Tag Archives: God

Complications

Fear Has Big Eyes--Wikipedia

Recently I received  notification congratulating me for six years with WordPress. It’s difficult to believe it has been that long since I timidly began this little adventure. And while the posts have been a bit sparse lately due to some major life changes, thoughts of this blog are rarely far away.

Several days ago, I was checking my “stats” and noticed the following post had received some attention. I went back to re-read it and realized how much I needed to hear my daughter’s wisdom that day, my life having acquired a few of those “complications.”

It is my hope that you too will find encouragement as you read, and be reminded as I was, that God really does have all things under His control. No matter what the mess, He is well able to see us through.

Don’t Send a Boy To Do A Man’s Work

Below is an essay from my daughter’s blog, “My Soul Found Rest.” When she first sent me the rough draft to look over, I was moved by what she wrote. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have never read Wendell Berry; had not even heard of him before my daughter told me that he was the focus of this semester’s Honors College at Belhaven University. I know, this admission shows me to be a severely under-educated individual; there is clearly no limit to the number of things I do not know.

My daughter’s life has, like the rest of ours, had its share of “complications.” It has been part of my job as her mother to help her navigate some of the rough rapids on the river of her life. Occasionally, she has been summarily dumped out of the boat and into the water, leaving her hurt and floundering. Each time though, she has climbed back into the boat and kept on paddling.

It has been a privilege to watch my daughter grow in her faith. She has met the complications in her life by doing what we all should do: turn to the Lord first. She truly believes that life has a “happy ending,” not because she has a false “Pollyanna-like” attitude, but because she has chosen to place her faith in the surety of God and His Word to her. She knows that no matter what this life brings, her Father continues to uphold her; her goal is Heaven. She has learned she doesn’t have to fear the future, she can trust God to use the events in her life which have left her bruised, for His purposes and the maturing of her faith. And, while her life has had no shortage of “bumps in the road,” she has learned, as her father and I have, that there is only one place we can go to find help.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68 (ESV)

It is easy to get bogged down in the trials and tribulations of our lives. We lose our focus; we forget God is Sovereign; we begin to fear we are on a path that has no good end. Just as in the Wendell Berry story referenced below, our Father comes and straightens out the mess we make of our lives and He does so with a deft and gentle Hand. His mercy, His grace, His love always ready to lift us out of the quagmire, setting our feet on solid ground.

It’s Complicated

This was my first honors essay of the semester. The short story referenced is from Wendell Berry’s That Distant Land, a collection of his short stories.

In his short story, “Don’t Send a Boy to Do a Man’s Work,” Wendell Berry describes the consequences of complications. The main character in the story, a twelve-year-old boy named Athey Keith, has been left in charge of overseeing a hog-killing while his father, Carter Keith, is out-of-town. Carter Keith has laid specific plans and enlisted the help of knowledgeable men to make sure the work gets done efficiently and well. However, several complications arise during the hog-killing, which turn the Keiths’ well-laid plans upside down and cause the story to turn in an unexpected direction. The rest of the story hinges on how Athey and the other men deal with the complications.

Complications are hardly an uncommon event in our day-to-day lives. The dictionary built into my computer defines “complicate” as such: “[to] make (something) more difficult or confusing by causing it to be more complex.” Complications, or problems, as we more often call them, seem to arise with impeccable timing whenever we least desire them. Yet it seems that although complications may be sometimes unwelcome and turn our story in unexpected directions, our stories, once finished, become clearer and more illuminating as we reach the end of the book.

The plot’s driving force in Berry’s short story is the three complications and how Athey and the other men handle them. While Athey would certainly have had a much more productive hog-killing and a less harrowing day without any such complications, such a plot (or lack thereof) would not have made much of a story. Stories are driven by conflict.

When I was part of a fiction-writing group in high school, my teacher (a fiction author) had to remind me over and over again that I needed more conflict in my story. What I was writing would have been nice to live, but it was boring to read. There was no impetus to drive the plot forward. I resented her correction, because I wanted to write stories like I wanted to live, sweet, delightful, and all with happy endings. That’s still how I would like to live my life. But I am old enough now to begin to realize that my life is not going to go in a carefully plotted way to reach its happy ending. It’s going to take its twists and turns, and complications (whether small or large) are going to arise.

If I believe the promises of Scripture, that God works in all things for the good of those that are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), then I can navigate the bumps in the road with confidence. But questions still remain, and I am sure that I am not the first person to raise questions such as, “Is there any way to avoid complications? If I can, should I? Do all complications arise from sin? Even if they do, can they still turn out all right in the end (and preferably before the end too)?”

