The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Personal (page 2 of 6)

Why Irma, God?

I find myself asking, “Why, God?”, a lot these days.  Today it’s, “Why Irma, God?”  It should barrel into South Florida as a Category 5 or 4.  It will hit the Tampa Bay area late Saturday night into Sunday morning as maybe a Category 3 or 2 storm.

It’s by far the worst we’ve seen since moving here in 1989.  Since we lose power sometimes when it rains, the only question is how long it will be out.  Flooding isn’t a worry, but trees downed by storm winds are.  Our house and pool cage could take direct hits.  Then there’s all the beautiful vegetation Lois has planted and painstakingly nurtured.  She put her heart into it.  Not a life-loss, still a significant loss and a potentially huge mess to clean up.

It doesn’t help that I’m captive to a wheelchair.  My condition makes me virtually useless, and I hate it.  I guess it’s the old “man as protector” thing.

So, “Why Irma, God?”

To cite Paul, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains . . . “ (Romans 8:22).  But the day is coming when “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).  Paul implies that creation itself is impacted by our sin against our Creator.  And, though one day it will be set free, now it’s “groaning in labor pains.”  I take Irma, and Harvey before her, to be some of those “labor pains.”

Scenes of Harvey’s devastation evoked my empathy.  Warnings of Irma’s potential devastation evokes my fear.  It’s fear of the unknown.  I don’t know what to expect.  Don’t know the damage-extent.  Don’t know how long our power will be off and, how long we’ll be drinking warm water and eating out of cans and sweating without A/C.

Compared to flooded homes in Texas, it seems minor—but not insignificant.  Somehow making those comparisons never makes me feel better.

So, God’s children in Christ suffer creation’s labor pains like everybody else.  Irma isn’t jogging around Christians.  Our long-range hope is the day when “creation itself will be set free . . . and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  But what’s our short-range hope?

Initially, before the Florida-track was inevitable, I asked the Lord to blow Irma out to sea.  Now I pray for “protection”.  That means no trees driven down onto our house or pool screen.  Minimal damage to our yard.  Limited time without power.  Safety for all our family and friends.

It suddenly occurs to me I should be praying for faith to trust the Lord.  For grace to act lovingly toward Lois in my stress.  For grace to accept my wheelchair without getting angry at God.  For grace to be an encouragement—and, yes, even a source of strength—to Lois.  (I’m not implying she’s cringing in a corner!)  For grace to look at the trees surrounding our house and trust that the Lord’s power to hold them up is greater than Irma’s to fell them.

Irma is a reminder that life in this fallen world can be, not only hard, but dangerous.  Labor pains are intense (right, moms?).  But mothers forget the pains at the joy of holding their little one.  So Irma will leave (the sooner the better), and we’ll thank God for his care.

Irma is a reminder, too, of how dependent we are on our Father.  Our sense of daily security is illusory.  In the end our houses, our jobs, our money, our physical strength—none of it makes us secure.  Only our Father.  So, when Irma barrels in, we’re (as always) in his hands.

And his Son’s hands are nail-scarred to make us forever (and even threatened by Irma’s winds) his.  That’s what I’m counting on.

The Nail

 

 

 

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Did Jesus “Come”?

By last evening, the weakness/numbness/ache (I don’t know how to describe it) had crept from my feet into my upper body and into my head.  I felt consumed by it, shriveling up.  I was suddenly afraid of what lay ahead.

This head-numbness has come before.  It’s made writing my blog impossible, because it saps my mental energy and leaves me in a strange “fog”.  But last evening was the worst.

I was alone in the house, because Lois had taken Scooby-Girl, our dog, for a needed walk.  I decided to lay down in bed, hoping that might alleviate my symptoms.

I prayed my feeble prayer  (“feeble” because it’s more desperation than faith):  “Jesus, take pity on me.  Have compassion on me and heal me.  Reverse the progress of this illness and restore what it’s taken.”  I placed first one hand, then the other, over my eyes and forehead, repeating my prayer and waiting in silence, in darkness.

Suddenly, it  felt as if Jesus was there.  It wasn’t a physical feeling—a spiritual sense, I’d call it. I saw nothing.  I had no vision of him.  But I imagined (though, I think, not intentionally) Jesus coming to me, telling me it was okay, that he was healing me.  Then, peace quieted me.

