A prayer my bride reminded me to pray.

2021-07-10 AnonymityAnonymity.  This is what most people seem to feel like when they get behind the steering wheel of their autos.  Especially those with the blackened windows, even on the front windshield (which should be illegal – it’s like driving with sunglasses on even at night!  But that’s for another blog.)2021-07-10 Anonymous Drivers

The anonymity we feel driving allows us to do things that if we knew the other driver or recognized faces, we would never do.  How guilty I feel typing this as it has often been a “clinging sin” of Hebrews 12:1.  My bride of 31 years has often tried to help me, sometimes wisely, sometimes with aggravation, sometimes with good effect, sometimes with greater frustration.

A recent conversation about this came up after some clown ran a stop sign when it was MY turn!  So I pulled forward and blared on my horn to let the redneck know HE was in the WRONG!  Of course, seeing my SUV lunging toward his open window required he give me what he felt was an appropriate “Hawaiian Salute” with a single finger.  Anita was very upset with my behavior and afraid I was going to wind up in a wreck and she wanted to go home.  But our ensuing conversation finally got to my heart.  Somehow the Holy Spirit was able to break through all the layers of anger and bitterness that lay there toward other drivers . . . who drove the way I used to drive.

Later, my mind wandered back to college as I prayed for forgiveness, first for scaring my bride, second for trying to scare the scofflaw driver, third for not listening to the Holy Spirit soooo many, many times.  “Lord, forgive [my] sins and cleanse [me] from all unrighteousness” . . . again.  A memory of Cecil was triggered.  He was a transfer from another school and had a car, a luxury in my circle of friends at that stage of our lives.

Once I asked him for a ride into the city and since he had some time free and we often enjoyed chatting, he gladly agreed.  As we got in his car, though, instead of instantly starting the engine, Cecil said, “This will just take a minute.”  (???)  He leaned his head down, closed his eyes, and prayed.  “Father, thank you for blessing me with this car and C.A.’s friendship.  Help me to remember You are in the back seat, and keep us safe on our errands.”  And with that he started the car and headed into town.

I have no memory of our errands or where we went other than another time to a park outside the city.  But I DO remember this: when we finished whatever errands we were on we returned to his car, he again bowed his head and talked for just a moment to his Lord about our trip back to campus.  And every time we got in his car, he would spend a moment communing with his Master, and asking for safe travels.  Sometimes he would pray for specific things about our travels, sometimes for other things on his mind as we would begin, but every time, BEFORE he started the car, he would pray.

So somehow the Holy Spirit brought this memory of when we were 20 years old to my mind and asked me why I wanted to be anonymous in my car.  The Lord’s prompting suggested that I was leaving Him out of the car when I would drive, and He wanted to be with me.  (Imagine, the KING wants to be with ME!?)  Alone, I wept for my hardness of heart, my ineptitude in driving, and my inconsideration of the deceit with which other drivers were dealing.

And as I prayed I recalled an encouragement from a friend in Alaska: “Most of us don’t seem to realize how we can be a testimony of God’s grace with our cars.”  OUCH!  That was so many years ago, and I still was blind to what Father has been trying to get into my hard head and harder heart.

But He finally got it into me.  Now whenever I get into my car, I first pray.  I ask Father for safe travels, for patience with those who are deceived and think they should be able to violate the laws.  I request The God Who Is to make me aware that the other drivers are people He loves, even when they are inconsiderate, even behind blackened windows and with stereos bouncing their car off the pavement.  And I ask Him to remind me from His seat in the car that I should obey the laws and show His grace to others, as my bride has so often asked me to do.

If you think of me this week, please pray that I will remember His Presence more consistently.

 

“God, I don’t want to die . . . “

Two men’s deaths were reported last week, one 27-year-old John Chau, who has been on national news with an interesting quote.  The other, Jimbo Hawkins, a 47-year-old acquaintance, only on the local news here in Kentucky.

The death of John Chau almost makes me believe the conceit about “fake news.”  Yahoo News, MSN, CNN, GlobalNews, even Fox News, and all the other popular outlets I read capitalized on the statement in John’s last journal entry, “God, I don’t want to die.”