Athey could not have avoided the particular problems that came his way, all of which began with other people. He could not foresee them, nor could he escape them. The only thing he could do was be prepared for them, in the sense that he could be ready to deal with any problems that might occur. But when the complications came, he was not ready. The somewhat cocky young boy that he was, his pride and fear caused him to react in a way that allowed the originally small problems to become big ones.

I don’t think there were any complications in the Garden of Eden. Life there must have been like the story I tried to write—boring to read, but wonderful to live. Like in Berry’s story, the first Biblical complication came from another person. The complications Athey had to deal with all began with other people, but his fear caused him to react in a way that exacerbated the problem instead of solving it. Neither did Adam and Eve begin the first complication in this world, but they chose to yield to it instead of standing up and resisting. This first complication resulted in the fall of man from perfection, and now the human story is, well, complicated. At times it’s positively messy.

I don’t think there’s any way to avoid complications altogether. If there were, someone surely would have found a way by now! We can’t force others into our perfectly molded stories for ourselves—they’re going to bring complications, and sometimes we aren’t going to like the results. But neither our stories nor Berry’s story ends with failures to handle problems correctly. Fortunately for young Athey, his father came back—to a mess, it’s true, but he was quite up to handling the challenge and soon put things back to rights.

The human story doesn’t end with failure either. Although Adam and Eve didn’t have the power to put to right the wrong that they had done—that took someone with the proper authority—our Father sent His Son to earth to handle the challenge and put things back to rights. Unlike Carter Keith, He never has to go on a business trip, leaving us in charge. If Keith had been present at the hog-killing, the complications that arose would have been handled differently, and the resulting problems avoided. Likewise, because the Lord is present, we have the ability to handle the complications that come our way correctly. Not that we always will (in fact, many times we won’t), but we can, through His power. What is more, we have the guarantee that our stories will have happy endings. There might be cliffhangers after some chapters, and plot twists, and some pages might have tears on them. But in the end, we will close the book with a sigh of relief and meet our Author, the finisher of our faith.

Author: My Soul Found Rest (Used with permission)

Original Content: Copyright © 2016 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Nevertheless

Help by Anna Cervova

After a month of considering some upcoming personal and professional changes, God has drawn me to this passage. I am reminded where my strength comes from to deal with what lies ahead:

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73: 23-26 (NKJV)

Risk Averse

Trust--Photobucket

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:15-19 (NKJV)

Like many, I grew up singing “Jesus Loves Me.”  I used to sing, “Jesus loves you, this I know,” to Hannah every night as part of her bedtime routine. I have always known that Jesus loved me, but until recently, I did not really KNOW. Let me explain.

Those of us who know Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior have, at least, an intellectual understanding we are loved, that God came to earth robed in flesh, lived a sinless life, paid the ultimate price to redeem us back to Himself–all because of His great love for us. In order to be born again into His Kingdom, we must accept that in faith, repent, turn from our sin, receive His Spirit, and begin to live for Him.

For decades I have known this, but had no real revelation of it. I lived my life, practically speaking, like Jesus Christ died for others and I somehow slid in the back door by grabbing someone else’s “coat tails;” my sins far worse than anyone else’s. Pretty arrogant that.

In the past, I have prayed and even begged God for a revelation of His love, without any success. About a month and a half ago, this all changed. For a few brief seconds, God allowed me to see into the eternal, giving me a glimpse of His great love. It was enough to change me forever.

Like many others, I have lived my life “risk averse.” I learned early on to distrust people, initially the result of bullying and humiliation at the hands of my peers (and, sadly, a couple of teachers). Mixed into that a few failed relationships, betrayal by some close friends, and internalizing the stoicism from my Scandinavian and Germanic up-bringing, keeping part my heart locked up, has been a way of life for me. Much safer that way–less risk, less potential pain.

In addition, we live in a “risk averse” culture which quietly seeps into our thinking and teaches that if we place our trust in those with authority, they will, through government intervention (or a myriad of other ways), “help us” achieve a risk-free life of peace, safety, and security. Of course, this won’t ever work, no matter what they legislate or how many police they provide. Only placing our trust in Jesus Christ can ever give us that kind of peace and security.

Having been given a revelation of God’s love, I find I am beginning to love others more freely and extravagantly; less afraid of being hurt, more willing to take the risk and trust.

The cartoon below came to my attention from my daughter and son-in-law. The quote of C.S. Lewis’ is one of my favorites. Like many of us, Hannah and Matt went through deep heartache. Having made the decision to risk their hearts again, God has given them great joy.  Four weeks ago today, God knit their lives together in marriage.

