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Saturday, June 20, 2009
Signs & Wonders
Where is God when everything goes wrong?
This week I have received two signs from God. He told me first what I must do next and then He told me He loves me. He told me what to do next by forcing me into a corner where I have little choice but to do as He says. Then He began showing me where to find the resources to do it with.
He showed me he loved me by answering a prayer my wife and I have been praying for most of a decade.
Yesterday I began writing a new book called "Signs & Wonders". God has been hitting me over the head with this for some 8 weeks. I tell my wife that when I teach my Primary Class at church, God always has something specific to say to me that's fundamental to what I'm teaching the children. In the past two months we've studied Joseph, Moses and Elijah.
There are two ways you can view those stories. These three men were either cursed by God or blessed by Him. Most of their lives these guys endured great trial and hardship. They were imprisoned, hunted, sold into slavery and chased through the wilderness by soldiers who wanted to kill them. They all lost everything they had at one time or another. I sometimes laugh to imagine them sitting in church listening to a preacher telling his congregation that if they just pay their tithe or think positive thoughts or enlarge their tents, that God will shower down riches upon them. I suspect the three of them would rise up as one from the pews, drag the preacher from the pulpit and dump his fuzzy keister somewhere out in the nearest wilderness. They'd hand him a walking stick and a field guide to edible locusts and tell him he needs to actually meet God before he tries to preach about what God WILL do for those who serve him.
I think it's a message that needs to be told, what with the world going to a very bad place in a hand basket in a big old hurry. We all might need a few wilderness woodcraft skills before very much longer.
That's what our book is going to be about. I say "our" book because God doesn't want me to write it alone, so my wife, Sheila, will be right there beside me keeping me real. Here is the preface to the book. I hope you'll find it helpful if you, like us, have experienced what C.S. Lewis called God's "severe mercy".
Signs & Wonders by Tom & Sheila King
Jesus was crucified. So was Peter. John was boiled in oil. Abraham Lincoln was shot. Isaiah was sawn in half. Huss, Jerome and Joan of Arc were burned alive. John Cooper was hung, drawn and quartered as was Scotland's William Wallace. Even in the civilized 20th century, the list of those who lived well, did much good and died badly is discouragingly long.
Col. John Boyd, arguably the finest military aviator and tactician of the last 100 years used to tell young Air Force officers that one day they would come to a fork in the road and they would have to choose whether they wanted to "do something" or "be somebody".
Down one road, he told them, you compromise, turn your back on your friends and violate your conscience. In exchange you'll get choice assignments, promotions and power. You'll belong to an exclusive club. You'll get to be 'somebody'.
Down the other road, he cautioned them, you can do something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself, but if you decide to 'do something' you may lose promotions, get lousy assignments and be constantly in trouble with your superiors.
Boyd explained that the reward for an officer who chose to "do something" would be that he could remain true to himself, his friends and his beliefs and that he just might make a difference in the process.
Boyd, himself, received high honors and accolades as well as a string of poor fitness reports. He left dozens of angry colonels and generals in his wake over the course of his 30 year career. He was threatened with court martial, demotion and transfer to Alaska. At the end of his service he was denied promotion to general. John Boyd chose to "do something".
God calls each of us to 'do something'. If we answer that call, we are promised that "All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28). Those of us who gladly answer the call of God, expecting our "burden to be light", soon discover to our discomfort that being 'called according to His purpose', may also mean struggle, hardship, pain and trial. Where are the "showers of blessings" we thought we were promised. If my cupboards are bare, why should I be "enlarging my tents"?
Christian preachers often tell us to count our blessings as though our blessings are the only road markers along the Christian path that count. We talk about the trials of the saints with awe, but most of us have this vague idea that nothing like that will ever happen to us, because God loves us and wants to bless us. We count those blessings as evidence of His divine protection. We want to hear testimonies by people for whom God has parted the Red Sea before them and turned water into wine as though the Christian life were expected to be a history of unbroken triumph and success.
Then, the sky falls in on us! In the aftermath, we're left sitting by the ash pile wondering why God doesn't love us anymore and thinking that maybe "Curse God and die!" might actually be some pretty good advice.
Well, I'm here to tell you that sometimes the clearest evidence that God approves of what we're doing comes to us when troubles start piling on. And I'm not talking about just a couple of life's little irritations. I'm talking big soul-shaking, earth shattering, fire, flood and famine type disasters. My experience is that if you try to do the right thing, to do what God wants you to and to really trust Him, that you can just about count on a visit from the devil and as many of his henchmen as he can spare.
It does make sense, I'm afraid. Why would Satan bother with folks who would jump ship the first time the bacon isn't crispy? He's already got those guys in his pocket. In fact, it's in his own interest to keep those people fat and happy and napping. The ones he really wants to go after are those that really do sincerely want to trust God no matter what. As this sort of Christian spends more and more time with God, he or she is molded and fashioned by Him into a new creature. As this happens, such people become ever more a threat to Lucifer's little plot to "take over the world". It's little wonder that he spends so much time tormenting really nice people.
I am convinced that if we're really looking for God's guidance in a troubled and confusing world, we are going to find that the signposts He puts up for us will be stained with buckets of blood, sweat and tears - often our own.
Carl Sagan used to argue that if God existed, he'd have found some indisputable way to leave his signature upon His creation. Sagan proposed some mathematical anomaly like a big digital smiley face in the computation of the value of Pi!
Well, perhaps God has signed his work after all, even if he didn't leave big smiley faces in Pi, but in ways a bit more fundamental. When I became a Christian, I told God that I wasn't sure about Him. I liked the idea of God alright, but I wasn't 100% sure he even existed. I was, however, willing to be convinced. I asked Him to show Himself to me. I didn't specify how, just told Him that I'd do my best to spend time with Him, learn about Him and do what He told me to. In exchange, God was to give me some evidence. I was the prototypical 'doubting' Thomas.
Since then I have found evidence everywhere I turn - in nature, biology, physics, history and scripture as well as in little miracles done on my behalf. As I approach the end of my earthly walk, however, I have begun to discover God's face is even found in the almost unbearable experiences through which He has carried me and those I love.
Maybe, we all need to take a hard look back at some of those signposts we've passed in our lives; not just the ones that say "blessings", but also at the ones that mark the tribulations as well. In doing so, we might just see where God has left us a message or two along the way.
God's very name is, in itself, a hint at the nature of that message - I AM. Maybe God's message to us, his signature on the signposts, is simply, "I am!" or "I am here!" In the end it may be that we have already passed some important signs without noticing. Perhaps, what our battered faith needs is simply for us to stop and take a little closer look at all of the signposts along the way, not just the pretty ones.
Even David, whom God called a "man after His own heart", wrote, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death". It was as much his experience in the valley that guided David home as it was his time on the giddy mountaintop of God's blessings.
It was 1:00 am, January 26, 2006. The house was eerily quiet....
CHAPTER 1: THE WORST DAY OF OUR LIVES
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That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoe-making and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse. -Mark Twain