Friday, March 9, 2012

Opening lines...

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Quite often in the world of literature, the opening lines of a story or novel can determine the success or failure of the book.  Take for example the following classic opening line:  "It was a dark and stormy night..." I believe Snoopy used these words every time he started writing his novel.  Who could forget the opening line, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...."  The beginning words of Charles Dickens' famous A Tale of Two Cities.  "Call me Ishmael."  Three words that begin the classic Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  And, of course, probably the most famous and well known opening line of them all - "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth."  Genesis 1:1 from the Bible.

Several years ago, Greg and I studied an excellent book in our Sunday Morning Bible Study at church.  The book was entitled The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  The subtitle was "What on Earth Am I Here For?"  The opening line for the book is most memorable:  "It's not about you."  What a great beginning statement for a volume about the purpose of life.  Most people in the world today would respond with the "self-help" book focus:  ME!  When we as humans begin to question the purpose of our lives, Mr. Warren writes that we tend to think along the lines of, "What do I want to be?  What should I do with my life?  What are my goals, my ambitions, my dreams for my future?"  But "WE" are not in control of our lives.  The Bible tells us:  "For the life of every living thing is in His hand, and the breath of every human being."  Job 12:10.

Rick Warren writes that when we are confronted with discovering the purpose for which we have been created, we have two options.  Number one is speculation.  Mr. Warren asserts that most people choose this option.  In fact, humans have been doing this for thousands of years.  We even have a name for our speculative efforts:  Philosophy.  Over 20 years ago, Dr. Hugh Moorhead, a Philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University queried some 250 of the world's best known philosophers, scientists, writers, and intellectuals as to the meaning of life.  Some responded with their best guesses;  some just made up answers to the question;  and some actually admitted they were "clueless" as to a response.  Dr. Moorhead published his findings under the title:  The Meaning of Life According to Our Century's   Greatest Writers and Thinkers, Chicago Review Press, 1988.

The second option to choose in finding an answer to the question of "why are we here?" is, according to Rick Warren, revelation.  He says the easiest way to discover the purpose of an invention is to ask the inventor, the one who created the item.  The same is true for finding the answer for the purpose of life:  ask the Creator;  ask God.  He has even provided us with an owner's manual - the Bible.  Mr. Warren says that in the Bible God has explained His five purposes for our lives:  1) we were planned for God's pleasure;  2) we were formed for God's family;  3) we were created to become like Christ;  4) we were shaped for serving God;  and 5) we were made for a mission.  My purpose in today's post is not to expound upon these 5 purposes.  However, hopefully, I've piqued your interest;  tickled your curiosity enough for you want to discover more.  If so, obtain a copy of Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life.  Read and study this volume if you want to experience a life-changing event.

Speaking of "life-changing" event.  In my opinion, nothing fulfills that idea more than two circumstances:  a life-altering disease and the birth of a baby.  I have experienced both in a matter of weeks.  This on-going blog is about the first.  And this post offers me the opportunity to mention the second.  Our youngest son, Scott and Lisa, his wife, recently added to their brood.  Last month they welcomed into their family a son named Seth Gregory. Their three daughters now have a brother. Holding that new, little living bundle in my arms automatically got me to thinking about the purpose of life.  And the exciting thought is that God is Seth's creator and Seth was in His care before he was even born.   (Isaiah 44:2a)   Praise the LORD!   Long before we were conceived by our parents, we were conceived in the mind of God and He has a purpose for our lives.  Little Seth as he grows will make many plans for his life, but the LORD's purpose will prevail.  (Proverbs 19:21)  My prayer for Seth is that he develops a life long relationship with his Heavenly Father and his Savior Jesus Christ and that his knowledge of God grows and grows. For "without God life makes no sense."  (Andrei Bitov, Russian novelist)

Next time, I'll talk about "side effects" as my journey continues...


"Call me Seth"

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Another thing to "worry" about...

"The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps."  Proverbs 16:9

Our morning walking group attended a breakfast/meeting at a local senior citizens care center the other day.  The topic of the presentation (after a delicious free breakfast) was Alzheimer's Disease.  The bulk of the talk dealt with the several symptoms of the disease and how to differentiate between true manifestations of Alzheimer's versus normal brain behavior changes due to advancing age.  As we left the program, one member of our group light-heartedly said, "Well, that's another thing to worry about."  That comment which was said in jest, but with a hint of seriousness, got me to thinking about the adult Sunday morning Bible study in which Greg and I are participating at our church.

We are reading and studying the book by Chip Ingram entitled God As He Longs For You To See Him.  The most recent chapter dealt with the Sovereignty of God.  In the beginning of that chapter Chip says he worships God "because He is before all things,  He created all things,  He upholds all things,  He is above all things,  He knows all things,  He accomplishes all things, He rules over all things, and He is in control of all things."  WOW!  With that description of God, I have to agree with Chip Ingram when he writes that this means God "is the boss";  He is '"the King"';  He is "ruler of everything"!  Chip further writes that when he thinks of the Sovereignty of God, the phrase he likes best is that '"God is in control."'

I mentioned this phrase earlier in my blog entries:  God is in control.  What does this expression mean?  Chip says God is in control;   He is Sovereign.  "Nothing will enter your life that God does not either decree or allow.   And nothing will ever enter your life that, if you are willing to trust in Him, he cannot work out for your good."  Whatever enters our lives will be used by God for our benefit.

We are quick to agree with this idea whenever what comes into our life is of a positive nature:  job promotion,  pay increase, new car, new house, winning lottery ticket, etc.  However, when the negative enters our life:  marriage on the rocks,  kids misbehaving, the stock market tanking, someone we love is in ICU, etc. we tend to choose to depress and cry out, "Why me, Lord?"   We think no good could ever come out of what is happening to us.  What we don't consider is voiced by Chip Ingram when he writes, "God is doing things that you don't understand, things that are deeper and better and more wonderful than you imagined, but you must believe!"

We spend so much time in our lives trying to manipulate situations.  We try to figure out how to make them work the way we want them to go.  In other words, we spend a great deal of our time trying to live "balanced" lives.  Lives that are in our control.  And during these "balanced" times we forget about God - the One who controls all things in the universe.  But when events occur which throw everything out of equilibrium, such as cancer, our lives become suddenly "unbalanced".  And when our lives are "unbalanced" we realize that we are not in control.  Eventually we are forced to realize that God, not we, are in control of our universe.  Greg and I heard a sermon this past weekend upon this very subject.  The pastor said the best thing we can do is live "unbalanced" lives.  Lives in which we acknowledge that the person in control is God and trust Him, knowing that He is working all things for our good, even things which we don't understand and which seem so unfair.

How do we live this "unbalanced" life daily?  Oswald Chambers has a very short, simple answer:  "Absolutely refuse to worry."  What?!  That's easier said than done!   Actually, "that" is easier done than said.  Remember, God is Sovereign;  He is in control - of everything.  We have Romans 8:28 - "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."  We can put this concept into practice by remembering that whenever something negative happens: pray, but don't worry.

So what should we do when we experience something that seems hard, unfair, depressing, or impossible?  To quote once again Chip Ingram:  we should "stop fighting, stop resisting, stop complaining, and start trusting your Sovereign heavenly Father."  Amen, Chip, Amen!

Next time I'll talk about "opening lines..."


                             This is what the LORD says-Israel's King
                             and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty;  I am
                             the first and I am the last;  apart from me
                             there is no God...Is there any God besides
                             me?  No, there is no other Rock;  I know
                             not one."

                                                                           Isaiah 44:6-8