God: “I know the plans I have for you…” – Kip: “But I don’t…”

The phone rang early Thursday morning while my “team” (Judy, my wife and Kelly, my aid) were hard at work getting me ready for the day. It was the Chaplain’s Department at the VA Hospital in Hampton: “Are you still interested in CPE? Are you available for an interview?”

CPE stands for Clinical Pastoral Education, which is a training program for almost all chaplain positions. It is usually an entry-level program requisite for employment. Although I have advanced degrees and over 30 years of experience in the Christian ministry, I lack the compulsory clinical experience necessary for appointment to the chaplaincy. Bottom line: If I want to be a chaplain. I have to have CPE.

It’s been well over 2 years since I began to pursue fulfillment of this requirement. Having been appointed to a paid internship we moved to Hampton, Virginia. In route, and during the move, God surprised us by extending my planned 2 week respite into over 6 weeks of hospital treatment for infection in my foot. Because I was not able to report, I was disqualified from that program. Other attempts to pursue local programs did not work out for various reasons. Honestly, I had given up on the idea of CPE and the chaplaincy.

And now the phone call – Is God opening the door for my ministry as a chaplain? Up until 2 weeks ago I thought he had closed it. Last week, after a favorable interview, I thought he was probably opening it. As the following week progressed I again began to wonder… But a phone call received late Friday influenced a more positive perspective.

So I honestly have no idea of what God is doing! When God gives me opportunities, I know that I must respond in obedience. When it seems like he’s opening a door, then I must walk through it. If he unexpectedly closes the door then I know he has his good and wise reasons for it. My role is to respond obediently and to seek to glorify him in all that I do. This is what God really wants.

CPE will require determine effort and sacrifice not only on my part, but also by my wife Judy and my family. It is an intensive 20 week course requiring over 5 hours of classroom instruction and 21 hours of clinical experience each week. Outside work at home will be required. Is it really worth it? I just turned 67 years of age. If I qualify for an extended internship, it will not begin until September 2016! Following this I will be qualified for a chaplaincy position. Humanly speaking, this seems to be futile. But God seems to be opening doors so if he does I will go through them.

The way I see it, God is giving me another opportunity to live out one of my favorite Scripture passages: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3: 5, 6 ESV)

Tomorrow it is true of me…

A lot has changed since I heard my grandfather respond to the question I had asked years before, “How old are you, Pop-Pop?” My grandfather was born in the year 1900, so was not very difficult to do the math and figure out his age. I vividly recall when my grandfather select was 67 years old – 67 in 1967. He didn’t seem old to me but the numbers sounded really large! He was older than he seemed.

Many years have passed since then and now it is my turn – I will be 67 years old tomorrow. Along the way, I have learned the slogan: life is hard and then you die. (And variations to that same effect.) Most of us can testify to the truth of these words from our own experience. Life is full of struggles. Jesus said it more accurately: “In this world you will have trouble. But don’t be afraid I have overcome the world.”

I was recently asked how I keep focused as I struggle with the difficulties of living in this fallen world. I assume they asked me because they realize I get lots of practice struggling. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but by God’s grace, I am able to suggest some helpful insights from my own experience.

Throughout these struggles, the Holy Spirit has taught me that God has a good purpose in them, and that he is using them to make me more like Jesus. Two passages of Scripture have been helpful to me and encapsulated vital truths. The first is Philippians 1.6 and the other is Proverbs 3.5, 6.

Philippians 1.6 – And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

God is carrying out a good work in me. He is completing what he began and will continue completing it until it is finished – even though it takes until the return of Christ. God is at work… He is using his own unlimited resources, power and wisdom to make me like his Son. Romans 8.28 reinforces this: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

So it is a great comfort to know that God is in control accomplishing his good purpose for his people, including me. Not only is God in control, but he is also controlling and working everything for his own glory and the benefit of his people! Now this is extremely reassuring and encouraging to me. If you love God, this is also true for you!

The second passage has to do with my responsibilities as I face struggles. Most of us will agree that we feel like we have to do something as we face difficulties. Here is an excellent place to start.

