Guiding Hand

Every Saturday in the fall, college football fans migrate to their favorite team’s campus in hopes of a victory. I come from Bulldog country and the red and black runs deep. My wife and I recently started taking our young twin girls on these journeys and it’s been a joy to watch the events unfold through their eyes.

Parking is usually difficult in Athens, but, this past season, some friends of ours let us park at their son’s rental house which was a short walk from the stadium. The walk to the stadium is a series of sidewalks, stairways, and parking lots, and it was interesting at times to navigate with a pair of wild twin girls.

Like most 6 year old girls, our twins don’t pay much attention to the dangers along the way. One step in the wrong direction and they would be in the path of a oncoming car. I found myself repeatedly correcting my girls’ path. As we walked along the sidewalks, I would nudge them one direction, or place my hands on their shoulders to point them in the right way. They wouldn’t make it very far without their father’s guiding hand.

While walking along this path on that cool fall day in Athens, my thoughts turned to my Heavenly Father and how he guides us in a similar way. How many times have I strayed from the path he has laid before me? How many times have I drifted carelessly into harms way? And yet, the divine nudge comes and a loving hand touches my shoulders. It’s comforting to know that our Father lets us freely walk but He gently guides us along the way to the destination he has for us.

There were times along the walk that one or both of my girls would reach up and grab my hand. They fully yielded to my control knowing that I would keep them safe. What joy it brought to my heart to see their trust in me. How much more joy must it bring to Father God when we take his hand and yield to His full control. He will never lead us in a path that is not best for us. And, yet, we so often resist. Why must it be so?

It’s true on a Saturday in Athens and it’s true in the walk of life. It’s always best to trust the Father’s guiding hand.

“For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.

Psalm 31:3

Troubleshooting Truth – Step #2 Know the Era the Building Was Built

Glen was a maintenance man at a local apartment complex that I worked at many times over the years. We became good friends during this time and I always enjoyed working there. He was always appreciative of the work I did there which usually involved troubleshooting and repair of something in an apartment. He would even call me every Christmas Day and thank me for helping him.

One occasion a bedroom in an apartment lost power and Glen called me to help find the problem. Usually it was an easy fix due to a bad outlet, but this time it wasn’t that simple. I eventually had to take all the outlets and switches out and I still couldn’t find the problem. The only thing I hadn’t checked was the ceiling light because that was never where the problem was located. As a last resort, I took the light down and found a bad, melted connection in the light fixture.

This apartment complex was built in the mid sixties when aluminum wiring was commonly used. This type of wiring is notorious for causing electrical problems and fires. It is softer than copper and tends to loosen its connection over time. It will also oxidize and deteriorate when mixed with copper.

As I gained more experience in troubleshooting over the years, I learned that knowing the era that the building was built could greatly aid in finding problems. Knowing when this apartment complex was built let me know what to look for before I even started.

How can this help us when seeking the validity of Christianity? Knowing the era when Christ came is a great aid to discovering the answer. It helps us know where to look before we even start.

The culture and era of Jesus’ time was not exactly the ideal place to start a new religion. First, Jesus stepped into history claiming to be God and the Jews and the Romans would both find this cause for the death penalty. On several occasions, the Jewish authorities took up stones to stone Jesus for comments he made that equated himself with God, and they plotted behind the scenes to have him put to death. As for the Romans, they would put anyone to death that attempted to undermine their empire or elevate themself above Caesar. Pilate interrogated Jesus to see if this were the case, but eventually concluded that he was crazy and not worthy of death. Claiming to be God, then getting yourself killed is a quick way to end a religion that is just getting started. Look at what happened to the disciples. They all scattered and went back to their original professions. Yet, later, they went back to worshiping Jesus even to the point of martyrdom. Something of great impact led them back.

Second, Jerusalem was not the ideal place to have a death and resurrection take place. If something equivalent were to happen today, it would take place in New York City in Times Square. Imagine Jesus being crucified in Times Square and that he was buried in Central City Park. Everyone would know that Jesus was dead and they would know where he was buried. And yet, this is exactly how the beginning of Christianity took place. Jesus publicly claimed he would be raised from the dead, publicly was crucified, publicly left the tomb, and publicly appeared to hundreds after his resurrection. All this took place in the New York City of the day. If it were not true, it could have easily been disproven by the Jews and the Romans. Any yet they all made excuses for why the tomb was empty. And Christianity flourished.

Third, and most convincingly to me, is the sudden and radical conversion of a large number of Jews. These people who had survived centuries of persecution, captivity, and relocation suddenly gave up the one thing that helped them survive eradication: Their religious traditions. They had no logical reason to follow Jesus. They were already God’s chosen people who followed the one true God. All they gained from following Jesus was to be ostracized, persecuted, tortured, and killed. They had no motivation to do this. Unless it were true.

The era and culture of the time of Jesus can tell us many more things which lead us to believe that Christianity is true. It’s a good lesson I learned from working with my good friend Glen, and it’s a good lesson to apply to the claims of Christianity.

M&M Moments: Can I Sit With You?

