Do Not Presume

I am by no means a biblical scholar, but I wanted to share a lesson I got from reading Daniel, Chapter 3.  I felt it really applied to my life and some mistakes I have made.

 

Daniel was a Hebrew who was kidnapped and taken to Babylon with many other Hebrews. The Babylonian empire was vast, and Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem began around 600 B.C.   King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon worshipped many false gods and had no respect–for much of his reign–for the one true God, the God of Israel.

 

The king once made a golden image to his gods and gave a signal for “the princes, the governors, the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces” to bow down before this image.  Three Hebrew young men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow before the image because of their allegiance to God.  

 

Nebuchadnezzar had already proclaimed that anyone who did not bow down and worship the golden image would be thrown into a fiery furnace.  Some accusers came forward and told the king that the Hebrews did not fall down to worship the image, so the king had them brought forth.  He was enraged, and he asked the Hebrews, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not you serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?”

 

They answered him, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter (did not have to give the answer much thought).  If it be so, our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto you, O King, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.”

 

Note that they did NOT tell the king, “We know our God will save us from the furnace and not let us be burned.”  They did not presume that they would not suffer, only that God would be with them if they suffered.

 

I have often presumed that an easy way would be made for me.  When I married, we faced many financial and health obstacles.  I prayed and thought the troubles would lift very soon.  After 4 years of marriage, things are better, but we struggled for years and still struggle at times. When I thought that the trial would lift right after marriage, I either heard from a false spirit (1 Kings 22) or told myself what I wanted to hear after I prayed.

 

I have a health problem that makes pregnancy and its aftermath very difficult.  I always assumed that God would heal me before a pregnancy.  I have a 2-year-old, and I struggled through the pregnancy and still struggle with this illness.  I know that God will heal me, but I thought that an easier way would be made.

 

Presumption of how God will deliver you often exposes an idol you have made.  I am an American– used to fast food, health care on demand, and 24 hour shopping.  I am addicted to convenience and comfort, and I loathe uncertainty.  I am having to learn to live a life more dependent on God and with more faith to face the unknown.  I am having to learn to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1). 

Quite possibly, the hardship that the Hebrew young men had encountered while being kidnapped helped make them ready for the trial of the fiery furnace.  They had seen death and fiery destruction around them and no doubt were afraid at times, but the extreme hardship they endured made them able to give God glory as they faced the potential loss of their lives.  I am learning that it is not always God’s will for me to pray to escape a trial (though it can be at times). My first priority should be to give God glory and see His will in all my circumstances. Hardship prepares us to face even bigger trials and attempt great things for God.  Hardships can give us greater faith–because we see what God can do in tough circumstances, and then our faith can help strengthen others.

 

So, don’t presume.  Ask God where you are making assumptions and let His Word correct them.  Unmet expectations are fertile ground for bitterness, so seek to know God through His Word and the many life stories you encounter inside it.

What To Do When You Feel Like Quitting God

I’ve been a Christian for only nine years, and while many have suffered more than I have, these last few years have seen a protracted series of trials. The last set has been the hardest. I got pregnant in January of 2017 and had to go off my medicine for bipolar, because it could cause birth defects. Throughout the pregnancy, I had mood swings, anger, and depression that left me in misery. After a difficult birth, I went back on my medication, assuming everything would clear up. I was terribly wrong.

The stress of taking care of a newborn coupled with hormone changes and bipolar gave me terrible emotional torment. I stayed with an aunt for most of the first few months of my son’s life and continued to spend time between her home and my own until he was 7 months old. I’ve seen multiple health care professionals for psychiatric medication and to regulate my hormones. I’ve prayed, been prayed for, fasted, gone to prayer meetings, read the Bible, begged God in anguish for healing, and still, though my symptoms are better, I have some terrible times with bipolar.

I have yelled and said vile things to God many times, telling Him that I was done with Him, only to repent on my face later in tears. When I get mad, I remind Him that this trial has been going on for over two years, but He always calms me, gently but firmly drawing me back each time.

If you are a Christian long enough, you will consider leaving God, and many do renounce Him for good. So what do you do when you feel like quitting God? I can only tell you what helps me.

