Thursday, April 7, 2016

Is Your Problem the Real Problem???

The Problem isn’t Really the Problem
Barbara Henderson

Sissy and Bubba were neighbors growing up.  With names like Sissy and Bubba they were automatically drawn to each other.  They helped each other beat up other kids who liked to make fun of their names.  They got along well right from the start.  They got married young and never looked back.  They had their share of troubles, joys, blessings, and even a few things that seemed like a curse.  Through everything Sissy and Bubba did love each other, but they also faced problems in the relationship.  If God hadn’t pulled them through they would have probably wound up in divorce court.  It was especially hard the years they had the sets of twins.  The second year of their marriage the twin boys were born.  Bubba Junior and Bubba Ray were definitely a handful.  Two years later Little Sissy and Missy were born.  Their six additional children were born one at a time like clockwork every two year.  These children were named after other family members like Uncle Jeremiah, Aunt Dorcas, Cousin Tuti-Fruitie, and so on.  On their twenty-fifth anniversary they looked at their children and thanked God for a good life. 

BUT, they were noticing some problems in their marriage. Bubba was tired.  Working to support a wife and ten kids was definitely a full time job.  Money was tight and Bubba just wasn’t convinced that Sissy was managing the money quite as well as she could.  He was definitely too busy to take over the bill paying and money management, but he was happy to point out areas where he thought Sissy was not performing to his expectation.  Retirement was a long way off, but he thought there should be at least a tiny retirement account set up.  He hadn’t had a new truck in over fifteen years, and he was not fond of that fifteen passenger van Sissy drove everywhere.  He wanted a better job, but he had turned down jobs that were potentially better because they would cut into his family time.  He felt like life was passing him by and that somehow Sissy was responsible for their lack of wealth.  She was also probably responsible for the fact that they were living their lives stuck in a rut.  Of course he loved her, but the burden of what wasn’t going right in their lives was definitely on her shoulders.

Sissy was also tired.  She had given up the idea of being a ‘super mom’ when Bubba Junior and Bubba Ray were two weeks old.  When Little Sissy and Missy were born two years later she had really wished for money to afford a full time housekeeper and cook.  She loved caring for her children, but all that cooking and cleaning was exhausting.  By the time baby number ten was born Sissy was pretty much worn to a frazzle.  She never did get the cook or the housekeeper.  Her wardrobe was always outdated because she seemed to stay the same size.  She couldn’t afford to buy new clothes when old clothes were still in good shape, at least not when she was responsible for clothing ten children.  True, hand-me-downs helped with the kids clothes, but kids did need some things brand new.  But Sissy rose to the occasion.  She homeschooled her children, consistently taught them to be responsible for certain things, managed to run the household on a schedule so that meals were on time and clean clothes were available.  She also cut their hair, learned to sew like a professional, and took up gardening and canning.  She budgeted to make sure all the bills were paid and basic needs were met.  But she was really starting to wonder if Bubba was really doing his part.  Could he have brought home a better salary if he had tried harder?  Did he have to have the new clothes so often even if he did work in an office? 

And college was coming up.  Bubba felt like Sissy should have been planning for how to send their kids to college from the day the Bubba Jr. and Bubba Ray were born.  And there wasn’t one single college fund set up, much less ten.  Sissy knew college was coming up and she was at her wits end worrying about it. 

The stress was causing Bubba to blame Sissy.  Pointed remarks were likely to come up in any conversation.  It was definitely Sissy’s fault, and Bubba couldn’t help letting her know about it.  Their kids were not going to get higher educations; they would never be high wage earners; and Sissy was just going to have to bear the burden of guilt, because Bubba knew he had personally done everything humanly possible.  Bubba kept praying and he kept looking at Sissy to see how she was going to pull a rabbit out of the hat on this one!

The stress was also causing Sissy a lot of concern.  She knew her kids were bright. They all loved to learn.  They were definitely college material, but how was she going to get them to college?  She knew it was going to take money, and they just didn’t have any.  And whose fault was that?  Bubba’s!  Sissy earned a little extra money selling items on ebay, but that was just enough to provide a few extras.  And honestly she had never really missed most of the things she and Bubba had given up by having so many kids.  She loved her family.  She kept praying and she kept looking at Bubba to see how he was going to pay for college. 

