Category Archives: Thoughts on God

Have You Considered The Case for Christ?

The Case for Christ is based on the true story of Chicago Tribune journalist,Lee Strobel, and his search for the truth about Christianity. Back in 1980, Lee (played by Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (played by Erika Christensen) were livin’ the dream…self-proclaimed atheists, in love, and enjoying life together with their daughter. However, their world started to unravel after their daughter nearly choked to death and Lee’s wife became a Christian while attending Willow Creek Church.  Intent on restoring their marriage to its former simplicity and peace, Lee began a two-year investigative journey to debunk the Christian myth: the death and resurrection of Christ.His research took him around the country, where he interviewed leading experts in various fields:  archeology, theology,  psychology, and medicine. The Case for Christ traces Lee and Leslie Strobels’ journey from atheism into faith. If you’ve ever wished you could believe in Christ but haven’t been persuaded
of the veracity of the resurrection, please consider watching this movie (or read the book Lee wrote). It’s also really encouraging for those of you who might be believers
but have spouses who do not believe. PG, 84% (audience score) on Rotten Tomatoes, great acting, excellent script. Nothing embarrassing or unprofessional,
so you won’t need to hold your breath if you invite someone to see it. And, it’s probably showing in a theater near you right now!  In truth, I’ve only been to a theater for anything besides a private showing
twice in the last 55 years: once to see The Passion of Christ,
and yesterday to see The Case for Christ. So, you can tell what means the most to me! Believing in Christ,
who loved us and gave himself for us, is right at the top! 

Declare and present your case;
    let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
    Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none besides me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.”
(Isaiah 45:21-22, ESV)

 

Joy to You this Easter Day! He is Risen Indeed!

In honor of its being Resurrection Sunday, I’ve laid aside my usual post on the Song of Solomon and want to share some beautiful poetry written by the daughter of one of my friends. Lynette Garlets is the mother of four and in the midst of moving her family from Michigan to the Southeast. She wrote these poems first in her head while nursing her young children during the midnight hours of last Easter season. I hope you’ll be as enriched as I have been by reflecting on her meditations.

                                                       Mary’s Delivery

She carried a burden for nearly a year.
He carried his for thirty-three clear.

She traveled the days before her time.
His last walk was the Golgotha climb.

She labored for hours with groans and sweat.
His labor made the sky turn black.

She spilled her blood when her baby came.
He spilled it all, his race to reclaim.

She treasured these things and pondered on them.
His treasure was the rescue of men.

The cry, “It is finished, it is done!”
And Mary kissed her sleeping son.  (~Lynette Garlets)

                           Jesus 

His only crown was one of thorns.
His only throne a cross.
His palace–where they laid his bones.
His subjects all, he lost.

His naked body clothed my own.
His wounds healed all of me.
His flowing blood paid all my loan.
He won my loyalty.

So raise your flag of homage now.
Sing his song anew.
Love him and before Him bow.
He loved all of you.  (~Lynette Garlets)

(As it says in the Bible:) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

Resurrection

The woolly worm within its casket sleeps–
All dried and hardened, given up for dead;
All crushed and crowded in its narrow bed.
Like death he neither eats nor breathes nor creeps.
A secret there enclosed, its casement keeps,
A mystery so wondrous, it is said,
That in due time this coffin it will shed
To spread its wings of light, to heav’n it sweeps. (~Sonnet by Lynette Garlets)Can we accept this miracle divine
And justly give the glory to our God?
And then to learn the lesson of the sign–
The metamorphosis of Christ to laud.  If we believe the truth of only one,
Then our own transformation we have none.  (~Sonnet by Lynette Garlets)

And finally, a beautiful hymn written 150 years ago:Crown Him With Many Crowns

  1. Crown Him with many crowns,
    The Lamb upon His throne;
    Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
    All music but its own!
    Awake, my soul and sing
    Of Him Who died for thee,
    And hail Him as thy matchless King
    Through all eternity.
  2. Crown Him the Lord of love!
    Behold His hands and side—
    Rich wounds, yet visible above,
    In beauty glorified.
    No angel in the sky
    Can fully bear that sight,
    But downward bends His wond’ring eye
    At mysteries so bright.
  3. Crown Him the Lord of life!
    Who triumphed o’er the grave,
    Who rose victorious in the strife
    For those He came to save.
    His glories now we sing,
    Who died, and rose on high,
    Who died eternal life to bring,
    And lives that death may die.
  4. Crown Him the Lord of heav’n!
    One with the Father known,
    One with the Spirit through Him giv’n
    From yonder glorious throne,
    To Thee be endless praise,
    For Thou for us hast died;
    Be Thou, O Lord, through endless days
    Adored and magnified.

