Romans 8:28 – What It DOESN’T Say

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Romans 8:28 may be the most popular verse for Christians to quote when “everything that could go wrong – does“, but it may be little help to someone who is going through some kind of struggle. Rather than helping, it may be like “pouring salt on the wound“, because while what it says is true, what it DOESN’T say is equally-true. SO – what DOESN’T it say?

We are “planners“, and so is God, except that God’s plans always trump our plans, whether we like it or not. When I planned my month-long trip last year, I calculated the mileage of each leg of the trip to within less than five miles. That gave me a good idea of when I would need to refuel my truck and how long the drive would be, except that I couldn’t control the weather. A tropical storm “happened” to park itself off the Gulf coast, so I drove through torrential rain for much of the second leg of the trip. That increased my drive-time and reduced the fuel-economy of my truck, so I had to refuel sooner than expected. Did it REALLY matter? No, except that as I refueling my truck, I was able to talk with an Alabama State Trooper who gave me exact directions to my motel and told me what kinds of restaurants were in that town. No, there wasn’t a Chick-Fil-A. Shucks! God knew what I would need, so He “arranged” that meeting, “courtesy” of the weather. The Trooper pulled into that fuel island less than thirty-seconds after I did. How’s that for coordination? Things don’t always turn out that neat-and-tidy.

The first thing we need to notice is that God is the “active-agent” – “God causes…“. God didn’t consult us when He laid out the plans for our lives, because, according to the Psalmist (Psalm 139:13-16), God’s plans were made before we were even born. I would have had some serious qualms about God’s plans for my life, but He didn’t ask me first. Does He take our “preferences” into account when He makes our plans? Maybe, maybe not…

The next word that hits us between the eyes is “all“. We might be okay with “some“, but we have serious reservations about “all” – ALL! Sure, some things are “okay‘, but some of them really stink, such as an unexpected-death or unwanted-divorce. I have experienced both, and then some…

How about “good“? Romans 8:28 doesn’t even give us the right to define “good“. God wasn’t, and still isn’t hiring consultants to help Him define “good“. Defining “good” is His sole prerogative. His definition of “good” is final. Yes, even death and divorce. Because God sees, knows and ordains the outcomes, sometimes the “good” is the GOOD of someone else whose life we will be able to impact, even though OUR perceived outcome was less than “good“. I have experienced an extended-period of intense-struggle during which I was given the opportunity to do a lot of “good” for another person. While I struggled, I was able to help another person through their struggles. That must have been part of the plan…

Also conspicuously-missing is any form of “time-line“, so we don’t even get to pick WHEN the “good” will happen. It may happen in this life, but there are no guarantees, written, expressed or implied. God is, once-again, the sole-arbiter of that “time-line“. It has taken over twenty years of “train-wrecks” to get me to where I am now. Twenty years, and some of the messes are still not “cleaned-up“. Some of them may not be “cleaned-up” in this lifetime. Twenty-plus years of debris…

“to those who love God”: How well do we show our love for God? If you are anything like me, my love for God waxes and wanes. We are called to humbly trust God, as we progress towards loving Him with all of our being. Only Jesus accomplished that daunting-task perfectly.

to those who are called according to His purpose.“: Also conspicuously-missing is any say on our part in defining God’s purposes. As mentioned previously, God laid out the plans for our lives long before we were even a gleam in our parent’s eyes. God’s purposes are eternal.

Final thoughts…
Romans 8:28 is NOT a “feel-good-pill“, and it may be “cold-comfort” to someone who has or is going through some kind of traumatic-event.

Romans 8:28 doesn’t say that “God is going to make it all better“, because in many cases He doesn’t.

Seeing the “good” may have to wait for Heaven.

Don’t throw Romans 8:28 out there when it may cause more harm than good. It is far-better to simply love the person during and through their hard-times.

If you preach it to yourself, as I have many times, keep in mind that it doesn’t always explain the unexplainable. I still have many unanswered “Why?” questions, and you may too.

God ordained the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the most evil, vile act in human history, for OUR good“, that we may be saved.

