, my communication with God will be solid – this is essential to our partnership.

My Confidence in God #27

A quick overview of Mark’s Gospel shows that Jesus begins his ministry by inviting 4 fishermen to leave their fishing and to follow him (1:16). Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John followed Jesus. There is no indication the men had a clue as to how long they were being invited to be with Jesus. It could have been they were expecting an afternoon outing.

The five go into a synagogue where Jesus taught and encountered a man with an unclean spirit. Jesus tells the unclean spirit to come out…and it did (1:23). Then they go to Simon Peter and Andrew’s house where Peter’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. Jesus heals the woman (1:29). The word about what Jesus is doing spreads quickly. That evening Jesus healed many and cast out many devils. By the time Peter, Andrew, James and John went to sleep for the night they were gaining a confidence in Jesus. Going back to fishing, anyone?

Very early the next morning Jesus went where he could be alone to talk with God. Peter and the others find Jesus and tell Him people are looking for him. Jesus goes with the men to preach in synagogues. When they encounter a leper, Jesus touches and heals the leper (1:40). A few days later a palsied man is healed (2:1), and then the man with the withered hand is healed on the Sabbath (3:1). When people recognized Jesus at the Sea of Galilee, a crowd gathered. Again Jesus healed many, and cast the evil spirits out of many.

This pattern of teaching and healing continues into chapter 8 where Jesus heals the blind man (8:27). Then Jesus asked “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ”

Many people are gaining confidence in Jesus because He had demonstrated His supernatural power and His supernatural perspective on life. Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him and puts on a show they will never forget!! Jesus was transfigured: his garment became shining white. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appear with Him. The three disciples hear a voice come out of the cloud that overshadows them: “”This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (9:2)

Soon the disciples themselves seek to cast out a demon, and fail. Jesus steps into the situation and asked the boy’s father: “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus said “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief !” 9:17-24.

My confidence in God is based upon the teachings of Jesus, many of which I was taught from a very early age. Increasingly I understand the truth, the importance, of what Jesus taught through action and word. My confidence is also based upon the experiences of God’s reality that others whom I trust have told me, and upon my personal experiences of God’s reality – often in the context of “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Sometimes these experiences have come completely “out of the blue”.

Many years ago I started writing down those times when I believe I experienced the reality of God – and now have recorded well over 150. I mentioned one of these in the context of who God sent to care for us immediately after the accident. I did not pray for God’s people provisions…He just did it! Another example was God’s provision of the right wife for me. Another – the provision of Bakerville church in CT. Another – John’s gift of $1,000, and the anonymous gift of $100 the same day.

I am confident that God will do for or through me what is best in every situation – if I seek to be the person He would like me to be. Will I fail at my task? Absolutely! This is why God brought Jesus into the world: to clarify what it means to be the person God would have me be, and to die on a cross that my sins could be forgiven when I mess up. God knows my heart. He knows my desire is to be His man.

When I get discouraged and bewildered, and I do – I look at the truth of what Jesus said, and my experience of God’s reality. Then my confidence in God is affirmed.

Living as God’s man continues to be both a joy and a challenge.

Living With Life’s Challenges #26

Due to present situation, the following topics will now be addressed in the context of living “In Partnership With God”:

  1. Confidence in God
  2. My Communication With God
  3. Marriage – Two Become One
  4. Family
  5. Christian Community: Diversity – Use of Gifts
  6. Visiting Hurting People
  7. Helping Hurting People
  8. What is God Trying to Teach You?
  9. Looking Forward…and Back
  10. Keeping Margins…Balance

Context for the Above:

  • January 2007 – Cross country ski 4 hours
  • January 2007 – Injure groin muscle…re-injure playing with grandchildren in February
  • June 2007 – healing slowly – increasing pain in knee
  • November 2007 – discover arthritic hip – second opinion – deferred pain from hip to knee – January surgery planned
  • December 17 – Sally Jo falls – breaks right arm just below shoulder
  • May 1, 2008 – Sally Jo able to drive – care for me – hip surgery – good recovery
  • July 18 – my computer dies
  • July 19 – I doze, Prius totals, Sally Jo suffers spinal compression fracture – put in removable body brace to be there for 10-12 weeks – 5 days in hospital – I sleep in recliner by her bed – leave once for 4 hours – home, shower, nap. Many visitors including 4 or 5 ministers. Flowers. Sally Jo up and walking 15 minutes max
  • July 24 – head home – hospital bed to be waiting – painful to get into son Dirk’s van – laxative med kicks in 3 hours late – emergency stop at church – into wheel chair – into ladies room – back into van – 30 more minutes to home – no hospital bed – they call – coming after emergency delivery of oxygen – arrives 1 1/2 hours later – Sally Jo exhausted, great pain. Put bed in dining room – with regular twin where I sleep. Incredibly difficult night!!!!!