Then one day Sissy was praying her usual prayer.  It went something like this, ‘Oh Lord!  Thank you for helping me.  Forgive Bubba for being such a lousy provider that our kids can’t go to college unless you intervene.  I know you have given him ways to make more money and he just didn’t follow through.  NOW my kids are going to suffer for his mistakes.  Help Bubba earn more money so the kids can go to college or technical school  - which ever they prefer.

Bubba was also praying, Oh LORD!  Thank you for helping me. Forgive Sissy for mismanaging our money so badly that our kids are going to be cheated out of college.  Help me to forgive her too.  I hate being mad at her about this, and I know you want me to forgive her.  Maybe she just isn’t too bright and can’t help herself.  At least make her wake up and do better with the money I provide.. 

THEN the guardian angel assigned to Sissy and Bubba had a conniption fit and he prayed, ‘Oh Lord!   Has there ever been two such babbling lunk-heads in all of time?  Can’t they see the real problem is failure to trust you!....

Now – step out of Bubba and Sissy’s life for a few minutes and take a look at your own life.  Make a mental list of the top five problems you are facing. Money is probably involved in at least two of your top five difficulties.  Hurt feelings are probably involved in the other three. 

For the sake of argument let’s agree that your problems are VERY real, and that you have legitimate concerns in every one because this is probably the correct assumption.  To get to the top of your list these problems have probably been with you a long time; you have prayed for solutions consistently, and you have done your best to work through the difficulties.  What is wrong?  Why hasn’t God moved on your behalf and settled these issues.  Why are you still struggling to gain a down payment on a house?  Why hasn’t that difficult person moved into another state or at least another county?  Why do you have a car that is falling apart along with a marriage that is falling apart?  Why did Bubba get the new four-wheeler for Christmas and you only got a cheap pair of hiking boots?  Wah! Wah! Wah!

Seriously, I am not taking your troubles lightly.  I know life is filled with painful situations that seem to last forever.  A Biblical example of people who suffered through horrific trials is the children of Israel who were serving as slaves in Egypt when Moses came to set them free.  Well, that sounded good didn’t it?  Ah…. Freedom.  Let the rejoicing begin.  Of course you know the story.  The freedom didn’t exactly begin as expected. Through the ten plagues on Egypt God showed His rule over the false gods worshipped in Egypt.  What a mess.  I mean it must be hard dealing with people who worship frogs, crocodiles, and rivers to say the least.  It would have been like dealing with crazy people.  And you know that while the Jews came out untouched in every plague there was still a lot of stress involved.  It would have been stressful to watch the Egyptians suffer even if they weren’t personally suffering.  I’m sure some of them were gloating, but even that would have been stressful.  Can you imagine the stress the people felt standing at the edge of the Red Sea and watching Pharaoh’s army approaching?

The Lord parted the Red Sea and the Children of Israel went across on dry land. 

The people were seeing the problem of Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.  It was a very real problem, and they were facing what appeared to be certain annihilation.  But that wasn’t the REAL problem.  The real problem was unbelief.  They didn’t believe God.  At least they didn’t believe Him enough to stop them from worrying about escaping the chariots and horses approaching at a rapid pace.

Today, we Christians also see the problems we face with vivid clarity.  We pray.  We ask God for help.  We know that hears our prayers, but we keep on seeing the problem more than we see the infinite power, resources, and love of God Almighty.  THAT is our real problem.  We let our problems blind us to the help God has for us.  And that can cause us to lose out on blessings.   An example of this in the Bible is also in found in the people who made the Exodus from Egypt.  God delivered them from ten plagues.  He made a way across the sea.  He took them to the border of the promised land in just a few short days.  Twelve spies were sent into the land to check it out and return with a report. Two came back proclaiming the land to be a land that truly was flowing with milk and honey.  They knew the land would be theirs because God had promised and God had shown repeatedly that He was able to keep His promises.  They were delighted.  Ten came back crying that the land was crawling with giants and there was no way they would possess that land.  Then the Lord’s patience ran out.  He didn’t kill them outright.  He let them live the rest of their lives wandering in the wilderness.  During that time He fed them manna and didn’t let their clothes wear out, but they were still tent people without a land to call their own.  And they could have had it all!  But they saw the problem of the inhabitants of the land instead of the solution of God’s help.  That is where most people stand today.  The problems we face are ever before us.  This keeps us from trusting God to help us, and that is our real problem!