God is at work accomplishing His plans and His purposes, and He may use us to accomplish His desired-ends, but He doesn’t have to ask our permission first.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Advertisements

On Death-Row

I am a prisoner on death-row, convicted, not by some criminal court, but by the court of my own memories and the memories of the people I have wronged. While the bars that restrain me aren’t physical, they are far stronger than any physical bars will ever be, because no matter where I go, they are still there, invisible to you, but very real to me. There is no escaping this prison.

As surely as the triple-murderer will never breathe the fresh-air of freedom, some of our past actions have lasting-consequences. My dad had several diseases when he died, but the only one that wasn’t curable was syphilis. Had it been caught and treated at an early stage, it would have been treatable, but by the time it was discovered, it was long-past being effectively-treatable. His past actions were part of his ultimate-demise.

While I don’t have an incurable-disease, some of my past actions DO have enduring-consequences. Yes, I know that, in Christ, my past is forgiven, but God doesn’t always release us from the temporal-consequences of our past. That I wasn’t as good a husband and father to my first wife and children had consequences then, and it has ongoing-consequences now. I became a suicide-survivor and widower in 1997, and my own children also disowned me in 1997. I lost my whole family in one fell-swoop.

That STILL hasn’t been resolved. My two younger daughters blocked me on Facebook immediately after I messaged one of them to notify them that their grandmother had just died. No response, just BLOCKED.

Recently I discovered that I now have six grandkids, by looking through my oldest daughter’s pictures on Facebook (the only one who hasn’t blocked me – yet). When I mentioned this to my brother Steve, he told me that I shouldn’t be doing this to myself. Am I supposed to forget my own flesh and blood?

I wish that I could say that everything has been peachy since then, but it hasn’t been. I still don’t have this “marriage” thing figured out, that is, how to make it last, because I have been married three times since then, resulting in two divorces and one permanent-separation. Permanent-separation? Yes, my wife moved-out of my house over five years ago and moved-in with another man forty-one days after we got married, and she is living as if she is married to him, not to me. While she is living in adultery, my consequence is that I CAN’T “move-on“, because I am legally-bound to her “til death or divorce do us part“. Oh, I forgot that the “or divorce” wasn’t part of our marriage-vows, so that means “til death do us part“. Do you get the picture?

Numerous people, including my counselor at the VA, have told me that I just need to “move on“. Try telling that to a death-row inmate…

Maybe you are thinking to yourself that I am being a bit over-the-top dramatic, but you haven’t walked a mile, or two or five, in my moccasins. Every time I start to experience a sense of “normalcy“, the defecation-hits-the-rotating-blades (SHTF) – again.

Christians are fond of quoting Romans 8:28 to each other during times of trial and distress. I’ve done it to myself quite a few times, but is it REALLY the right thing to say in the moment?

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

This is wonderful theology for the long-haul, but poor comfort in the short-run. This verse has a decidedly futuristic-vision, a vision of glory in eternity that will make all of our earthly-troubles pale into insignificance, but it doesn’t deny that we still struggle.

Please, please, please, before you quote this verse to someone who is going through rough times, enter into their grief and pain for a while, be their comforter when they need one, and avoid pouring more gasoline on their fire, because, in the wrong context, Romans 8:28 can feel like a cruel, sadistic joke to someone who is going through hard times.

We are NOT promised that, in this life, we will ever breathe the sweet air of freedom. Many of us will die “on death-row“, never having experienced relationships restored, never having experienced a “good” marriage, never having experienced what most people consider “normal“.

If things are going fairly-well in your life, give thanks to God, and while you are thanking God that you have a good situation, pray for those of us who are still living “on death-row“. If you meet one of us, please be gentle with us. We need care, concern and understanding, rather than a theology-lecture.

In John 11, Jesus didn’t give Mary a theology-lecture. He entered into her pain, John 11:35. “Jesus wept” is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it is loaded with meaning. Even though Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He took time – first – to enter into their grief.

Blessings
Steve

Blessings!