Proverbs 3.5, 6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Here I am commanded to trust in the Lord with all my heart. This goes well beyond optimism and merely believing that a benevolent God exists. I am called to fully rely and depend on him – to trust him with all that I am and in all that I do. Again, easier said than done.

Let me illustrate. As I write this I am struggling with my lack of patience. My dictation software acts as if it is demon possessed and cannot get more than 2 words as dictated – not as advertised on television. My grandchildren came home from school sending our dog into a frenzy, barking  and carrying on, adding further confusion to my microphone… Judy received 3 phone calls and my microphone prefers to listen to her voice rather than mine. More problems with dictation software… Sometimes it’s really hard to recognize that God is in control and to respond according to this truth.

I’m very grateful that I have a Savior who lived a perfect life for me, atoned for my guilt and has given his righteousness to me. God is in control and I continue to struggle to act as if I know this.

“I really like helping you Pop–Pop; it makes me feel really good inside.”

“I really like helping you Pop–Pop; it makes me feel really good inside.”

These delightful words were spoken by my seven-year-old granddaughter, Isabel. Quite often, she delights in taking care of some of my needs. Usually this involves getting me a blanket when I am cold, or the rice bag which her mother made. She knows to put it in the microwave for 2.5 minutes and then to place it behind my neck to ease its aching.

So, she says to me, “Whenever you need help just tell me you need two things and I’ll know what to do. Actually, if you need a drink of water, just say you need three things.” Isabel really shows her love and concern for me. Further, she and her two brothers, David and Jonathan, also pray regularly for me. It is not unusual for them to say: “Please help Pop–Pop to get out of his wheelchair.” I truly admire and appreciate their love for me! They must get this from their grandmother.

I’m also struck by the ongoing faith reflected in their prayers. David, Isabel and Jonathan are very sincere in their request. I always smile inside and appreciate their prayer. Jesus encourages all of his followers to trust him like a little child. It’s a good lesson for me.

At the same time, I also recognize that God answers prayers in accordance with his greater wisdom and purpose. Although I would very much  prefer to be mobile again, I acknowledge that the wheelchair is my gift from my Heavenly Father. He’s put me in it for a purpose. So, I don’t really expect to get out of the wheelchair until the Lord returns or I meet him in heaven. I know that some time in my future I will be out of the wheelchair! Better yet, I will be made complete in Christ and end/win my struggle with sin and its effects.

Nevertheless, I am reminded of my innate difficulty of learning to walk with God. This morning, I read Psalm 78, which begins with an exhortation to teach our children the things of the Lord. It goes on to describe the lack of faith and insensitivity to the Lord and his mighty acts by the children of Israel. When I sit back and “objectively” look at the history of the people of Israel, I’m amazed to think that these folks actually saw the dramatic and powerful works of the Lord (think 10 plagues, crossing through the Red Sea, Pharaoh’s army drowned, etc.) and yet still did not fully trust him.

It’s an easy thing to be critical about the lack of faith of the Israelites and yet when it comes to my own faith and experience of the Lord I have to admit that I often become complacent and faithless. It’s one thing to say that I trust in the Lord with all my heart and quite a different thing to actually live it out.

So, even though I know that God has a great purpose in all that he does (even with me) because of my complacency, I sometimes forget. Sometimes, the struggles, routine and pressure of everyday life cloud my vision – my faith. I act and unconsciously think God has forgotten me, or at least doesn’t pay attention to what I think I need.

I was reminded of this again this past weekend as I had opportunity to preach on Exodus 2. The context of this passage is the bondage and slavery of God’s people in Egypt. God’s people had been slaves for centuries and were continually crying out for relief. Exodus 2 describes the beginning of God’s deliverance for them. God is raising up Moses as their deliverer, but they don’t realize it. They just can’t see it. It is evident from their actions that they think that God has not only forgotten them, but also his promises to save his people from their sin.

