Looking For The Good When Bad Things Happen

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Can Good Come From Bad?

This is an age old question.  And in many ways, it is a question that tries to understand the nature of God.  As people often have said, “If God is a loving God, how can there be so much evil and pain in the world?”  Personally, I think this is the wrong question to be asking.  I recognize that not everyone who believes there is a God, which is the first question to deal with, will accept that the Bible of the Jews and Christians is the “Word of God”.

But that is my starting point.  And for a number of good reasons.  But this article cannot deal with that question either, as there would not be enough space here to expand on this belief.   This article then is written primarily for Christians who share my belief in God and in the Bible as God’s Word to mankind.  But just because we have these strong beliefs in the Divine and the Almighty does not mean that we will never experience bad things in life.  Nor does it mean that we will always understand why we experience suffering and pain.  Yet I believe that we still have much more to guide us and help us deal with the heartaches of life than many people.

    

I raise these questions today because of the recent experiences that I just went through.  I was in Papua New Guinea serving the Lord doing the ministry of Bible translation for people groups that do not have the Bible in their language.  Next thing I know, I’m being told that I have a retinal tear in my right eye and I am boarding planes to come back to Canada to get this fixed.  You can read about my experiences in the article “God, Help Me Overcome My Unbelief“.

It would be so easy to turn around and say to God, “Why me?  Can’t you see I’m giving my life to serve you over here in PNG?”.  But I’ve always thought of that question as being a self-centered and self-absorbed question.  As if the universe (or the Almighty) is supposed to bow down to our own personal likes and needs.  Sometimes I do catch myself though asking the question of “Why now, Lord?”  But this too I think reflects some level of lack of faith.  If God really is God, then He knows what is going to happen, and so events in life never catch him by surprise.  And if we really have faith in Him, then we too should not act surprised.

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I believe that the best question we should be asking when bad things happen to us is this one, “What now Lord?”  In other words, we ask God, given the current circumstance that we are in, what is it that we can and should do in the situation.  Sometimes God will reveal to us that there really is nothing we can do, except to hold on even stronger to our faith that He will work things out.  And to believe that good can and will come out of this bad situation.  Romans 8:28 says:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.

I also believe that there are many times when we are to take action within these new circumstances, under God’s guidance of course.  In other words, to respond according to the spirit, not according to our natural earthly desires and behaviors.  Our natural inclination when something bad happens might be to get angry, or to take things out on another person.  Our supernatural response though is to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thess. 5:18)

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This is much more that just being an optimist, or trying to be a “half full glass” kind of person.  Even as we give thanks to God, acknowledging Him as our Lord through tough situations, we ask the question of “What now Lord?”  We want to be proactive and to ask God to help us make the most of the situation.  This is what is called “Redeeming the Time.”  To “redeem” means “to rescue; to buy back”, and so when we redeem the time, we are taking back the situation and by God’s strength and direction we are making and finding ways to allow good things to happen.

You see, I believe that a life of faith is a partnership between a person and God, and both sides have their part to play.  And that is how I approached the situation with my recent eye surgeries.  (Yes, plural, as I needed three surgeries.)  I actively trusted God to take care of me, and He did so in some amazing ways.  But I also have actively been seeking how to make the most of the time I now have been given to be back home.

And what have I done?  I have been actively seeking ways to be with my family and do things together that would not have been possible if I was still in PNG.  I have been in meetings in our international office in Dallas, and having conversations with young aspiring missionaries.  These have been precious moments that couldn’t have taken place while I was in PNG.  And I am reconnecting with my home churches as well as some potential new supporting churches.  And so this time off of the field for me has been one of seeking and finding great opportunities to see good things come about.

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You need to ask the question then: “How do you respond when bad things happen to you?”  Is your focus upon yourself, and your sense of pain that the situation may be causing you?  Or are you putting your focus upon God who will not only guide you through the tough times in life, but will provide great opportunities to see some good come out of the situation.  It is a choice.  What are you going to choose?