The day dawned gloomy, which matched my gloomy-mood. It was Father’s Day, my least-favorite holiday. I dread Father’s Day because it reminds me of the dysfunction and bad-events during my years on this earth. When I should be celebrating, I am reminded of why I am NOT celebrating. Yes, I had planned another “Thoughts On Father’s Day“, but my train of thought got interrupted by a series of blessings which could have only come from the Lord. SO, instead of gloom, I am going to celebrate for a different reason.

At the gate…
When I got to the gate at Cypress Cove, I was greeted by Connie, my favorite gate-attendant. She knows me by name, so she automatically checks me in. Connie is a sweet Christian, and we have formed a bond which only Believers can understand. If there is not another vehicle behind me waiting to get in, we usually talk for a few minutes. Today was no different. I poured out my hurting-heart to her, and she said something to me that I will never forget. She said “What you are doing now is far more important than everything in your past.” I need to hear that!

I will never forget the first time I told her I was leading a ministry at the Cove. Her face lit up like a light-bulb! It was then that I discovered that she is a Sister in Christ. We have shared our faith many times since then, and I count her as one of my true friends. As I was leaving the gate this afternoon, she said “Smile, and have a better day.” That was what I needed to start breaking my gloom.

Regis…
Regis is the Activities and Entertainment Director for Cypress Cove, and he championed the effort to get our Bible Study recognized as an official group. We have talked several times over the past several months, and I was privileged to be there for him when his young son was seriously-sick a few weeks ago. We have become friends, and I cherish that relationship.

I stopped by his office to see how he is doing, and he gave me the great news that the name-change for our Bible Study is official. We are no longer simply “Bible Study“; we are now “Cypress Cove Bible Fellowship“. Visiting with him and that great news lightened my mood even more.

A hug…
Does a simple hug tend to brighten your day? I hug can certainly help brighten my day, and today was no exception. As I was getting ready to go into the office at the Cove this afternoon, a lady, who I only know by face, walked up to me and gave me a hug. I NEEDED that hug! Why don’t I know her name after seeing her many times? Because I am absolutely-horrible at remembering names. I need to make it a point to learn her name sometime soon. She had a hug for me when I badly-needed one, and her hug did its job, lightening my mood even more.

George…
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my faithful friend, George. I began the Bible Study with him last November, and he has been a faithful attender ever since. George makes it worthwhile for me to spend the time and effort necessary to prepare a lesson each week. Many people have come and gone, but George is always there unless he is out of town. His attendance has been vital to the continuation to this ministry. George needs a lot of “feeding” because he was never taught the Word earlier in his life. “Feeding the flock” is a vital-part of being a pastor.

Relationships…
Ministry is about relationships – PERIOD. As a pastor, our primary-relationship must be with God through Jesus Christ, and then our commission is to lead others to a deeper-relationship with God also, but to do that, we must form relationships with those around us, particularly those in our flock. I have been blessed to start forming relationships with many people at Cypress Cove, including both staff and permanent residents. I don’t take those relationships for granted, but try to nurture them every chance I get. Only God knows when I am going to be given the privilege of coming-alongside one of those people when they need someone to talk to.

Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote; “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;(1 Peter 3:15) We are called to be prepared to share the Gospel when and where we can, and that includes to those who are hurting from some situation or event in their life. That is part of ministry.

Gloom to blessings…
From gloom to counting blessings, all in one day. How awesome is that? We serve an awesome God and He knows what we need. God is good, and He is good ALL of the time! This reminds me of a song which I sang MANY years ago:

Count Your Many Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
(Johnson Oatman, Jr.)

Final thoughts…
God knew my mood this morning, but He wasn’t going to leave me that way, so He had some surprises along the way. I AM counting my blessings, because I am richly-blessed.

In Christ,
Pastor Steve

Why Am I Here?

That isn’t a rhetorical question, because it gets to heart of why I am still alive and taking up space on this planet. I could say that I am here because I have a mission to accomplish, but that would only be a partial-answer. The reality is that I should have been dead over forty years ago, but obviously I am not dead yet. I am not here because I want to be here, although I certainly do want to be here. The crux of the answer lies in Who controls my life and my “fate“.