The presentation of this entry in the way the media hyped it made it sound like an insincere missionary being coerced into going somewhere he did not really wish to go, someone who was unwilling to die for the faith he was trying to spread.  Even the Wall Street Journal called him a “proselytizer” as though this was tantamount to cultural murder and forced conversion.

Like Paul Harvey used to say, let’s get to “the rest of the story.”

In November, 2018, after nearly three years of studying the area and the people groups in India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where North Sentinel is located, John chose to violate Indian law and visit the island.  His heart’s desire was to share the love of God in Jesus Christ with people who had been left alone by the rest of the world; people going to hell without hope (Acts 4:12).  So John prayed and journaled: “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?”

Then there was the line taken out of context by the media: “God, I don’t want to die.”  Put in context, it reveals a completely different picture:
“You guys [his family] might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people . . . God, I don’t want to die.  Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else to continue?  No, I don’t think so.”
“I think I could be more useful alive . . . but to you, God, I give all the glory of whatever happens,” he wrote, noting that he had asked God to forgive “any of the people on this island who try to kill me, and especially if they succeed.”

This was a young man who knew his Lord and wanted to share His love with everyone, not wanting any to perish without God’s salvation.  Arm-chair critics, even among believers, question the sense of going where he was unwelcomed, violating Indian law, hiring accessories who have now been charged with criminal involvement in his death (over the objections of his family who have forgiven even the tribesmen who killed John).

John Chau.jpg

Laws that prevent us from sharing the Gospel must be weighed against the call of God to do just that.  The Nazi argument in 1935-44 was this: The Bible tells you Christians to obey the law; how do you justify protecting Jews?  We followers of Jesus must remember Acts 4:18-20 when Peter and John were told by the legal authorities to stop preaching in the name of Jesus: “But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ “

Whether John was obeying the Lord in his calling or just playing an adrenaline pumping adventure is between Jesus and John now.  But his intention could not have been clearer.  He wanted to share the Good News of salvation with people who had not heard, perhaps one of the last, if not the very last people group without a Gospel witness.  And he was unafraid of dying for that opportunity.

News of the death of the 47-year-old acquaintance came quite unexpectedly from his mother’s phone call.  Jimbo was walking with a new friend along Winchester Road at 5:30am when the driver of a small truck did not see him in his dark clothing and struck him, rendering him unconscious for the last few hours of his life.

He had lots of problems in his life, but he loved his mother and had prayed with different Christian friends in Quest and First Alliance Churches.  Only God knows the condition of his heart when he left earth, and our hope is that in God’s mercy and grace, he found salvation from God’s judgment (2 Peter 3:9).

I weighed the surprise of these two deaths to those of us who read or heard about them.  Neither was a surprise to The God Who Is Here.  Psalm 139:16 says, Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”  God knew before John ever visited Sentinel Island what was waiting for him there.  God knew before Jimbo ever went walking by the roadside what was going to happen to him.

Why speak of these two very different men in the same blog?  Just to note that death is the common denominator for all mankind.  Whether a missionary engaged in spreading the Gospel or just a hiker along a road, whether unformed in the womb or ninety-five years old, whether rich or poor, we will all “go the way of all flesh.”

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)  So get ready and stay ready.

 

A Devil’s Gamble

Driving home from Kansas City and Iowa on January 1, 2018, was very comfortable.  Clear skies, dry roads, bright sunshine in the southern view, light traffic, spotless snow-covered soft slopes of farmland all around; a truly beautiful sight, albeit outside our car the temperature was hovering around ZERO (-18C)!

Snow by highway January 1 2018But for all the beauty of the drive, we saw many silent symbols of those who had tried A Devil’s Gamble on the nights before, when the snow was fresh, and salt trucks and plows had battled to keep up with the falling white tricksters.  They melted just enough to make what residue was left behind as slick as an ice rink.  In a few places to the side of the road, but mostly in the median strip, there were corrugated channels where autos and trucks had spun off the road and been towed out.  We counted more than 40 between Cedar Rapids, IA, and Champagne, IL!  Only three autos still littered the sides of the road that day, still waiting for some rescue as the drivers and passengers had left the metal machines captured by the drifts, but the evidence of those already pulled from the pits were enough to set us thinking about how they wound up there.