After about 15 minutes, I decided I had to act on what I believed just happened.  So I got up.  No numbness in my head; it felt fine.  It remained so for the rest of the evening and again this morning.

What should I make of this?

Did Jesus really “come” and heal my head?  That has been the worst part of my illness, because I’m not able to seriously read or creatively write when the numbness “hits”.  Did the Lord reverse the progress of this illness, at least in my head?  Is this the start of a total reversal?  Or was Jesus’ “coming” just my imagination, and I felt better because I had laid down?  My head is okay yet this morning, but often the numbness doesn’t reach it until later in the day.

One thing I know (like the healed blind man in John 9).  Before I laid down and prayed, my head was consumed by my illness.  And I was afraid.  When I got up, my head was fine and fear was gone.

Maybe Jesus healed my head just for last evening, because the condition was so bad.  If so, I’m thankful for that respite.  Of course,  I hope and pray for more: that Jesus might have started a reversal he’ll continue.  Maybe it will be total (wouldn’t that be amazing!), maybe partial.  Though I want all, I’ll take whatever healing he gives.

But suppose Jesus’ “coming” last evening was my imagination?  Suppose my head numbness returns?  Will I be disappointed, discouraged?  I’d like to say I’d be thankful for one better evening; but I won’t.  No way I wouldn’t be disappointed and discouraged.

But, for now, I’m going to keep hoping and keep praying.

P.S.  I hesitated writing this until I knew more.  But I figured if Jesus healed my head only for last night, he should receive glory for it.  And if it all was just my imagination, well, I’m willing to be called crazy for believing Jesus still does that sort of thing.

 

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Where Have I Been?

Ten days since I posted a blog–until yesterday.  Where have I been?  (Please, don’t dent my ego by saying you didn’t notice!)   I’ve not felt well enough to write.

Maybe I shouldn’t explain.  Might sound like I’m looking for pity.  I’m really not.  I’m telling my story, because it’s on my mind.  But more, because my experience may help you sometime.

In the last ten days, my weakness/numbness, always below my waist, seemed on occasion to climb into my head—bad enough to make serious thinking impossible.  But something else blocked my writing.  Unconsciously, I think I shied away from God’s Word because he seemed silent to my pleas for help and some healing.

I was acting like our dog.  A few days ago, I was about to give her a treat, when I must have unknowingly pinched her leg or paw under my wheelchair.  Whatever happened, she yelped.  Ever since, she won’t come close to get a treat. I’ve been acting like her.   God is sovereign, therefore he either sent or at least allowed my illness.  So unconsciously, I’ve shied away from his Word.  If I had to reason it out, I’d say I had little interest in the One who caused me to suffer.

That I can’t see any good in this just exacerbated my disinterest.  God works for the good in all things?  This suffering produces perseverance which produces proven character which enlarges my capacity to hope for coming glory?  My weakness increases my reliance on the Lord?  I didn’t see any of that.  In my heart, none of it seemed true.  And when someone suggested that maybe I, in my finiteness, wasn’t able to see the good the infinite God saw, I waved it off.  Convenient rationalization!

If God was, in effect, taking my writing (and serious reading) away . . . well, I couldn’t handle that!  I’ll just go sulk in my corner.

It didn’t help that I was reading a book on spiritual gifts, in which one of four authors argued that miraculous gifts ceased with the apostles’ deaths. He pointed out that Jesus’ miracles were signs of his messiahship, signs of his kingdom breaking in.  Miracles for then, for that unique period of salvation-history, but not for now.  His words dampened my hope for a miracle.

Then I recalled two Scripture texts.  (Was it the Holy Spirit?)  The first was John 6:53-68. Jesus had just told the Jews they had to “eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood; otherwise they would have no life in them.  “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.  So, Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’  Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life . . . ‘” .

“Lord, to whom shall we go?”  A provocative question.  If I turn away from Jesus because the all-loving, all-powerful God allows so much suffering, to whom shall I go?  If suffering disproves the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful God, I have nowhere else to turn.  Either I keep faith in this God who’s run his wheelchair over my paw, or I have no one, nothing.

I recalled a second Scripture–about Jesus having compassion on the sick. I found it—Matthew 14:13,14 . . .

