Author: prestonrentz

Natural Disasters Devastate; what we can’t see without them.

Natural Disasters Devastate; what we can’t see without them.

Homes leveled by a raging storm, peoples dreams along with them. Once a carefully designed house, now only debris. Streets and back yards where kids once played, now small bodies of water filled with contaminants and electrical current. A lifetime’s worth of personal belongs gone in a matter of hours. Whole neighborhoods under water for the first time. Worst of all, lives lost. Families broken. And the course of one’s life changed forever. All because of a storm of wind and rain. A storm over which we have no apparent control.


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Have you ever wondered; why does God allow such devastation? What possible purpose could come from such destruction and loss of life? We may not ask this question out loud, but it may quietly haunt us on some level. Does God really care? If he does, why doesn’t he protect us from such destructive forces? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but there are some observations worth noting.

The Christian Bible makes an interesting statement on behalf of the Creator;

“I set before you the way of life and the way of death.” Jeremiah 21:18 NKJV

The environment God seems to have set us in is one of contrast between life and death, good and evil, of which we see displayed daily. The question still begs; why let death and destruction have its way so often and in so many ways? Sometimes it feels as if the world is mostly evil, destructive, with only occasional slithers of light getting through. In my own journey of trying to discover the good amidst the darkness, I often wondered if God allows such devastation for the sole purpose of allowing his ways to be more clearly seen. Maybe in some odd way this messed up world serves as the perfect backdrop for God to showcase authentic good.

This idea is an affront however to our utopic mindset. Naturally we don’t want to see any evil in our world. We want to eradicate it. Therefore, we may reason; “if God were really a loving God, death and destruction would never occur.” But it’s hard to deny the clarifying effect of a world that contrasts both good and evil so poignantly. If we’re looking to create a Utopian society however, the idea of having to parse out the good and evil around us seems an unnecessary distraction to the life we’re hoping to build.

With Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many are singing the praises of individuals who are sacrificing their time, labor and funds in order to help those affected by the storms. Corporations too. We all have watched as stores like Home Depot helped in getting goods to people who need it by increasing delivery of goods to the devastation zones, and without raising prices unduly. Delta Airlines, American Airlines and Frontier Airlines all have reduced their fares in an effort to help get folks out of Florida. Gallery Furniture of Houston opened its doors and became a shelter for anyone in need. Some reports suggest it may have cost the store upwards of $30,000.00 a day for its generosity. No doubt many mom and pop stores have shared their goods as well, these are unsung heroes.

Here in the U.S., there’s something rather stifling about things going well; a bustling economy, money flowing, goods being sold, no major wars, no storms, no worries, that seems to bring the worst out in some. It’s almost as if the closer we get to a utopia, the more of a platitude we become, the more one dimensional our spirits. We become complacent as a people, bored maybe, and our criticism and infighting abound as result. Instead of our success as a country bringing out the hero, it appears to hide the hero. Instead of wealth making us want to be more generous, it seems to highlight greed. This is not true with everyone. Our own pursuit of the utopia however seems to rob our existence of character and blur the lines of right and wrong.

On the other hand, when disaster hits, our profile as a country changes dramatically. We’re once again shaken in our being, our gaze is sharpened and our spirits are open to the idea of sacrificial love. We spring into action with an ever sharper focus, and we ask; “how can I make someone else’s life better, who can I help?” Socioeconomic status suddenly means nothing, the color of our skin is of no consequence, our political squabbles grow quiet for the most part and our precious schedules fall in their status of priority. And our inner heroism rises to the surface and altruism more easily flows from our being.

Is it possible that God occasionally allows things to go wrong so that he can make us right? Is it possible that he allows a disaster to occur so as to remind us what’s lurking just below the surface, what we’re capable of, and what matters most in life? Is it possible that God wants to remind us that no one human being is more important to God than another? That he deeply values all of his children? Is it possible that God wants to remind us how much we need each other, and how our petty disagreements only divide and destroy? And is it possible that those who often and easily throw around accusations of others are only doing the Devil’s work. Perhaps God wants us to stop judging and condemning one another, and instead try to see the good in others, even with those of whom we may not agree.

