Category Archives: aging

The best friend

In the recent passing of my father-in-law, I am struck by the depths that a real friendship can have. As my father-in-law got older and was able to do less and less, it endeared me to him even more. I was happy to spend time with him, listening to many, many stories of happier times for him. Though I lived an hour away, my father-in-law allowed me to visit him often and he loved taking car rides, going out to eat and “visiting.”

He had a bout of throat cancer a couple of years ago — he was 92 at the time — and had to drive 30 miles for radiation treatment Monday through Friday for 8 weeks. There was a Village Inn down the road from the hospital, and every Wednesday I drove there to wait for him while he got radiated and then we would go to the VI for a slice of “free” pie. The VI always had free slices of pie on Wednesdays but he’d always say, “I’ll pay this time.”

Because of him, I understand what having a “good” friend means.

A good friend teaches you how to be patient, love unconditionally, and sacrifice yourself without complaint or worry for your own interests. And, over the course of the friendship, you begin see your own weaknesses that need refining and lean more into the friendship, rather than fleeing from the shame of your immaturity (impatience), your self-centeredness (thinking of the things you could be doing instead), and your pride (feeling like you’re more important in the friendship than the one you are serving).

Just as my father-in-law was a good friend to me, Jesus is a “good” friend too. Jesus has many of the same attributes in the way that He shows us the areas where we need to change and grow. That really is true love.

Proverbs 27 17-18 says “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. 18 Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.”

John 15:12-15 says “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

I thank God for teaching me through my father-in-law what it means “to be” and “to have” a good friend.


The hunger

I can remember when the first food commercial ads came out that said we could “Have it your way” (1974) and tennis shoe ads that told us to “Just do it” (1982).

I can also remember thinking how great those slogans were because they affirmed and promoted self-fulfillment and self-confidence and that perfectly fit with my teenage and young adult mindset because afterall, I was the most important person in MY life. But I hate to admit, I’ve felt this way much of my adult life.

I won’t go so far to say that the commercials are to blame for the totally self-involved and immature-thinking society that we’ve become, but our culture has fed us a steady diet of commercialism that feeds our needs, wants and desires but it always makes us “hungry” for more and the more. And the more we indulge our desires, the emptier we are so the more we indulge.

For example. When the Kindle came out, I wanted one right away. Once I got my Kindle, I heard about the Kindle “touch” and I thought it would sure be nice to have one, but told myself I’d wait a year or two before upgrading. In another example, I have plenty of clothes to work and play in, but The Loft clothing store always has new merch that I feel I must have in order to look trendy and nice while at work and play.

I’m not saying it’s bad to have nice stuff. I’m really not. What I’m noticing though is how quickly we (people) respond to or get hungry for the latest, greatest of things. It is completely self-centered and me-fulfilling and if we’re aren’t careful, it makes us ravenously so (lust/envy).

I expect culture to keep driving the hunger for self-fulfillment, but the one place I never thought I’d see the “me” culture is in church.
It started just as innocently as the Burger King commercials of the mid-1970s did only with coffee bars, casual dress and a choice of contemporary service over a tradition one. Over time, the contemporary services have won out.

Don’t misunderstand me.

I’m not against contemporary music or churches, but most of the worship music in church now is about what God can do for “me.” Churches cater to us in a way that we’ve learned to expect from culture — That we can have things “our” way. The pulpit messages are feel-good, motivational speeches that only talk of God’s love for us, rather than a message that makes us eager to go home and sink our teeth into God’s word and study His will for our lives.

Be honest with yourself.

When is the last time you heard a sermon that you a) wanted to takes notes on, and b) wanted to study scripture more because you were so excited after hearing God’s truth?

More realistic is that twenty minutes into the sermon, your tummy started growling and you looked at your watch and began thinking about what you wanted for lunch and how fast you could jet out of the parking lot to beat the rush at the restaurant you want to hit, or maybe you are one of those who starts thinking about all the things you wanted to get done once you get home.

We live in such a self-centered culture, that even our churches try to give us a short message that fits into our 45 mins that we’ve allotted to God every week. We are living in the times God spoke about in Amos 8:11-12 – vs. 11 says “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”

We go to church hungry for what, we aren’t sure, and we leave even hungrier but instead of turning to God’s word, we satisfy the physical hunger with food and then with activities. We all need food, but there is so much more that we need to sustain our Christian lives.

John 6:35 says “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

John 6:32-33 – 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.”

I’ve written about this before, but God’s not done with me yet. I am still hungry and seeking fulfillment in the wrong places. Not always, but I’m human, so I do.

The only way I feel full and satisfied is when I spend more time reading about God’s truth and less time on whether the new shirt I want will go with the pants I already have.