The chapter closes with these words:

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. (Exodus 2:23–25, ESV)

As I live in this world, I am continually faced with what appears to be a difference between the Providence of God and the promises of God. In other words, my circumstances sometimes/often/usually don’t appear to be the blessing of God. When I say  this, I know is not true, but when I don’t always recognize this; I don’t live like I know it. Even so, God hears; God remembers; God sees and God knows. God is faithfully at work, even when I don’t realize it.

The Lesson of the Look

We live in an age in which we are barraged by information. Often it is quite difficult for us to determine truth from a lie, mere opinion or even preference. Sometimes we think we know more than we actually do. Sometimes we are convinced that we need additional or unavailable information. However many times we are convinced before we consider all of the obtainable or important data.

Apparently this common human tendency is not new. For instance, this morning I was reading the Gospel of Luke, which reports “trial” of Jesus before the High Priest in Jerusalem, during which Peter denies his Lord. Although Peter’s denial was predicted by Jesus earlier in the chapter, it came as a complete surprise to Peter, who had pledged to support Jesus even if he died doing it. Jesus, however, was adamant and insisted on Peter’s future failure.

You probably know the story. During Jesus’ trial, Peter does in fact deny Jesus three times. Jesus knows Peter better than Peter knows Peter! It is here, however, that Luke adds an insightful detail. It seems that as soon as the words come out of Peter’s mouth, “I do not know the man” that Jesus turns and looks directly at Peter, who now recalls Jesus’ prediction. Peter responded with immediate sorrow and repentance.

I’ve often pondered the “look” of Jesus towards Peter. It was if it was merely a glance or casual look, it is likely that Luke would not mention it. Of course a dirty look or a haughty “I told you so look” would be totally out of character for Jesus. But I wonder, if it was a look of disappointment. Surely Peter was disappointed in himself. And although Jesus may have been disappointed with Peter’s conduct, it surely was no surprise to Jesus. Could it have been a “hurt” look? No doubt Peter’s denial would have emotionally wounded Jesus and add to his emotional suffering. That empty feeling of personal rejection by one of his closest allies surely hurt him deeply.

I think the “look” was one of compassion and love. The New Testament describes this as a life-changing moment for Peter. In an instant, he was overcome by the vast love of the Lord Jesus towards him. Peter recognized that Jesus really loved him despite of all of his failures. Apparently he was overwhelmed by the undeserved love and compassion of Jesus, who was then voluntarily experiencing judgment and wrath for him.

Although he may not have realized it immediately, Peter soon became aware that through the cruel death of Jesus God was providing salvation for sinners. Later in his first letter Peter writes about Jesus: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

So what? Consider Jesus’ “look” towards Peter as his  look towards you. Learn of his deep love, compassion and commitment to you. Rejoice in his forgiveness and healing. Even when we are afraid that we have worn out Jesus’ patience and compassion, Peter’s experience reminds us that Jesus really loves us. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, claims us for himself, atones for our sins, compensates for our errors and is changing us into his image.

Unsettled? Overwhelmed? Feeling alone?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with uncertainty? Sometimes I do. Do ambiguous personal and corporate concerns about your future threaten and attack you? Yes! According to many Christian leaders, cultural change and moral disintegration pessimistically signal the end or at least extremely difficult times for the church in its present form… Family financial crises loom and dwindling resources intimidate your faith… Complex situations and tangled relationships generate chaos…

I don’t know how you handle these pressures, but when I feel like caving under the barrage of stress, I am encouraged by thinking of God’s promises and faithfulness. By God’s grace, I attempt to recall that the LORD has repeatedly reminded his people (including me) to be strong and courageous, to not be afraid, but to trust in him. Quite often, God’s encouragement comes in the form of a personal promise: “I will be with you.” Or “I am with you.”

My sophisticated Bible research software, when finally given the appropriate command, was able to tell me that the phrase “I will be with you”, spoken by the Lord occurs 11 times in the Bible (ESV). It also quickly informed me that God’s promise, “I am with you.” is found 17 times in Scripture. It was really encouraging to read each of these verses in one report!

