Monday, September 2, 2013

Light at the End of a Long, Dark Tunnel

10 months ago, my little corner of the world came crashing down around me when my dear wife admitted to me that she had given her heart and body to another and was "making a decision" whether or not to leave me.  But she didn't actually leave me.  This "decision" she was making extended a rope to me that kept me feeling like I needed to "hang on", as if it was my job to hold our relationship together, when in reality it was her choice to be unfaithful, and to continue being unfaithful still even now as I write this.
Over these months, I have experienced things I've never known before: shock and disbelief such that I could hardly breathe, emotional pain & rejection that felt like a heart attack, tear-soaked pillows more often than dry, a lump in my throat that wouldn't go away, anger, hope, doubt, wishing, cursing, bargaining, all mingling together in the most confusing mix of emotions possible.  But through it all, I've never lost faith that God is good, and I've known God's comfort, His presence and power, if not always His purpose.
Today, I'm thankful for God's healing.  The long, dark tunnel is not over.  I don't know if it ever will be.  But I'm grateful that I can see the light at the end of it.  God's moved me from the point of inability to even think the word divorce to being able to accept it as a necessary reality.  I've filed for divorce, and it will all be over in a matter of a couple months.  It would be nice for it all to be done in just one year, but I'm afraid it may take a bit longer than that.  But the final nail in our marriage coffin is now being prepared for hammering.
I just wanted to thank the many people who I truly owe my sanity, if not my life, as they saw me through this nightmare.  Above all, God my savior, who has never left my side, and I know has never lost control of this all.  Although sin successfully crept into my marriage and destroyed it, God is making something new out of it - beauty out of ashes - and I know I will come out of this in a way that will bring Him glory again, even though it's not going to be in the way I wished for it (the restoration of our marriage).
I want to thank Country Bible Church (Kevin, Chuck, Glen, Richard and the rest of my friends there).  I felt very much rejected by you, but hindsight knows your heart was and still remains rock solidly in the right place.  You carried me through the most difficult days financially and emotionally in the best way you could, faithful when you didn't need to be.  Pastor Chuck, what you gave us, at substantial personal cost, has given us freedom from anxiety immeasurable back then, and even today in the middle of our divorce proceedings.
Pastor Scott Harrison, your wise counsel never failed me.  You steered me away from the actions that were going to kill me.  Helped me make the wise decisions and the hard decisions that kept me from the deepest depths of despair.  Without your help on January 15th, I may not have seen a January 16th.
Roxanne Smith, your allowing me to tag along with you and your kids on January 17th, helped me to keep my mind away from the hurt and pain of loneliness and helped me to see that perhaps there were new horizons yet to be discovered ahead of me.
My kids, you've been there with your prayers and phone calls always.  Hannah, you've been so much stronger than any dad has the right to ask of a 22 year old young woman.  You and Jesse have walked with me through this, through the pain and, I pray, coming out on the other side with a new strength inside, and a new way of learning how to communicate to, and still love a broken mom and dad - both of us who still love you immensely.
My family, you've been so supportive with giving me places to "retreat" to.  Hospitality abounding and ongoing.  I love you all.  Brother Jim, your generous gift allowed me to be able to get into my apartment to begin my new life chapter.  Sister Jean, we both have the gift of gab and the ability to listen, which we have done together for many, many countless hours of the day and night.  You gave me the gift of hope and direction, of the warmth and accomplishment of fresh bread, and a table to eat it on, and a love seat to curl up on.  Warmth and comfort literally inside and out.  Your substantial financial help long before this long dark tunnel, and continuing today, has been an immeasurable blessing.  Bill and Sheila, your hospitality and food has sustained me; and the open invitation from all of you, including Carleen and Josie lets me know I will never be without a place to go for love and acceptance.
And friends, I have been so blessed with friends.  Dave Totten, you were there on day one, helping me move furniture, on the day I had to move my loved wife out of our house.  Thank you.  Your generous financial gift is like the woman's oil and flour in the Bible story - i want to use it slowly - it never seems to run out.  It's a source of hope for me.  Dave & Sara Hampe, thank you for including me as "family".  You've given more than any brother-in-law could ever ask for, and I am so thankful for your friendship and great wisdom when I had much confusion to deal with.  Ted & Suzie Matthews, our friendship in Roanoke lasted a full 3 weeks, and yet it was warm and wonderful.  And your gift to both Jill and I, and your hospitality to me was unexpected and certainly undeserved, but so generous.  I love you both, and pray that someday we will be able to meet again.  Lynn Lee, you gave me a generous financial gift, but also the first opportunity to serve God and others again.  You knew my need, and yet believed in my potential.  I will honor your belief.  Thank you.  Steve & Peg Heilskov, your friendship has been such a joy, your gifts so uplifting and surprising.  I can't thank you enough.
And Manny Collazo and Mike Mentzer, your encouraging me to come back and find a new home of support at River's Edge (and the invitation to find a place of service on my own timeline) has been such an uplift.  God is blessing your ministry, and I'm so fortunate to be just one of the recipients of your out-reaching hearts.
The tunnel has been long and dark, but you all have been there guiding, upholding, helping me to keep moving toward the light, and now I feel I am coming out the other end.  Scarred to be sure, but healing and believing that the best is yet to come.  Bitterness will not be my lifelong companion.  I will be able to forgive even an eternally unfaithful wife.  I will be able to love another anew, better than ever.  I will be able to serve God in ways never possible before.
I am so thankful for so many who willingly have become the physical hands of God for me.
Bless you all.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Killing Osama vs. Loving Your Enemies