“When Jesus heard [that John had been beheaded], he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

Matthew goes on to report how Jesus miraculously fed 5000.  The feeding was a sign, but healing the sick is described as an act of compassion.  So, I started whispering this prayer . . .

“Jesus, look on me with compassion.  Take pity on me and heal me.”

Do you see what was happening?  I dismissed the idea that my illness came so I’d learn to lean more on the Lord.  But that’s exactly what was happening!  Unconsciously I was shying away from him who allowed me hurt.  Consciously I realized I had no one else to turn to.  So, I went to him–without any plea but for his pity and power.  To him who held power to protect me–or heal me–but hadn’t.  To him who allowed my hurt.  To him who I unconsciously shied away from.  I turned to him–as if drawn by a silent power greater than mine.

How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33b).  Or as these worshippers sang it  , , ,

Now for the last two days, I’ve felt better.  Not great, but better.  And, more importantly, I’ve felt closer to him–or him closer to me.  It may become more difficult to write.  But I’ll keep on as long as he enables me.  And I’ll stop acting like our dog, because . . .

“if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (1 Timothy 2:13).

“If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31b-39).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Muddled Prayers

Puritans held a high view of God’s sovereignty and humans’ sinfulness.  Nothing happened outside his will.  He is the King and his kingdom rules over all (Psalm 115:13).  Humans are depraved and incapable of doing anything toward their salvation.

Here’s a sample from a Puritan prayer in The Valley of Vision . . . 

“I can plead nothing in myself
in regard of any worthiness and grace
in regard of thy providence and promises,
but only thy good pleasure . . .

Help me to pray in faith
and so find thy will,
by leaning hard on thy rich free mercy,
by believing thou wilt give what thou hast promised . . .

So shall I wait thy will, pray for it to be done,
and by thy grace become fully obedient.”

The prayer harmonizes with the apostle John’s promise and with the psalmist’s proclamation . . .

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us– whatever we ask– we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14,15).

“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19).

I draw two conclusions.  One, my illness is God’s will.  Satan may be involved in some way, but ultimately the sovereign God has allowed it as what he wants for me at this time in my life.  Two, I must pray for God’s will to be done with me in this illness.

Does that mean I should pray for contentment with him, for grace sufficient to endure?  Or can I pray for healing?  If I were content in him, he would be glorified. If I were miraculously healed, he would be glorified.  How I should pray—and what the results would be (whether contentment or healing)—would result in God’s glory.  So God’s glory doesn’t tell how I should pray.

I’ve written here before that in his weekly phone call my brother-in-law prays for my healing.  So does a prayer group in his church (the church in which Lois and I grew up).  And so do I, pointing to Matthew 14:13,14) . . .

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

And I pray: “Jesus see me.  Look on me with compassion.  And please heal me.”

I pray relying on Jesus’ mercy, because, while I have great confidence that he can heal me, I don’t have great confidence that he will.  So sometimes I pray for a gift of faith.   Often I’m just confused.

Praying for contentment in the Lord while enduring this illness seems like surrendering to it.  Everything in me wants to fight back.  To stubbornly refuse to give ground.  To stomp it out.  (Not by myself—with the Lord’s grace and healing work.)

Yet I find a certain peace in simply praying, “Your will be done.”  I can rest, not be agitated over healing I want but so far can’t have.  I can focus my thoughts on the Lord.  (Sounds so spiritual.  Honestly, often when I do the question intrudes, “But why won’t he heal me?”)

Despite that nagging intrusion, I think I should pray, “Your will be done” (keeping my prayer for healing on the perimeter).  The sovereign Lord has led me into this valley for this season of my life.  He will keep me here as long as he wants—until my dying day or until my healing.  (Either way, he has eternal healing for me!)  And here, instead of slipping into a mire of depression, I can meet with him in his Word and in prayer.  I can seek contentment in him.  I can admit what is more than ever painfully obvious:  I am utterly dependent on him.  Instead of withdrawing in anger or disappointment, I can draw near to him.  I can know Jesus in the fellowship of suffering (Philippians 3:10).  I can pray this Valley of the Vision prayer . . .

LORD, HIGH AND HOLY, MEEK AND LOWLY,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin, I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

          that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,       

          that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells
and the deeper the wells the brighter the stars shine.

Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.

( I will inevitably sneak in:  “And if you want to heal me today, please do!”  That’s okay, right?  Ah, my muddled prayers!)

 

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I Will Not Die But Live

The words.  Suddenly, there they were.  In my mind.

“I will not die but live.”

It was last Thursday afternoon.  I don’t remember now what I was doing.

I had been thinking lately about death.  Primary Lateral Sclerosis is chronic, not terminal.  But complications arise and, who knows?  Besides, I sometimes feel like I’m dying.  (That’s probably more emotional than physical.)

So death-on-my-mind was the larger context.  But I wasn’t thinking about it when the words came . . .

“I will not die but live.”

Scripture?  Sounded like it.  But I couldn’t place it.  So I cranked up by Bible software and found it.  Psalm 118:17.  Here’s the whole verse . . .

  “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.”

And here’s the critical question that immediately came with it:  Where did the words come from?  I’d certainly read that verse–that psalm–before.  So:  inexplicable recall?  Too much rich dessert the night before?  The Holy Spirit?

I read through the whole psalm–a psalm of thanksgiving to the LORD for his steadfast love . . .

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Let Israel say: ‘His love endures forever.’ Let the house of Aaron say: ‘His love endures forever.’  Let those who fear the LORD say: ‘His love endures forever’” (118:1-4).

The psalmist testifies how the LORD rescued him from death . . .

“In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free. The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.  All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.  They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.  They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off.  I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me.  The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”  I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death” (118:5-18).

He goes on, then, to describe a festive occasion when all the people celebrate the LORD’s steadfast love that endures forever . . .

 “Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.  This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.  I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.  The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (118:19-29).

It’s a triumphant, celebratory psalm that Israel sang and was used of Jesus during his Jerusalem entry (Matthew 21:9).  But here’s my question:  dare I used verse 17 of me?  In other words, given the fact that it just popped from nowhere into my mind, was that the doing of the Holy Spirit for me?

I did a quick exegesis.  I understood that the psalmist spoke, “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done” after the LORD had rescued him from possible death.  So our situations (his and mine) weren’t the same.  I was still fighting my battle.  Even  though I wasn’t surrounded by “all the nations”, could the Holy Spirit have “spoken” the words to me and for me?

 

Scoffers will say I’d read it before.  It was there in my memory.  Just happened to come to conscious level because I had been thinking of death.  Theologians might say, “Those words were the psalmist’s for his celebration.  Not yours.”

But that’s what I’m doing.  I’m daring to say those words didn’t come from nowhere, or from unconscious memory, or too much chocolate.  Label them however–prophecy, word of knowledge, impression.  I choose to believe they came from the Holy Spirit.  They are his words to and for me.

Sure, I’ll die.  Just not soon.  Maybe not for a few years.  Meanwhile, I won’t give in to this dreadful illness.  By God’s grace, I’ll do all I can.

After all, I have a mission:  “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.”  Blog the Bible.  Blog lessons learned and questions raised.  Preach the Lord’s wonderful deeds.

Yesterday and today I’ve not felt well.   Two down days.  But, yes, the Holy Spirit still speaks.  And, yes, he’s spoken to me.  He spoke his inscripturated word for me.  So, even on down days I’ll wield his words like a weapon.  Against Satan.  Against my unbelief.  They’re my triumphant proclamation until the day (not soon) when he does hand me over to death.  Until then (not soon), listen . . .

“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.”

 

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Put Here For . . .

Yesterday during our prayer time, Lois read from Paul  . . .

“ . . . I am put here for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:16  ). 

Remarkable.  He’s writing, not from a podium before an interested crowd, but from imprisonment in Rome.  He had been in Jerusalem in the temple courtyard, when Jews from Asia “stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him” (Acts 21:27).  “They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple . . . [and] as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion” (Acts 21:31).  Soldiers and centurions rushed to the riot.  And “when [the crowd] saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.  Then the tribune came up and arrested Paul and ordered him to be bound with two chains” (Acts 21:32,33).