There are many other ways in which God encourages his people, but I am thinking about how God promises his presence to his people. The promise of God’s presence has been a great encouragement to God’s people throughout Scripture. Check it out for yourself. Just off the top of my head, I can recall that God made this commitment to Jacob, Gideon, David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Haggai, the disciples of Jesus and Paul. No doubt you can find others. As you read the Bible, be on the lookout for this precious promise.

Here are a handful of passages in which God promises his presence:

Psalm 23.4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Isaiah 41.10 “… fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Matthew 28.18 – 20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So, when discouragement or uncertainty (euphemisms for doubt) threaten to intimidate you and to choke out your faith, let God through the Scriptures remind you of his promise to be with you.

The promise of the presence – God’s presence defeats all doubt, obliterates pessimism and raises my hope toward God my Savior.

“But it’s different when it’s your pig under the fence!”

Words spoken by an old farmer to a young preacher during a discussion of applying the Bible to everyday living. The old farmer was also a church leader who had been led astray by more than a generation bad teaching. Then feeling the pinch of disobedient decisions, he was demonstrating his emotional response to heartbreaking personal, family situations. Instead of following the teaching of God’s Word, he thought himself and his “unique” circumstances an exception to God’s norm.

The farmer is not alone in this perception and practice. Real faith is demonstrated “when the rubber meets the road.” In other words, it is not only important to learn and know what to do, is also another important thing to put it into practice. As a Christian, I must learn what God requires and then by his grace, I must do it.

Have you noticed it always seems relatively easy to know where others are either ignorant of God’s will or where they fall short of following it? I must confess, I am often blind regarding myself. I think that I recall Jesus saying something about having my own vision obstructed by something in my eye. (I pray that this blog is not the log.) Hmm…

One of the most well-known passages Scripture is Psalm 23. The very first verse declares: the Lord is my shepherd… Among other things, God is teaching that he is the one who watches over me, protects me and provides for all of my needs. He has everything under control. Another favorite Scripture indicates that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. This seems easy and straightforward; it is not difficult to understand. It is also very comforting. The Lord is my shepherd – he has everything under control. I shall not want…

However, when the morning aid, upon whom we are relying to care for me while Judy, plunges into a long list of heavy demands and unusual, urgent requirements, does not show up (because of presumably irresponsible decisions and actions), God’s providential care is exceedingly difficult to recognize and even more difficult to appreciate – let alone to put into practice!

I need to recognize the truth – the Lord is my shepherd. And then I must learn to rest in Him! This is one reason I read the Bible every day – I need to learn or relearn/be reminded of God’s truth so that I am able to put into practice. I think one reason God lets us wrestle with these kind of difficulties is to point out the great disconnect between what I say I believe and what I practice. Like I said, good theology is easier to say than to do.

As much as I hate to admit it, it is still very difficult for me to trust in the Lord with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. But when I trust in the truth that God is shepherding me, he provides surprising and impressing benefits. So take this morning, for instance, an unexpected change in weather conditions resulted in a change of plans which eased the then immediate urgency. Help from family members sharing responsibilities provided further assistance. The Lord provided extra grace and strength to meet all the demands of the difficult situation.

Now, on to the next one… I’ll have another chance to learn that the Lord really is my shepherd. Even though my pig is under the fence God is teaching me to trust in God’s truth.

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Do you remember this little children’s song? It is such a simple little song. We sang it over and over in Sunday school, daily vacation Bible school, children’s clubs, etc. It seemed so straightforward and uncomplicated. Yet it contains some vital and deep truths and concepts which are not only significant but immensely complicated.

Take the first word Jesus. Jesus is without a doubt the most controversial person in history. For the first 5 centuries following his life on earth, Scholars, politicians, followers and enemies – all kinds of people – fiercely debated about him. Was he God? Was he a man? How do we put these 2 concepts together? Thousands of volumes have been written and the debate continues. Who is Jesus?