Snow by highway 2 January 1 2018Only one really raised the hair on the back of our necks!  A mini-van, still loaded with Christmas gifts and luggage sat precariously to the right of our path, just at the edge of a 50 foot + (15m) embankment stretching sharply down in front of it, with only inches to go before it would have plunged into the depth, and probably rolled several times.  We imagined the relief of the driver as he pulled his children out of the almost fatal fall, leaving behind their parcels of holiday cheer, thankful to be alive.  Otherwise most of the tracks told of drivers who spun out and could not get their carriages out of the snow without help.

Snow by highway 3 January 1 2018
eerily similar to pickup we saw

One lone old pickup sat helplessly deep between guard rails, having kept his direction, but sinking more than 200 feet (61m) between the barriers on either side.

The drivers had gambled that they could handle the speed limit, some probably even passing it.  At 70 or more mph (110kph) the gamblers bet they could get to their destination 200 miles away 60 minutes sooner than if they traveled at 50mph (80kph).  They hoped that their risks would win, that they would be able to handle the speed and not get off track.  Instead they spent the night or even a couple days arranging for rescues that could have been saved with a one hour delay.

Satans fall
Luke 10:18

Such was the result of A Devil’s Gamble for these poor souls.  You see the devil gambled in ancient days that he could replace God.  He wanted to in charge and “like the Most High,” (Isaiah 14:12-19) and so took his chances at speeds not even “the Day Star, son of Dawn,” could manage.

He wanted to do what he wanted to do without regard for the truth that he was merely a created being, however magnificent; just a creature, NOT the Creator, the uncreated One.  Pretty stupid, don’t you think?  After all, how dumb did he have to be to see that he was NOT the Creator?

PowerballBut before we get too hard on the devil, let’s consider our own gambles.  God has laid out everything we need to enjoy His company, everything we need to live godly lives in Christ Jesus (2 Peter 1:3).  He has guaranteed that we can live with Him forever, that we can enjoy the trip on the way, that we can share these joys with families, friends, and fellow pilgrims.  Nothing will defeat us (Romans 8:37-39); no power on earth can disturb us (1 Corinthians 4:20); no one can stop us from loving and sharing this life (Galatians 5:23) . . . except us, me!

And at times I gambled as stupidly as the devil! I pretended that I could find joy, peace, love . . . on my own, in my own way, following my own ideas of what would satisfy.  I was as foolishly gambling as a devil.  Just in time, He rescued me.  He convinced me that I was speeding too fast and was headed for a ditch, and maybe even a crashing roll over a precipice that would have ended my life.

If you are honest you will admit you have gambled just as stupidly.  Maybe you are gambling today!  You are thinking that you can be happy living life without regard to what the Bible teaches.  You are running your life based on your personal perceptions of what will satisfy you.  Like a child you want to eat only sugary sweets, not realizing eating veggies may not be as much “fun” but will make you healthier and more able to enjoy life.  You are driving as if you can win doing life your way.

Gamblers loss.jpgSuch gambling is dangerous because none of us knows when the game will be over.  We play the odds hoping we will get out of the game before we crash.  The truth is that gambling is a fool’s or a devil’s game.  And the higher the stakes, the more likely you will lose.  When you gamble with your integrity, with your family, with your life, you are betting on extremely high stakes.

Stop betting on a devil’s gamble.

Surprise; an intermezzo blog

IMG_2219I was composing Sunday’s blog on Prayer as a Mark of a Man (or Woman) of God, so this is an intermezzo blog this Wednesday. You see, life has a way of throwing surprises at us when we expect normal events. Anita’s comment afterward was, “Well, I’m glad I did not kill us this time.” 

As Anita and I drove to Iowa on Monday, January 12, I was working on the blog for this Sunday. While there were piles of snow all around us from the weekend storms that had blown through the Midwest, the big roadways were completely clear and dry. We have very good snow-removal teams, especially in areas like northern Illinois and Iowa, where they are accustomed to seeing lots of snow in winter. So Anita took the wheel and I opened my computer.