There have been enough twists and turns, and ups and downs in my life to make a cork-screw look like an eight-lane super-highway. It is those twists and turns, and ups and downs which have brought me to where I am now, and as I look back on the last forty-plus years, had my life been the super-highway I envisioned, my life would have been very different than it is and my current mission could never have come about. So, sit back and relax while I lead you through my journey through hell.

 

1975 – I was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and we had just had an ice-storm which left a sheet of black-ice in patches on the turnpike. It was snowing as a buddy and I headed south from Fort Sill towards Wichita Falls, Texas, in my Dodge pickup to see some of his family when we hit one of those patches of black-ice. It was dark, so we couldn’t see the ice until we hit it, and had it only been my driving-skill controlling that truck, we would have either been in a ditch or in the median. I still remember the rear-end of the truck fish-tailing at least forty-five degrees each way before straightening up…just as we hit a patch of dry road. Someone else was in control.

 

1978 – I had met the love of my life, and we got married on April 15th, income-tax day, with the expectation of “happily-ever-after“. Our marriage didn’t stay “happily-ever-after” for long because I was no “Prince charming“. My parent’s marriage was at best dysfunctional so I didn’t see a good marriage modeled as I was growing up.

 

Mid-1997 – I badly-needed a break, a mini-vacation, because I was working six days a week, averaging 55-60 hours a week, and the stresses both at work and at home were piling-up. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that our marriage was falling apart at the seams. I found out by “quirk of fate” (If you believe that, I have some real estate for sale, including some land that is under-water 13 months out of the year and a bridge that leads to nowhere.) about Oak Lake Trails, a nudist resort in northern Oklahoma and decided that would be the perfect get-away. I was NOT a nudist (Unlikely Nudist), but I wanted to try it anyway. It did turn out the be the perfect get-away, and I enjoyed two delightful weekends there. I still wasn’t “hooked“, but that experience planted the seed which would mature many years later. Yes, we lived in rural Oklahoma, not central Florida.

During this time-frame, I also received four death-threats, one from a man who I owed $25 to, and who was caught with explosives in his vehicle, and the other three were from a brother-in-law who thought that the best way to take care of our family-problems was to “eliminate” me. Another brother-in-law offered to pay for the divorce if my wife would divorce me.

 

October 1997 – I lost my job due to “management-streamlining“, even though I still haven’t figured out how they became more “efficient” when it took three people, who didn’t know what they were doing, to do my job. I was also forced to move out of our home and in with my parents. I took whatever day-work I could because I had no other income. I was doing some work for a friend on that fateful day when my wife decided to end it all, thus giving me an air-tight alibi that there was no way I could have been at my family’s home that afternoon. When I got back to my parent’s home later that evening, they gave me the horrific-news that my wife had committed suicide that afternoon. My plans for our twentieth wedding-anniversary went down the tubes along with any hopes for “happily-ever-after“. I was devastated.

 

1998 – I met my second wife online early in 1998, and after somewhat of a “whirlwind-romance“, we got married in August 1998. She was living in Phoenix and I was living in Oklahoma City, so after we got married in Phoenix, I moved her to Oklahoma City, where my dad and I had remodeled a mobile home for us to live in.

 

December 1999 – My wife and I flew to Florida for Christmas, and while we were in Florida, I had the opportunity to stroll on Boynton Beach – in shorts and T-shirt. We had left snow and freezing-cold weather behind and were enjoying semi-tropical weather – in December. I asked her whether she would be interested in moving to Florida, and a split-second later, she asked me when we were moving. Before we got on the plane to fly back home, she had TWO job-offers, one with a firm reporting-date. Who arranged THAT???

 

February 2000 – We arrived in Florida on Valentine’s Day, and within a few days, we were able to rent an apartment close to where my wife was going to be working – that we could rent by the month. This was important because we planned to buy our own place as soon as possible, and we didn’t want to be tied-up with a lease. I won’t bore you with the details, but less than ninety-days after we arrived in Florida, we were able to move into our brand-new, custom-built double-wide mobile home on our own piece of land. Okay, maybe a couple of details: The land had JUST gone on the market, and there was already a well and septic-tank on it, which saved us a LOT of money.

