Saturday, 19 March 2016

Rethinking "Count It All Joy"

The day, March 20th, has been a sign post in my life. You may find that strange as an opening sentence but let me explain.

March 20, 1979 I was a senior attending a small Christian high school in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada. It was on that date that with a bit of fear and also courage I gave, as all seniors at that high school had to at the time, my senior sermon choosing as my topic Count IT All Joy using the text from James 1:2-4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience, but let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (King James Version) In that sermon I expounded for about 5 minutes (and I still have the cassette that I have listened to once in a while!) on how that I felt I have learned the significance of this passage. I shared that I had endured illness – asthma to the extent that I had to drop out of grade 11 because I could not sit in class due to constant coughing and breathing problems. I shared that I had learned about how to be patient and I counted it joyful to be able to say that God had given me patience to endure. Boy was I naive! As four days later I was enjoying a weekend home in Calgary with my family when my mother asked me to clean some silverware as we were having company over. Well I dutifully got out the silverware, started to polish and instantly started to cough and cough. For the next 10 weeks or so I coughed and coughed forcing me to even stay in my dorm room at Prairie High as I could not sit in class, having friends bring by my homework assignments so that I could work in my room. Eventually I had some testing done and found out I had various allergies and the sort and found a solution for the time being.

I said all that to say that over the years I have come to realize that I need to rethink the idea of counting it all joy when stress, suffering, and sickness come into my life or the lives of others and loudly proclaim that I or they are learning or have learned patience. Don’t get me wrong I truly do believe that passage’s premise that there will come a point in one’s life where they can say they have learned patience and to accept all that is their lot in life. However to proclaim that one has pursued patience (yes that seems ironic – the idea of give me patience but please hurry up about it) and is wanting nothing or totally content cannot be fully appreciated until we have undergone testing or as one of my much younger FB friends notes in her blog that she is not finished yet in life.

Over the past number of years, since March 20, 1979 I have encountered numerous situations in my life that has caused me to in essence plead with God to hurry up and finish testing me be it in health (as I have had numerous bouts of asthma, allergy episodes, choking, or even a recent eye surgery for a detached retina that I spoke about in a previous blog.), work, dealing with people, etc. as I am sure that I have learned patience and I just want to count it all joy! Even as I write this I am faced with some ongoing irritating back pain for the past week or so where I have been rubbing ointment, taking medication, etc. and finding it hard to sit and/or stand for any length of time. I would gladly (well I actually am not that devious!) let someone else have this back pain just so that I could enjoy exercising by going on walks, etc. pain free. The pursuit of patience is an elusive thing to say the least and to proclaim as that 17 year old young man did so many years ago it is not something one gains easily nor one proudly ascertains to having attained to as one quickly discovers that pride quickly does lead to the proverbial fall or refining to see if one is truly patient.

I have been fortunate over the past number of years to come into contact with people who have taught me a lot about “counting it all joy” when they have had to go through testing of some kind and found that the testing has caused them to rely more on God and in turn were learning patience in life. During the past decade of my life or so I have had in various ways been touched by the lives of those who have had to go through the agonizing disease of cancer including a dear college friend and an aunt. Though I no longer have the writings that my college friend Lee wrote as she faced the last few days of her life back in 2006 before passing away from cancer I remember her stating that she felt at peace knowing that God had a plan for her in enduring this disease. Yes she struggled at times with the medications and lot but in my last visit with her and her husband Darcy I remember the joy she displayed in knowing that at the end of life everything was meant for her good. I am not saying she was being masochistic and rejoicing that she had cancer, as I don’t think anyone if they are truly honest says they are happy for their illness or suffering. I believe she was saying she had and was learning patience in spite of her suffering, just like the apostle Paul stated in Second Corinthians (or 2 Corinthians like a certain unnamed politician announced it!) after he had begged God to remove something that was bothering him (and there has been debate over the years whether it referred to a health issue, relational situation, etc.) “And he (God) said unto me, ’My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” Again I don’t think the apostle Paul was being masochistic and saying to God bring on all the bad things in life but he had learned that in whatever situation he was faced with that as He trusted God he was learning patience and growing in the strength that God granted him and I believe granted my friend Lee and even my aunt Helen who wrote about as she faced cancer herself and eventually passed away a few years ago. They learned patience in spite of their suffering.

Again, please do not hear me say that I or any of my other friends or relatives who have gone through trials jump up and down saying whoopee look at me I get to have pain so that I can learn patience. Indeed I have marveled, from a distance at a couple of friends and relatives who very recently have been undergoing some testing through health issues and I am sure they would rather not have gone through or go through what they have endured. Harkening back to that relatively na├»ve 17 year old who has become a hopefully more mature 54 year old man patience is not learned over a few days, months or even years but it is a life long experience that demands we keep plodding on and trusting God. As I said even this past week I have been in some, what to me feels terrible pain, and had to put up with a postponed doctor’s visit and a therapist telling me that I have a disc out of place in my back, and for sure I would gladly forego the pain if I could. Yet as a friend shared with me online perhaps God is seeking to teach me something in all this, and in my thinking that could indeed mean learning patience as I constantly get up from my chair and pace or try to get comfortable in bed because of the pain.

Yes the truths of James 1:2-4 are still valid but as I have tried to point out perhaps we should rethink the concept of counting it all joy when faced with trials. It is when we endure or learn to accept what God is doing in our lives that I believe we learn patience and then can count it all joy in life. So if I had to do my sermon all over again and get in a time machine I would tell that young 17 year old that no I hadn’t learned patience but was learning very slowly and maybe haphazardly what it meant to be patient.