I can’t help but believe that God allows such disaster so that we can once again see how simple and beautiful life can be when we just take care of each other, look out for the interest of others and to remember that we’re all in this together, both in bad times and good?

Maybe disasters remind us that some of our pursuits are ill intended, and how easily we exploit one another for personal gain, especially when “times are good”. Maybe too many of our relationships are for utility purposes alone, and not simply for the sake of spending time with each other, with no particular agenda.

I wonder how quick the social, racial, economic and political challenges of our day would be solved if we would abide by Jesus’ words; My command is this: “Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NIV

When the storm has passed, who will you be?


Look Inside this Book

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Does God Still Guide Nations, World Events?

Does God Still Guide Nations, World Events?

In his book 1776, David McCullough tells the story of the Revolutionary War from the perspective of the soldiers themselves. Accessing both American and British archives and some personal letters written by soldiers and officers alike, the Pulitzer Prize winning author weaves together a complex and often tragic telling of how the battle was started, its various movements throughout the war, and how it ended; all from the perspective of those who were actually there. 1776 is one the best written and most compelling books I’ve read, especially in its treatment of how the U.S. became an independent nation. Concerning our nations current challenges however, and those of other countries as well, I found the unusual happenings in the Revolutionary War to be of some encouragement and guidance for us today.

The odds were remarkably against the original 13 colonies of ever becoming an independent nation, much more so than I previously realized. The British army was well trained, well fed and adequately uniformed. They were truly professional soldiers. Hundreds of cannon-equipped war ships were at the British’s disposal, many of which arrived in the New York Harbor as a daunting show of force against the Americans. The British were the leading superpower at the time. Fighting these back woods Americans was supposed to be an easy win.

Washington’s Continental Army on the other hand was a rag-tag regiment at best with few professional soldiers. They were often sick, without adequate boots or weaponry, and were mostly farmers by trade. They had very few ships. Moral was often low. Desertions were common throughout the rather long and confusing war, and many abandoned the cause and went back to their farms when their enlistment obligations had expired. Our countries mission lacked clarity, unity, and any reasonable expectation of a victory. Which may explain why so many Americans were sympathetic to the British cause.

The British, according to letters from their own officers, really thought they had this war in the bag. Their confidence was glaring and their disdain for the less-than-impressive American troops was not hidden. They often boasted of how easy it will be to defeat General Washington and his unprofessional army. As one goes through the book, even knowing the outcome, you can’t help but ask; “how in the world were they able to pull this off?” And that’s exactly the right question, because they shouldn’t have been able to.

The most compelling thing about this event in history however is the many unexplainable events that took place during this war. The reading of the book gives one a mysterious notion of Divine involvement. I say mysterious because the book doesn’t highlight the Christian Faith, religion in general or God’s involvement necessarily. McCullough simply records what the soldiers and officers themselves witnessed, and recorded with pen and ink. It’s widely documented for instance that there were dense fogs, snow storms, sudden down pours, high winds, rising river tides and other weather related miracles that were so obviously to the benefit of Washington’s cause, Washington himself referred to them as “strokes of Providence”.

There were circumstantial occurrences as well involving soldiers and spies that mere men simply could not have orchestrated with such beneficial outcome. Time after time the “unbeatable” British Army was simply failing to succeed in any lasting effort against the Continental Army, an army they should have easily been able to defeat. One supernatural event after another however rendered their plans moot. It simply appeared that God’s hand was guiding the events of this war.

When I finished reading McCullough’s book, I realized more than ever that God’s will is going to be carried out in this world, regardless of what nations and their leaders wish to be carried out on their own agenda. Free will is in tact, both wise and foolish things will be demonstrated by the worlds leaders as some latitude is given. And make no mistake, repercussions for those decisions will come to fruition, as we see played out here in our own country. As far as God’s will however, nothing can thwart what God intends to carry out ultimately, eventually.