So while dealing with my “trust issues” is clearly a work in progress, to borrow a phrase from Star Trek, this new-found revelation of God’s love is helping me to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

And that gives me hope and a future.

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More Bits Of Leonard Ravenhill

For I Am Not AshamedLeonard Ravenhill will never be counted among the passive or the neutral in the Church. His passion for evangelism and revival continue to ring from each quote below even though he now counts heaven as his home. The Church is just beginning to wake up–it needs to wake up–all across our country. In recent decades, we have lost any impact on the culture we live in and it is evident everywhere we look. No longer is the Church “salt” that preserves our culture. We have become a “comfort club” that affects few around us. Let these “Bits Of” Leonard Ravenhill be a call to action for all of us. There are those who will be lost for all eternity if we do not wake up and do the job Jesus Christ called us to do.

“Today’s church wants to be raptured from responsibility.”

“The world has lost the power to blush over its vice; the Church has lost her power to weep over it.”

“Many of us are hunting mice – while lions devour the land.”

“How can you pull down strongholds of Satan if you don’t even have the strength to turn off your TV?”

“That world outside there is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity, it’s waiting for a new demonstration of Christianity.”

“When there’s something in the Bible that churches don’t like, they call it ‘legalism.”

“The Church used to be a lifeboat rescuing the perishing. Now she is a cruise ship recruiting the promising.”

“You can have all of your doctrines right – yet still not have the presence of God.”

“Our seminaries today are turning out dead men.”

“Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry? Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die? Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand? Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned?”

“Today Christians spend more money on dog food than missions.”

“Our God is a consuming fire. He consumes pride, lust, materialism, and other sin.”

“A man may study because his brain is hungry for knowledge, even Bible knowledge. But he prays because his soul is hungry for God.”

“No man – I don’t care how colossal his intellect – No man is greater than his prayer life.”

“A popular evangelist reaches your emotions. A true prophet reaches your conscience.”

For more information on Leonard Ravenhill: http://www.ravenhill.org/

Original Content: Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

More Bits Of C.S. Lewis

As my husband and I recently saw “The Screwtape Letters,” I include here more from C.S. Lewis.

“It is a poor thing to strike our colors to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up ‘our own’ when it is no longer worth keeping.  If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms; but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer. He will have us even though we’ve shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is ‘nothing better’ left to be had.”

“The only things we can keep are the things we freely give to God.”

“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

“The devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one.”

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”

“Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live for ever.”

“You cannot make men good by law.”

“Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.”

“The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk.”

“Enemy-occupied territory—–that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign in sabotage.”

“When you come to knowing God, the initiative lies on His side. If He does not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him. And, in fact, He shows much more of Himself to some people than to others—not because He has favourites, but because it is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. Just as sunlight, though it has no favourites, cannot be reflected in a dusty mirror as clearly as in a clean one.”

“Like a good chess player, Satan is always trying to manuever you into a position where you can save your castle only by losing your bishop.”

“A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might be even more difficult to save.”

“There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake.”

“The enemy will not see you vanish into God’s company without an effort to reclaim you.”

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth…”

Original Content: Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Nicer Than God

But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.  Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. Revelation 2:14-16 (NKJV)

There is very little doubt in most people’s minds that our nation is in serious trouble on any number of levels. The church has been ineffective in turning this country towards righteousness and holiness. We have been told we must be “tolerant” of those whom God has said sin. I would posit that, as the body of Christ, we have actually become “nicer than God.” We have tolerated those things which God has said, in His Word, He hates. The result is that evil has proliferated until it fills this nation.

I read recently in a blog post the following statement: “We are infatuated with God’s grace, but we are not transformed by God’s grace.” (Unfortunately this isn’t an exact quote as I can’t find the post I read it in. If one of my readers knows the originator of this statement, please leave me a comment so that I can give proper credit for this profound observation.)

The grace of God is not a free pass to live life as we please or as we choose. The power inherent in God’s grace is earth-shattering, life-changing, and all-encompassing. God extends His matchless grace to the humble and repentant.

God’s grace transforms; it does not coddle.

If we continue to live unrepentant lives, tolerating behavior we should not (in ourselves and in others), then God’s grace has not transformed us at all. If we fill our increasingly empty lives with more stuff, more activity, more vanity, then God’s grace has not transformed us. If we focus so much on grace that we have forgotten the other aspects of God’s nature and character, then God’s grace has not transformed us.

And the reality of God’s presence and power will continue to remain far from us.

Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved