Category Archives: God is Good

The God I Never Knew

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Split Rock Lighthouse, Lake Superior’s North Shore

Okay, so I was not raised in a Christian family.  But the picture here is from Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior’s north shore – that is where my life and God’s mercy finally  intersected in my conscious mind when He let the air supply in my scuba hose get stopped while I was diving on a ship wreck in 60′ of water.  At that point, I never knew God.  I didn’t even know God existed.  Correction:  I did know, I was just really mad at Him, so I pushed Him away so He would not exist in my life.  This is why I do not believe there are any true atheists in the world.  There are those who are angry at God like I was, and keep Him away, and there are people who just don’t know God yet – we call them agnostics: “a” meaning without or against, and “gnostic” meaning knowledge.  Back to reality…

So that day back in 1978, my diving buddy asked me if I wanted to pray before the dive.  “Are you kidding me right now?  Since when did I EVER need God?  And why would I shoot meaningless words into the sky?  And what could He do for me anyway?  He was way too far away!  Besides, all the things He COULD have done for me in my life up to that point HE chose not to!  Why give me an alcoholic dad?  Why all the anger and abuse?  Why make my mom and dad divorce and marry EACH OTHER 3 different times?  Why did I have to be born with a cleft palate?  Why did my aunt molest me?  And that is my short list.”  So perhaps you see the source of my anger against God.  That is also before I knew that one of God’s names is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” He has been by my side – and YOUR side – every day of our life.  NEVER has He left us!  WE just give Him the cold shoulder.

“Somehow” I survived the mishap in Lake Superior which had every potential of doing me great harm if not death.  That night back at the cabin with the rest of the diving crew, I could not sleep.  I was faced with the question that few ever stop to ponder – “What if I had died that day in 60 feet of water, then what?”  I had no answers.

At that time in my life I was into all kinds of Eastern Mysticism, pyramidology, alien worship, and the like.  Now here is a great pause!  I would not believe in the one true God, Who has loved me from the day I was conceived in His mind, but I would love beings that don’t exist, worship things that are lies – and I thought I was enlightened!  Funny how the world deceives us!

A few weeks later I was driving into town (in Minnesota) to get ice for my dad and me for going out on the lake, and I remember driving past a church, and thinking, “Wait a minute! Churches have answers for that kind of question!”  I pulled a u-turn, and drove into the parking lot – might I add that it “just happened” to be time for Sunday school to begin – God’s timing is always perfect!

The church was Calvary Memorial Church in Navarre, Minnesota.  I was in my cutoff shorts and muscle shirt (not that I had many muscles, just wearing the shirt!) and was ushered to the youth group.  For the first time I heard stuff that rocked my world – stuff Jesus did – healing blind people, healing crippled people, raising dead people.  I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me?!! Nobody ever told me this stuff before!”  Or at least if they did, I wasn’t listening.  Truly in a state of awe.  Apparently I stuck out as the new kid.  Not sure why…perhaps it was my UNSunday like appearance?  Everybody else was in their Sunday best – suits, nice clothes, Sunday dresses, then there was Rick – cutoff shorts and t-shirt.  Confession – still my preferred mode of dress! 🙂

So after the morning lesson the teacher/youth pastor came up to me and introduced himself to me.  Then he asked me the strangest question:  “Would you like to come back tonight?”  I thought to myself, “You guys go to church twice in the SAME DAY?  That is a TOTAL waste of time!”  Then he said they were all going out to ice cream afterwards.  I said “Sure I’ll come!”  Can’t argue with ice cream, eh?

sodafountain

I cannot remember to this day what the evening service was like, but I do remember our time at this place on the shores of Lake Minnetonka called the “Soda Fountain.”  It was there over ice cream that Randy Heinsch, Dwight Anderson and his brother Duane shared the Gospel of Jesus with me.  The “gospel” means good news.  The good news is this:  Jesus came to give us life.  More than just life.  HE showed us how to live, and then gave us the Holy Spirit to heal us and guarantee us the new heaven and the new earth it talks about in Revelation 21.

Currently, we are hurt and dying.  Spiritually we are already dead, the body is simply following the spirit to its death.  Jesus reverses the spiritual death.  In fact He told us in John 6:63 –

The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Jesus’ words are spirit and life.  Our human effort amounts to nothing in the long run.

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless  (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. – Hebrews 7:18–19

He is not the distant rule enforcer.  He is life giver.  Redeemer.  Forgiver.  Healer.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people…Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. – Titus 2:11–14

He forgives…

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:13–14

He heals…

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24

But most of all, He loves.  He IS love.  Would you open your heart and mind and soul to the Giver of life, the Redeemer, He who would love to heal you and forgive you?

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us. – 1 John 4:7–10

This is the God I never knew!  It took decades to get to know Him!  You can too!  It starts with a prayer.  The prayer goes something like this….it is not the words that matter, it is the heart’s attitude in the prayer that matters:

Dear God – thank You for loving me.  I am hurting, and I need Your healing.  I am a mess and I need Your forgiveness.  I am dying and I need Your Life to give me life.  Your words are life and I invite You and Your words into my life and I give You total control.  I no longer push You away – in fact I ask that You draw me near to You.  I want to feel Your presence.  I want to live my life Your way from here on out.  Draw me into Your Words that I might know how to do that better I ask in Jesus Name!  Amen!

If you just prayed that prayer for the first time I want you to do 2 things.  1) write down today’s date and time as when you began eternal life.  Today is the day you became a Christian.  Nice!  2) contact me so I can stay in touch with you and help you grow as a Christian.  Life is not meant to live alone.  God made us and designed us to live in community.  So reach out and let me know how you are doing!

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A Pile of Shoes

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Not your typical church service.  But then with God, what is typical?   The lady got up in front of the church and was sharing with the church how she is going to Mozambique again to help her friend for a while.  She wanted to bring a gift to her friend – a practical type of gift.  And as she inquired of the Lord what she should bring, she heard this small voice say “shoes.”  Shoes?  For her?  For others?  Who, Lord??  “Bunches of shoes…”  Okay then!  She didn’t know sizes, types, styles, gender, or anything.  Just shoes.  There was no email, no Facebook post, not even a phone call.  Just this impression in her heart:  “Shoes.”  So she shared with the church that last Sunday she would be there for a while that the Lord laid it on her heart to ask for people to donate shoes, if anybody was willing.  So, at the end of the service, they had a rather strange offering.  People by the scores went up and left their shoes at the altar.  Nice, ugly (those would have probably been mine!), new or used.  The picture above does not do justice.  It was a LARGE pile of shoes and boots.  And, in keeping with “strange” that day, many families went home barefooted!  They literally left their shoes at the altar for unknown people 10,000 miles away – in Mozambique.

 

On the other side of the world, IN Mozambique, the missionary lady was in pain.  She had sickness, she had been digging worms out of the feet of other people for weeks and months.  Even she herself had been hospitalized with the worms.  They were eventually eradicated from the missionary’s body, but her burden of love for these people she was ministering to was to give them something that would prevent them from getting those worms, or getting re-infected with them.  She prayed for shoes.  Sandals.  Boots.  ANYTHING that would prevent these people from getting these worms as they walked around barefooted.

 

And from a small church on the other side of the world, God spoke the answer to the missionary’s prayers, and an entire church heard a  call to leave their shoes at the altar, and a great number did just that, and went home barefoot.

 

When the missionary’s friend arrived in Mozambique, she asked her, “I don’t know why, but I felt the Lord wanted me to bring shoes?”  The missionary broke down and cried.  She had wondered if the Lord had heard her request for shoes.  Would she even get them?  And if so, how?  She had thought about sending out a newsletter, or a Facebook post, but the Lord in His infinite love and sovereign power had beat her to the punch!  “Shoes you want?  Shoes you shall have!”  Box after box after box arrived at the compound in the truck.  The nice thing was that these shoes and boots were already broken in!  People could now walk around in shoes, boots, sandals, anything that fit their feet – and they could avoid a worm infestation in their body that had very painful implications.  How beautiful is the body of Christ!

 

You might ask how I know this story?  Is it one of those “urban legends”?  Well, this last weekend, Sept 21st, I attended a church called  Convergence Church here in South Fort Worth.  Convergence is the church from whence the shoes were donated.  My son is a student at their school of supernatural ministry, and he really wanted me to come and hear Heidi Baker speak there this weekend.  “Heidi Baker??” I asked…I was in like flint!  Heidi was that missionary.  She and her husband had come to the US on their yearly speaking tour and Convergence church was definitely on their  itinerary after the shoe experience.  As she stood in front of Convergence church and started sharing the story of the shoes, she broke into tears, and just stood there.  Tears of thankfulness.  Tears of overwhelming love.  Tears of knowing there is God in heaven who actually hears our cry.   Trying to regain some form of composure standing in front of hundreds.  But she lost it.  Probably 2-3 minutes went by.  It was truly a beautiful time of love being poured out.  Probably not a dry eye in the place.  Love is a powerful thing.  And those shoes are doing a work of love as people wear them over in Mozambique.  I can only imagine what some of the men are wearing.

 

So this is in perfect line with what the Lord has been weighing on my heart these past few years.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

 

So the love is there!  The first question is then why does the world not see it as much as it should?  The second question is how many of us continue block that love?  For years I did that.  I have a trail of damage behind me to prove it.  How many of us have too many layers of paint over the original beautiful wood boards to see the beauty God created in the wood grain?  How many of us let our hurts cover over the love HE poured into our hearts? He doesn’t pour it into our hearts so we can just hang onto it and “feel the love” – it is to become rivers of living water flowing out of us.

