Archive for July, 2011

The other day I was driving down my road, a typical rocky dirt road in Northwest Arkansas. It’s been unusually hot this summer and this day was no different. As I was driving down this hot, dry, dusty road lost in my own thoughts  I heard my six year old daughter say, “Daddy look at all the beautiful flowers.” I thought “What, beautiful flowers?” I looked around me and growing all along each side of the road were, you guessed it… weeds. On each of those weeds though, little blue flowers were blooming, and to my six year old it was beautiful.

In Ecclesiastes 3:11 it says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” God makes things beautiful. We can look all around us and see the beauty and majesty of His creation. Where I live I can see it in the hills, valleys, bluffs, rivers, and stony creeks of the Ozark Mountains. I can see it in the fireflies and in the stars and moon as I look up into the night sky. Maybe where you live you can see it in snow peaked mountain ranges, tall pines, deep canyons, open plains, or crashing ocean waves.

God makes beautiful things but He does something else, He also makes things beautiful. He can take a weed that thrives in a hot dry climate and cause a beautiful little flower to bloom from it. He can take a life that has been ravaged and broken by sin and make it into something new. He can take dead things and make them live again. I know, because I am one of those things. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Sin is ugly. It takes the good and beautiful things that God has made and makes them into an ugly perversion of what God intended. But God, through Christ, makes them beautiful again. Christ went to the grave a bloody, broken, mangled, mess but He rose again in beauty and majesty with new life, which He makes available to all if we will only believe and trust Him for it. Not just once, but daily, hourly, minute by minute. Jesus really does make a difference. He can, and will, take our brokenness and make it beautiful.

Lord, please give me the eyes of a child; eyes to see the beautiful things you make and to see the things that you make beautiful.

All this pain

I wonder if I’ll ever find my way

I wonder if my life could really change at all

All this earth

Could all that is lost ever be found

Could a garden come up from this ground at all

 

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

All around

Hope is springing up from this old ground

Out of chaos life is being found in You

 

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

 

You make me new

 You are making me new

You make me ne

 You are making me new

                                                                                                                              –Beautiful ThingsGungor

A Life Of Comfort

Posted: July 23, 2011 in QT's
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Creature comforts; most of us have and enjoy them. Most of us desire and seek after more of them. I’m talking about the things that make our lives easier and well, more comfortable. Take a moment to consider the things that you possess that make your life more comfortable. What are they? How do they benefit you? What did or do they cost you? Are they worth the cost? I’m not bashing on creature comforts I’m just asking the questions. Some things are probably of great benefit to you and well worth the cost while others are simply luxuries that if you were honest, you would say you could live without. This is certainly true in my own life. For example, air conditioning is pretty valuable to me right now and worth the cost although I will most certainly gripe about my next electric bill. As I look out the window I am extremely grateful for this comfort. It’s easy to be grateful for the things that make our lives easier, but what about the things that make our life more difficult? Can we be grateful for them as well? If so how; and why would we want to be?

The Apostle Paul gives us the answer to these questions in a passage of Scripture that has brought me much comfort over the years. It’s found in the opening verses of 2 Corinthians and it goes like this:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation, and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (2 Cor. 1:3-10, ESV)

Okay, there’s so much in this passage that I want to share but I will keep it brief and only point out a few things that are really standing out to me right now. We have talked about the comforts of life and I have focused your attention on things that bring us comfort by making life easier but, according to Scripture, there is a comfort that is infinitely more valuable; a comfort that comes only through suffering and comes only from God and those who know him and have received it themselves.  So, can and should we be thankful for our hardships and sufferings? The answer is yes for a couple of reasons. One, through suffering we are brought nearer to God. It’s through suffering that we learn to depend on him and that we realize just how real his presence is with us (I’m speaking to believers). Paul says that he and his friends thought they we’re going to die, but even so, they trusted in God who could bring them back to life again and who has already promised to do so at the resurrection. They realized that whatever may happen to them in this life, this life isn’t all there is and there are good things coming to those who have placed their trust and hope in Christ. He has and will deliver them.

Another reason we can be thankful when we face difficult times and hardship is that God will use us to minister to others in their time of need. When we have suffered and been comforted by God we are better able to simply love others with the love of God when they face difficulty in their own lives. We are to be stewards of our suffering and God’s comfort. No one knows what you’re going through like one who’s been there and whatever you’re going through, God’s been there and so have many of his dear saints.  Remember “On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (2 Cor. 1:10b)

Good Gifts

Posted: July 15, 2011 in Guitar, QT's, Random Thoughts
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Do you have good things in your life? Things worth being thankful for? Do you like giving good gifts to your children? Of course you do, it’s a parents joy to give good gifts to their children. My kids have been in Texas for the last couple of weeks visiting their grandparents. I have to be honest and say that my wife and I have enjoyed the peace and quiet but I also have to say that we’re missing them and are looking forward to them coming home next week. Since they’ve been gone I’ve been preparing a couple of surprises for them. Since my son follows this blog it won’t be so much of a surprise for him when he gets home but maybe he’ll have something to look forward to (Randy, don’t tell Carly or Elizabeth).

