Posts tagged ‘God’

Do You Know Your Weaknesses?

…For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:10

I stayed with my sister in Florida the summer after I graduated from high school. It was a great summer with many life lessons along the way. Among the greatest lessons I learned was the limits of my own abilities. I have always struggled with an ongoing dichotomy in my soul. At one extreme there are days when I think I can do anything. And then there are the days I don’t think I’m good enough to accomplish a single thing. The fact is that each of these attitudes are simply opposite sides of the same coin, self-worth.

That summer I was given the opportunity to paint the living room, kitchen, and master bedroom of a church member’s home. I would be leaving Florida                        in a week and thought I had plenty of time to complete the task. The pay was attractive and I had painted for my brother-in-law back in Indiana the past two summers. So this would be easy. After four days on the job and not even close to being half done, I discovered that painting was far more complicated that I had realized. It was one thing to focus on a single task for the day as one following instructions, but quite another thing to be responsible for every aspect of the job. That is when my sister came to my rescue and helped me complete the job within the next two days.

There are times when I  think I can lead a church, make life decisions, and overcome any temptation without God’s help. The real problem is that I can do quite a bit without His help. We all can. But then along comes the bumps in the road. Every road has them. These bumps include the projects I can’t quite complete, the temptations I can’t quite overcome, and the life decisions I can’t quite get a handle on. Not only do the bumps inevitably come, but they come at the most inopportune times. They come four days into a project with no hope of completing it. They come right after I thought victory was a done deal. They come immediately after I was certain I had all the answers.

The apostle Paul learned to embrace the bumps in his road once he learned to embrace his weaknesses. Once he recognized his weakness as an opportunity to experience God’s grace, goodness, and strength, his self worth actually grew. And so it can be with us. The more clearly we identify our own weaknesses, the greater the blessings we will be prepared to receive from God. I have learned in leadership that general ideas never lead to specific actions. And so the more specifically I understand my own weaknesses, the more specific are the blessings and power God is yearning to bestow upon me.  

The strength I receive from God is in proportion to the weakness I recognize in myself. It is in this context I believe Paul could say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) I am spending time today identifying my weaknesses as I submit my life once again to the power and strength to Him who can do more than I could ever ask or think. The road to strength comes in the bumps of recognizing my own weaknesses. Do you know your weaknesses? 

Who is Your Guide?

For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Revelation 7:17

I was in medical school at Loma Linda University when my sister and her family came to visit me during the summer for a week. During that time we went to the usual sites in the area including the mountains and the beach. On one particularly hot day we made the mistake of hiking at Joshua Tree National Monument, which is located in the high desert close to Palm Springs. We shortened our hike to get back to the car where we had left our water. And that’s when I realized I had only brought enough water for one or two people in conditions like this. We were all so thirsty that we had to abandon our plans and drive to civilization where we could find water. It was a painful experience. 

Imagine if I had hired a guide to take us through Joshua Tree that day. She would have brought plenty of water for everyone because she would have been familiar with the trails, the weather, and all of our needs to have a pleasant experience. John paints such a picture of Jesus in Revelation. He came to this earth as a lamb the same as you and me. He experienced the trials and temptations that are present on every hike we take. And He knows exactly what we need. Because He came as a lamb and died for us on the trail of life, He became our Shepherd. He knows the trails, He knows the conditions, and he knows us. And He brings with Him all the life-preserrving water that we need to not only survive, but to thrive every hike we take with Him. 

But there’s more. God the Father is with us too! He is watching over us. When we hike with His Son,  He wipes away our tears. We usually see this as a promise in the future when Jesus comes to take us to our heavenly home. But I have found that He wipes tears away today as well. He wipes away the tears created from our fears, our self-doubt, and the pain from such things as feeling like we are unloveable. Whatever your struggle that is causing the deepest pain, your heavenly Father is there to wipe away those tears and fill you with His love. He knows exactly what you need as your Shepherd empathizes as one who has experienced exactly what you are going through. 

Why not allow Him to wipe away your tears today as you accept the Kingdom of God into your heart? When Jesus is your Shepherd, your Guide, you have an endless supply of water that will transform your life and wipe away your tears.

The choice is ours. We can walk through life on our own or allow Jesus to be our Guide. 