 

It is an extravagant love.  As I read Ephesians, I am struck by just how extravagant His love really is!  And it dwells inside of each one of us who call Him our Lord!

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

1 John 4:7-8 says “God IS love”  as true as 4+5 = 9.  God = Love.  If we see God, we are seeing love personified.  IF we have God dwelling in our hearts, then to the extent that we allow Him Lordship over us, we will love.  Truly love.  We will take off our shoes, and go home shoeless so that somebody 10,000 miles away might be blessed to have our shoes by the Love of Jesus.  We will give the person ahead of us in line at the grocery store the extra $1 they need to pay their whole ticket when they come up short.  We will walk up to a perfect stranger at the mall with an injury and offer to pray for healing from them in the love of Christ (Warning!  Healings may occur!)

 

1 John 4:7-8:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

 

2 Corinthians 5:18-20

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.

Go.  Love people in His Name and for HIS Kingdom’s sake.

 

Tires

I was not raised in a Christian family.  My mother took me to a Methodist Vacation Bible School when I was very small, and my grandmother and grandfather would take me with them as well, but that was all I can remember.  My dad was quite angry with God.  When his sister was coming home from the hospital with her newborn baby, a train hit and killed them, and my dad never let God off the hook for that one.

So it came as quite a surprise to all in my family when I became a Christian in 10th grade (1977).  How that happened is the subject of another entry perhaps, but suffice it to say that I was so zealous for Jesus that my dad was convinced I had gotten involved in some sort of cult.  Which means that the foolishness of youth coupled with a passion for my newfound faith paved the way for some mistakes on my part!  I am glad the Grace of God covers a lot of foolishness too!  Anyway, that bought me a ticket to counseling.  Just so happened the guy was a Jew and had no friendliness towards Christianity, or faith of any kind.  So when he asked me how things were at home, I made them sound pretty bad.  After all, all things are pretty terrible when you are 16, right?  When Ralph told me it was okay if I left home until things got better my dad took issue with that.  I didn’t have to go to counseling anymore.

So, in the summer of 1978 I had a job working in downtown Minneapolis.  I lived 45 minutes away on a farm in Maple Plain with my dad and step mom.  I remember the Monday or Tuesday when one of my tires developed this “flump” sound (new SAT word!) as I drove.  I stopped to see what it was and was surprised to see this bulge coming out of my tire.  I remember thinking to myself, “What the heck?!  I never seen that kind of thing before!  This cannot be good!”  I knew the tire would not last long (they were all getting pretty old!) but I could not get new tires until I was paid on Friday.  All I could do was pray, “Lord, please hold these tires together until I can get new ones!  You are the only One who can do it!”  That was all I could do.

My dad was concerned about my driving the car in that condition.  He was especially angry that I could have gotten tires right away but had given some money to church that Sunday (tithe).  When I told him that God would hold it together until I got paid again, I could almost hear his angry thoughts – “Well, God sure didn’t protect my sister from that train!”  He thought I was so irresponisble.  There was nothing I could tell my dad.  I had no easy answers.  All I knew was that God was good, and that somehow I didn’t think that the accident was God’s fault, but that He allowed it for some reason.

Pretty soon my dad saw some tires for sale complete with rims from somebody selling them in the paper.  I remember they were just $100.  I thought that was a pretty good deal with rims.  Only problem was I had to wait until Friday to ge them.  It was rather unnerving driving all those miles with that bulge hitting the pavement every time the wheel did one rotation.  It was like hitting a balloon on the pavement hoping it would not break.   Looking back, I calculated that if I drove 50 miles round trip each day to work and back, that tire (assuming a 24″ diameter) with the bulge hit the pavement over 21,000 times each day – on hot summer pavement.  Over a 3 day period that is over 60,000 times the grace of God covered me!   Romans 5:20 tells us that “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”  Thank you for your goodness Lord!

Friday afternoon I picked them up and took them home and my dad helped me change the tires.  I will never forget the look on his face when he took the tire with the bulge off the car and laid it down.  As he laid it down, the tire immediately started hissing like somebody was letting the air out of it.  It went all the way flat.  He had this look on his face of “You have GOT to be kidding…that is incredible!”  I had this urge to say, “I told you so!” but didn’t want to get hit!  God had held them together like I asked Him to.  It was also a testimony to my dad of God’s goodness.  Not that God was trying to be let off the hook – God does not need letting off of any hooks.  In fact, he purposefully stayed hooked on the cross for all of us – dying in our place so that we might live.

I remember that story today because I read this passage this morning:

Psalm 20:7-8 – “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”

Not that chariots or horses are bad, but they can mask the person really behind the victory – God.  It is not good tires that get me to work – it is God, though God may choose to use the tires.  It is not my hand that makes my money, though God may choose to use the skill in my hands or the knowledge in my head, I acknowledge that all good things come from God.  And for that reason, I praise and worship a God who is good.  And He IS good – all the time.