    (Matthew Bridges, pub.1852
    v. 3 by Godfrey Thring, pub.1874
    copyright status: Public Domain)

The Great Divide on Good Friday

You see the image often this time of year – three crosses in silhouette standing atop a small hill.  It’s a common image representing a most uncommon event and a critical truth.

Three men were crucified that day, two rebels or thieves and Jesus of Nazareth.  The rebels were lawbreakers.  They were convicted and being crucified for their crimes.  They had sinned too many times to count.

Jesus was sinless.  He was being crucified for claiming to be the Messiah and the son of God.

Religious leaders, people in authority, and countless others couldn’t believe it.  They thought the claim was blasphemy. Ignoring the miracles he had performed and despite fervently looking for and impatiently waiting for the promised Messiah who would redeem the Jewish people, most couldn’t or wouldn’t believe Jesus was the one.  If what he claimed couldn’t be true, it had to be blasphemy and he had to be crucified.   So, they nailed him to a cross and crucified him with the two thieves, one on his left, one on his right – a detail important enough to be described by all four writers of the Gospels.

Many in the crowd of onlookers shouted insults at Jesus and mocked him.  Even the two thieves taunted him.  In the midst of their own dying, they belittled the only one who could save them.

Then something happened.  One of the thieves noticed something.   There was something different about this Jesus dying next to him. He didn’t “take it like a man.”  He took it differently than the two thieves, differently from how you’d expect a normal human to take it.  He took it differently than the others who had been crucified — the soldiers noticed this.  One of them even said so. Despite being savagely flogged, torturously nailed to a cross, and struggling just to breathe – he still didn’t lash out.  He didn’t curse the soldiers or the crowd that mocked him. He didn’t respond insult for insult. He did something no one else did. He prayed for them — for their forgiveness. And he asked a friend standing nearby to take care of his mother. At a time when others being crucified would weep in sorrow or call out in defiance to the end, Jesus looked to the needs of others.

And it finally clicked – at least for one of the two thieves and one of the soldiers.  Maybe this Jesus really was different.  Maybe he was the Messiah.  Maybe he was who he claimed to be.

When the one thief sarcastically taunted Jesus again saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us.”

The thief who now recognized something unique in Jesus rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what we deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Calling him by name he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Then Jesus, through all the pain and anguish he was suffering for the sins of others chose to look out for the needs of one more. He saved the thief also, saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

With that, Jesus forgave that thief of his sins, all his crimes, all his past as well.

The thief had finally recognized and acknowledged that Jesus was who he claimed — that he was Lord and God.

Jesus saved the thief.

Dying on a cross beside Jesus, legs and hands nailed to the tree, this thief couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t do anything.  He couldn’t run to the temple, couldn’t sacrifice a lamb or a dove, couldn’t help care for the sick or the poor, couldn’t help little old ladies across the street. Literally and figuratively, he couldn’t lift a single finger to save himself or earn his salvation. Jesus saved him all the same.  Mercifully saved him by grace.

The other thief – bitter, defiant and spiritually blind — died a thief and a sinner.

Three crosses on a hill.  The sinner thief on one side, the saved thief on the other, and Jesus in between separating the two.  Fitting and profound.  As clear an image as you can imagine.  Jesus is the great divide. Graphically and spiritually, Jesus separates the saved from the lost.  His grace is sufficient.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’”  (Mark 15: 39).

He then brought them [Paul and Silas] out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’” (Acts 16: 30-31).

(This post was written by Dr. Larry Hembroff, a fellow member of our Blue Water Writers’ Group as well as a lifelong friend. Thank you, Larry!)