The United States was going to be founded and remain independent of British rule, no matter what forces came against her. Perhaps for the balance of nations, super powers, defense of Israel, innovation, management of wealth, etc. Who Knows? Well, God knows. That gives me great comfort today as I look at the stifling chaos and disruptive back-and-forth bantering that abounds in our nation. If one takes a micro view, a day to day look at current events in our country, one might get discouraged real quick. And think it impossible for any good to come from our current social, political and economic environment.

I’ve learned however to take a macro view, a broader view of current events, and to ask a different question other than “will congress ever get it right?” or “will we ever be able to move forward again as one people?” I prefer to ask; “what is God doing with our country, and with our world?” “Where is he taking us?” and, “how will he solve the seemingly insurmountable issues of our day?” I like these questions because historically, the guiding hand of our Creator has brought us through some dark and tragic times in our country, and the world, and with little help on our part. I also like this line of questioning because it keeps me looking in the right direction.

The world has survived and moved beyond some horrendous events, some much worse than what we’re going through right now. Truth is, we’ll get through this, mostly though because our God cares about the direction of this nation, and all the worlds nations. More to the point, God is the one that brought this country about in the first place, he’ll certainly know how to get it through even today’s challenges.

It’s not a question of whether good or bad will come out of the mess we find ourselves in, rather what good will our Creator somehow bring out of both?

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Alzheimer’s Took Mom, not Jesus’ Presence

Alzheimer’s Took Mom, not Jesus’ Presence

It would be one of the last conversations I would have with Mom. It was 2016 and she was now succumbing to Alzheimer’s unrelenting grip. As we sat together in her small but comfortable living room, I tried to communicate with the woman who had been my Mom for half a century. Her fading into the unknown was unsettling, for she was only a remnant of her full self, but she was still Mom.

My wife had gone outside to look after our kids and to give me some time alone with my dying mother. Dad joined them. There was an awkward silence in the room as we sat, unable to really communicate, broken only by the sound of my kids playing just outside the sliding glass door. I asked Mom questions, if she remembered this or that, hoping to break through the wall the disease had built around her. I wanted to make a connection, but it wasn’t happening.

Occasionally, something would get her attention and she would respond, mostly with garbled speech that reflected a misalignment of mind and tongue, one of the debilitating affects of Alzheimer’s. In spite of our lack of cognizant communication, I felt centered to be in her presence, for she had sacrificed so much for me and my four siblings, for our whole family. The unseen connection came through loud and clear, at least in the form of an inner peace. Still, I longed to connect verbally somehow, visually, on the surface I guess. It was as if my senses of sight and hearing needed confirmation of what I believed to be true, but wanted to know with certainty; that Mom could hear me, understand me and know full well that it was me sitting just across from her.

As I sat waiting for some kind of sign that she was not fully recessed into the annals of her mind, thoughts of a difficult past rushed my spirit and wouldn’t let go. These were memories, both painful and pleasant rising to the surface. Not just of my history with her, but of her past well before I came into the picture. The many stories she told over the years of her upbringing were circling in my mind as if she had just told them to me the day before. I recalled watching a home video taken in 1942, when she was only about six years old, playing in the backyard, having no idea of the life God had in store for her. Now, she was in her last months and in her eighties. I was trying to celebrate her soon departure from a broken world and a fading body, but sadness took the moment.

Discouraged that I wasn’t getting through, I decided to ask her about her faith, her love for the Bible and Jesus. It would be one last attempt to stir something within her. I started with asking her if she missed reading the Bible, which was important to her for as long as I could remember, but not much of a response. Then I asked her if she still prayed or spoke with Jesus? Without letting more than a second pass after this question, her thin face turned toward me and her warm Hazel eyes locked with mine. In perfect speech and obvious determination, she said; “oh yes, I talk to Jesus everyday.” Her face again then turned back to the wall she had been staring at for the past thirty minutes or so. Stunned at the sudden level of clarity in her speech and focus in her eyes, I sat there speechless. For a few moments, Alzheimer’s had no power. In fact, it didn’t seem to even exist. We finally connected, but on her terms, that of her and her Savior.

Mom was the original witness to me as to the love and goodness of our Christ Jesus, and she had just witnessed to me again, and in such a way I didn’t see coming. I was reminded that Jesus was there the whole time, even in the midst of her debilitating disease. And perhaps there to give me one last wink through Mom, one final witness through the woman that brought me into this world.