Sunday night, May 1, 2011, I was elated when the news broke that the USA military forces had finally caught up with Osama bin Laden and stopped him. I believe I would've been equally elated had the news said that he had been captured and would spend the rest of his life behind bars - his death brought me no additional joy. But I thought how I had never before seen such glee over someone dying. Geraldo Rivera, the newsman who I was watching, was like a child on Christmas eve. And Monday morning, on the news and on facebook, etc., something inside of me was deeply disturbed with the way people were expressing such joy over death.
Afterward, I got sucked into a facebook discussion on "loving your enemy", and how in the world can killing Osama fit in with that very central, core Christian teaching - and, to my surprise, I found myself on the opposite side of the argument! I was arguing on the side that I didn't want to be on, yet was finding Biblical texts to support the killing.

I realized the truth of both sides.

Jesus truly loved everyone, and taught His people to "love your enemy, and do good to those who hate you", but yet he says in Matthew 18:6, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." Now Jesus was saying this metaphorically, yet the teaching here is that children should not be harmed, and that death of one who would be a stumbling block is the preferred outcome over stumbled children. Obviously death by millstone drowning is not God's morality, yet in this situation, that is the better choice.
I hate the term "situational ethics", because it seems to imply that morals are not absolute and different things become ok in certain situations. I believe it's crucial that we realize that God's morals are absolute but the way God's absolutes are expressed do differ based on differing situations. For example, is God a God of love or of wrath? When I am talking to someone who says, "I am too bad of a sinner, I've fallen too far, and God can never forgive me," I would be quick to let them know of God's unconditional love and His grace and forgiveness that is available to them no matter what. But when I am talking to someone who says, "God is a God of unconditional love and grace, so He's not going to send me to Hell", I'm going to remind them of the danger of sin and their need to humble themselves and fall at the feet of a Holy and righteous God. God is a God of love AND of wrath.
In this situation, when Jesus or other Biblical writers were speaking to an audience struggling with hearts that were hateful, they reminded them of the fact that love overcomes evil and that to love the Lord your God (and your neighbor) were the greatest commandments!
Yet in situations when innocents were being harmed, protection of those innocents became the expression of that same love - even to the point of millstone drownings.
There is also a huge difference between showing love to someone who has been showing hatred toward you, and not intervening in situations where lives are at risk! Loving an enemy is expressing God's love, and protecting an innocent person is also expressing God's love.
AND YET, if an innocent is protected and one who were to harm them is "taken out", in no way are we to dance around and shout, "Yeah Us" because the bad guy is dead!
And there certainly is an enemy that God detests, and that is Satan, and one day Satan will be "taken out" - but our dancing in heaven will not be over the death of Satan, but over our love of our Savior. That love for our Savior needs to be happening now, every moment of every day, as we battle against satan.
And in the same way, support for our country and for those fighting for our country ought to be ongoing, even in times when it seems we are losing the war.
There's so much more that needs to be studied and expressed on these issues, but these are some of the thoughts God has given me today.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Katy Perry sharing a load of teenage crap!

Ugh. I don't usually give any time of day to artists like Katy Perry - it's just that her songs are so catchy that whether you like them or not you catch yourself singing them and humming them involuntarily.

That's why I think the crap she's spewing as teenage wisdom and truth is so dangerous. I'm especially thinking of the line in "Teenage Dream" that says, 'let's go all the way tonight. No regrets, just love." That sounds so beautiful, doesn't it? 'this time, there's no regrets, just our pure wonderful and real love' - obviously brought on by another line in the song, 'just one touch and baby, I believe this is real.' What?? You're supposed to go all the way tonight with no regrets because of one touch that lets me know that this love is the real love! Cuz everyone knows that the way you know real love is by 'one touch!' Yeah right.

It IS a teenage fantasy that can make teens THINK it's teenage reality and NORMAL teenage activity. It's not! It's a bunch of crap. Real love is found the same way pearls are created, or diamonds. Pearls become that way by being polished over a long period of time by silt and sand inside of a clam shell. That grinding is not easy. It's painful, but the end result, over time, is beautiful. Diamonds become diamonds by the pressure of the earth hardening it and perfecting it. Again, painfully hard work and a long period of time.