Then came a trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin.  Back to jail where a plot to kill Paul was discovered.  He was spirited north to Caesarea for a trial before the Roman governor.  Finally, as a Roman citizen, Paul made an appeal for a trial before Caesar.  Waiting for that to be honored, King Agrippa tried him.  Finally, Paul was herded aboard a ship for Rome.  A ferocious storm wrecked the ship and survivors were stranded on the island of Malta.  Three months later another ship takes Paul to Rome where he is imprisoned awaiting trial before Caesar.  Now, note this:  since his arrest in Jerusalem three years have passed.  Three years.

Despite it all, Paul writes, “I am put here for the defense of the gospel.”  He’s saying, “God led me through all the suffering of the last three years to put me here, and I’m here to defend the gospel.”  This man doesn’t believe in chance; he believes God is sovereign in all things.  This man wrote these majestic words  as he stood in awe of his Lord . . .

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’  ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:32-36).

And he believed the sovereign Lord who was the hidden director behind every thing in his life, orchestrated the days of his life for a purpose:    Even this.  ” . . . for the defense of the gospel.” 

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (Philippians 1:12-14).

Is Paul the only Christian who can make a “put here for” claim?  I would argue that the Philippians also can.  They were put in Philippi to suffer for Christ’s sake . . .

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him (Philippians 2:9).

Suffering for Christ there is part of God’s call to them in Christ.  Like Paul, they had been put there for the defense of the gospel.

Which brings me to the question: Can I say I’ve been put here?  Is my primary lateral sclerosis that binds me to a wheelchair and makes me virtually useless waist-down . . . is this God-put?

I have believed it’s God-allowed–Satan on a leash, like with Job.  I’ve also thought maybe it was God-sent to teach me to rely more on him and refine my faith.  But God-put sheds a different light on it.  Especially when coupled with “for the defense of the gospel”. 

This means not only God’s intentionality, but my ministry.  Not just suffering for the sake of my sanctification, but serving others for Jesus’ sake.  With Lois, I intercede for others from a hurting body.  I study God’s Word weekly with my grandson when I’m not functioning well.  And I create this blog and write from my wheelchair to hopefully encourage readers in the faith.

I’m put here –in this particular place–for the defense of the gospel.

I wouldn’t chose this “put-here” place.  Sometimes I rail against it or fall depressed over it.  But, “put here for” gives this chapter of my life eternal purpose and keeps me going.

Where are you?  Whatever and wherever your place, know this:  you’re put there for the defense of the gospel.

 

 

 

 

 

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Stormy

That’s what my daughter named her.  Missy called her Stormy.  Or maybe it was our granddaughter, Moriah, who did the naming.  We had given her the 20-year-old grayish-white quarter horse-Arabian-cross as a gift.  She and her mom then rode together, each on her own horse.

That was 16 years ago.  Stormy’s back eventually couldn’t bear riders.  She ended up in our “back pasture” where she spent her last two years.  She grazed and nosed around, but mostly waited for her next meal:  feed for breakfast, apple at lunch, feed for supper and “horse peppermint” mashed up and mixed with water as “bedtime snack”.  After pushing her mouth in the peppermint bucket, Stormy had pinkish lipstick.  She loved it.

Stormy was a gentle, contented old girl—except when her stomach-clock told her supper was a little late.  Then she’d start whinnying.  Not the excited whinnying when she knew somebody was coming with food.  Impatient whinnying like, “Hey!  Don’t forget me!”  Then if no one came, she’d run, just to be sure we knew she was still there.  Around and around the pasture.  Back and forth along the front fence.  A 36-year-old horse running so fast we were afraid she’d fall and break a leg.  She never did.

Then, last Sunday night, she was in distress.  The vet could do nothing.  Tearfully, with grieving hearts, we put her down, surrounded by people who loved her.

Now our back pasture stands empty.  Lois and I look out still expecting to see her.  We were greatly blessed to have her and to help give her those good two years.  But we miss her.  Our hearts are sad.  Especially since death is so final.

So comes the question:  will there be animals in heaven?

To some, it’s a sentimental question on the lips of children.  But Scripture suggests there’s more to it.

First, remember heaven isn’t our final destination.  When believers die we go to be with the Lord in heaven.  But after Jesus comes, he will bring into being the new heavens and new earth.

“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).  “His promise” comes from Isaiah 65:17–“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”

Forget about floating forever on white clouds.  The new earth will be as solid (but not sinful) as this one.  Seeing our destiny that way, it’s reasonable to expect animals to be there, since God created animals on this earth . . .