Mom went into the arms of God just one week before Mother’s Day 2017. Her witness to his love and ever-presence, even in the midst of her haunting disease, will stay with me forever. Love you Mom. I’ll see you in the age to come.

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When Life Gets Tough, Will I Remain?

When Life Gets Tough, Will I Remain?

Her arms were shaking violently. Her facial cheeks bounced with the rhythm of the bumpy trail that lie just below her. Her expression conveyed anger, insecurity. Words of complaint rolled from her tongue as her bicycle rolled along the rock laden path. “daddy, I don’t think I can do this” she expressed with shaky voice and wavering emotion. Her determination however demanded that her eyes focused intently on the narrow trail set before her, until hesitation mixed with doubt caused her to stop the bike in protest and to stand up in a straddle over it, and to stare me down. “Honey, you can do it, just follow me and I promise, we’ll have a great ride”, I said in a gentle but nudging tone.

At those words and with renewed trust won, she once again mounted her bike and pressed feet to peddle. We were off again on the bike ride we had planned for weeks. My daughter and I were now enjoying an adventure we both had looked forward to—time with just her and I. But the difficulty she was having surprised me, I had no intention of putting her through such a challenging ride, which turned out to be cycling on an new level for my daughter, who was 8 at the time. As we rode through the narrow dirt path speckled with protruding rocks, cracks in thirsty soil and high weeds on both sides, she remained challenged to stay steady while avoiding every obstacle.

Finally we were on the last stretch of the ride, it was a paved portion of the trail I had mapped out for us, and she was overtly grateful. It was her first ride on a public street without training wheels or that half-bike thing that attaches to the back of an adult bike. This was the real thing, and the empowerment she’d received as a result caught me off-guard, but moved me. She began to utter things like “wow, this is a dream come true, I can’t believe I’m doing this”, perhaps it was her “ride-of-passage”.

When the ride was over, she displayed a sense of accomplishment and empowerment that I had not seen in her before. “Dad, that was the most amazing ride ever” she expressed slightly out of breath but clearly elated. As we were taking our gear off and putting the bikes on the back of our SUV, she asked me “How long was that ride daddy, it must have been two or three hours right?” It was actually only 28 minutes. When I told her that, her eyes widened and her mouth swung open, no sound this time.

On the way home we enjoyed ice cream cones with windows down and music blaring. Then it dawned on me just how our bicycle ride closely mimicked the way God wants to take you and me through this life. For a little while He suspends us somewhere between complacency and destruction. Predictability and the extreme of shock. Easy street and one just too bumpy to continue on. The ride gets rough at times, but he alone knows how to get us through, even forget the pain the rock laden path may have caused. The path he takes us on is one we would never choose for ourselves, and we often feel we can’t take it, that things are just too difficult, and yet when we get through it, and as a result we’re empowered beyond what we thought possible. This is the reward for those who stay with God, no matter what. And I have found, this is the way He loves.

In this great love, God knows how to provide a life that sets our table somewhere between boredom and tragedy; perhaps the place at which authentic adventure is found. Our life is hard, but fulfilling, rattling to our soul, but empowering. Uncomfortable but promoting. Scary at times but exhilarating. Only a brilliant and loving God can  fine tune our lives with such incredible detail, such insane specificity, all the while honoring our free will. He knows our personal perimeters, our sensitivities, our fears and our limitations. But it’s all a part of the recipe for the life He’s ordained for each of us. He’s gentle, but He knows if He doesn’t push us now and then or put us through some challenging stuff, we’ll never experience the empowerment and the thrill of going to the next level. When I view my struggles through this lens, I have a very different attitude about them, a perspective of great hope in the midst of some tough issues, hope then rises. The more I trust Him and bring everything to Him, the more I tend to wait on His outcome, which never disappoints. It’s tough at times, I don’t like the bumps, but somehow it always addresses the things in me that need addressing, and I’m always smiling when the ride is over.