Every true love relationship can only be 'known' when both people have gone through tough times with each other and come out the other side still knowing that the other is worth it, and the one for me. Still willing to endure together. "Going all the way tonight" takes all of the attention away from a true, long-term commitment to a person instead placing all of the attention on just one particular body part, gratifying the sexual desires of the moment.
Every relationship needs to endure some times when both people are gritting their teeth and saying, "Uuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhh! This isn't easy, but we're willing to make the hard choice because we are committed to each other, for the long haul, forever." And that's not a sacrifice like, "Oh yeah, we both loved this same kind of gum and then they stopped making it anymore, and so we couldn't get this gum anymore, but we just didn't care anymore cuz our love was more important." I'm talking about the real tough stuff - and the toughest of all - CHOOSING to NOT "go all the way tonight". Because you can't choose to do it with no regrets, like Katy Perry tries to tell you!! The regrets always come AFTERWARD!

In the garden of Gethsemane, jesus said "Uuuuuuuuuuuuggggggggggggghhhhhhh, this isn't easy, but I'm going to do it because of love." He did the very hard thing out of love - giving his all.

True love, with no regrets is one that is built on a commitment to stay together. It has nothing to do with "going all the way tonight", in fact, it's only found in saying, "I want to, but I'm not going to go all the way with you until after we commit ourselves forever in marriage. I'm willing, and I'm going to wait even though my body says, 'uuuuuuuuuggggggggggghhhhhhh" right now. That's how i will know our love is real, and will give us a lifetime of "no regrets."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What happens to us when we die, and how are we guaranteed to go to heaven?

I was recently asked some really great questions, and wanted to try to answer them here just in case others may be wondering the same thing.

Here's the questions:
"What happens to us when we die? i mean i have been to funerals all my life and you see the person there...their physical self anyways, but their soul...the person who they were, that made them who they were is gone? i find it so hard to comprehend at times. And if it is to heaven that we go is it actually our physical selves or what?
And how are we guaranteed to go to heaven? Do you have to accomplish certain things or live your life in such a way that God approves?
Another thing that i have always been curious about is the new world they talk you think that will happen?"

My response:
I'm wondering if you have a good Bible that you could look up some of these passages that I may point out to you. I don't want you to take my word for this stuff, but actually see that what I'm giving you is from the Bible, which I fully believe is God's message to us - teaching us answers to life's questions like the ones you are asking.
In Genesis 2:7, we read that God made you and me "from the dust of the ground" but that physical form did not make us alive. Instead, that was just a person-shaped clump of dirt. It wasn't until God "breathed the breath of life" into that person-shaped clump of dirt did we became living being. So that means that we are not made as physical beings. We are actually Spiritual beings. Our bodies are just "earth suits" that our God-given Spirits live in during these 70 or 80 or 90 short years that we live here on this earth! So when a person dies, that simply means that their "clump of dirt" earth suit stopped working, but the Spirit lives on because we are eternal beings. We would have no use for an earthly body in eternity. In 1 Corinthians 15 it tells us about this difference between heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. Earthly bodies are perishable, dishonorable, weak and natural. But heavenly bodies are imperishable, glorious, powerful and Spiritual, and flesh and blood can not inherit the kingdom of God.
So earthly bodies return to dust, but the Spirit lives on either in eternal separation from God (hell), or to live in the presence of God forever in Heaven.
And where we spend eternity is not left up to chance or a guessing game. You can KNOW where you will spend eternity by simply answering this question both with your mouth and in your heart: Do you believe that Jesus lived to show you God's love, died on the cross to pay the price for your sin, and lived again to defeat death for you; and are you willing to repent of your sin and let Him be the Lord of your life? That is what we find in these verses:
John 3:16, "For God so much loved the world that He gave his only Son that whoever would believe in Him would not die, but have everlasting life."
Romans 10:8-11, "The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the Word of faith we are proclaiming; that if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame."
And Revelation 4:19-20, "So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."

So, spending eternity in heaven really is not attainable by anything we can DO on this earth. It's found in something that has already been DONE! Jesus, by dying for us on the cross, has paid the price for your sin and mine. All we need to do is believe and accept what HE has DONE as the payment for our sin and we will be forgiven and made right in the sight of our Holy God. People who know about God's love for them, yet never surrender their lives to God and trust in the sacrifice of Jesus will spend eternity separated from God in Hell.
Basically, if you spend your life saying, "God, I don't want anything to do with you", in eternity, you'll get your wish!
If you spend your life saying, "God, I love you, and I want to give my life to You", in eternity, you'll get your wish as well!