  1. Spend time with God, especially when you first get up, or ask Him to wake you in the middle of the night. This is very hard for me to do, as my son bellows from his bed for me to pick him up each morning, and then the race is on. Sometimes I don’t get to spend time with God until he naps, but if I can start the day telling God what I am thankful for or singing praises, it helps. Praise is a weapon. In II Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat ordered a choir of men to sing as they went into battle, and God delivered them from their enemies. Praise puts things in perspective, as you remember what God has done for you before and draw strength from what He will still do for you.  It also helps to just listen to God in these times. Let things get quiet, and ask Him to speak to you. He can root out issues deeply buried that are contributing to your problems.
  2. Confide in a trusted Christian. You need prayer and support, so find someone that you can be honest with and get them to pray for you. Speak to them regularly. If you can, confide in several friends. It won’t help to just bury your anger. Older people who have been through many trials are especially valuable.
  3. Sometimes I just open my Bible and ask God where I should read. I have The Expositor’s Study Bible with notes by Jimmy Swaggert. Yes, I remember his fall from grace, but many of the notes are very good. I have also done the Bible study Breaking Free by Beth Moore, and though I don’t know if she is still as strong as she once was, that Bible study was very good. The Word is your sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). You need every godly weapon you can muster, and God speaks through His Word.
  4. Keep going to church. Get up. Make yourself go. Remember when the stragglers of Israel were attacked by the Amalekites? (Exodus 17:8, Deuteronomy 25: 17-18) The devil picks off the weak and sick first. You need a church body around you.
  5. Confess healing and positive verses over yourself. I don’t want to sound fluffy. Remember in the Bible it says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21) What you say matters. The Bible is truth, and confessing Bible verses that apply to your situation strengthens you.There are probably many more things that could be said, but one thing that has worked for me is to think about people I know who have walked away from God. I have felt God ask me if I wanted to be like them or if I wanted my son to be like their children. I see bitterness, dismay, carnality, dismissiveness of God. I have seen once vibrant Christians become deserts. I have heard their children mock God. I don’t know how my son will turn out, but I don’t want to make it easy for him to turn away from God. The world would devour him. And hell is eternal torment.

So keep going. Don’t give up. Don’t let the devil win. Remember what Peter said when Jesus asked the disciples if they wanted to leave. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6: 68-69).

This Was My Uncle’s Car

In late April of this year, a man ran into my car, and his insurance finally decided that my car was totaled.  We settled on a price for it, and their wrecker finally came to tow away my little white Corolla.

And then the memories began.  My car belonged to my Uncle Will, who died in 2014, one month and eight days after my mom died.  He was a travel nurse, never married, who was staying in a tiny hotel in North Carolina near his job.  He was in the shower and collapsed with a heart attack.  He’d just started trying to get himself in shape and was going to the gym and making an effort to lose weight when he died.  It was too little, too late.  Unbeknownst to me, he’d told his sister that he was having chest pains, but he wouldn’t see a doctor. He was afraid of having the terrifically painful bypass surgery that he’d had years before and said he’d rather die than that.  He was often negative and didn’t think that maybe all he needed was a stent.

We didn’t always have a good relationship.  Most of his life was spent shuffling through jobs.  He would have high hopes, then reality would dash them.  He confessed years later to having panic attacks and finally just quitting.  He would take his stress out on my brother and myself with either whippings or bitterly sarcastic jibes.  When we were adults, he apologized for anything wrong he did in our upbringing.  He said, “I didn’t know there was a better way.”

But he added a lot of goodness to our lives, as well.  He spent many summer suns throwing us down our version of a slip n slide.  He took us to New Orleans to see sites.  He helped my brother practice baseball and found a camp for him to go to.  He could deliver praise as well as criticism.  He spent a lot of time teaching me to drive and was the giver of thoughtful gifts.  He helped many down and out people.

I began to tear up as the tow truck driver was about to take away my car.  You see, I don’t think my uncle was saved.  The Bible says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”  (Romans 10:9-10)  My uncle was baptized at the age of 15, but I talked with him multiple times, and he didn’t seem to have faith.  The last time I saw him, I asked him, “Do you think Jesus is the Son of God?”

He said, “I believe he’s the son of God.”

I asked, “Do you believe he’s God?”

He looked pained.  “I don’t know.”