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Clarity in Colorado

Clarity in Colorado

There’s a ski hill in between Snowmass Colorado and Aspen, it’s called Buttermilk. I once ascended it’s slopes to the highest possible point, and there I felt as if I were on top of the world. From its rising elevations, proud-standing trees, pure snow and pristine views, I looked across the Colorado landscape and caught a glimpse of countless other mountain peaks. As I gazed across what must have been fifty miles of snow-capped mountains, I was filled with the fresh air of absolute clarity like I rarely experience. All my senses agreed that the place I was standing was a good place to stay for a while, even though it was about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Maybe the cold air, diminished oxygen and partially frozen extremities colluded together to shut down the brain and leave room only for emotion, for pondering, from which  I couldn’t stop staring across the Rocky Mountains and marveling at God’s stunning Creation.

That was twenty years ago. I’ve since found a point of clarity in another setting, in the setting of God’s love. Having searched the pages of the Bible for decades in search of answers, maybe loop-holes and yielding myself to thousands of sermon’s, I’ve come to marvel mostly at God’s love. The older I get, the more painfully aware I am of my own flaws, my propensity toward evil. And yet the more aware I become of God’s devoted love for me and for his children, the more it appears a great paradox. The more un-lovable I feel, the more his love comes into clear view. I’ve been a student of Christianity for a longtime, I know some things, or do I?

To know and receive God’s love is the most comforting thing I’ve ever encountered, even beyond human love. That said, the opportunity then to turn and give that love to others is even more fulfilling, or at least as much. Whether it’s more or less, the feeling of having completed the circle of loves movements around us is remarkable beyond words. I can do some impressive, important and even honorable things in this life, but they all stumble into obscurity compared to loving those around me, taking what God has given me and simply passing it on somehow, however ill-equipped I am. I think Leo Tolstoy, the Russian writer and author of War and Peace, had it right when he said;” Everything that I know…I know only because I love.”

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Let True-Self Rise to the Top

Let True-Self Rise to the Top

Like most folks I guess, I’m on this journey called life trying to figure out just who I am and what life is truly about. But it’s not easy. The world is a noisy place. The chatter is relentless. One’s individuality can easily get lost in a thousand conversations.

We now live in a world where every reporter is a commentator. Every news anchor has an opinion. And every radio talk show host has the answers to all the world’s problems. And every group has an agenda. Nothing wrong with that, hello free speech. But with 24/7 news and talk radio at it’s peak, it’s no stretch for dialog to remain constant. Which pleads the question; are we leaving room for our own thoughts?

If all we do is ponder other people’s opinions, I wonder if our own outlook has room to surface. Radio talk show hosts have one agenda; to use the airwaves to voice their ideology. That’s fine, but let’s be clear; they don’t go on the air to bring the opinion of others to light, only their own. We may agree with some of the things said, but I wonder what we’re giving up? Our own ideas? Our own convictions? Our own unique self even?

For this reason, I rarely listen to talk radio. My exposure to TV news is measured. My days of basking long in the strong opinion of others is over. Why? Because I only care about my own opinion? No, because we all are unique beings and our thoughts, outlook and voice are also unique. And we need to give ourselves room to be, well, ourselves. I don’t want to lose track of the authentic self, and there is a real threat of this in a society that never shuts up.

A friend is enamored with his favorite radio personality. When we get together, his primary thoughts are filtered through what “so and so” thinks. I bet you know someone like this. I’ve known him for over a decade, and I can no longer tell the difference between his own thoughts and that of Mr. radio personality. The lines are now blurred. And I’ve never seen him more disillusioned. He seems to have lost his center. His core purpose. I’m not exaggerating. His uniqueness wanes as he blends in. I wonder if he’s even living anymore.

If we’re going to be our best in this life. If we’re going to discover our authentic self, we’re going to have to learn to shut the radio off. Walk away from the TV. Keep the news from dominating our lives. And maybe postpone our next trip to Red Box. Besides, as the great writer and preacher Max Lucado once said in a speech concerning television news; “it’s all bad news anyway”. He has a point.