 

Fall 2006 – My wife and I decided that we did not want to retire in Florida, strange as that may seem, but with rapidly-rising property-taxes and sky-rocketing property-insurance, particularly on mobile homes, even with two incomes, it wasn’t going to be long before we couldn’t afford to live in Florida, so we decided to move to either South Carolina or North Carolina. I grew up around Greenville, South Carolina, so we started looking in that area. Unfortunately the places we really liked weren’t all that accessable, particularly in winter, and jobs, even for her, were few and far between. We finally found a home we both liked in Mount Holly, North Carolina. That area had the advantage of being close enough to Charlotte that working in Charlotte was both reasonable and practical, AND, she was able to get a job-transfer to a facility in Charlotte.

The home we found to buy had been foreclosed, so it had been repainted inside and had new carpet. It was also out in the country but in a small neighborhood. We celebrated Thanksgiving in our new home.

There was just one fly in the ointment. We still owned the home in Florida also, and that was when real-estate values were starting to go downhill very quickly. We still owed almost as much as that property was worth in the depressed market, so finding a buyer was a crap-shoot.

Another problem quickly reared its ugly head, lack of a job for me. Even though I had a lot of facilities maintance experience, I didn’t have the credentials or experience that industrial plants were looking for. I was offered one job, but when left that plant with a serious headache, I said “No thanks“. They sprayed a LOT of chemicals but didn’t have very good ventilation or exhaust in the plant. That only left one option, for me to go back to Florida where I could go back to my old job, and I could be there to more actively try to sell that home.

 

Easter 2007 – Sometime between 3am and 5am I had an eye-stroke. I had gotten up at about 3am to use the restroom and everything was fine, but when I woke up at about 5am needing to use the restroom, my right eye was blind. That nixed my plans to go to the Easter sunrise service at my church. The next day, I called an eye doctor I had seen before and was able to get right in. I had had an eye stroke, and the chances of regaining my eyesight were slim to none. He also told me to go to an emergency room ASAP, which I did that evening. I was admitted to the stroke unit of Monroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala early the next morning, and spent four days there being checked out before I got discharged, on Friday the 13th.

My wife didn’t come down from North Carolina to be with me, and she didn’t even send me a card. She filed for divorce six weeks later. In the divorce decree, she demanded and got a quit-claim deed to the property in North Carolina so that she was the sole-owner. She also dumped the Florida property on me, along with several thousand dollars worth of credit-card debt – for things that SHE kept. I also had to let my vehicle go back to the bank because I couldn’t afford to pay for it either. The home in Florida also got foreclosed, so I didn’t even have my own home to live in. Thankfully my parents had moved to Florida by then so at least I had a place to stay, and I was able to find a cheap vehicle to buy. That seemingly ill-fated move had cost me everything including my health. I had become a liability to her, so she dumped me.

 

The ink was barely dry on the divorce decree when I met my third wife. We dated for several months before getting married in the spring of 2008. I also bought a fifth-wheel travel trailier for us to live in, which I am still living in as we speak. That marriage lasted less than three years before she decided that she didn’t need me either. When I lost my job, I became a liability to her too. Ironically, she had promised that she would NEVER dump me like my second wife had. Sure, and I have a bridge for sale…a bridge to nowhere.

 

September 2010 – My dad started getting sick in early 2010, and by September, he was getting to be too much of a handful for mom to care for by herself, so I moved back in with them. When regular blood-work didn’t show any problems, his doctor referred him to a neurologist. That doctor ordered more blood-work and a spinal-tap. Those tests revealed that he had advanced-stage Lyme disease and tertiary-syphilis. Those diseases were destroying his brain. We had him admitted to Hospice on the 29th of September.

Dad wasn’t getting markedly-worse, but he also wasn’t getting any better, so right after Thanksgiving, we had him transferred to a nursing home, where he spent the rest of his days. Dad died on October 1st, 2013. I had been up to see him less than a month before he died.