“God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).

Not only did he create them, he preserved them through the flood.  “Bring two of every kind of animal into the ark.”  They would replenish the after-flood renewed earth.  Why should we not expect animals to fill the new earth?

That raises the “soul” question.  That is, does an animal have one?  Certainly not a human soul.  But at least the higher animals (dogs not tadpoles) have a sense of self-consciousness.  Furthermore, when God created Adam he breathed the breath of life into him.

“The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

The same Hebrew word for “breathed” (nephesh) is used for both animals and people.  Animals and people have “the breath of life” in them (Genesis 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; etc.).

J.P. Moreland (philosopher, theologian, Christian apologist) observes, “It wasn’t until the advent of seventeenth-century Enlightenment, that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization. Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.”

Animals and humans are different.  But, since God created animals and breathed into them the breath of life, is it too much to think that his new earth will include life-breathed-into animals?

See what Paul wrote . . .

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:20-23).

Does “creation” mean just vegetation?  Or, as animals were included in Eden where “creation was subjected to frustration”, might animals be included in “the creation [that] will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”?  I think we have good ground for saying YES.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Very few animals indeed, in their wild state, attain to a “self” or ego.   But if any do, and if it is agreeable to the goodness of God that they should live again, their immortality would also be related to man . . . “

In a poem about the world to come, John Piper wrote . . .

And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life.  I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog old Blackie, fast
As she could come.  She leaped the stream–
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye.  I knelt to drink
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy.  And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.

And John Wesley commented on the animal kingdom’s restoration:  “And with their beauty, their happiness will return . . . In the new earth, as well as in the new heavens, there will be nothing to give pain, but everything that the wisdom and goodness of God can give to give happiness.  As a recompense for what [animals] once suffered . . . they shall enjoy happiness suited to their state, without alloy, without interruption, and without end.”

Oh, by the way, in his prophecy of the new creation, Isaiah saw a wolf, a lamb and a lion.  It’s in the Bible.

“The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox .  . . They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 65:25).

Maybe they’ll even talk!  Strawberry had pulled a London carriage on Earth.  In C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, he watches as Aslan declares the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve to be his kings and queens in Narnia.  Strawberry had labored under his master’s whip.  Now in the new Narnia, Strawberry says, “My old master’s been changed nearly as much as I have!  Why he’s a real master now.”

All the people celebrate.
All the animals rejoice.
Aslan, Lord of all, is pleased.

So, Stormy, we’ll see you again one day.  You’ll be young.  But not only young;  you’ll be new!  If you’d like, we’ll ride you again.  Maybe we’ll talk along the trail.  And, don’t worry:  we’ll bring the peppermint.

*All quotes from Heaven, by Randy Alcorn.

 

 

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I Need You, Lord

So I’m sitting in my wheelchair talking to my air conditioning guy.  Well, he’s more than an A/C guy.  He’s a friend and my brother in Christ.  Anyway, he’s telling me about his two-year affliction.  He never felt closer to the Lord.  All he could do was read God’s Word.

So I’m feeling convicted.  By my A/C guy!  He didn’t know it, and I didn’t admit it.  But he was the Lord’s preacher for me.

See, it was another day I wasn’t feeling well, not feeling God close but wondering where God was.  So I got convicted.

Earlier that day I had read a few chapters in Job.  One “comforter”—Eliphaz—pointed his indictment at Job:  “Because he has stretched out his hand against God and defies the Almighty, running stubbornly against him . . . “ (Job 15:25,26a).  Suddenly, I felt the indictment and wondered, “Am I being stubborn against the Almighty God?”

What I mean is, I want to walk.  I hate this Primary Lateral Sclerosis.  I’m done with this wheelchair.  I’m weary of remembering all the things I can’t do any more.  I want to walk along the ocean with my beautiful wife.  Play baseball with my grandson.  Feed the horse in our pasture.  Paint the bathroom (really).  I loathe being so dependent on Lois.

Two weeks ago, my brother-in-law (with whom I speak weekly by phone) asked me if he should pray differently for me. Forever daily, and every week with me on the phone, he’s prayed for my healing and was ready to keep on.  But should he pray differently?   I asked him to continue.  I hardly had the faith to pray for healing; I needed him to do it for me.  He promised he would.