Two of my favorite, short but excellent summaries are found in a Christmas hymns:

  •  Hark the Herald Angels Sing: Christ by highest heav’n adored Christ the everlasting Lord! Late in time behold Him come Offspring of a Virgin’s womb, Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; and Hail the incarnate Deity. Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel Hark! The herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King!”

    O Come All Ye Faithful: God of God light of light Lo he not the virgin’s womb; Very God begotten not created: O come let us adore him Christ The Lord.

But there is more. Jesus loves me. I wonder how many people there are who are desperate to know that someone – anyone loves them! What the little song reminds us is that Jesus – Incarnate Deity, God of God and Light of Light – loves us. This is personal! Jesus showed us God’s love not only by his humble birth, but also by his obedient life, his brutal death and finally his powerful resurrection! He did this for us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5.6 – 8 ESV)

How do we know this? The only way that we can know these amazing truths for certain is explained in the little song. “Jesus loves me this I know; for the Bible tells me so.” We can be sure of Jesus’ love because God has revealed this truth to us in his Word, the Bible. Only in the holy Scriptures of the Bible, do we learn of our need for forgiveness and God’s provision through Jesus Christ, his only son.

There are great many wonderful hymns and Christian songs, but none surpass the amazing truth: Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.

Shocking… Numbing… Unsettling…

An urgent text: “Call me now.” Telephone message: “Your dad is trying to contact you.” Returned call: “Uncle Scott has passed away.” A short abrupt series of communications brought shocking news to extended family. Although no one had heard from him for a long time, every one of the extended family members still felt close to the departed uncle. This was apparent by tales of reminiscence recounted by my morning helper. I could tell that she was somewhat disturbed, unsettled and upset.

Later that evening, my wife Judy entered my room with: “We just got a text…” I was numbed and unsettled. Earlier that day, my good friend received the call he had been dreading for over 30 years: his son had passed from this world into the next. Although not altogether unexpected, the news came as a shock.

The world I live  in bombards me with the fact of death. News programs on television, news reports on websites, cinema, favorite television shows, TV promotions for video games, etc. confront me with death and dying. Yet, for all this exposure, I am anesthetized to the  horror and shock of death. It is only when I am directly impacted that I begin to sense the dreadful reality of death.

On the other hand, I was recently disturbed by a phone call with a very close relative. Although I’m sure he was putting up a front, pretending to be tough, his nonchalant comments concerning the threat of his own death were troubling to me. His overly optimistic comments regarding his eternal future reflect a completely different value system, lifestyle and future. His view of God and forgiveness were completely out of sync with mine.

Although there may be many contributing factors, the bottom line is one of authority. As someone asked me one time, “On what do you base your opinion?” The issue is really one of authority. Is anyone’s opinions or feelings superior to others? Obviously this is a huge issue impacting every area of life and experience. For me (and for all of his creation), this authority issue is settled. God our Creator as spoken and revealed himself clearly in his Son and in his Word. The self-disclosure or revelation has been recorded and preserved for us in the Bible.

So it’s important to discover what God says regarding issues in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Getting back to my original point, and refraining from referencing many Scriptures, I offer two passages to consider. The first has to do with all people:

Hebrews 9.27, 28: And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

The second one has special references to believers in Jesus:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, ESV)

Much more could be said in explanation of these words but I think is good to conclude that the words of Moses when he reminded God’s people: These are not idle words for you; they are your life.

Extra special guest blogger!

It is my great privilege to offer this special edition of hopeforkip. My dear wife Judy has been my inspiration and encouragement for over 44 years – well before my injury! Here is a transcript of her comments  written for a ladies group at our church:

What does it mean to ‘know the Lord’? We use that phrase for ourselves and for others to show that we are really believers. I grew up in a church that taught that you could lose your salvation. Scary. You always were in fear that you weren’t going to make it or that your friends and family had missed the mark.

At an early age I realized that I needed Jesus to save me from my many sins, but it took much longer to realize that He did the work not me. He just wants me to trust Him. That simple fact is the hardest part, to trust Him with every asspect of my life.