Faith and Science

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart…  Ezekiel 11:19

I had a friend in college who became an atheist my freshman year. He was a junior chemistry major desiring to be admitted to medical school. He was taking a challenging course called “P Chem” (Physical Chemistry). But he became more concerned with the metaphysical world as he wrote a 400 page paper for himself on the existence of God that quarter. He would come to my dorm room in the evening and we would discuss the issues of God’s existence into the early morning hours. And though I defended my belief in God, he had an influence on me as I too doubted the very existence of God 5 years later. 

The reason I rejected God is that I wanted to be intellectually honest. I struggled with the idea of being objective and how I could know the truth. I saw science as objectively seeking truth and I didn’t know what to do with faith. So I lived without faith in God for most of my time in medical school and my entire OBGYN residency training. I was so busy that it didn’t make much of a difference in how I lived, or at least I didn’t think so. Not, at least, until I graduated from residency and became a staff physician at the hospital in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

During this time I realized the practice of medicine was not simply the application of science in the lives of human beings. There were nurses, technicians, and other doctors with whom I needed to interact on a personal basis. How I treated them actually affected how we were able to treat the patient and her medical condition. I found that compassion, love, forgiveness, respect, listening, caring, and empathizing were necessary components in the healing process. But these were components of healing that came from faith, not science. This is when I began my journey to understand the role of faith in my life. This is when I realized that such necessary components resided in my heart.

The problem was that I had developed a stony heart. I could make a nurse cry in a heartbeat and feel completely justified in doing so in the name of science. After all, anyone who did not do exactly as I ordered was getting in the way of the healing principles of science. But when the heart of the “healer” is hardened, the “healer” tends to wound the hearts of those around him causing more damage than his application of scientific principles can repair. 

Science makes the world a better place. Science saves lives. Science enhances our existence on this earth and helps us understand how things work. But it is faith that brings love, compassion, justice, and peace into our world and into our lives. Science may make life easier to live, but it is faith that makes life worth living. In Subic Bay I discovered that I could not prove the existence of God. But He proved His existence to me by changing my heart, which is where faith resides.

I still struggle with the remnants of a stony heart. There are too many days when I want my own way and my heart begins to harden. But I can feel it and see it in my interactions with others. And when I give my heart to Him, He always softens it through His Word, through the words of others, through circumstances of life, and through a growing self-awareness that comes as I focus on Him. I have found the heart to be ground zero in the battle for life and healing. I exhort you to put your faith in God. Allow Him to soften it.  But I must warn you that such faith will change your heart and change your life. 

Connections: Where Does God Fit In?

I am the result of an unplanned pregnancy. My mother developed hyperthyroidism after having two girls. About sixHands1 years after Sheryl (daughter #2) was born my mother was treated for her disorder. What she didn’t know was that hyperthyroidism causes infertility that is easily reversed when the underlying disorder is treated. I don’t know if her doctor did not tell her or she simply did not hear him if he did. But 9 months after being treated for hyperthyroidism I was born.

Though I was unplanned, I never felt unwanted. My father was 43 & my mother 32 when I was born. My father was kind, patient, and filled with love for me. He was always there for me until his death when I was 29. He taught me how to drive a tractor and arranged for my first job at the age of 12 caring for a 5 acre yard. He would stop by with lunch and admire my work gently giving suggestions on what to do next. His pride in me taught me to take pride in my work. He helped me buy my first bike. He allowed me the freedom to ride that bike around town. And when it was time, he patiently taught me how to drive a car – a 1962 Ford Galaxy 3-speed manual transmission with the gear shift on the column. He then helped me purchase my first car in 1975. Though I inherited my mother’s temperament & many of her characteristics, it was my connection with dad that has most influenced my life.

We all have at least one person in our lives who has influenced us deeply. In fact, most of us have several people who have helped shape our lives. It’s worth taking time occasionally to consider the impact of these people in our lives and even drop them a note of thanks. I find this helpful as it reminds me of the characteristics of those who have meant so much to me. I don’t know why it’s so easy to take these connections for granted, but it is. And to take the time to dwell on the characteristics that produce the character I want to have helps me to focus on the life I truly desire.

In Colossians 1:11-14, we find Paul describing 5 actions of God that result in a connection with Him that I have found to be not only formative, but transformative in my life. In these verses we find that God strengthens us, qualifies us, delivers us, transfers us, and redeems us. Once you’ve experienced a connection with this kind of force, you will never be the same. 

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