Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Happy New Year! I hope this is a year of many wonderful new beginnings for each of us. Have you made a few thoughtful goals or resolutions? I have, and I sincerely hope to be able to accomplish them. One easy one to share (but hard to do) is my goal of finishing the new addition to our home, then furnishing and decorating it . . .  and then getting rid of all the unnecessary leftover junk that’s been cluttering our basement since the kids grew up!

In that vein, I was sorting through some boxes of my father’s writings and notes.  I always thought he was a pretty staunch atheist until he was 86, when he had a change of heart and mind and entrusted his life to Christ as his Savior. Part of the constellation of beliefs he espoused up until about the year 2,000 A.D. was faith in evolution and the Big Bang Theory, so I was amazed to find this card in his file box:

I’m not exactly sure when he wrote that that note, but it was close to this one:I had heard the story that my father was a believer as a child but lost his faith in college . . . back in the 1930’s. For nearly seventy years, there was precious little evidence of faith in my father that any of us observed. And yet, tucked away in his file box of writing ideas were these little sparkles of faith! First, an acknowledgement that he wasn’t present at the beginning of time and space. “In the beginning”  . . . he wasn’t, but the Bible says that God was. To me, this is a humble recognition that it would be foolish for him to try to deny God’s existence. Second, a prayer asking God to help him accomplish His will, dated January 2, 1974. It has a stain from tape, and so I think it must have been a New Year’s resolution of sorts, placed??? somewhere in or on his office desk??? . . . written almost 30 years before he embraced the Gospel publicly.

This may not seem thrilling to you, but it is to me, because it tells me that the seeds of faith, planted in my father’s heart during early childhood, had lain dormant for many years but had never completely died. Have you been praying for a loved one for years and years without seeing visible fruit from those prayers? Please don’t stop!! I prayed every day for my dad for almost 40 years before he told me one day that he wanted Jesus too.

Or, perhaps somewhere in your own distant past, you believed in Jesus as your Lord and Savior but have since drifted away, thinking the world is such a mess that there must not be a God . . . or feeling that you, yourself, are so hopelessly messed up that if there is a God, He doesn’t care about you. Please turn back to God and ask Him to heal you. God does exist; He is not dead; He does care about you! However, it is possible that “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). If so, I beg you to give up wanting your own way more than you want God. Repent of your sins, and believe in Jesus! He can—and will—save you! “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, ESV).

Will you join me in starting this New Year with renewed faith and hope? Let’s start at the very beginning by embracing the love and mercy of God. Will you pray with me?

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13).

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

How Much Does it Cost to Vote?

trump-and-clinton-at-first-presidential-debateHow much does it cost to vote? Well, that depends on what you’re voting on. For instance, it doesn’t cost anything to vote for your favorite ArtPrize entries, although you do have to be in downtown Grand Rapids and take the time to register on line. But, what about something huge, like a presidential election? In our country, the “cost” is about the same: you have to be a citizen of America and take the time to register. However, to vote wisely is a different story! At ArtPrize, right now you can vote for anything you like, so you can cast 1—1,453 votes. If you like it, you can vote for it, and that’s fun! Unfortunately, just the opposite is true in this year’s presidential race.

Did you watch the presidential debate last night? Trump and Clinton were introduced as the least-liked presidential hopefuls in the history of our country, and sadly, that reflects my personal opinion as well. Whether it’s a matter of voting for which one I “like” better, or even which one I like less, I just feel like throwing up my hands in despair. I believe this election will test each of our individual priorities and beliefs more severely than any previous race. I don’t have the slightest confidence that either of them is an altruistic statesman with the integrity and wisdom to stop our country’s sled ride into moral and financial bankruptcy. However, I don’t believe any of the 20± independent candidates—if elected—could do better (not to mention I don’t think any of them has a ghost of a chance of being elected). Bottom line: Are we sunk? I’d like to think not, but I’m fearful.

However, just when I’m feeling pessimistic about our country’s future (like last night), I remember that we can all choose to be part of the Kingdom of God. (“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” [Psalm 56:3].) This opportunity is open to anyone, not just in Grand Rapids or in America, but anyone who lives anywhere in the world. Like ArtPrize or the U.S. election, it doesn’t cost us a penny to vote! Like the U.S. presidential campaign, there are basically two choices on the ballot, and the “vote” concerns whom you’ll choose to be your personal sovereign: The Prince of this World, or Jesus, who is “The Prince of Peace.” I choose Jesus, because He alone brings peace to my heart, and I know someday He will bring peace and healing to our entire world.

Thank you, Lord, that despite the unrest and difficulties we all face now, we can have the peace that passes understanding in our hearts, knowing that we belong to You, that there’s a spiritual kingdom greater than any kingdom here on earth, and that someday evil will be overcome by good.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)