Kip and I met while we were in college and were married just before he went into the Navy for flight training. Just before he started the last part of the training he switched to the Naval Investigative Service and we ended up in Norfolk. Through various people and events we started going to Tabernacle Chruch in Norfolk. Dr Dunlap took an interest in Kip and encouraged him to go to Seminary. At the same time there was a special speaker who challenged the congregation to follow the Lord completely. Kip and I were very moved and committed ourselves to follow the Lord in every area of our lives. Though life has had many difficulties we knew that we never wanted anything else but a life that belonged to our Savior.

When Jesus called his disciples he called them to a life of devotion and hardship. In Mark 8 he says: ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ That is not a prosperity gospel.The Israelites spent forty years following the pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke. They did not know where it would go or where it would stop. They had to obediently follow in faith.

Our life in ministry has not been without problems, problems in the churches we served, problems with our children, problems with the health of family and even death.We have moved more times then we care to think about. We identified with Abraham and Sarah completely. It did not surprise us as that is what Jesus told us would happen in this life. In fact, we thought that maybe we had experienced more then enough.

Five years ago this May we found out that we had only been in training. Kip went out for a 15 miles bicycle ride and came home 13 months later. That eventful ride ended with Kip losing control of his bicycle and landing in a ditch. He knew at once that he was paralyzed and could feel nothing below his shoulders.  When I arrived at the scene they were ready to carry him from the ditch. As I stood beside him he told me how sorry he was for me, knowing how it would affect my life. Even then I knew that God had a purpose in this and he would provide for us. I also kept thinking of Joni Erickson and her journey as a quad. If she could serve the Lord from a wheelchair so could Kip.

When he did come home he came driving his wheel chair with his chin and ready to serve the Lord in any way he was called to do so. My role as help-meet has become much greater than before. That year he struggled with multiple infections and amazing adjustments to his new life. I packed my suitcase and lived out of it so that I could be with him almost every day except for going home occasionally to pay bills, get the mail and get a good night’s sleep. When we finally got home, I had to make myself put the red suitcase away, it had become a type of home for me.

Once we got home, Kip’s care has become my full time job. We do have aides to bath, dress etc. but I must manage all the other details. A year and a half ago we made the huge move from New York to Virginia, it was quite the ordeal.

So you ask, how do you do it? I am not going to say that life is a breeze, but I will say that it is okay. We are living a journey that is part of God’s plan. It is a great comfort to know that He is caring for our needs and giving us the strength to continue. I am proud of Kip and his love and devotion to his Savior. I am constantly amazed at what the Lord enables me to do and I can boast about it because it is not my strength, cleverness, or tenacity, but the Lord in me!

Our Lord has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ 2 Cor.12:9-10

Disturbing thoughts… Comforting promises

Something must have startled me. I woke up in the middle of the night wondering what was going on… Forcing my eyes to open I attempted to look for the time projected on the ceiling by my alarm clock located beside my bed – 12:45 AM. I closed my eyes and attempted to return to my slumber. But I know I have a bad track record when this occurs. All of a sudden, my mind is invaded by uninvited information prompting an immediate response: I feel thirsty/I had plenty of water last evening; I feel cold/it is probably at least 72° in this room; I have an itch deep within my ear/it will (hopefully) go away in a few minutes… Piddly problems!

Trivial thoughts are followed by troublesome ones. I recall an unpleasant interaction with the family member. Not only am I saddened that it occurred, but disappointed with how was handled by each of us who were involved. Beginning to pray for my wife, immediate family and myself, I momentarily doze off. Regaining consciousness I recall a quote someone posted on Facebook: “If you could lose your salvation – you would.” (John MacArthur) Again I slip back into sleep.

I awake thinking of the awful prospect of being at odds with God. Scripture contains many warnings. Here is one from Jesus and another one from the apostle Paul:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23)

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Alarming thoughts are replaced by comforting ones: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” (Matthew 11:28–30)

 “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:14, 15)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27–29)

Pondering these gracious promises, I fell into a deep, restful sleep… Praise God for his grace.