Today, I’m asking the Lord to fill me with the eternal “bread of life” instead of the stale bread of earth.

The roadblock

I’m beginning to believe that ALL “self-help” books whether they are secular or religious in nature have one thing in common.
They are always a roadblock and many times a replacement for the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.

We the people, jack our lives up in so many ways, but instead of surrendering our complete will to God, our heavenly father, and His Holy Spirit, we look to human authors, human support/small groups, and the companionship of human beings instead of relying on the HS in our life to do the work of making us whole.

ALL self-help books promote “work.” But they promote US doing the work since we basically are the ones who jack up our lives, but think about it. As long as we rely on any other book outside God’s Holy Word, we are relying on another man’s intrepretation of what, when, or how we get redeemed from our sin.

There is only ONE way to redemption. Christ blood shed on the cross paid the debt of our troubles and our transgressions. He is “the way, the truth and the life.” -John 14:6

Many authors feel they are spirit-led to write books and other materials that guide us into a redemptive relationship with God, but I now believe that all other books that “resonate” with people for their “Best Life Yet,” their “Emotionally, Healthy, Spirituality” and so on and so forth (the list of self-help, self-awareness is SO extensive, I’m encouraging people to do their own research) are nothing more than a ploy to keep you from “true” redemption and “true” salvation.

Scripture backs this up:
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”

2 Peter 2:1-3 “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”

These are but a few verses warning of what happens in the latter days.

Let God teach you. If you are a willing pupil, he will reveal His truth to you.

He did it for me; He’ll do it for you.

In no other time in history is the believer more at risk. We live in a world of lies. People whom we respect are buying into the idea that the truth of the gospel should be watered down, re-written so that all people can understand God and the importance of Him in our lives. Much trust has been placed in pastors of churches who are already apostate and the church bodies don’t know it.

They have been deluded according to 2 Thessalonians 2:10-13 “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

The truth is that God does reveal Himself through His word. If you cannot understand it, you have a spiritual conflict. Someone or something is preventing you from hearing the truth.

Don’t let ANYONE get in the way of your salvation. It’s personal and it’s eternal. And, yes, it’s very unpopular to do this. Many will think you’re weird, you’ve gone off the deep end and many will lose their own family members, according to Matthew 10:34-38.

But if you start to feel like you’re an outcast and you’ve become counter-cultural, then you’re on the right track!

The Sabbath

This has been heavy on my heart all week.

I’ve heard the topic of Sabbath from the pulpit a few times before, so I can’t claim that this is a new concept to me, but I heard a sermon about it again last Sunday. Only this time, I was forced to look at it through the lens of idolatry and slavery, and obedience and redemption.

God created the heavens and the earth, and everything in it in six days and rested on the seventh. He rested and reflected on all that He had done.

He thought it so important that he made it one of the “Big Ten.” In the Old Testament, people would be put to death for not observing the Sabbath, but in the New Testament, Jesus proclaimed it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath. (Matt. 12) This is in answer to the Pharisees who questioned him for healing a man on the Sabbath and saving a sheep from danger. He responded to them in verse 13 “…Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”

But sin has corrupted this idea of “doing well” and really, it’s no surprise because Satan can’t create anything new, he can only corrupt what God has created and commanded.

Sin makes us feel like we will never be productive enough. Culture tells us we’re lazy and unproductive when we rest. It also offers us so many toys, activities and distractions that we must have, must do, or must experience, that those things breed envy, greed and lust in us. That’s bad enough, but then many times, we do these things on the Sabbath because it’s the only day we have all to ourselves, or so we tell ourselves.

Instead of honoring God, we may or may not go to church, then we fill the rest of the day with things that give us immediate gratification and fulfill our selfish desires, which serves ourselves and not Him or others who may be in need.

For me personally, I never thought that doing things that gratify me (shopping or working on projects around the house) on the Sabbath stole honor from God, but it does. Clearly, it is a form of idolatry and slavery to do something that gratifies me in exchange for obedience to God.

To be obedient to God, I must observe the day He’s set aside for me to rest. And, if I get to feeling guilty like I should be doing something with my time, I’ll know that’s just Satan trying to separate me from my God.

Thank you God for continuing to redeem me from the slavery of self.

The Psalms

The Psalms are some of the most comforting chapters of the bible because I can relate to David. He’s human to me.
He is transparent in his brokenness and in his walk of faith.

This morning, my heart was so heavy. I am in angst over a situation for which I have NO control. I say that I trust the Lord, but then I complain; bitterly at times. Kind of like David.

Lord, why are MY prayers unanswered? Why won’t you intervene? Why don’t you answer MY prayer MY way in MY time?