 

August 2011 – I was on my way home from a month-long vacation when I was involved in an accident which should have been my last. I was two-hours south of St. Louis when a young lady clipped the right-rear door of my vehicle, sending me into a 270-degree spin at 65 miles-per-hour. My vehicle and I landed rear-end-first in a 25-foot deep ditch. I walked away without a scratch even though my vehicle was very much the worse for wear. I was seriously-shaken, but otherwise okay. My “guardian-angel” deserves “hazardous-duty-pay” for keeping me safe that day.

 

October 2012 – I met my fourth wife online, and after a whirlwind romance, we got married December 6th, 2012. A few days later, I moved down here. Less than six weeks after we got married, she also flew the coop, and moved in with another man. Thus began some of the darkest days of my life, second only to losing my first wife. I have chronicled a lot of what I went through in earlier posts on this blog.

 

Why has God allowed any of these events to happen in my life? Were they part of His plan? Hindsight may be 20-20, but that doesn’t make any of these events any less painful. Had none of these events taken place, yes, I might still be happily-married to my first wife, but this blog would have never come about, and I would not have been in a situation where starting a ministry at Cypress Cove became possible.

I have been asking God WHY He allowed my wife to commit suicide over eighteen years ago, and as strange as it may seem, I am now beginning to understand. As horrific as that event was, it was “necessary” in order that I could get to where I am now. What other horrific-event happened almost two-thousand years ago which was for our “good“?

 

Many years ago, another man went through many hardships, which culminated in him being in a position to save his family from certain-starvation. That man was Joseph. He was sold by his jealous brothers to slave-traders and wound up in Egypt. After spending some time in prison, because God was watching over him, he rose to being second-in-command over all of Egypt. God used him to save both the nation of Egypt and His chosen people from starvation during a seven-year famine. When he finally revealed his identity to his brothers, he told them something that may help us gain a better perspective on the hardships in our lives.
3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. 4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:3-8)

Two things ought to jump out at you. In verse 5, Joseph said “God sent me before you to preserve life.“, and in verse 8, he said “So now it was not you who sent me here, but God;“. God had a plan, and Joseph was a vital-part of that plan.

The Apostle Paul also went through many hardships, and he left us with another piece of divine-wisdom. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Neither Joseph nor Paul ever said that the events themselves were good, but that God can and does cause good to come from these events. God never lets people off of the hook for the evil events they perpetrate in our lives even if He does cause “good” to come as a result of those events. Joseph’s brothers will still be held accountable for selling him into Egypt even though the “good” that came out of that event was the salvation of their families.

The Jewish religious-leaders, the Roman government and the Roman soldiers will still be held accountable for crucifying Jesus even though the “good” that came out of that events was our salvation. Likewise for Paul, all those who opposed him and caused all of his hardships will beheld accountable for their actions even though the “good” that came out of those actions was the spread of the Gospel throughout the Roman empire and his many Epistles.

My wives and everyone else involved will be held accountable for their actions, even though you are reading some of the “good” and the ministry at Cypress Cove is part of that “good“. Yes, I will also beheld accountable for all of my sinful actions as well. One day God will settle ALL scores, and only those who are trusting in the shed-blood and finished-work of Jesus Christ won’t be condemned to eternity in Hell.

God has a plan for each of our lives, and sometimes we have to go through difficult situations in order for that plan to come to fruition. I am not here by “quirk-of-fate” or by “chance“. I am here because God brought me here, and if someone had told me along the way that I would be where I am now, I would have serious questioned their sanity. Maybe it is time for me to say what Jesus said on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

In Christ,
Steve

Good?

What is “good“? There are as many answers as there are people, because everyone has their own ideas of what is “good“. Some people love saurkraut, but I can’t get it past my nose. I love chocolate! I think that chocolate is one of God’s finest gifts to mankind, and one of my all-time favorite desserts is “death by chocolate“. We find the same principal at work in our human experiences. When my friend is in pain and goes to her doctor for a pain-shot, the shot HURTS, but the “good” is the pain-relief later on. We have events in our lives which can in no way be considered “good“, and that brings us to a verse which is both difficult to understand, and at the same time, comforting.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

The most difficult word in that verse is “all“, because it trips-up our ideas of what is “good“. If that word was “some“, it would be a lot easier for us to accept, but it isn’t. “All” means “ALL!!!” What was “good” about my wife committing suicide in 1997? What was “good” about her family taking my own children and turning them against me? What was “good” about my current “wife” moving out six weeks after we got married? I can see some “good” in that last event, but I am still scratching my head about the other two. I have had a LOT of that kind of events, maybe not as dramatic, but still “Romans 8:28 events“.