“Can I sit with you?” It’s phrase I’ve heard hundreds of times in the past few years. I usually hear it at a restaurant near the end of a meal. It’s a request that comes from one if not both of my twin daughters. They love to snuggle and sit in the lap of my wife and I, even though they are quickly growing up. They turned 7 in March.

We usually enforce the rule that we have to finish eating before they can sit with us. It’s difficult to eat with one or two seven year olds sitting between you and your food and vying for your attention. But sometimes I break my own rule. They won’t be this little for ever.

We have a meal every Wednesday at church before the service, and inevitably, I hear the phrase once again. “Can I sit with you?” It’s usually from Mattie, and she works as hard as she can to get and keep my attention. Her and her sister love their daddy.

Why do they do this? They do it because they love their parents so much and they long to be close to us and gain our attention and affection.

I was thinking about this common occurrence the other day when James 4:8 came to mind: “Draw nigh unto God, and He will draw nigh unto you.” Just as my girls long to be close to their daddy, how much more should we desire this with our Heavenly Father? When was the last time you asked God “Can I sit with you?”

Yet, we’ve grown up too fast. We’ve moved on from the childlike wonder and awe of our loving Father. We run to and fro and fill our lives with things that, for the most part, don’t matter, when all our Father wants is for us to sit with Him for a while.

How long has it been since you sat in your Father’s lap for a while and vied for His attention? How long has it been since you have sat and read His Word and longed to know Him better? How long has it been that you just wanted to spend time with Him just because you love Him so much?

One day my girls will grow up and they won’t sit in my lap any more. They’ll move on with their lives, but I hope and pray they’ll always long to sit with their daddy. I try hard to cherish each “Can I sit with you” because I never know when the last one may come.

We may grow too old to sit in our earthly father’s lap, but, praise God, we’re never too old to crawl into the lap of our Heavenly Father, lay our head on His chest and spend time with Him. He has promised to return our affection if we will just draw nigh unto Him. He won’t force His love on us. He only grants it when we ask. Seek His love today.

Eager to return

 

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They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I recently found out how true this was on a missions trip to Brazil. It was a trip with the purpose of laying block for a new church building. I was excited and nervous all at the same time. What made it more significant was the fact that I had never flown before.

The day to leave quickly approached and I made all the preparations to leave. We were scheduled to meet at the church at four in the morning and I set my clock for three. My alarm went off quickly since packing and nerves kept me up until midnight.

My wife instructed me to wake her up where she could tell me goodbye. The hardest part of the trip was not the nine hour flight, or the strenuous labor involved in laying block. The hardest part was saying goodbye.

We embraced each other tightly and the tears began to flow. It was the hardest thing to let go. Then, I stepped into my twin baby girls’ room to see them before I left. They were only seventeen months old and they were sleeping soundly. The tears flowed once more.

I said another goodbye to my wife and got into my truck to leave for the church.

Upon arriving at the airport in Brazil, I was pleased to learn that they had free wifi. I was able to send my wife a few texts via iMessage before we left for a two hour bus ride. It was nice to make contact with home.

There was also wifi at the missionary’s house and I was able to FaceTime my wife and girls with my iPad. The girls loved seeing their daddy’s face.

As enjoyable as the trip was, I was eager to be with my girls again. The whole experience brought new meaning to “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

This experience brought to my mind the departure of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It says in Acts 1:
“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven”
And in John:
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also”

If I was missing my family and so full of eagerness to see them, I can only imagine the desire Jesus has to be with His children. I was gone for 9 days. Jesus has been gone for 2000 years.

And I know that the tremendous love I have for my family pales in comparison to the infinite love Jesus has for us. He must long to be with us more than we can imagine. I know He desires to return soon.

Even so come, Lord Jesus

Thanks

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THANKS be to God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15.

“Thanks” is defined in the original Webster’s dictionary as follows:
THANKS, noun generally in the plural. Expression of gratitude; an acknowledgment made to express a sense of favor or kindness received. Gratitude is the feeling or sentiment excited by kindness; thanks are the expression of that sentiment. Luke 6:1.

I’ve thought a lot this thanksgiving about what “thanks” actually is and I think it is really hard to define. It’s like grace. We experience it and feel it, but it’s difficult to put into words. I am so thankful to God and I could write a long list of things I’m thankful for, but it’s more than that to me. It’s an overflowing of the heart.

Webster’s defines it as acknowledging a favor or kindness received. That seems insufficient to describe what I feel towards Jesus Christ my God. The things He has done for me far surpass the ability of human expression to describe. Thankfulness to me is an experience more than an expression.

I compare it to my twin baby girls. I refer to them often in my blog because, as a father, I can relate to how God must interact with us. They are so young they can’t comprehend all that we do for them. Their needs are met and they are too young to even comprehend that their mother and I work hard to provide for them. When they’re hungry, food is there. We provide shelter and clothing and they don’t understand all we do for them. It is beyond their comprehension at this point. But one day they will understand.

This is how God must feel toward us. He works mightily on our behalf in ways we can never comprehend on this earth, but one day we will be fully mature and understand all He has done. And we will give thanks for all eternity.