God is Like…

This is a forward from my cousin, Jim, and I have no clue where it originated, but it really made me smile, so I’m passing it along. If any of you know who the teacher is, please let me know so I can give proper credit! Thanks.

A fifth grade teacher in a Christian school asked her class to look at TV commercials and see if they could use them in 20 ways to communicate ideas about God.

Here are some of the results:

God is like
BAYER ASPIRIN
He
works miracles.
God is like
A FORD
He’s
got a better idea.
God is like
COKE
He’s
the real thing.
God is like
HALLMARK CARDS
He
cares enough to send His very best.
God is like
TIDE
He
gets the stains out others leave behind.
God is like
GENERAL ELECTRIC
He
brings good things to life.
God is like
WALMART
He
has everything.
God is like
ALKA-SELTZER
Try
Him, you’ll like Him!
God is like.
SCOTCH TAPE
You
can’t see Him, but you know He’s there.
God is like
DELTA
He’s
ready when you are.
God is like
ALLSTATE
You’re
in good hands with Him.
God is like
VO-5 Hair Spray
He holds through all kinds of weather.
God is like
DIAL SOAP
Aren’t
you glad you have Him? Don’t you wish everybody did?
God is like
The
U.S. POST OFFICE
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet nor ice will keep Him from
His appointed destination.
God is like
Chevrolet
He’s
the heartbeat of America.
God is like
Maxwell House
Good to the very last drop.
God is like
B
o u n t y
He is the quicker picker upper, can handle the tough jobs,
And He won’t fall apart on you.
God is like
The Energizer Bunny
He keeps going, going, and going.

Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:2-4, ESV).

 

 

Grace is Greater than______________

Have you given up anything for Lent? I have a young friend who said he gave up self-loathing. I was dumbfounded (which is all too rare in me), but this past weekend I heard the same thing from a sweet older lady in Sunday school.

Do you struggle to forgive—either yourself of others? Are you experiencing deep pain in your life? Do you have wounds that just won’t heal? Are you seething with bitterness, raging with anger, fantasizing about revenge, or despondent over your brokenness? Do you believe that if God really was good and all powerful, He wouldn’t allow all the sin and evil in our world?

If you’re struggling with any of these issues, then I’d like to recommend Kyle Idleman’s latest book, Grace is Greater. Kyle is the bestselling author of Not a Fan, but he’s also the pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky (reported to be the fifth largest church in America), where he preaches to a congregation of over 20,000 weekly. This pretty much insures that he’s a super engaging speaker and writer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he knows what he’s talking about. Nevertheless, after reading his book, I’m convinced he does!

The term “grace” has been overused but under-understood for at least a generation. Grace is Greater breathes fresh insight into this matchless subject. Kyle’s subtitle is apt: “God’s Plan to Overcome Your past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story.” No matter where you are on your own spiritual journey—even if you’re just staring down the path wondering if it would really lead anywhere—you’ll find lots to motivate, challenge, and help you grow in grace.

Kyle is a great story teller, and we all know that stories are the sugar that makes the medicine go down. We remember stories. We retell stories. We learn from stories. In under 200 pages and ten thoughtfully (but also playfully and transparently) crafted chapters, Kyle addresses his (and our) mistakes, hurts, and circumstances, sharing through scripture and example how God’s grace is not only equal to but greater than each of these challenges.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

What Scares Toddlers?