Praise God

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Beginning Challenges of Cross-Cultural Ministry

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[Editor’s Note: A young couple with two young children (one 2 years old and one just 6 months old) began their first term as missionaries in East Africa in June of last year. After their first four months on the field, the wife wrote an article in their newsletter that speaks of the challenges she faced and why she continues to be willing to face them.]

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My Life as a Big Baby

People learn to bloom where they are planted. I grew up in America, so I learned most of the important skills for living there. I can boil spaghetti as well as the next person. I can drive in Dallas rush-hour traffic while eating a cheeseburger. I have learned how to write a good term paper, how to find a bargain on quality children’s clothing, and how to use the internet to expedite nearly every facet of my life.

But now I live in East Africa, and the three-year-old next door knows more about how to survive here than I do. I scorch the beans and let the milk boil over. I don’t know how to wash my clothes when the electricity goes out. I can’t drive myself to the grocery store.

I don’t know the names of the trees in my own yard, and I had no idea that coriander and cilantro come from the same plant. I’m reminded of the little farm girl in the movie version of Love Comes Softly, who asks her citified stepmother, “How’d you get to be so old without knowin’ how to do nothin’?”

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I speak like a toddler, with halts and mistakes and frustration at not being able to explain myself or ask a simple question. Many times I want to tell a story from my childhood or make a joke or just explain that the reason I’m cranky is because I miss my family. But like a child in the throes of the terrible twos, I don’t have the words to say what I mean, and I’m reduced to awkward silence in order to avoid bursting into culturally inappropriate tears.

It is a humbling experience to find myself in a world different from the one I have always known. I grew up in a charmed place where clean water flows from every faucet, public restrooms exist, we have entire retail chains devoted to pet supplies and baby care gadgets, and the amount of food that we throw away is more than enough to feed every hungry person in the world.

I have thrown away half a casserole before just because I had so many other things to eat that it lost its appeal before I had a chance to eat it. That thought actually brings tears to my eyes now. I have been padded and protected from the realities of life. I have learned to bloom in a greenhouse, but I know nothing about how to sink my roots deep to find water, push my way up through the weeds, and stretch my leaves high for my share of sunlight.

(And lest you feel sorry for me in my exotic plight, I confess that even here I am still sheltered from the hardships of life. I live in relative luxury, and I stand in awe of the strength and grace of the people around me.)

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But Christ did the same for me. He left his blissful home and the perfectly comfortable relationship with the Father that he had known for all of eternity. He came to live in a sweaty, thirsty, unsafe place. His new friends didn’t “get” him, no one appreciated what he was giving up, and the demands placed on him were overwhelming. He was willing to look awkward, to be misunderstood and even victimized in order to reach his long-term goal.

We aspire to have a small piece in that same work. Whether or not we succeed in our translation endeavors, I hope our willingness to be overgrown babies in this culture will show our neighbors that we are here because the love of Christ – both his love for us and his love for them – compels us.

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This story reminds us that we who have grown up in highly developed countries are rich beyond comparison to most of the rest of the world.  But our greatest treasure is not some material object or privileged status in the world.  No, our greatest treasure is the knowledge and the faith we hold that Jesus crossed the greatest cultural barrier by leaving His place in Heaven and coming to live among mankind.

This is a treasure that is available to every man, woman and child on the earth, because the love of God is no respecter of person, He loves every person on earth equally.  But to get this message of hope and love to people, some of us may have to go like this young couple and cross geographical and linguistic boundaries to share this message.

It’s not easy to live and work cross-culturally.  It can be downright frustrating and often times humiliating as was shown in the story above.  And yet it is all worth it.  When we do find the right words, in a language that the people do understand, so many times their faces light up to know that God has not forgotten them.  Knowing that Jesus came to die for them and grant them God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life is life steams of living water bursting forth in the middle of a great desert.  What a privilege and an honor it is to serve people in this way as an ambassador of God.

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Summary of Max Lucado’s Book “GOD’S STORY”

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

For the past ten months, we have been on a journey to learn more about God and ourselves as we have gone through Max Lucado’s book “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  Even though it has only been ten chapters long, it has helped us to look at the bigger picture of what God has done in the world (as seen through the pages of Scripture), and it has also helped us to see our lives from a bigger picture perspective.