As I grow older, I understand more and more what my parents did for me, and one day, my baby girls will understand the same. I hope they will be grateful.

So this thanksgiving, I’m “thankful”. I don’t come to God with a list, but with a feeling in my heart that I’ll never fully understand until I see Him face to face.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again;
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With pow’r upon my heart.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside;
Who floods my weaknesses with strength
And causes fears to fly;
Whose ev’ry promise is enough
For ev’ry step I take,
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To him who reigns above,
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace,
Whose ev’ry thought is love.
For ev’ry day I have on earth
Is given by the King;
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow him.
– Keith and Kristen Getty

M&M Moments: Clean Slate

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We recently bought our twin girls, Mattie and Macie, a set of cheap magna doodles. My wife purchased them at a local store for three dollars. The girls loved them. Mattie especially loved hers and she wanted to take it everywhere she went. She held it while she ate, took in the car and she even took it to church. She would cry if we took it away.

If you’re not familiar with the magna doodle, it is a drawing board that utilizes magnets to create an image with a special magnetic pen. As you move the pen along the surface of the board, tiny magnetic particles come to the surface to form the image you are drawing. The image can quickly be erased by sliding a plastic handle from one side to the other. Then you have a clean slate on which to draw.

The girls loved to sit in my lap and scribble on the magna doodles. I would try to draw silly characters and faces for them, but, before I could finish, they would always scribble on my drawing or move the lever to erase it. They never seemed to let me finish.

This simple story reminds me of a lesson The Lord taught me while I was having my devotions. I was studying in Exodus and ran across this passage:

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount.
And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.” – Exodus 34:1-4

The Lord had given the children of Israel the law written by the His own finger on tablets of stone. When Moses came down from mount Sinai to present the law, he was horrified to find Israel worshiping an idol that they had constructed. They had broken the very laws Moses came to give them. Moses threw down the tablets and destroyed them, and God judged His people.

Being a God of second chances, The Lord told Moses to chisel out two new stones and bring them up the mountain where God could write the law on them again. Moses went to God with a blank slate.

This is a perfect picture of our fallen nature. We come to God with prayers and petitions and He lays His will and way on our hearts, and, before we know it, we’ve broken God’s laws. We want our way and our agenda accomplished and seldom do we sit in the lap of God and receive His instruction. We never let Him finish. Just like my twin baby girls, we paint a primitive picture of how we want our life to be. We fail to wait and let the Divine Artist finish His masterpiece.

We need to come before God with a blank slate. We need to leave behind our selfish wants and ambitions and sit at the feet of the Master and receive His instruction. As we yield the pen, He will paint a picture more beautiful than we can conceive. Let us lay aside our list of petitions and open our ears to the wants and desires of our Heavenly Father.

Eventually, the magna doodles broke. The pens lost their tips and the handle didn’t work right anymore, and the girls have moved on to playing with other things, but I’ll never see a magna doodle again without thinking of the lesson of Moses and his blank slate. May we always come before God in this manner.

“But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” – Luke 11:28

Marvelous Monotony

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In every thing give thanks:for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. – 1 Thess. 5:18

Life is full of monotony. In other words, our lives are made up of daily routines. And let’s face it: our routines can be pretty boring, and mine is no exception. I get up, use the restroom, get a glass of tea, sit in the recliner, read my Bible and pray, get dressed, make my lunch, leave for work at 7:15, and I arrive at the same time every day. There’s probably a rut forming in my daily path. And guess what? I do the same thing every day.

The evening is usually more of the same with some variety. It’s a little more fun because I get to spend time with my twin baby girls, but it still involves routine and monotony. When they were little, we even alliterated their routine: bath, bottle, bed. They don’t drink a bottle anymore, but we basically do the same thing every weeknight.

Most of life is this way. It’s full of monotony. The mountain tops and the adventures of our life are few and far between. In the meantime, we grind out the routines that make up the majority of life. This can lead to frustration and often depression. We wonder why our lives aren’t more exciting.

Recently, some trials have come into the lives of some of our friends that have refocused my perspective. A dear friend of mine that I’ve known my whole life found out a few weeks ago that his five year old daughter has cancer. They arrived home from a vacation to Disneyworld and she stopped breathing. They called an ambulance and eventually had to airlift her to a children’s hospital. In an instant their world was turned upside down. Now they begin the long road to recovery.

Another friend of my wife’s just died on the interstate. He was hit by a tractor trailer. He left behind four kids and a wife. Their lives were torn apart.

Stories like this bring new appreciation to the routines and methods in life. I am more thankful for bath time with the girls, chores around the house, normal conversations with my wife, and sweet tea in the mornings. A boring life is a blessed life. We are to be thankful to God in all circumstances, but it’s in the every day monotony of life that we should say extra thanks.

I am thankful for healthy daughters, a roof over my head, a job that I go to every day, and the freedom to worship. I am thankful for monotony.

Good times come and go and trials will visit us, but for this moment, let us bask in the boring. Let us be thankful for the dry deserts. Let’s cherish the comfortable.