Our problem…
Our problem is that we are NOT God, and God often has very different ideas of what is “good” than we do. Sometimes the “good” God has for us is what He wants to do in our own life, and sometimes the “good” God has for us is to do something “good” for someone else. My latest “adventure” combines both of these.

Perspective…
If I wasn’t where I am now, this blog would not exist, because this blog is growing out of what God is teaching me day by day. Yes, I am hard-headed, and sometimes God has to use a two-by-four to get my attention, but He isn’t shy about using it. I have learned some hard lessons in the last two-and-a-half years.

God also had a mission for me, one that I never could have done where I was, and that is to care for my friend and neighbor. Sometimes caring for her takes my undivided-attention. I have become her “support-system” because the only person in her family who actually cares is her father. Caring for her is part of the “good” in my current situation.

More “good”…
If we “divorce” Romans 8:28 from the next two verses, we miss God’s ultimate “good” in our lives.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

Do you see it? Does this passage “rearrange” some of your “furniture” and change your perspective? God isn’t content with leaving us where we were at when we accepted Jesus as our Savior. God wants us to become more and more LIKE our Savior. He wants us to talk and act like Jesus, because He wants sons and daughters, not rebels, and His ultimate goal is to bring us to glory.

The “GOOD NEWS”…
If you are a follower of Christ, a Christian, you didn’t get there by accident. God claimed you before you were born…

After God claimed you, He called your name…

God didn’t put your name on His “wish-list“. When God claimed and called you, it was a done-deal, even though you may not know it until you are on your death-bed. If you haven’t accept God’s free offer of salvation, He will keep calling your name until you do. God is persistent, because God ALWAYS gets what He wants.

I think it is important to note that all of God’s actions are in the past-tense. There are a done-deal. If God has called you, there is no way that you can slip away from His grasp.

More “GOOD NEWS”…
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

As much as Satan would LOVE to trip us up and keep us from God, he doesn’t have a snow-ball’s chance in Hell. As much as Satan would LOVE to make us think that we are not “worthy” of God’s grace, he is right, but the GOOD NEWS is that it isn’t our own “worthiness” which matters. God has claimed us, and He is the One who makes us “worthy” in Jesus Christ.

When we face God in the Courtroom of Heaven, Satan will do everything in his power to convince God that we don’t belong there, but at that moment, Jesus will step in and say “His debt is already paid. I paid it for him.

God claimed you!

God called you!

You belong to Him!

NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!

It is a done-deal, even when there are events in yours and my lives that don’t seen very “good“. We are promised that ultimately “GOOD” will come from them. If you are in Christ, I will see you in Heaven if I don’t meet you here before then.

If you are not in Christ, I tearfully-plead with you to accept God’s free offer of salvation, because even if your life here in Earth seems to be Hell-on-Earth, the GOOD NEWS is that Heaven awaits you.

In Christ,
Steve

On A Hill Far Away…

Two hills… Two fathers… Two sons… Two sacrifices… The first sacrifice was a foreshadowing and promise of the second sacrifice… The second son was descended from the first father and the first son… The first son didn’t die, but the second son did…

The Offering of Isaac
22 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba. (Genesis 22:1-19)

The test…
God challenged Abraham to give up his only son, the son of promise, by sacrificing him to the Lord. Either Abraham was a blithering idiot, or he had a faith in God that was unshakeable. God had promised that Abraham’s children would be descended from Isaac…

Gut-wrenching decision…
I doubt that Abraham slept very much that night, because there were nagging questions in his mind, such as: “What if God does take my only son?“, or “How can I ever come back home without Isaac?“, and maybe “Is this God for real?“, and “Does He actually keep His promises?“. If everything went horribly wrong, Abraham would be left without an heir, and this would be the last night Sarah would ever see Isaac again. How could he ever face Sarah again?