Let me summarize in a sentence the journey through the pages of the New Testament that we have been on from chapter to chapter, and then remind us of what we have been learning about our own lives:

Chapter One: “Ordinary Matters”  The Son of God entered into the world and became part of a very ordinary Jewish family when He was born in the manger in Bethlehem.

Lesson: God has always delighted to use those things that are ordinary, i.e. a nomadic shepherd names Abraham, Mose’s walking stick, David’s harp, a donkey (who can talk by the way), a manger, a carpenter’s son, average Galileans.  That gives us great hope that God can use average and ordinary people like you and me.

Chapter Two: “You Know Satan’s Next Move”  Jesus was met head on by Satan before He ever performed any ministry.  The devil did everything he could to distract, to test and to tempt Jesus to take a short cut and serve himself rather than obey God.

Lesson: If Jesus, who is the Son of God, was tested and tempted in every way to sin against God the Father, then we should not be surprised when we encounter trials and temptations which would take us away from God.  Our answer should be like Jesus’ as He referred to God’s Word, “It is written….”

Chapter Three: “You Find Your True Home”  Jesus taught about a Kingdom of Heaven that was at hand.  He taught the multitudes to see that this world is not the only world, but rather is the precursor to the world to come.

Lesson: It is extremely easy for us today who live in such an affluent world to settle down and imagine that this is the “Real” life, and the “Abundant Life”.  But in many parables, Jesus tells us about how these material possessions will all disappear one day, and only by being in tune with God will we become members of His Kingdom, both now and forever.

Chapter Four: “You Hear A Voice You Can Trust”  Long before Jesus lived, there were many people who claimed to be a great prophet from God, or even the promised Messiah.  But Jesus  backed up His claim through His teachings, His miracles and ultimately His resurrection.

Lesson: There are many voices out there screaming for our attention, especially in this electronic and digital age we live in.  They offer so many promises, which are either so short-lived or just empty promises, we must come back to the One whose promises are all “Yes” and “Amen” in God the Father.

Chapter Five: “You Won’t Be Forsaken” There were so many broken and helpless people to whom Jesus ministered His love of healing and forgiveness.  Jesus would not forsake anyone who came to Him in faith and who had a need in their life.  Even when Jesus died on the Cross and seemed forsaken Himself by God, Jesus promised the repentant thief on the other cross that he would not be forsaken but arise to live in Paradise with God forever.

Lesson: We much be absolutely sure in our hearts that the love of Jesus covers over every sin and removes them as far as the east is from the west.  When it comes to our final day on earth, if we have put our faith in Christ, then we will not be forgotten or forsaken in the life to come.

Chapter Six: “Your Final Chapter Becomes A Preface”  On that Easter Friday evening, it looked like it was all over for this man, Jesus of Nazareth.  He died.  He was buried, He was sealed in a cave tomb.  But praise be to God, that was not His final chapter.  Now that Death was defeated, Jesus has much work to do to redeem His followers and bring them too out of death and into life.

Lesson: The grave is not the end of our lives.  It is just the beginning of our eternity with God.  I have often compared death with a graduation, as we leave this perishable life behind and gain a life that is imperishable.

Chapter Seven: “Power Moves In” Jesus told his disciples that they were to wait in Jerusalem until the power of God would come upon them.  Finally, the Holy Spirit would now become available for every believer in Christ who would empower them supernaturally to live godly lives and impact others with the Gospel.

Lesson: We are all called to be holy as God is holy and to share our faith with the world and help usher in the Kingdom of God.  By our own strength, we could not do this.  So praise God that we all have the Spirit of God living in us to help us be God’s ambassadors for Him.

Chapter Eight: “The Right Doors Open” Paul was the greatest of God’s ambassadors in the 1st century.  But even he experienced times when God would close doors that he wanted to go through, and open doors of opportunity that he had never expected.  And so the Gospel came over to Europe.

Lesson: There is nothing wrong with making plans, but we must check out these plans with the Lord.  For the Lord may have other plans for us, and they will be plans to help us and to prosper in our service for Him.