But now I wonder if I’m just being stubborn.  Should I (and he) pray for grace, for Christ’s power to rest on me, so that in my weakness I can be strong (2 Corinthians 12:9,10)?  Is that what God wants?  Not to reveal his power to heal of my weakness, but to reveal his power to be strong in weakness?  I don’t know.  Or am I just being stubborn?

Here’s what I know for certain.  It’s what this song says.  I need you, Lord!  I need him to raise me above my feelings of loss that rule my mind.  I need him to heal me.  Not even the impossible is impossible for him, right?  But, if he chooses not to heal me, I need him to rest in Christ’s power on me in weakness.  Not mostly so I can feel better.  But mostly so Christ can be seen in me, for his sake.

I’m confused.  But I know this . . .

I need you, Lord.  And I suspect others do too,  So:  we need you, Lord . . .

 

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Though You Slay Me

So I was feeling pretty discouraged today.  I know.  How can that be when I’m for the second time reading through Tim Keller’s book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, and getting great grace from the Lord through it.

And, not only that, I’m blogging an overview of it.  So I’m forced to think deeply about the book’s message.  And, not only that, I’m often writing my response, which means I’m personalizing the message.

Recently, one of my daughters said, “Dad always was a half-glass-empty kind of person.”  Ouch!  And true.  Many years ago I took a personality test that confirmed it.  Besides, like Paul I sometimes feel like the chief of sinners whose sin-nature easily gains the upper hand.  (I’m earnestly hoping you’re saying, “I relate.  I, too, often fall under the dominion of discouragement.”  I hope you’re saying it because I don’t want to feel like some kind of freak.

Here’s how bad I am:  just about every day I allow thoughts of what I can’t do anymore due to my disability.  Today for instance, lurking there in my subconscious playing over and over was the thought (complete with subconscious image) that I’ll never even walk again.  Do you know how many things you can’t do because you can’t walk?  I could easily list a dozen; but that would only deepen my discouragement.

So  a cloud hangs over me.  It’s so dark my wife, Lois, asked why I was mad at her.

Then I found an email from my daughter–an email with a song her husband and she had found and thought of me.  (My two daughters do that all the time–hear a Youtube song and email it to me, hoping the Lord will use it to bear me up.)

Invariably when I listen, tears stream down my face, because the song, given in love by my daughters, becomes a gift of God’s grace to me.  The song below is one of those.

First, it convicted me.  I know its message.  So I should have filled my mind with it.  Instead, I let Satan control my subconscious.  But, then, I let the song speak to me.  My discouragement lifted.  The cloud drifted away.  God’s gift of grace filled me again.

Maybe the song will do the same for you.  Or, maybe it will ready you for the next time the dark discouragement cloud drifts near.  Listen to God’s grace . . .

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Perfect

God is perfect.

Repeatedly Scripture declares that God, or some attribute of his character, is perfect.  A few samples . . .

  • He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him (2 Samuel 22:31).
  • O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things . . . (Isaiah 25:1).
  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
  • Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
  • For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever (Hebrews 7:28).

The Old Testament Hebrew word for “perfect” can also be translated “without blemish” and “whole”.  The New Testament Greek word can also be translated “complete” and “fully developed”.  The English “perfect” means “as good as it can possibly be, faultless, flawless, the best.”

God is perfect.  My blog is not–nor is my now former web hosting company–which is why you’ve received all sorts of posts lately, or none at all.

Theoldpreacher.com has over 7000 subscribers (though some are “junk”).  That means it took 30 hours to send one post to all of them.  Since the web hosters never notified me, I kept on sending out new blogs.  Naturally, the whole system backed up.  It was a Chris Christie-caused George Washington Bridge traffic jam online!  I apologize for the problem.  (And don’t expect to run for public office soon.)

A huge THANK YOU to my son, who spent hours over many days resolving the issue!  I don’t know what I would have done without him.

So, we’re back up and running.  I can’t promise no occasional little “bugs”.  After all, only God is perfect.  He is “a faithful God who does no wrong.”  Whose word is “flawless.”  Who has done “marvelous things.”  Whose will is “perfect.”  Whose Son is “perfect.”

Therefore, we who are so imperfect, are wise to trust the only perfect One!

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