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "the new world". The book of Revelation does let us know that one day Satan's power will be locked away forever and all who have trusted in Christ will live in a new world with God forever. Yes, I believe that will be true, and will happen. But I don't think it's helpful for people to worry too much about the specific details about how the world will end. What is important is that we know this world, and our own lives, ARE going to end someday, and ARE YOU READY for that day?!
Jesus loves you so much right now that He came to this earth and died on the cross for you. He wants you to come to Him and trust in Him and live your life following Him, and He will take care of us in this life and in the next! That's the faith and hope that I rest in and live my life by every day!
I'm praying for you as you consider the truth of Jesus and His love!


Friday, March 13, 2009

Don't you have to "do certain things" to be a Christian?

I was recently asked the question, "but being a christian you have to do all these certain things don't you? Like reading your bible, going to church, not drinking, swearing, and praying. I want a christian life that doesn't have all these rules. But I'm glad I have my whole life to make the decision on whether I trust Christianity or not."

My response to that is, "no. Christianity is not about rules - and anyone who tries that is trying to 'earn' salvation by doing a certain amount of supposedly 'proper' things and trying to do less 'bad' things.
That's wrong thinking.
Christianity is all about a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus, the person who loved you so much that He gave His life for you! His death and resurrection allows you and I to have a personal love relationship with God! God just wants you to love him sincerely and completely. What does that mean? Jesus wants the same thing at your boyfriend would want. He'd want you to spend time with him, loving him (worship at church), talk to him (pray), listen to him (read the Bible) on a regular basis. Those aren't 'rules', they're part of a love relationship with someone who loves you so very much!
And yes, you do have all your life to make that decision. But if you love someone, why would you wait until your deathbed to tell them that you love them? You'd miss out on all the joy, fun, love, passion, etc. that you could've enjoyed all your life!
Plus, I don't want to sound negative, but we never know long "our whole life" will be. You or I could die even today, and then it will be too late to 'decide'. And by 'not deciding' you've actually made a decision. You're waiting to decide to tell God 'yes', but until you do so, you've already told God 'no.' I'm praying you'll change that decision to 'yes' and continue to learn from there for a lifetime!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stories from The River's Edge

Sunday, November 11th, The River's Edge will celebrate our first two years of ministry! God has taken a dream and a prayer and turned it into a vibrant light shining into the hearts of many lives in North Central Iowa! Help us to celebrate what God has done by sharing your story here! Click on the "comment" button below this post, and share one of your favorite River's Edge stories or memories. Share something that God has done in your life or taught you. Give God glory for how He's made an impact in changing your life! Thanks!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

If God performs miracles, how does He choose who receives them?

A friend, Mary, recently asked me the question in the title of this post: "If God performs miracles, how does He choose who receives them?" What a great question! I don't know if I have a complete answer for it, but it brought a couple thoughts to mind. 1. We all recieve miracles every day! Every moment I live and move and breathe I consider a miracle from God. The fact that my body is pumping blood, taking in air, beating a heart, hearing, seeing, feeling, moving - all at the same time without ever taking a holiday!!! God gives us all miracles every day! 2. I'm sure what Mary is asking, however, is whether a certain, specific act that we have in mind will or will not be granted, e.g. "will my friend be healed?", "I need $$ to pay the bills, will God provide?", etc. In these cases, we're definitely in for trouble if we start comparing our situations with other people, like, "how come she was healed, but not my friend?", or "why did he find a $100 bill on the sidewalk and I didn't?" When we see things like that, we can start to feel "short-changed", or like God "chose" to give them a miracle but not us. When we start doing that, we will never be able to even see our own miracles because we're blinded by jealousy over what we see others receiving! We need to remember our role in this relationship with God and focus on that. We're not to be worrying about God's decision-making process or "will He or won't He" stuff. Instead, we're supposed to be faithfully seeking Him, spending time with Him in prayer, laying our burdens on Him, leaving them there with Him, trust that He will act in His way, believe that He will work, and then leave the choice to Him, knowing that His ways are higher than our ways! Some verses on this topic are: James 5:16 "the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective!" Psalm 37:25 "I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging bread." Psalm 55:22 "cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you!" God acts when we faithfully pray! He doesn't pick and choose which prayers to answer - He acts on every prayer!
Here's a parable I read online recently:

Two traveling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion's guest room. Instead the angels were given a space in the cold basement. As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it. When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied..."Things aren't always what they seem."
The next night, the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had, the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night's rest.
When the sun came up the next morning, the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field. The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel, "How could you have let this happen? The first man had everything, yet you helped him," the first angel accused. "The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let their cow die."
"Things aren't always what they seem," the older angel replied. "When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn't find it. Then last night, as we slept in the farmer’s bed, the angel of death came for the farmer's wife. I gave the angel the cow instead. Things aren't always what they seem."
Sometimes, this is exactly what happens when things don't turn out the way we think they should. If you have faith, you just need to trust that every outcome is always to your advantage. You might not know it, however, until some time later.