Chapter Nine: “All Things Work For Good” I’m sure there were times when Paul could not figure out who things were going to work out.  Especially when you consider the trials he went through.  But invariably, God used what happened to Paul to bring about even greater opportunities to witness and spread the Good News about Jesus.

Lesson: We too cannot look into the things that happen at times and know right then and there what good could come out of a terrible or tragic situation.  But then we will never have the perspective that God has on all of this.  Let us trust Him for the good that He promises to bring out of it.

Chapter 10: “God Will Come For You” God’s Word promises us that one day Jesus will return, and He will come with all the Armies of Heaven, the angels of God, who will come to gather those who believe in Jesus and we all together will see the ushering in of God’s Kingdom.

Lesson: God’s coming Kingdom will motivate His people to rejoice; but it will drive those who do not know Him to fear and despair.  The good news is that it is not too late to yet become a believer in Jesus.  Then when God comes for His children, then you too will welcome Jesus’ return, and be rewarded with eternal life with God forever.  I pray I will be seeing you there!

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* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Who Are The Children Of God?

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John 8:38 – 47

38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.” 39 “Our father is Abraham!” they declared. “No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. 40 Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. 

41 No, you are imitating your real father.” They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.” 42 Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 

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43 Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

45 So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! 46 Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”

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This passage is the second of three in which Jesus is talking specifically with those who were professing to say that they believed in Him.  Go back to verse 31 and you will see how Jesus switches His audience from the whole crowd of Jews gathered there in the temple in Jerusalem, to “the people who believed in Him.”

Having said that, this makes it even more shocking as we look at what it was that Jesus says to these people.  In this passage, Jesus accused these people of not being true descendants of Abraham, but rather that they were liars, rejecters of Jesus and His teachings, and doers of evil like their father the devil.  Ultimately, Jesus says that they were not true believers in Him.

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Wow!!  That sounds extremely harsh, doesn’t it?  Especially in light of verse 31 which identified them as “people who believed in Jesus.”  I encourage you then to go back and read last week’s article, “The Truth Will Set You Free.”  In that article, I suggest that while these people may have given mental assent to the truth statement that Jesus was the Messiah, they were not prepared to give their whole lives over to Jesus and move from theoretical knowledge about Jesus to experiential knowledge of Jesus.

Now before we look at the details of this passage, let us remind ourselves that just as other verses in the Gospels point out, Jesus always knew what was in the hearts of the people with whom He talked.  So let us look for clues in this passage which will help to reveal to us what was really going on in the hearts of the people.

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As I looked more closely at this passage, I believe I discovered at least four places which give us some insights into the state of their hearts.  First of all, in verse 38, see how Jesus refers to “my Father” and “your father”?  Everyone by this point would know that Jesus was stating that “His Father” was God.  So note the response of the people when Jesus mentioned “your father”.  They immediately state, “Abraham is our father.”

Sorry folks, that’s the wrong answer.  We should never place a person in the place of God.  And this obviously shows that these people were concerned more about their blood lineage to a man of faith, than being concerned about their relationship with God.  They were believing that by following the examples of Abraham, that they would be found worthy by God.

But even if rituals could win over relationship with God, Jesus went on to point out that they were not really following Abraham’s example anyways.  Scripture tells us that “Abraham believed God and was then considered righteous.”  But his righteousness was backed up with obedience to God’s words.  And these people were even thinking about killing Jesus because they could not accept His words of truth.

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So Jesus implies that they follow the pattern of a different father, meaning Satan.  The people catch that barb and throw one right back by saying, “We are not illegitimate children!”  Here again, the old rumor surfaced about the idea that Joseph and Mary conceived Jesus outside of marriage and that would make Jesus an illegitimate son.  They turned the attention off of themselves who were not obedient children of God, and they turned instead to name calling and mud slinging (false) accusations at Jesus.

Finally, Jesus makes it quite plain.  Not only were these people not really wanting to receive His teachings, and thus they find they were not even in a position to understand what He taught, but Jesus clearly pointed out that they “love to do evil things” just like the devil would have them do.

So we can now clearly see, the hearts of these people were still being ruled by sin and Satan.  There is no room in such a heart for God to do His work of forgiveness and make such a person a child of God.  No, a true child of God has turned his/her back on sin and renounced Satan and accepted Jesus and His teachings into his/her life.  And so I ask in closing, “Are you a true child of God?”