Abraham’s confidence…
Isaac was a child of promise, a miracle-baby, because Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah, Isaac’s mother, was 90 years old. Sarah was barren, and well past the age of child-bearing, but Isaac came along anyway. God had also promised that Isaac would be Abraham’s heir, that Abraham’s family would be descended from Isaac. If Isaac died, Abraham would have no heir and no descendants.

5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.

Notice that Abraham DIDN’T say “We will worship and I will return to you…” Abraham had every expectation that they would both return.

7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

The altar…
Abraham built an altar as God had instructed. He also prepared to sacrifice his own son.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

I’ll bet Abraham was sweating-bullets as he bound Isaac, laid him on the altar, and raised the knife to kill his son. He had sacrificed many animals before, but this was his son, his ONLY son. Was God crazy? This was insane, but he still raised the knife… In a few more moments, his son would be dead, and all his hopes would be dashed…

Was Isaac terrified? The air was electric, and he had never seen that look of steely-determination in his father’s eyes before. Isaac had no doubt seen his father sacrifice many animals before, but it was his own life that would soon be snuffed out. Then…

Abraham, Abraham…

Abraham’s heart was already racing, and then… “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.

Did it take a few minutes for Abraham to recover? I am sure that his hands trembled as he untied Isaac.

Substitute sacrifice…
God did provide a substitute-sacrifice, in the form of a ram. Isaac was spared, and that is a foreshadowing of our own substitute-sacrifice.

13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.

God provides…
14. Abraham called the name of that place “The Lord Will Provide”, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided”.

God renews His promises to Abraham…
15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

God gave an incredible promise to Abraham, a promise that we are still seeing fulfilled today. “In your seed ALL the nations of the earth shall be blessed”. Who is that Seed that will bless all the nations? That promised seed was none other than Jesus Christ.

The other Father…
God didn’t have to offer His only Son for my sins and for yours, but He did. Was it a gut-wrenching decision for God the Father to ordain that His only Son would die on our behalf? We may never know, but this we DO know, that God the Father carried out that plan to the letter.

The other Son…
Jesus was the only Son of God, and He became the second sacrifice.

The promised Lamb…
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Jesus was the promised Lamb. He was born to die, born to give Himself for us. A cross-shaped shadow hung over Him from the moment He was conceived in His mother’s womb until He was hung on that cross.

Unlike Isaac, who was kept in the dark until the moment he was bound on that altar, Jesus was fully-aware of His mission. He told His disciples beforehand, but the reality didn’t sink in until they saw Him on the cross.

Leaps of faith…
God doesn’t call us to physically sacrifice our children, but sometimes He does call us to step out, to move out of our comfort-zone for our good and His glory. When I got married and moved to the Orlando area, I had no idea that my wife would abandon me less than six weeks later, but God knew. I didn’t know that I would have to step totally out of my comfort-zone and take on missions for which I feel totally-unequipped, but God knew. If God had told me the details, would I have moved anyway?

God needed to get me out of my comfort-zone so that He could do some hard work on me, because I was too comfortable where I was for God to do what needed to be done. I also couldn’t take on the new missions He had for me while living where I was. Was a “wife” merely the “bait” to get me to move? Perhaps, but she is also totally-responsible for her actions.

God doesn’t call us to hike for three days into the wilderness to sacrifice our child on an altar on top of a mountain, but sometimes He does call us to make leaps of faith that are equally life-changing.

On a hill far away…
On a hill, far away, stood an old, rugged cross…

Because of that old rugged cross, your debt is paid. You may still have mountains to climb and sacrifices to make, and you may face tests of faith, but they are for your good and God’s glory. You will never be called to sacrifice your own flesh and blood, as Abraham was, and as God did, but you can rest assured that you aren’t going anywhere God hasn’t already gone before. He understands, and His promises are sure, so whatever leap of faith you are called to make, you won’t make alone.

Are you ready?

Steve