Stve Jobs Quote

The amazing Word of God warns us that;

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he”  Proverbs 23:7 NKJV

The thing we spend our time thinking on the most shapes who we are. We mustn’t underestimate the power of any form of meditation. And if we constantly clothe ourselves with political dialog and the fear based problems of the world, both heart and spirit will reflect the quality of our focus.

I’m not suggesting we put our heads in the sand. We’re a part of this world and its problems, we need to be a part of the solution somehow. And that involves knowing what’s going on. But there’s a balance here.

Something tells me our greatest contribution to this world, whatever that might be, begins with being ourselves, our true selves. And if that authentic self is mixed up with the identity of others, we may never discover just what our contribution will be. What we’re capable of.

As I began to limit my exposure to the thoughts of others, an amazing thing began to happen. Suddenly there was room for my own thoughts. My mind could breathe again. My dreams rose to the surface. My true convictions came into clear view. I discovered that I couldn’t care less about much of the dribble being slung around the airways, and I was more free to think about the things I genuinely care about. This lifted my spirits, elevated me out of depression and stirred up a passion that had long been oppressed, all at the expense of the agenda of others who happened to have a louder voice. A bigger microphone.

For those of us who are believers in Christ Jesus, his is the voice we tune into primarily. A voice of hope. Good news. Real answers.

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3 NKJV

Jesus literally holds the key to who we are and our uniqueness given by God. And the world would love to smother that in us, to confuse our identity and calling. But only if we give the enemy permission by swimming in the cesspool of endless and hopeless chatter.

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” Mathew 10:39 NKJV

Learn to do this and your true self will rise to the top, and you’ll make a difference by simply being yourself.

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In Disaster we Create, God Forgives, Loves.

In Disaster we Create, God Forgives, Loves.

It was the kind of phone call we all dread. My wife called and said “I wrecked the car, you’ll have to come and get me”. My heart raced as I asked for more detail. I gathered up my three kids and headed for the crash site. By the grace of God, my wife had only minor injuries.

Before long, there was a fire truck, police and an ambulance. All surrounding two cars that violently met in the middle of the road. The elderly driver of the other car had failed to yield to my wife and hit her head on. His grown daughter was protected on the passenger side by airbags exploding and keeping her from the windshield. The seat belt saved my wife from hitting the steering wheel.

As my wife and I stood on the side of the road watching the professionals clean up, my attention turned to the man who caused the accident.

He was still standing in the middle of the wreckage, by himself. Emergency personal swirled around him while he was the only one stationary. His pregnant daughter had been rushed off to the emergency room to make sure mom and baby were without injury. And there he stood, in the middle of the mess he created. I then felt compelled to go over and speak to him. I didn’t want to, but I’ve learned to listen to that inner voice.

JesusRescue

I went up to the man and extended my hand to his. I told him that we were glad he was okay, and that we would be praying for his daughter. I was overwhelmed with compassion for him, and I’m not sure why. His mistake could have cost someone’s life. My wife’s. His daughter’s. His.

There was no discussion of whose fault it was. In those few moments of talking a midst the chaos, it didn’t matter. We were both relieved that no one died. But I sensed a weight on his shoulders as we spoke. He was the one responsible for what happened that day. But criticism and blame was not in my heart.

In the midst of the mess we easily make of our lives, God wants to deliver us from those messes. He doesn’t delight in rubbing our noses in our mistakes. We make our own messes, in our own way, to be sure. None of us are that far from disaster; addictions we don’t intend to give power to. Relationships we never meant to destroy. Mistakes we never meant to make. Lies we tell to cover the ugly truth. Paths we never intended to go down but here we are; unable to turn it around on our own. But it is in our ugly realities that Jesus is present, and wanting to help.

God’s nature, as shown through Christ Jesus, does not minimize what we’ve done or the wreckage we’ve caused. He is about truth after all. But to love and forgive is also a part of truth. The truth of our Savior Christ Jesus, regardless of how we’ve screwed things up.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Mathew 11:29 NKJV

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Living Beyond Your Potential

Living Beyond Your Potential

I hear things all the time like; “you can reach your potential” or “you have great potential”. And in this world, the attention we receive from others, and value attributed to us, are often based on the potential others see in us. But the love and possibilities we have in Christ Jesus go beyond the world’s value system and its criteria for mere human potential.