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please share it and invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

God’s Kingdom Will Come

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 19

We now come to the last chapter in this great book of Max Lucado’s that we have been looking at throughout this year.  As we have gone through the book, we have learned much about God and how He is very interested in and involved in our lives today.  That fact alone is a great encouragement to us, knowing that God is with us, guiding and helping us as we go through the difficult stages and events of life.

But now we must ask ourselves about what to expect at the end of our lives.  For those who do not even believe that God exists, or that there is anything past this life, they have absolutely nothing to look forward to at the end of their lives.  And that is why they try so desperately to experience and enjoy all that they can now.

But that is not really a satisfying answer for many people.  And for those who do believe that there is some kind of afterlife, there is often the accompanying feeling of fear or worry because they have no certainty that they will be granted access to the eternal life of joy and happiness.  Even those who joke about the idea of going to Hell would tremble at the picture of what Hell is really like as portrayed in the Bible.

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Blaise Pascal was a famous 17th century philosopher and mathematician.  He came up with what is known as “Pascal’s Wager“.  He stated that if we had to bet on whether God exists or not, then the obvious (or rational) decision would be to say that God does exist.  For if we gamble and say yes, and it is true, then we will win with eternal consequences.

Thankfully, as I believe, we do not need to wager as to whether God exists or not.  I work from the point of the resurrection backwards.  If Jesus (whom all people now state that he did actually live and die in 1st century Palestine), actually did rise from the dead, then all the things that He taught and claimed to be true, must be true.

Now giving evidence that supports the resurrection is a whole other topic, but I also believe that there is sufficient strength of evidence and testimony to support this.  Perhaps the best book I’ve ever read on this topic was written by Frank Morison called “Who Moved The Stone?”  Suffice it to say again, if Jesus did rise from the dead, then all that He taught about this life and the next life to come must be listened to as credible.

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And this brings us to the topic that Lucado writes about in chapter 10 of his book, namely that there is going to be a day when God will wrap up things here on earth and will usher in His eternal Kingdom.  This is really big news! And the Bible tells us that this will not be quiet or hidden like the first time that Jesus came to earth.  Mark 13:26 says, “Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.

Jesus also talked about how His coming would be like lightning as it streaks across the sky.  Everyone is going to see this great event when Jesus comes back again.  But please note this, that great event will not be received the same way by everyone.  This is what Lucado says on page 158:

“There will be one monumental difference.  Some people will continue the confession they began on earth.  They will crown Christ again, gladly.  Others will crown him for the first time.  They will do so sadly.  They denied Christ on earth, so He will deny them in heaven.”

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 There is perhaps one aspect about the “Kingdom of Heaven” that some people sadly misunderstand.  There are many people who want to be included in God’s Kingdom, and many who believe that they are in fact going to be enjoying the rich blessings of heaven.  But if they have not made the King of the kingdom also the King of their lives here and now, then it will be too late when Christ returns to take His people back home to be with Him and the Father forever.

It is really quite heartbreaking to know that people all around us are unaware of the danger that is coming if they are not prepared to meet with God.  Matthew 24:37-39 puts it this way:

When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

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But for those who have accepted Christ into their hearts and made Him the Lord of their lives, this future day (which may not be too far away any more) will be the greatest day ever in all of history.  No matter how difficult life may have been here while on earth, the eternal life of God’s presence and His blessings for those who have faithfully loved Him and His Son will greatly outweigh all that has been so painful to bear in this life.