Then, I am disgusted with myself for thinking this way and talking this way to God, my father. He who knows all things. And He reminds me who the “real” enemy is.

Psalm 13 (KJV) – The deserted soul
How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?
For ever? how long wilt though hide thy face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him;
and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

I CAN relate. Or rather, God understands my pain.

Thank you, Lord.

Psalm 143 (KJV) – The prayer of a soul in distress

Particularly verses. 8-12 –
…cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning;
For in thee I do trust; cause me to know the way wherein I should walk;
For I lift up my soul unto thee.
Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies; I flee unto thee to hide me.
Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good;
Lead me into the land of uprightness.
Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake:
For thy righteousness sake bring my soul out of trouble.
And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.

No matter what form evil takes, whether it be in the flesh of a family member or friend, I must remember that evil is the enemy, NOT the person.
And God is my fortress and my defender against such a force, but that through the power of His Holy Spirit, the enemy can have no hold over me.

I am so thankful that God left us with His word, His truth and His promises.
I’m clinging to those today.

The operating system

Photo by Teach-ICT

Believers are hard-wired a bit differently than other people.
Some believers might be called “weird,” others might be called believers “holy-rollers,” and back in the day, Christians were called “Jesus freaks.”

But, the thing that separates true believers from all other people is their operating system.

You might be thinking about what I mean by that.

I’ll try to explain this in the easiest analogy I can. It’s similar to one I heard in a sermon a few months ago, but it fits very well with our culture.

When we accept Christ as our personal savior, the Holy Spirit becomes our operating system. It will never go bad, crash or get a virus.

It has no backup either.
It doesn’t need one because when we ask for forgiveness for our shortcomings, our failures and our failings, it wipes the system and the disks clean, every time, so it’s just like it was the day it was first installed.

I first became a Christian when I was in 4th grade, but I didn’t understand about the holy spirit being the operating system. In fact, there was no such thing as an operating system because computers were still just NASA equipment that we only got to hear about.

After many, many years of trials, heartaches and failures (all under my own doing), I found out that rather than just accept Jesus as my savior, I needed to let him be in charge of me. As much as I had hosed up my life though, I just couldn’t see myself giving EVERYTHING over to God, so I instead picked and chose those things I wanted him to handle.

In computer lingo, that would be like installing an application or program on your computer. You can access it easily but it’s compartmentalized to an icon on the desktop where you click it to access it.

The problem with that approach is that after you’ve tried program after program, app after app, and have been dissatisfied with the results, you are likely to uninstall them or exchange them for some other program that promises good results.

The only way to let the holy spirit work in you and transform your life is to get a new operating system.

Since I upgraded to my operating system, it’s amazing how much better I run. All the things I do in a day, a week, a month, a year, are run automatically by the operating system so all I have to do is turn the computer on and let it go.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV) – 17 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

The branch and the vine

John 15:4 (KJV) — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

Branches that have been grafted into a vine, only bear fruit because they’ve been grafted into a live vine. So, the branch has become part of the true vine. Without the vine, the branches can’t bear fruit and will wither away.

Just like the bible says, my Christian faith is like a branch. I was grafted into the true vine many years ago, but did not start bearing fruit right away. In fact, it was quite a long time.

I was thinking about that this morning and thinking about how grapevines produce fruit. There is a correlation, for sure but it has taken me a loooooong time to relate it to my life.

Grapevines need to be pollinated and depending on the variety, they may flower but not produce fruit until a few years have past. Sometimes, they need fertilizer and pesticides for protection. The branches also must be pruned to make more fruit come on. All of that requires a gardener.

I understand now why I didn’t bear fruit for so long. I wasn’t being pollinated. I had little fertilizer and little protection from insects and disease and I didn’t allow the process of pruning to result in fruition.

God tells us exactly how to cultivate our faith. John 15
Good stuff, but that’s a story I didn’t fully understand but now I can correlate it in human terms.

Pollination means to me that I was not reading the bible and praying consistently. I also did not spend time much time cultivating Christian relationships (fertilizer), and for many, many years, I never thought twice about the type of books, movies and TV I consumed (protection/insecticide). Pruning I think, is the act of my surrendering more of myself and my problems/pain (emotional, physical, or spiritual) and letting the Holy Spirit do the redemptive work in my life.

All of this must be handled by someone who knows how to make stuff grow. There’s no better being to do that, than God.

It’s painful to make this admission, but last night, I felt the nick of the pruning knife again and know that I have more to surrender in the days that follow. I’d like to say I’m done growing — translation: I’m tired of pain, surrender and uncertainty, but I risk the branch dying if I don’t let myself be pruned by the gardener.