The problems on which Sissy and Bubba focused wasn’t their real problem.  Their real problem was failing to look beyond the problems they faced to the solution to their problems.  They forgot to look to God, who is a present help in trouble.

My prayer is, ‘God help us to believe Him, and trust Him to help us, and to Remember Psalm 46:1.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 
Psalm 46:1

(Sissy and Bubba are fictional characters)

Hold the Fort for I am Coming

Ho my comrades see the signal
Waving in the sky
Reinforcements now appearing
Victory is nigh


Hold the fort for I am coming
Jesus signals still
Wave the answer back to Heaven
By Thy grace we will

See the mighty host advancing
Satan leading on
Mighty men around us falling
Courage almost gone

See the glorious banner waving
Hear the trumpet blow
In our Leader's Name we'll triumph
Over every foe

Fierce and long the battle rages
But our help is near
Onward comes our great Commander
Cheer my comrades cheer

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Longest Day

The Longest Groundhog’s Day
Barbara Henderson

Most people are familiar with the movie ‘Groundhog’s Day’.  The star of the movie had a problem.  He was a very selfish man.  In the movie he kept repeating the exact same day over and over until he acted correctly through the day instead of being his normal narcisstic  self. 

Most people have a day or two or even one hundred that they would like the opportunity to do over.  They made some big mistakes and they would like the opportunity to do better on that day.  Truthfully, most of these people would not do any better if they had a second chance.

In a way our life is like a do-over.  We don’t get the opportunity to re-do an exact day, but we do get the opportunity to do the same things in a better day.  With each new day we get the opportunity to improve our actions.  Most people don’t take advantage of this opportunity.  They keep doing the same things in the same way.  How they feel about something is their guiding light on how they react.  They don’t take advantage of their opportunity.  Just like in the movie ‘Groundhog’s Day’, they miss the opportunity of causing things to turn out better than the day before.  In the movie the narcissist did the same thing day after day after day.  We are all guilty of doing that to some extent.

 Change starts with the individual.  More change is possible when two people such as a husband and wife decide to do things differently in the hopes of getting a better outcome.  When an entire family decides to do things differently great change for that family and those around them is possible.  In times of a national revival many people decide to do things the right way, and the course of history is changed for the better.

An obvious example of people not deciding to make any changes for the better is found in the children of Israel.  Israel is the nation chosen by God Almighty to show the world the goodness of God.  Instead, Israel as a whole keeps doing the same thing over and over.  They are not faithful to God.  In fact, it appears they will take any choice that doesn’t include God.  God preserves them as a distinct people, but they go through turmoil after turmoil.  The future of Israel is given to us in the Bible.  Through generation after generation of rebellion against God they face turmoil and persecution.  The people are physically slaughtered by those who blame them for all the ills of the world.  But, the Jewish people never change their actions and bow to God.  Instead they follow after whatever sin is considered normal for the day in which they live.

The Bible tells us that in the very last days of the tribulation Israel will finally turn to God with their whole hearts.  Superficial and ritual worship of God will be put away by the Jews and eventually the entire world.  They will cry out to God with their whole heart, and their longest day will finally be over.  God will usher in the Millennial Kingdom, and true peace will come to the world.  What a day that will be for all who believe.  Joy will overwhelm the people of the world.

Those who are not descendants of Israel really face long days as well.  Like the nation of Israel all other nations have rejected God.  Times of revival bring about some changes for the better, but the nation in its entirety never fully turn to God.  Soon, most of the people are back doing things in a manner that does not please God.

As in everything else the only one we can change is ourselves.  Our example may help those around us to change as well.  If you feel like you are stuck in a day that keeps repeating its self, then it is time to do things differently.

A new day and a new life begins by taking God seriously.  Superficial Christians abound around the world.  They give Christianity a bad name.  Christians who wake up every morning and pray to God to help them please Him in their thoughts, words, and actions throughout the day are rare. 