Let me close with a beautiful quote from Lucado on page 159:

“Let this sink in.  You will see the face of God.  You will look into the eyes of the One who has always seen; you will behold the mouth that commands history.  And if there is anything more amazing than the moment you see his face, it’s the moment he touches yours.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes”  (Revelation 21:4)

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God Promises All Things Work For Good – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 17

If I were to ask you the question, “What is it that most concerns you?”, I’m positive that your answer would fall into at least one of these categories:

  • the economy, and specifically your job, or lack of a job, personal finances and debt
  • your health, involving fitness, sickness, dieting, medical coverage and more
  • your relationships,  spouse, children, dating partner, parents, or combination of them
  • your possessions, like how to get them, safeguard them, and upgrade them
  • state of the world, including war, poverty, crime, pollution, the ecology, etc.
  • deep questions, like is there a God, what’s life all about, what happens when we die

There are probably other categories that I could add to this list, but I think these six would cover the majority of concerns that most people think about and are anxious about.  Whatever it is that we might be worried about, there is one common element that weaves its way through all of these areas of life.  Namely this: uncertainty.  None of us can or ever will know what will happen in the future, and that can lead us to frustration and anxiety.

For many months now, I have been writing articles on the topics that Max Lucado has included in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  In chapter nine, Lucado does an excellent job of helping us to realize that even though we often fail to understand what is happening in our lives and why they are happening to us, that God is still in control of the situation and is at work all the time to bring good out of the situation.

On page 137, Lucado writes this:

We know…. There are so many things we do not know.  We do not know if the economy will dip or if our team will win.  We do not know what our spouse is thinking or how our kids will turn out.  We don’t even know “what we ought to pray for” (Romans 8:26).  But according to Paul (in Romans 8:28), we can be absolutely certain about four things.

Lucado goes on to state what those four things are, and I will summarize what he has to say to us.  Let me quote Romans 8:28 here so you have the context in front of you.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  The first thing we know is that “God is at work…”  This immediately counters two negative positions, the idea that there is no God (Atheism), and the idea that while He may have created the world, He is no longer involved with it (which is called Deism).

No, God is very much at work in our world.  And the good news is that “God is at work for our good…”  This will counter a number of negative ideas about the character of God.  Some people think God is a punishing god, sitting up in heaven with a big stick and just waiting for us to step out of line at which point He will whack us.  Neither is God an ambivalent god who doesn’t care about what happens in our lives.  But He also isn’t a bigger version of Santa Claus who panders to our every wish and whim.  Rather, God is actively seeking to do that which is going to be for our very best, helping us where we most need help.

     

The third thing that Romans 8:28 tells us is that “God is working for the good of those who love Him…”    I will repeat what I said above, that God is not a punishing god.  But on the other hand, God is definitely seeking to bless and reward those people who have committed their lives to Him, to live in obedient service and worship to Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.  That does put the responsibility upon us to be actively seeking to please our God.  And the neat thing about God and His blessings is that as we share the blessings that God gives to us with others, the more that He ends up blessings us.  When we become a conduit of His love, then we end up experiencing even more of His grace and love.  Isn’t that fantastic!!!

Finally, the last thing, and perhaps the most important thing, is that “God is at work in all things…”  If we truly believe this, then we can face any circumstance or situation in life.  When things are just clicking along and everything seems to be falling into place, we can thank our God who is actively bringing about these wonderful blessings in our lives.  But then when things are not going well, even in the most challenging moments of life, we can be confident that God will do all He can to bring good out of that situation, no matter how terrible it might be.

     

As many of my readers already know, our family has faced many difficult and trying experiences in life.  I think of all the categories I listed above, I believe that critical health challenges are the hardest to face as those are usually the most out of our control events.  In our immediate family then, from 2002 – 2005, our older son went through three years of chemotherapy to battle against the leukemia in his body.  Then, from 2008 until the present, I have battled with my genetically inherited muscle disease that has limited my mobility and has caused extreme levels of pain.

And yet, for both me and my son, we have seen God’s hand upon our lives in special and powerful ways that we would never have experienced had we remained in good health.  And for both of us, who have remained strong in our faith in God, we have seen our lives and testimonies touch countless numbers of other people.  And in many ways, this has come about because we believe the promise within Romans 8:28, “that is all things, God works for the good to those who love Him.

     

* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

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Heading Overseas To Be Missionaries – Pt. 3

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Our First Week in France – Pt. 2

This will be the final article of three which looks at what happens when a family moves to a new country for the first time and needs to learn quickly how to acculturate, to understand and be comfortable in a cross-cultural environment.  One of my fellow colleagues from Pioneer Bible Translators did this with her husband and children in 2010 when they moved to France to learn French in preparation of being missionaries in West Africa.

My friend gave me permission to take excerpts from her journal that she kept for the first couple of weeks once they had arrived in France.  I found it very interesting that some of the cultural stresses that they faced while adjusting into a modern western-based culture are not extremely different from when we need to adjust to the cultural challenges we find in developing countries of the world.

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Let’s look now at some more areas of life that they had to face and overcome in their new location:

Food (Always the first challenge when you find yourself in a new environment.)

Day 1: “The kids are now (impatiently) waiting till 7pm.  That’s when dinner time is.  They have breakfast in the morning.  The kids go to school at 8am (well, ours won’t-they’ll restart their homeschooling next week).  They have lunch from noon till 2pm.  At 5ish comes the gouter (snack) usually some juice and bread with Nutella or Peanut Butter.  Then dinner at 8pm.  Since us American types would positively starve waiting that long, we’ve compromised at 7pm…at least for tonight.

Day 2: “Unfortunately we discovered that the eggs from the grocery store apparently come from free-range chickens because Sophia got grossed out after finding a blood spot in one helping with breakfast.  We’ll see if she eats breakfast this morning or not.

Day 3: “These were no Pizza Hut cardboard pizza’s but homemade dough rolled out very thin and baked right there in a very hot oven (in less than 15 minutes!) pizza’s!!   It was nice to have something that reminded of home.  And we felt proud that were dining at 8pm…the decent dinner hour in France!

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Language

[Note: Nothing is more mentally and emotionally challenging than landing in an environment where you cannot speak the language of the people around you.  Thankfully, this family had some experience learning French by living in Quebec, Canada for a while before going to France.]

Day 1: “Murrielle spoke English to me at the store and boy did heads turn!  We are glad to be in an area where English is rare.

Day 2: “I think it was the Pastor who called, and I think he wanted to come over, and I think I told him we were going shopping, and I think he was ok with that!  If I am brave (read “willing to be humiliated again today”), I will call him after dinner time (8:45pm) and ask him if he’d like to come over for a visit tomorrow.   I hope he’ll stick to the script I have in my brain.”

Day 5: “I think he was not impressed with our French and is wondering how we’ll survive in Africa but that’s ok.  We actually are feeling rather good about our communicating ability in the community at large and have no qualms about Africa where French is everyone’s second language anyway.

Later on Day 5: “There was a different librarian.  She wanted to show Sophia the books for 10 year olds but I explained that Sophia didn’t read French and I needed younger books as well.  I was looking for a basic (think 1st or 2nd grade) history of France but couldn’t find one.  I did find an older one and will try to wade through that.  When I read my library books, I try to write down every word I have to look up.  I began reading an easy general book on France.

[Note: What an encouragement to others.  The secret to learning a new language is to get out among the people and just keep trying to speak and learn new words as you go along.]

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Telecommunication (i.e. “the Internet”)

Day 2: “Perhaps we will finally get to McDonald’s where there is wifi (pronounced wee-fee :0).

Day 4: “The man who is helping us get settled into our home here is supposed to come today and help us get insurance on the car.  That way we can get to McDonald’s for the weefee :0)

Later on Day 4: “We likely won’t get internet at home so will try to get on Tuesdays and Fridays.  I’ll be sad not to keep up with all my Facebook friends’ lives but will email and post my notes to keep everyone in the loop.  And it will aid my French not to have it at home!

Day 5: “They went out to try and buy a “cle” that you can insert into a computer to make it hook up to the internet anywhere (thus making our computer our cell phone using Skype), but were told that while we may be able to buy the “cle”, we wouldn’t be able to use an American credit card to renew the hours.  So we were stymied again on getting internet at home.

Day 7: “We went to the neighbors across and down the street.  They had said we could use their land line to access email today.  After we were through, they offered a cup of coffee and we were able to talk some.

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From this article, and Part 1 last week, we can see that moving to live in a place where the language and culture is foreign to what you know from back home can be very challenging.  But look at how much progress this family made in just one week.  When we believe that there will always be people to help and trust in God to give us the strength and courage, we can all do what we thought was impossible.

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