We used to live in Ann Arbor when our four oldest were grade schoolers, and in those days, there was nothing more scary than our basement…at least, for the boys. Kathy, at age three, was the only one brave enough to go downstairs and bring me some milk from our second fridge, which used to make me laugh. What’s so scary about a basement? Well, there might be monsters, you know! I used to be terribly afraid to sleep alone at night for fear of monsters reaching up from under my bed and grabbing me. Were you afraid of “monsters in the dark”? Although I’m no longer afraid of monsters under my bed, it’s become  obvious to me that fears are age and perception related. For instance, loud sounds almost universally startle infants and make them cry, because infants have no clue what the loud noise means. One of the surprises for me as a young mom was the realization that all my toddlers were uniformly afraid of something that was totally harmless. Can you think of what it is? You’re driving along with your family, looking out the window enjoying sunshine and scenery, when all of a sudden you go into this dark tunnel and start creeping forward instead of flying along. Suddenly, you hear rain pounding on the roof and your entire car is engulfed in a flood.                                            Strange colors blot out your view, and then a great, hairy monster starts beating on the front windshield, trying to get in. For sure it’s going to break through and gobble everybody up! You and your mom and everybody bigger than you who might help take care of you are helpless against such a giant creature. Without a doubt you’re all about to be mercilessly eaten by a terrible monster!! Okay, so maybe not, but I’m pretty sure that’s what was going through my toddlers’ brains, because without exception, somewhere between age one and two each child would go through a time of terrible wailing in a car wash. Adults have different fears: finding true love, and once found, there’s always the fear of losing that loved one. Becoming and staying solvent. Surviving the chronic sleep deprivation and testing of character endemic in child rearing. As we grow older, health issues arise, and the fear of losing loved ones, or losing ourselves! Throughout life, there are constant anxieties and fears, and like toddlers, we’re often forced to go through frightening experiences against our choosing or will.                 However, it helps a lot to know that others have gone before us,                                 and that others are coming behind us. Like a car wash, we need the scares and the purging to combat rust…for maintenance and cleansing, so let’s not fear our trips through the car wash. Let’s remember that after God has cleaned us up, He’ll bring us through and let us go again…either here in this life, or up to heaven above!   Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:11-13)

Keeping Track of Our Puzzles

This afternoon will be the memorial service for a 21-year-old student from Calvin College here in GR. Tara Oskam was killed in a car crash not far from our home on March 11 when her car was struck by the car of a 16-year-old who was fleeing the police. Tara was pronounced dead on the scene, and the 15-year-0ld passenger in the teen’s car also died; the suspected teenage driver was seriously injured but is in a stable condition at the hospital at this time. Tara was a beautiful young woman, admired and loved by many, a junior studying speech pathology, very much in love, and looking forward to a bright future. Where’s the justice in that? Can you tell me? I can’t explain it to you at all.

We’re a family of puzzlers. It’s been a favorite pass time on quiet winter evenings since our kids were little, and now even our grand children are hard at work learning how to solve puzzles. I love to watch the progress over time
as the kids think through how to put the pieces together. They’ve learned to arrange the border first.cinderellas-castle-puzzle-almost-completeNext, they sort out pieces that have the most color contrast. Finally, they fill in the hardest pieces
that look so similar it’s hard to figure out where they go.

I think trying to understand and solve the puzzles in our lives is a similar process. First, we develop a framework of ideas and beliefs for understanding our world and life experiences…often referred to as our “world view.” For the Christian believer, this framework is based on belief that God exists, and that He has spoken to us through His Word, the Bible. The scripture is our moral guide and compass. It’s filled with principles for making wise decisions, and it shows us what the picture is supposed to look like if we put life together right.The second step in puzzling out life is figuring out the contrasts: our perceptions of God, the world, and how we interpret our experiences with God in our world. This requires a lot of thought! How can we deal with all the circumstantial  contrasts and put them in the right order so our world makes sense to us?God gives believers the Holy Spirit to guide us. His Spirit takes the words of Scripture and helps us apply them to the various situations we face, so that we have the wisdom to make correct decisions and solve the puzzles in our lives. Finally, we tackle the hardest challenge: figuring out all the subtle situations that don’t have quick, easy, obvious solutions. Sometimes, even though we’ve figured out where the pieces belong, something is still missing. We don’t always have every piece of the puzzle in this life.I’m convinced that no one can solve all the puzzles completely here on earth. Some things are beyond us, and in those things—like little children—we need to trust in what we do know of God: God is good; God loves us; God works all things together for the good of those who love him.God calls us to faith in Christ, asking us to believe in Him and trust him with all the unsolved mysteries of life. Either we let our experiences kill our faith when we don’t understand what’s happening, or we allow our faith to transform our experiences. One makes us bitter; the other makes us better. Are we willing to trust God and obey Him even in the painful mysteries of life? Let’s trust Him to keep track of the missing pieces of our puzzles until we reach heaven, where I believe everything will at last make perfect sense to us.

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).