He’d told me that he had trouble believing in the resurrection.  I believe the Bible.  Our sins separate us from a holy God.  Christ died to build a bridge back to God, to give us a covering for our sins.  The Bible says that it takes the shedding of blood for forgiveness of sin.  That is the nature of sin.  (Hebrews 9:22)  As the nature of fire is to burn, the nature of sin is to cause death.  (For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 6:23)  For us to be able to come into the presence of a Holy God for eternity, the stains of our sins must be atoned for.  Christ lived a perfect life on earth and was the perfect sacrifice who died in our place.  If we put our faith in Him, realizing that we are sinners and need his blood to cleanse us, and we turn from sin to God, His death covers our sins.  But we have to have faith in Christ as God and in His resurrection.

So, as the car was pulled onto the tow truck, I thought that my uncle may be suffering now in a place without God’s presence.  Then I realized that there is one thing I could do.  I told the tow truck driver, “This was my uncle’s car.”  I told him that my uncle was dead.  Then I asked him, “Do you know the Lord?”

He assured me that he did.  He said that he knew he’d be forgiven when he died.  I told him about my uncle.  And now I’m telling you.  That was my uncle’s car.  One day he was driving it.  The next day he was gone.  What about you?  Have you put your faith in Christ?  Where will you spend eternity?

We never know how much time we’ll have.

Pope: Goodbye, My Little Friend

In June of 2005, I got a short-lived job teaching 8th grade English in the inner city.  I drove to my father’s house that day and told him the news.  “Do you want to go across the street and look at some puppies?” he eventually asked.  I said yes.

A neighbor lady that he had coffee with had chihuahua puppies.  I held a little male who was about the size of my hand.  She told us that he was the first to open his eyes, walk, and bark.  He bossed the others around.  She called him Lil Man.

“Do you want him?” my dad surprised me by asking.  I couldn’t resist.  I said yes again.  My father bought him for me, and I named him after my new boss.  Pope.

Pope was spoiled by my mother and myself from day one.  He slept with my mother, and she called him her grandson.  On his first birthday, I threw him a party with balloons and a spaghetti dinner.  I have a picture of my mother holding him as my uncle held the cake.

Eventually, I got two other dogs who were much bigger than Pope.  Once the two other dogs growled at each other.  I told them to stop, and they ignored me.  Then tiny Pope snarled at them.  The 80- and 25-pound dogs quit growling because of the 7-pound chihuahua.

Pope loved to be held and cuddled and couldn’t be left outside for long.  After my marriage, he would sleep with my husband and once comforted him during an episode of mental illness.

We survived grief together.  My father was murdered a year after buying Pope for me.  I lost my grandmother, mother, and an uncle, but I had Pope to remind me of my father’s love for me and my mother’s doting presence.

Just 2 weeks ago, I noticed Pope having trouble moving his back legs.  He didn’t eat or drink much, so I took him to the vet.  The vet said that his intuition was that even if we ran tests that I could not afford, they wouldn’t come back well.  I called my husband, who came right away.

They took us to a room to hold him one last time.  They placed an I.V. in his arm.  We both kissed him goodbye, with my husband openly weeping.  The vet gave him medicine to make him drowsy, then gave him a shot to stop his heart.  He was 13.

I have regrets, because sometimes I was short with him, and I didn’t hold him as much after having the baby.  As I leaned over him before they gave him the shots, I told him, “I’ll see you in the Millennial Reign.”

A professor I had years ago said that according to the Bible, the entire world will be recreated again in a healed form.  He said that this includes pets.  After losing a cat years ago, I emailed him for clarification.  He wrote:

“The key text is Romans 8.19-21 but study the whole passage 8.18-39. It may be that cats don’t have ‘souls’ but this text points to the renewal of the whole of creation. I hope it will be of some comfort to you.”

There is the chance of new life after death, but the only way to enjoy this new life is to be reconciled with God by turning from sin and putting your trust in Him.  Those who haven’t–even ‘good people’ by the world’s standards– will be separated from God after death.  We can’t come into His presence with our sins unpaid for, as His presence is holy.  Yeshua-Jesus died in our place to reconcile us to God, but we have to turn from sin and accept this to live with God when we die.  I’ve been reading Bill Wiese’s book 23 Minutes in Hell, and I wouldn’t want anyone in that place of torment.

I’ve lost so many, and my only hope of seeing them again is if they knew the Lord.  Especially on my most trying days, I long to see Yeshua-Jesus—to feel his arms enfold me— and I long to see my parents.  I also miss little Pope.  Sometimes my mind skips ahead to that day.  I open my eyes, and they are there.  Yeshua-Jesus.  My parents.  And my little dog, running to meet me across a field of flowers.