In God’s world, he is not interested in us living up to our own potential. Rather, to the possibilities in his limitless nature. Regardless of our limitations and weaknesses, turning to God opens the doors to eternity itself, which has many implications.

Jesus states “with God all things are possible.” Mathew 19:26.

Elaina Victory

Set your heart on what your dreams are, not on whether you have what it takes to accomplish those dreams. God can give you that. He can open any door. Especially to those who pray and act in faith.

Ask yourself what you really want to do with your life, and what his will for your life is, and ask God to open the doors. Give no regard to limitation, which is fear based thinking.

Trust in the advise given in Proverbs; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:5 NIV.

In many ways, the Word of God is trying to tell you and me that in Christ Jesus, anything can be accomplished for good as we trust our dreams and desires to our Lord and Savior. What “impossible” request will you bring to God today?

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Where’s the Outrage? Jesus Knows!

Where’s the Outrage? Jesus Knows!

I first heard the news as I arrived at work one Summer morning. One of our regular customers was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was in his thirties, a husband and father of three. In a moment he was gone from this world.

I worked at a tire shop in a small Texas town in the early 80’s. It was one of those towns where you knew everyone, including most of the customers that frequented our shop. But to be honest, Clark’s death meant little to me. I knew of many car and motorcycle accidents over the years and it was just another unfortunate incident. Sure, I knew who the guy was, we sold him tires and fixed his flats. But we hadn’t exactly shared a beer together. I was there to work and earn a paycheck. So, not a lot of empathy. At least until Mr. Benson walked in.

Apparently, Mr. Benson had just heard the news about Clark’s death upon arriving at our shop. He was noticeably upset. He deliberately paced back and forth in one of our open bays, staring at the floor and making statements out of sheer outrage. He passionately expressed thoughts like; “how could a father of three young children take a chance like that?”. “Those boys will need their father, what will they do now?”. “This was a senseless and unnecessary accident”. “I can’t believe he is dead”. On and on he raged without any attempt to conceal how he felt.

In my early twenties I was hard-hearted and lacking the sensitivities to take in the full tragedy. But his anger got my attention. And just how he so effectively expressed his outrage at the whole tragedy stunned me. He was really mad. It shook me up. I was not used to seeing such raw emotion wrapped up in passion like that.

I will always be grateful to Mr. Benson. I couldn’t see the gravity of Clark’s death without his outrage. Thanks to Mr. Benson, Clark’s death became a loss for me too, for all of us in the shop that day. We were now thinking of his family more and what that loss would mean to his wife and children. The story was now hitting us all on a personal level.

Remembering this story makes me wonder what has happened to healthy sense of outrage in America. An appropriate sense of anger. This world certainly doesn’t lack subject matter, there are plenty of issues to really mad about.

The Holy Word of God calls us to “Be angry, and do not sin.” In our culture however we have put the emphasis on the “do not sin” part while ignoring the “be angry” part. Not a psycho or murderous anger, but a righteous anger at a world that falls deeper into depravity.

Mr. Benson didn’t lash out at those around him. He didn’t lobby congress to outlaw motorcycles. He didn’t demonize everyone who would ride a motorcycle. He didn’t threaten to burn down a motorcycle dealership.  No, he just expressed his anger and didn’t hide it from those around him. That was his gift to all present that day. He made us contemplate the very weight of tragedy, and what that tragedy meant. Only outrage could have accomplished this.

Perhaps the law that allows abortion would be overturned if enough outrage were expressed. Though some has been expressed over the years, we mostly hear contrived moral arguments. Nothing wrong with that, it just doesn’t always pierce the heart.  I wonder how much would change if we had just one passionately indignant leader who could stir hearts along with good old-fashioned reasoning. Instead, religious, political and intellectual arguments are quietly, even stoically made.

If someone in our society expressed themselves with the level of anger and indignation that Jesus did with the money changers in the Temple of God, they might be put in a straight jacket. Or even the outrage Jesus expressed towards the religious leaders of his day.