Elections are coming up later this year here in the USA.  The nation is so divided on beliefs regarding the way to a good future.  Voters for the most part are divided on what constitutes a ‘good future’.  Some people believe the bigger the government and the more freebies they hand out the better the world will be.  Others believe that a world without borders is the best way to go.  Elitist politicians believe that they should be making the choices instead of voters.  All politicians seem to be calling those who don’t agree with them insulting names like ‘low information voters’, ‘haters’, ‘people voting based on their anger instead of rational thought,’ ‘racist’, and any other insult they can think of.  Ultimately the national election will probably be narrowed down to two candidates.  There is a possibility of a third party candidate or even a 4th party candidate.   Bernie Sanders would have enough delegates to be a very serious contender if it weren’t for ‘super delegates’ who are allowed to ignore the voters’ choice and choose whoever they want to vote for.  Seriously, we could see an election where the party candidates are chosen in a way that angers voters.  There could be a third party run from both parties.  We could have an election where Hillary and someone who isn’t even running at this time are the party nominees.  Voters in both parties might be so angry they refuse to vote for the candidates and choose their second choice.  I do see a possibility of Democrat voters going third party with Bernie Sanders.  I see the GOP voters going third party if the candidate with the most delegates does not get the nomination.  That would be four candidates running for president.  Surely that would result in a runoff election.  But, the end result will be someone chosen to lead the USA for the next four years.  Ultimately we can ask ourselves, ‘What difference will it make?”

Don’t misunderstand.  I do believe that the next elected President does make a difference.  But God’s children can make an even bigger difference simply by acting like the Christians they claim to be.

In today’s world it seems that ‘acting like a Christian’ has a lot of different meanings.  People who don’t even know Jesus Christ claim to know how Jesus wants everyone to act.  ‘Acting like a Christian’ is said to include tolerance of everything which means you are not allowed to judge anything as sin or wrong.  Jesus Himself judged a lot of actions as sin.  It is not judgmental to point out that God calls certain things sin.  Lost sinners will not be turned to the Lord by people around them accepting their sins.  If they don’t even know they are sinning how can they turn from their sin?  Jesus loved people enough to tell them the truth.  Can we do less and still call ourselves Christians? 

12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ 
John 25:12-11
Christ loved us enough to tell us the truth and to lay down His life for us.  Today there are Christians around the world who are being martyred for their faith.  That may come to America in our life time if the Lord delays His coming.  But at this time ‘laying down our lives for others’ means (at least in part) being faithful to tell the truth that there is one way into heaven through Jesus Christ.  Certain things are called sin by God Himself.  Speaking out in favor of the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, may cause enough problems that the life a Christian is living is over.  The bold Christian may be forsaken by family and friends for simply loving them enough to tell them the truth.  The truth is that there is one specific way into heaven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. 

The Apostle Paul, the writer of a great deal of the New Testament, first gave up the life he had before he knew Jesus Christ to go out and tell the world that Jesus is the only way into heaven.  Eventually he gave up his physical life and was martyred.  

Jesus, our example, was not distracted from His mission by social unrest, government intrusiveness, or hatred toward Him by religious authorities.  Christians today face the same distractions.  We see things that are wrong and launch into correcting social ills.  We forget that people who become practicing Christians change society simply by following the instructions for living that Bible gives us.

The government intrudes into the daily lives of the entire population.  It is easy to get carried away in protesting government intrusiveness.  The most important way to combat government intervention is to tell those around us that Jesus saves.  As people become believers they do the things that are right according to Jesus Christ. 

Christians face hatred from the world on a global scale.  The best way to fight against that behavior is to love others enough to tell them the truth. 

One day our trials and tribulations will be over.  The longest days will be over. 

Hebrews 9:17 says, ‘And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
Christians do not face the judgment of unbelievers.  We are secure in Jesus Christ.  No matter what our actions we will go to heaven.  However, there are rewards in heaven for our good behavior while we live now.  Proverbs 11:30 says, ‘The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.’  The Bible never tells that it is wise to preach a social gospel, vote correctly, or make a lot of money. 
Matthew 5:11-12 says, ‘11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’

Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus will do good for themselves and for the world.  Become a real ‘do-gooder’.  Do what Jesus says to do. Don’t be distracted by the cares of the world. Let your vision for the future be Jesus Christ and His Glory.

Be Thou My Vision 

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.