Saturday, September 24, 2011

At the Crossroads

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you
and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

-- Exodus 33:13

Are you one of those people who hates to ask for directions when they're lost? Douglas Corrigan was. And his stubbornness would briefly make him the world's most famous man.

Born in 1907 in Galveston, Texas, Corrigan was a skilled mechanic and pilot who helped build the Spirit of St. Louis--Charles Lindbergh's famous airplane that crossed the Atlantic in 1927. Corrigan dreamed of one day repeating the hero aviator's remarkable feat. But time after time, the federal government refused to certify his modified aircraft for transatlantic flight. Corrigan would get his chance 11 years later.

Frustrated by the government's red tape, Corrigan apparently gave up and submitted his official flight plans to return home to California. His plane left the New York runway at night in thick fog--and with (allegedly) a malfunctioning compass. Nearly 30 hours later, the stubborn Texan landed in Dublin, Ireland: halfway around the world from his intended destination. Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan became an instant celebrity and received a New York City ticker tape parade that was bigger than Lindbergh's!

Maybe we're all like Wrong Way Corrigan when it comes to navigating our personal life journey. Our compass tends to malfunction and we can easily lose sight of our goals and destination. We're confused about which college to attend, which spouse to marry and which job to take. These are no doubt legitimate questions. Making poor choices can indeed set our life off course.

Discerning God's will is the best way to put us back on track. But how? Let's first look at what NOT to do. Society tells us to follow our hearts and "be true to ourselves." But that's in direct opposition to God's word in the Bible because we're first to be true to Him. "Who can understand the human heart?" we read in Jeremiah. "There is nothing else so deceitful; it is too sick to be healed."

Let's now consider Jesus' example as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and execution. Christ had a big decision to make. And He asked God if there might be some other way to achieve the eternal plan that had been set in motion at the foundation of the world. "Father, if it is possible, don't let this happen to me!" Jesus petitioned as He literally sweated blood. "Father, you can do anything. Don't make me suffer by having me drink from this cup. But do what you want, and not what I want."

The clear lesson is that surrendering completely to God's will is our first step to knowing it. 

When we do, God's answer can be eye-opening. But it will never contradict His message in the Bible. And don't be surprised if He responds through an opportunity or situation that has never before occurred to you. Our ways--God says--are not His ways. And His thoughts are not our own.

What's our next move? Let's remember the words of Proverbs 19:21.

"Many are the plans in a person's heart," we read. "But it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Perfect Timing

But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD,
I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

-- Micah 7:7

Americans are good at many things, but waiting isn’t one of them. We love our fast food, microwave popcorn and automated teller machines. We specialize in multitasking. And some (at least the geeky ones) even judge their neighbors and co-workers by the speed of their computer’s microprocessor.

There’s also no time for waiting in our non-stop, 24/7 society. But we do it anyway. In fact, efficiency experts report that on average each day, people spend an estimated 45 to 62 minutes waiting. That covers common tasks like waiting in line at the bank, waiting at the restaurant for the server to take your order, and even waiting for your car to fill up at the gas pump. (All-in-all, that’s about three years of waiting by the time we reach age 70!)

However, waiting isn't always a waste--particularly when it comes to God. It’s actually an essential part of His plan for our lives: that process that enables us to become. This concept might be difficult to grasp because the human viewpoint of time differs greatly from the Creator's. While He sees the past, present and future, we see only what's happening minute by minute. That's why we want to know (now!) when we’ll find another job, when we’ll sell our house and when we’ll find a spouse. When will we feel healthy again? And...just when will the economy finally turn around?

We don't have a clue. But God has known since the foundations of the world.

The Apostle Peter helps us put our waiting into perspective: "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends," he wrote. "To the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day."

As Christ-followers, we need to understand that what happens while we're waiting is often more important than what we're waiting for. Ask anyone who has spent grueling hours at the hospital contemplating the health and future of a loved one. Did their soul-searching experience bring a closer dependence on God? It should have. After all, it's when we're so humbled and powerless that we realize we can do nothing on our own.

Maybe our non-stop, 24/7 world actually revolves around waiting. So let's make the most of our time in God's Waiting Room--a place where we can look for ways and opportunities to say yes to Him with a sense of expectancy and hope. Whether we understand it or not, His timing is always perfect.

"Be still, and know that I am God," He tells us through Psalm 46:10. "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why Not?

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

-- John 9:3


It’s a simple three-letter word. But it’s also the big question that people have been asking for centuries.

Why did I lose my job? Why does my neighbor’s child have cancer? Why is my nation at war? And why did that hurricane have to devastate the community?

There are often no easy answers. But one thing is clear: we live in a deeply flawed world where terrible things can and do happen to the wrong people. Jesus—who lived a perfect, sin-free life—was unjustly tried and executed for a crime He didn’t commit. The good news is that our God is One who specializes in turning the tragic into the miraculous. Through Him, the seemingly pointless, random or even cruel can emerge as testimonies to His power and grace.

Several years ago, a young marketing executive lost her high-paying job at a Silicon Valley high tech firm.  How could anything good come from an unexpected layoff? With her position eliminated, she no longer had to represent her company at an upcoming industry tradeshow. And the flight she would have taken was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9-11.

That’s an example of a “why” that only becomes clear in retrospect. But other reasons for adversity are more evident. Sometimes, it’s a simple matter of us getting what we deserve. If we commit a crime, live dishonestly or mistreat others, we shouldn’t be surprised when we face the consequences. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked,” the Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians. “A man reaps what he sows.”

We can also become victims of other people’s sins. According to 2009 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 10,839 people were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal blood alcohol content. Bad things can also happen—particularly to Christ-followers—because of satanic attack. That’s because the more faithful we are to Jesus and His purposes, the more of a threat we become to the devil. There is a price for us to pay, and being a Christ-follower doesn’t exempt us from life’s sorrows. But our faith does give us the power to overcome them…and grow stronger in the process. The Apostle Peter—the one Jesus nicknamed “The Rock” and who eventually died for his faith—was an expert on this.
“Dear friends, don't be surprised or shocked that you are going through testing that is like walking through fire,” he writes in 1 Peter. “Be glad for the chance to suffer as Christ suffered. It will prepare you for even greater happiness when he makes his glorious return.”
Yes, God can even use satanic attacks to do His will in the world. When the early church was persecuted, the faith actually spread across the Roman Empire as Christ-followers fled and settled in areas that had never heard the Good News of Jesus.

Trouble has been an unpleasant fact of life since the earliest chapters of the Bible. Because of our fallen nature, the human experience will involve disaster, crime, disease and injustice until Christ’s return. So until then, maybe we shouldn’t ask why bad things happen. The more relevant question is why not.