Anger, even for the right reasons is simply not tolerated in our culture. And this may be the beginning or the impetus for the deepest form of apathy. Which alone may explain why so many of our seemingly insurmountable problems that plague this country never get addressed. Immigration comes to mind. The need to change the tax code. Our National debt, our trade deficit, etc. It seems that those who run our country only know how to argue and to entrench themselves in their own ideals, whether it actually helps the country or not. And usually not.

Maybe Congress would feel more compelled to find a way to make much-needed changes in our country if we the people could somehow channel our outrage appropriately, without violence or harm to neighbor. Because the moment we hurt others or destroy property, we have abandoned the Golden Rule. Even so, maybe they would just turn a deaf ear. Or just maybe they would finally feel compelled to work together and do something.

Anger is the one emotion that is so easily be abused, yet so much-needed. Especially in an increasingly apathetic society. But we would rather have passivity and niceness than effective indignation. Most don’t want to make waves. And somehow we’ve been convinced that we should conceal our stronger emotions.

No one in the tire shop that day questioned Mr. Benson’s anger, his words or his tirade. It was remarkably appropriate. Almost like poetry in the form of outrage. Beautifully displayed outrage. Much needed outrage.

What do you think? Do you believe harmless anger and indignation has a place in our society today?

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Ageing Backwards

Ageing Backwards

In the 2008 film; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the idea of ageing backwards was played out in a creative but fictional drama. Brad Pitt’s character was born as an old man. He ages backwards throughout his life until he eventually dies as an infant. This was the first time I remember contemplating the idea of actually ageing backwards.

The fitness industry also speaks of age-reversal through nutrition, supplements and strength training. But neither Hollywood or the fitness industry invented the concept of ageing backwards, God did. And for the Christian, this is real.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus from Mathew 18:3 (NRSV).

We were once children and now we’ve grown up. We’ve left childish things behind and have matured into productive adults. Why go back? What part of us must return to a child like state?

While the world concerns itself with physical age reversal or the avoidance of physical death all together, God’s concerns lies in the renewal of our spirit. As Paul of the New Testament states;

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV

This is not mere theory or religious talk, it’s the power of God offered to those in Christ Jesus. A hint to age-reversal within our spirit. Because for those of us who are adults and don’t yet totally depend on God, he’s inviting us to age backwards; to return to a childlike state and rely on our God for everything, the way we used to rely on our parents or guardians when we were young.

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But I’ve had trouble deciphering just what Jesus meant here. If we’re to become childlike again, would not immaturity and fear go along with that?

The first thing I notice about children is how tender-hearted and innocent they are. But one crying fit or gross display of me-ism and it doesn’t take long to notice how corrupt they are in their spirit. Thus the need for redemption. As beautiful as children are, they are immature and easily misled. So we need to grow up, but not in the way the world would have us.

When the love of Christ gets a hold of us, it’s a tough ride at times. There’s both joy and pain along the way. Because while God is taking us forward, he’s also taking us back. This friction creates suffering. But the Lord reminds us;

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4 NIV

The world cannot create this kind of person who is mature but childlike.  A grown-up but happy and grateful. An adult who is filled with life and joy as if they didn’t have a care in the world. It’s a paradox to human reasoning. But this is the Christian fully alive.

God must have his way with us if we’re to know genuine redemption. Absolute renewal. A true re-birth. But it sometimes feels like nothing more than the drudgery of day-to-day struggle. We experience the trials and temptations as if all depends on our own success to survive. But it doesn’t. As the Word says;

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV

We have our part; The Word again reminds us;

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7 NIV

This kind of life is crucial to one who would know the joy of ageing backwards. But what God is actually offering in this life is beyond mere age reversal, even of the spiritual kind. Listen to the words from Proverbs;

In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality. Proverbs 12:28 NIV

We experience an age-reversal in spirit because we’re actually living from the immortal spirit of Christ Jesus. Yes, as God encourages us, delivers us from our troubles, strengthens us when we’re down in spirit and lifts us to his love and joy, we’re actually getting a taste of the real fountain of youth; the immortal spirit of our Savior Christ Jesus. What greater gift could one receive in this world? Don’t waste it!!

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