As we were driving the speed limit, 70 miles per hour (~110km/hr), the “cruise control” was set to maintain the constant speed. Along the way we had noted six different cars sitting at various angles off the side of the road or in the median strip of grass, now covered with snow. These were “leftovers” from the weekend, folks who had run off the road in the storm, and had not retrieved their cars yet.

We reached one of the many flat expanses in northern Illinois, where the wheat, barley and hay fields seem to go on forever. A sign along the road read, “High Wind Area” which meant the winds of the plains would sweep across the highway and could affect the stability of one’s driving. While we felt some light winds, nothing really strong buffeted our car.

But . . . ahead in the medial strip we saw a seventh car facing the “wrong way” with tracks in the snow showing he had skidded from our side of the road, and turned around in the snow as he slid off the roadway. Blowing snow had covered the inside lane on our side of the road. Though no longer blowing, there it was, light snow all over our lane! We were just passing a 65 mph semi-trailer and Anita over-cautiously pulled to the left to keep a wide distance away from him. I immediately saw the danger – she was going to miss the tracks that most traffic in our lane had made through the snow and put her left tire in the deeper snow next to the medial strip! By the time I could warn her to stay in the tracks, we were feeling the pull of the snow under the left tires dragging us into the median.

To avoid this, she turned sharply to the right and skidded in front of the semi-truck! The skilled professional driver had seen this coming and was substantially slowing in his clear lane. I grabbed the steering wheel and reversed her sharp right to approximately center to avoid flipping the car and said, “Don’t BRAKE!” afraid that she would panic and slam on the brake, which could also have flipped the car or put us in the way of the truck. But the cruise control was still set for 70, and we began “fish-tailing” on the snow and now slickened tires. I spoke out loud to the LORD, “Oh, God, please help us,” realizing there was no time to instruct Anita on how to pull out of the fishtail nor to turn off the cruise control.

This was not the scream of someone facing impending danger. This was just a simple request to someone who daily talks with me, and I with Him. I know Him, and I knew that when we were out of control, He could step in with universal controls. He can change water to wine, make the deaf hear and open blinded eyes, feed 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish; He can walk on water and command wind and waves to obey His voice. Needless to say, I was afraid, but not with terror of one who does not know what will happen; just the discomfort of one who does not know exactly what He, my Father, will do. But with full confidence that He owns my life, and that what Lane Martin said was true: “Nothing happens TO a Christ-follower; filtered by His love, it only happens FOR us.”

Count three seconds: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand.

IMG_2217In less than three seconds from when we first touched the snow, we were flying off the right side of the highway, the car was skiing into deep snow, and without speaking, my prayers were for no huge boulders to block us, or drop-offs that would roll the car. The snow enveloped us like angel dust, obscuring our view of the field ahead, and eventually blocking the right side doors. We sunk into the drift without a sound except for the car’s engine. I spoke first, “We’re okay, dear.”

We had arrived at this resting point without any loud bangs against rocks, and only the “swoosh” of the snow settling around us. The passenger side was completely blocked, as was the driver’s door, but the rear left door was openable with some push against the snow. Thanx to modern technology, a quick call to 911, and assurances that no one was injured, a state police officer was dispatched and arrived within 20 minutes, followed shortly by a tow truck who winched us out of the snow.

IMG_2227With no damage to the car, we could easily finish our drive, only delayed about 45 minutes! Any number of “natural” explanations could minimize our miracle. But when you think about the thousands of ways this story could have ended with us in the hospital or in Heaven, and the very narrow window of how a car zooming 70 mph could go off the highway, avoid a semi, and land with no damage to the car or occupants . . . we live in His grace, and His miraculous Hand takes care of us in every situation.

As to why this would happen? Maybe for the brief interchange I had between the officer or the tow truck driver; or the couple of people at the next truck stop where I shared our story; or so I could share this with you, that He works miracles for any who call on His name. Check out Hebrews 11 for heroes of faith, some who saw great miracles, but some suffered torture and even death. So we are thankful for our “miracle” rescue, but we trust Him no matter what would have been the outcome, and no matter what or when the next surprise comes at us.

Jesus at the wheel