My kids are all interested in playing guitar (no surprise there) and we’ve been having some lessons at home. Randy has a couple of guitars already, Elizabeth plays on my (very special) ’76 Guild D25M acoustic, and I picked up a Fender Squier Strat for Carly a couple of months ago for $30. It was a sunburst color with a tortoise shell pickguard, very nice, and Randy was coveting it. So, while they’re gone I decided to do something for them. I took Carly’s Squier and completely re-finished it and made it a pink/purple burst (I don’t know what else to call it) and put a maple fretboard neck on it that I took off another Squier I recently bought (it has Fender Custom Shop Texas Special pickups in it for any gear heads out there, I’m putting a new neck on it and setting it up for slide, I’ll post pics of it on my band’s website after I get done with it) and put a white pickguard on it. Then I took Randy’s black Silvertone Strat knock-off and put the rosewood fretboard Squier neck and tortoise shell pickguard off Carly’s on it as well as black pickup covers and knobs. I haven’t left Elizabeth out either. I have a new floor to ceiling mirror for her room that she’s been wanting. Maybe I’ll find another good deal on a Squier soon that I can fix up for her. This should make all of them happy. At least that’s my intention.

However, the greatest pleasure for me in all of this hasn’t been the money I’ve spent ( I’ve tried to keep that to a minimal amount) but the time I’ve spent on these projects. The greatest joy will be knowing that they will enjoy what I’ve done for them. As I’ve worked on these projects I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:11, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” What a joy it is to know that God, who is good in the truest sense of the word, loves to give good gifts to his children. The best thing we can do for God who has given us every good thing that we have, even salvation through the death of His own Son, is to enjoy those gifts, especially our salvation, and share it with others. Let’s show God our appreciation today.

Btw, here are some pics of those guitars in case anyone is interested (yesss! I managed to combine something about guitars with something spiritual, booosh!).

Here’s Carly’s guitar 

Here’s Randy’s 

Have you ever had such a need in your life or a burden on your heart that was so heavy that you felt like nothing else mattered except to pray until God gave you an answer? I’m talking about something that was more important to you than eating, or sleeping, or even your own life. I have had many prayer requests over the last couple of months from people in my family, my church, and my small group Bible study that are this important to the ones in need. Have you ever prayed and wondered if God was really there hearing your prayer? Have you ever prayed and really expected God to answer your prayer and looked for that answer? Have you ever been afraid the answer may not be what you want it to be? I have had all of these experiences in my years as a follower of Christ. And as I have prayed for my friends and family lately I can’t help but think that they must be experiencing some of these same feelings and fears. I thought about all of this a while back as I was reading through Luke in my quality time and I ran across a parable Jesus told about a judge who answered a woman’s petition only because she was persistent. It goes like this:

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8, ESV)

I’m not going to try to break this parable down completely because it would take a lot of space and I try to keep the blog posts fairly short (key word “try”). I do want to point out a couple of things that I thought about as I read this in the midst of praying for some serious needs.

First of all notice that Luke tells us that Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray without losing heart. Am I the only one that finds it comforting to know that Jesus understands that sometimes when we pray really long and hard for something without seeming to get an answer that we lose heart? I know I’ve been there. When I pray like that for something and I don’t seem to get an answer I get disappointed, dejected, discouraged, maybe even a little frustrated; maybe even a little angry. These eight short verses are here in Scripture for the simple reason of encouraging us to pray without losing heart. Jesus cares and He’s encouraging us, that’s pretty humbling.

Secondly, notice that the judge in the parable is nothing like God. He’s arrogant, uncaring, and impatient. He has the power, authority, and responsibility to carry out justice in this woman’s life and he just puts her off until she tries his patience to the limit; only then does he do right. Jesus points out that if we can expect an arrogant, uncaring, impatient judge to carry out justice then surely we can pray and know that God who is all powerful, does care, and is very patient will hear and answer our prayer, not because He’s weary of hearing us but because He loves us and it’s His nature to be just and do what’s right. Here’s the thing, we have to trust that God knows and always does what’s right and best, even if it’s not what we want or expect. That’s the hard part. That’s the scary part. There are other passages that talk about God giving us the desires of our heart and doing anything we ask if we pray in His name. What we need to realize and understand is that as we follow Him, He places His desire in our hearts. We will want the things that He wants. To ask something in Jesus’ name is to pray according to God’s will. Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane as He was preparing for the cross, asked His Father to let this cup pass from Him if there was another way and yet there was no other way and so He obediently and faithfully endured unimaginable abuse at the hands of the people He came to save and death on a cross. Why? Because God was doing what was best for us. He always does, even when we don’t understand it. That’s what it means to have faith.

Jesus ends the parable with a question, “When I come back, will I find people with this kind of faith (my paraphrase)?” How about it? If Jesus were to return today would He find you and me praying with this kind of faith? As I ask this I must face the reality that my own prayer life seems weak and powerless in light of what Jesus is teaching. I pray but many times my prayers are only half-hearted words offered up in haste. Not always, but often. I’m just trying to be honest. Knowing who God is, how can I offer anything but whole-hearted prayers full of faith?

Lord, help me to pray as I should and as scary as this is, teach me to pray as I must.

P.S.

I wrote a blog a while back about guitar stuff and promised to get back to writing about things with more spiritual depth. I wrote one more short blog then disappeared for almost two months. I didn’t intend to, I just got busy and kept putting it off. Well, I can’t put it off any longer. This is something I believe God would have me do so I better get back to doing it. Besides I enjoy it. So, if you happen to read these I apologize for being absent for so long, I’ll try to be more faithful as I get back into the swing of things. Thanks for your patience (prayers are also very welcome).