HARD CHOICES

HARD CHOICES

Life has hard choices. We are not always prepared for them, in fact, we usually are not prepared. Significant events can take place so fast that we hardly have time to respond with well thought out plans. Sometimes we just react. Other times we have to ponder, weigh the facts, control our emotions, think clearly, take a break, pull away for a while to gage our response.

Critical thinking is good, but sometimes there is a spiritual dynamic to it. Sometimes the leading of the Holy Spirit will take us in a direction that we do not want to go. Sometimes the leading of the Spirit is in contradiction with critical thinking. Not all rational decisions are rational. Reason may lead us in places we do not want to go or the results of our well thought out plans produce a result unseen and tragic. The Holy Spirit however, has inside knowledge. He knows the mind of Christ, He has the foresight of the Father, He sees the end from the beginning.

I have had on several occasions leadings of the Holy Spirit that ran contrary to reason, logic, and decorum. Yet, after struggling with the leading, I will yield. It is not that I do not want to obey, but careful weighing and asking for confirmation of some sort is not wrong. Confirmations can be just the incessant prompting of the Holy Spirit as the pressure increases with urgency. Other times, confirmations can come through circumstances or a word spoken by another.

Hard choices make us pray, think, ponder, wrestle with God. We test, complain, explain to God our reservations and how this does not fit our plans. And really why do we have to face this choice?

His ways are higher than ours. His reasons are inscrutable. Learning to surrender and obey is one of the Christian life’s greatest lessons and challenges. I do not know why I have been thrown into this difficult place. Oh yes, some are the consequences of bad choices made out of my own determination, but some I did not sign up for. They are not the result of my bad choices. Some come about because of my good choices. Good choices do not always produce a smooth road. Sometimes, maybe many times, they produce conflict when morality and character run juxtaposition with popularity and crowd mentality. Persecutions are based in this type of hard choice.

Yet, the high road, the right road may cause us sadness, separation, second guessing because of the results, possible isolation, but it is still the right choice. The Bible record is full of people making right choices, hard choices and suffering consequences that were wrong. Many of the New Testament writers acknowledge this result. They tell us to rejoice and be glad. Consider it an honor to suffer for Christ’s sake. (Personally, this is hard and a lesson I am still working on.) I have had several prophetic words that have exhorted me to rejoice and be exceeding glad. Hard choices, hard places, still working on the rejoice part.

P. Bill

LONGEVITY

LONGEVITY

Longevity. This is how long you have done something, been faithful, held a job, a career, a relationship. It is measured in days and years. It is the accumulation of ups and downs, good days and bad, happy and sad, intense love and distant commitment. It has endured. It is seasoned with experiences, places, people. It has survived discouragement and bouts of depression. It has survived euphoria, pipe dreams, hopes, and the crash of some of those.

Yet, longevity in anything deserves respect. Those who have been married for many years deserve the respect of all. They overcame hardship, arguments, silence, and loud disagreement. They have the joy of deep loving moments and the sadness of losses. They traveled that road of life together.

Longevity has to adjust. Each decade presents its challenges. The early ones find us looking for meaning and place, destiny for some, making a living, adjusting to adulthood. The next decade will find us learning to raise children and balance spouse, children, and job. The next decade begins to cause us to evaluate as to whether we will ever reach our life goals. Teenagers, job demands, and maintaining a meaningful relationship face us daily. The challenges of mid life crises appear and the temptations to quit, have an affair, change professions, divorce, throw it all away and start over are present in the thinking of all. The next decade could be one of just resignation and drift toward retirement, or it could be a season of determined reinvestment in family, job, marriage. Then come the years where couples have to find themselves again because everything they had been living for and working for has changed. The kids are gone and an empty nest makes two people find new purpose and relationship. This area is particularly hard on women because they usually have given all for the kids. Some live long enough to have great grand kids and some even great, greats. The decline in strength and health approaches all in this phase. Each decade has its challenges that must be faced. Learning and adapting never ends.

Longevity in faith is similar. We have the times where we are fervent, white hot with desire for spiritual things. We follow hard after God. We read voraciously the Bible. We search and research for understanding. Then come the days when we just lose interest. The Bible becomes dry straw and prayer is liking slinging spaghetti against the wall. But longevity does not quit. There may be ups and downs, but there is no quit in the dry periods. The temptations of faith are similar to other areas. You do not walk away and go to the world for substitutions. You do not throw away your faith and follow worldly philosophies or worse, go to other religions that are dead, but ritualistic. You wait on the Lord and again you will mount up with the wings of eagles.

I noticed when I was younger and still notice it, there are very few who hold fast to the faith throughout their lives. Older people do not turn to the Lord as they come closer to death. They are stuck in their unbelief and are calcified to the gospel. They did not “endure to the end.”

Longevity deserves respect!

P. Bill

Shocking Events of your Lifetime

SHOCKING EVENTS OF YOUR LIFETIME

I am writing this article on 9/11. I have read and listened and viewed a number of articles reflecting on the events of that day. Nearly 3000 people lost their lives that day which started as a normal work day for those in the towers of the world trade center. THEN the unthinkable. It ended an era of assumed safety and set us on a course of suspicion, heightened security measures, multiplied inconveniences, and put more fear into flying and mass transportation as a whole. The world changed.

In anyone’s lifetime there are defining moments. For my generation, the assassination of John F. Kennedy as our president is emblazoned in the heart and mind. Everyone remembers where they were, what they were doing when the shocking news pierced us. Likewise, the planes flying into the towers on 9/11 caused each of to remember where we were when we caught sight of that horrible tragedy. A generation before us remembers Pearl Harbor attack of December 7th, 1941, and the stock market crash of 1929 and the depression that followed. Those who lived through WWII remember rationing and the fear of a knock on the door to announce the loss of a loved one. There are markers in our lives that evoke strong emotion when remembered. I am moved deeply at the remembrance of most of these events because I strongly identify with the suffering and loss of those who remain. Walls with names engraved such as the Vietnam War Memorial, the list of names at Ground Zero, and the lonely list of names in a field in Pennsylvania pay homage, but stir remembrance.

The Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC strives to keep the history of human suffering alive for the generations that have come since and the generations who will yet come. General Eisenhower ordered that as many pictures be taken as possible because he said that future generations will deny that such atrocities ever happened. Even now Muslim and Neo Nazi groups are saying that it never happened. How prophetic General Eisenhower was.

There is one event in history that does not get forgotten. Most people do not remember cataclysmic events of centuries past unless they are students of history. But this one event has remained at the forefront of history even though a day afterwards false rumors were launched by authorities responsible for the event itself. I am referring to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Resurrection is still at the forefront of faith that has stood the test of time. It has been debated, hated, stories concocted to disprove, but it remains a fact substantiated by a chorus of eye witness testimonies of over 500 people in one event; let alone by others on individual occasions. Add to that the number of unsolicited dreams and visions by those opposed to the idea of a resurrected Jesus; who then believe, and the preponderance of evidence continues to grow.

As we pay honor to those people and events of our lifetime, we still pay honor to the amazing, eternal sacrifice made by Jesus that has stood the test of time and has not faded away, but intensifies with time.

P. Bill

Raging Destruction

RAGING DESTRUCTION

Hurricane Dorian has raged through the Atlantic, striking islands and devastating property and lives. While a number of lives were lost which is sad, tragic, there were thousands of lives uprooted, total loss of home and property, and a thankfulness for a life saved. Starting over is the only thing left.

There will be all kinds of stories come from this event. There will be sad stories, stories of miracles, near misses, fear and deliverance, family lost and found. Bottom line, we humans live as guests of a whirling ball of dust. Life is tenuous. Any upset in the balance of nature and the forces that are created can change the landscape, the life of everyone. We build, create, invent, but in a moment it can all change. A tornado, a flood, a hurricane, a fire, an earthquake all can change everything. The calm, smug attitude of many is rocked to the foundations. Man in his arrogance is humbled by the forces of this earth.

These events pale in comparison to the earth shaking events recorded in the Book of Revelation. The superior forces of the universe are laughed at and scoffed by unbelievers. Temporary turning to God is expressed by some, others just curse God. People shake their fist toward heaven and yell if there is a loving God, why all this tragedy?

Meanwhile, repentance is far from their thoughts. There is no turning to the creator. You hear it in the interviews. One thanks God for deliverance and express trust for the future. They thank God for sparing them and their family. Others talk about luck and how well they prepared. Others are mad about climate change and blame politicos. The silliness of all this is that fact that the earth has experienced ebbs and flows of climate. We have had ice ages, cataclysms of all types. Oh, man thinks he is so strong and invincible.

While all the talk does not lessen the pain of those who suffer in these catastrophes, these things are not new and will continue. The true thinker, the honest human has to recognize how fragile our existence is. Even if it were stable, the life is so short compared to the existence of the earth and life. Each person has to come quickly to an understanding of the brevity of their life and the importance of preparing for eternity.

I have thought of this from my childhood. I have always had a sense of how short life is and even more so, the shocking thought of the infinite life of the future. What must I do to be ready? What must I do to insure I live with the God who created me? What must I do to be saved? In these crises I am sure people were praying, “what must I do to be saved?”

Call on Jesus, Repent, and be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit!

P. Bill

Patience

PATIENCE

I was awake most of the night (Tuesday night). As I have said before, I am constantly thinking of the church, worrying sometimes, thoughtful all the time. I have been praying, asking what to do, asking personal questions regarding ministry, asking…asking.

During the night, while looking at the clock every half hour, wondering if I would ever go to sleep and praying in short bursts, I distinctly heard and saw the word “Patience.” I keep asking what I am doing wrong? Tell me and I will correct it, but the answer is patience.

I have never been good with patience. I like to act, get it done. When you are working with people it takes patience. Not all move at the same pace or process at the same pace. Sometimes in movies I know where things are going and begin to laugh before anyone else. I usually process things quickly; so I have had a struggle with those who do not. The Lord has reminded me and taught me on that level. So many years ago, I started recognizing that it takes time for many. This came into play often in leadership meetings and working with teams. I began to give my ideas and then allow time for those who needed it to think about it and make improvements.

In our situation, I keep thinking that we have reached the basement level and now we will see the building phase start. And then, there is another layer removed making the basement deeper. What is to be built must take a deep foundation. When I came 10 years ago, I came with the mandate from the Holy Spirit to rebuild the foundation. I was thinking it only needed a patch job in a few places, but it has turned out to be far more serious and it looks like a whole new foundation.

Patience…waiting confidently for that which is to come. Patience: Romans 5:3-5 (KJV) we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

For me, Patience is an exercise of effort and concentration. It is one of the fruit of the Spirit and is spoken of many times in scripture to encourage individuals or the saints at large. In the fire of trials, we, I, want to get through it and on to the positive. However, I have learned that we must go through the fire to get to the other side and patience is necessary. While recovering, each day I thought would be the final restore, but it took weeks to get back to anywhere near to wholeness.

I realize that we are in that process of recovery and the Lord emblazoned that word as he spoke to me last night. Actually, it was not a reprimand, but encouragement. I felt relief and confidence. There was no scolding sense in it; it was more explanatory. What it did for me in that moment and I want to hold on to that, was a peace that it was going to be all right, just wait, be patient. I can do that now that I know.

P. Bill