    Sally Jo unable to do anything by herself…life is painful challenge – over next week progress is slow…but steady. Able to get self out of bed, move with walker, sit in recliner for an hour, then two max. Body cast very uncomfortable – had never been told how to adjust, etc.

    Friends from church arrange for food, help in many ways – other people call, ready – Please Ask!!!

  • July 27 – daughter Sea flies in from Vieques, PR – massage therapist – we bought one way ticket! Good timing for her – beginning of hurricane season! Very few tourists anyway.
  • July 31 – Loaned car to use – Jeep to become primary car – take to shop for AC condenser replacement – dash must come out – cost $1200 – also needed muffler, shocks. Then we go to order new Prius – same as 2005 model and equipment – 4-6 month wait. Cost increase $1500. We wait for insurance settlement.

    Dirk purchases me new computer…sets up…I must continue to ignore e-mails…through now. Dollar costs are adding up…and up!

  • August 4 – call at 9:30am – be at spinal doctor’s office in 2 hours. Their oversight – doctor begins vacation! One hour to office. On time – leave doctor’s 1 1/2 hours later – only regular chairs in office. Painful wait! Healing has begun – No surgery!! Keep body cast tight – walk, climb stairs. One hour drive – exhausted, increased pain. Long night.

    I typically get up with her 3-4 times each night. Every time she changes location, night or day, one must assist.
    I catch up out of house: 12 stops in 3 towns plus Albany

  • August 7 – ready to watch opening ceremony of Olympics – TV suddenly dies – Dirk picks up new one – more $

    Sally Jo’s garden has begun producing food planted to be frozen. 25 pints blueberries frozen to date. Dirk and wife, neighbor help with picking and freezing as needed.

  • August 9 – Sally Jo gets to see garden she planted in May and June – but will not be able to work in it this summer. Insect invades acorn, butternut, delicata, spaghetti squash, melon, pumpkin and gourd vines – plants begin to die

    Sally Jo: “Will life ever become normal again?”

We are facing, and dealing with, life’s challenges!

We covet and value your prayers.

Reality: Church Debt #25

The fuel oil company called to say they would be unable to make further deliveries until the church’s bill was paid! I hung up the telephone and sat there in shock. It was fall, just over a year since we had arrived at the church. No payment had been made on the bill since the previous mid- winter delivery.

I knew nothing about the church finances. I did not know what anyone gave or what the expenses were. The treasurer was trusted, and every Sunday someone took the offering to his home. He totally managed the church’s finances and the system had worked well…we thought!

I went to the church treasurer, an older man, and asked him what was going on. He very calmly took me to his large roll top desk, and pulled a few envelopes out of one compartment: “These are the unpaid bills. I did not have the money to pay them and I knew they would send another copy.” Together we added up how much was owed to the fuel company, the electric company, and the insurance company. The treasurer had probably been totally honest, but he simply had not kept the people informed of the situation. And besides, how do you tell seven elderly people, a teenage organist, and a young minister whose annual salary was $4,000 they had to give more, much more, to keep the bills paid.

The congregation was beginning to come together. Now about 50 attended with some regularity, there had been a few church gatherings, and spirits were high!

Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, had said “God’s work, done in God’s way, never lacks for God’s supply”. To date in our lives we had found this to be true. So…here we go! The church was God’s work, and we were doing God’s work in God’s way to the very best of our ability. Where was the supply? I had no choice but to take the issue to the congregation.

Before the meeting I went to Ralph and Judy, a young couple who had recently begun to attend the church, explained the situation, and asked if they would be willing to become, together, the church treasurer. They agreed to do this, and to give the Official Board a financial statement each month that told total contributions, total expenses, and the balance in the checking account. This was no great challenge. God had supplied a new treasurer! (41 years later – still treasurers – no big deal?)

At the congregational meeting I laid out the problem and said the contributions needed to more than double for a specific period of time to get through the crunch. We also agreed to change treasurers. I then told them that Ralph and Judy were willing to accept this responsibility.

Suddenly the giving increased, the bills were gradually caught up, and from that time on the income matched or exceeded the expenses.

“God’s work, Done in God’s Way, Never lacks for God’s supply!”