I hope you have found this blog informative and hopefully encouraging as I have shared where I am at in my life. God bless.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Lessons Learned from A Detached Retina

Over the past couple of weeks I have been faced with the onset of a detached retina and the subsequent eye surgery to repair and reattach this retina. This life event has taught me a number of lessons that I would like to share. I am sharing, not as one who has totally learned these lessons as I am realizing that this is an ongoing process so I hope this will be an encouragement to you all.

The first lesson that I have learned and am continue to learn is obedience through this experience. You may wonder what I mean by that and yet I believe obedience or paying attention to what is going on in my life was and is important in dealing with this experience. Going back to October 25th I had a funny feeling that something was wrong with my right eye. I had been shaving on that Sunday morning and was a little surprised that I couldn’t really distinguish the right side of my face. I did do a self-test in that I took off my glasses covered my left eye and looked in the mirror and could not make out clearly my face. I also tried to read something and could literally see nothing. However I still did not think a lot about it only that it was kind of strange and thought maybe it would clear up later in the day. I even kind of joked with someone in church after the service that I was going blind in my right eye and later walked to the library and asked a young man who was working there who his family’s eye doctor was as figured I really needed to make an appointment that week to see the eye doctor. As an aside yes I have not had my eyes tested for a very long time, and that is another story and one I plan to correct in the next month or so. I went back home and tried to see if my eye had improved at all, i.e. did the self-test again and no it had not improved at all.

Well you would think I would have obeyed the symptoms, i.e. no sight and indeed had been seeing flashes of light in my right eye a couple of times the past week, floaters – see things floating around and grab for them only to sense they really are not there, and also had had a couple of incidents two weeks before when I had sharp pains in my eye and thought just dry eyes, but no I had not learned it yet. However, I was talking to my parents on the phone later that afternoon (we usually talk at least once a week and sometimes more – actually have talked every day since the operation!) and in passing mentioned to my parents my experiences of the day and said that I guess I should see the eye doctor. Well, my dad, and I love him very much, stated that I needed to go to the hospital right away and get my eye looked at. I admitted that I was hesitant and thought I could still wait to see an eye doctor later that week but I am glad I obeyed my father even if I am in my 50s! To make a long story a little shorter my visit to the hospital and seeing the doctor there and then my subsequent to the eye clinic in Edmonton the next day showed that if I had not obeyed my father I could still be dealing with a detached retina and greater problems. The doctor at the hospital tested whether I could see him do certain things and I could not and the same was true at the eye clinic. So the lesson I learned, and wish I had learned it a little earlier in relation to my eye was to obey.

Secondly, I think I am still learning that my life is not my own that is, I can make plans and yet ultimately God is the one who directs our paths. I had no intentions on taking time off from work due to eye surgery and as a matter of fact that was the furthest from my mind a couple of weeks ago. As a matter of fact the big thing on my mind at the time was working on a project that was dear to me and also looking forward to American Thanksgiving at the end of November when I would take time off and watch lots of college football and cheer my Ohio Buckeyes on to victory over the Michigan Wolverines on the 28th! And yes, Edward Lawrence I will expect your call that day chanting the O-H-I-O chant! However, God had different plans as I am being reminded of that “his ways are not my ways” (Isaiah 55:8) and he put a barrier, so to speak, to make me slow down and hear in my spirit what He is trying to teach me. I have been so busy, or so self-occupied with things that I really was not paying attention to what God wanted. Yes, it is easy to go my own way and sometimes, as I am learning in this experience, God uses circumstances in make me slow down and take account of what is going on in my life and what I need to change as I follow Him.

Thirdly, I am learning a little bit about having empathy for those who suffer a lot more than I am. I do not want to make it out to seem that I fully comprehend what others go through who have had sight problems, as indeed I have at least one cousin who has suffered with a serious eye condition and I can only imagine the difficulties she has gone through over the years. However, I think this experience has made me feel more empathy and compassion particularly for those with eye problems as I have had to get down on my knees and look far into a cabinet to try and find something as I was preparing for a meal. As well for a week I had to wear a patch at night and getting it taped to my face so as to cover my eye and the difficulty I had in doing it by myself makes me appreciative of how others have to cope on their own and try to do things with very little sight. I remember on the Sunday night of the 25th after finding out that the doctor at the hospital really felt my sight was very bad and that I needed to go have further testing at an eye clinic waking up a number of times and looking around just to make sure that I could still see out of my left eye! I admit that my suffering and difficulties right now dim in comparison to many of my other friends who go through struggles but I feel this experience has taught and continues to teach me to care for those who are suffering.

Fourthly, and though this is not so much a lesson as an affirmation of what I have found out over the years, is that people really do care for me. I am very thankful for not only calls from my parents but also for individuals here in Barrhead here who have helped me out. I am thankful for a couple of individuals who have driven me into Edmonton for my appointments as I am an hour away from there and of course cannot drive in my condition. I am also thankful for those who have done some shopping for me, for the meal that was delivered, for colleagues who have stepped in to do extra work as I have not been able to be at work in the library, and for the note that I received from the elementary school where I work.  And so I am indeed thankful for people who show that they care for my well-being.

Fifthly, and a lesson that I keep having to learn is the need for patience. If there is one lesson that I wish I could learn in a hurry is how to have patience!! As I have been reminded by a couple of people on FB who have gone through this type of experience with their eye themselves is that I need to relax and realize that it takes time for my eye to heal. I have never had to lay on my face as much (and I do in order to obey the doctor’s orders) as I have in the past couple of weeks. As I find it difficult to read (and this post is taking quite a while to write) and do others as my sight is very blurry I can get quite discouraged as to the slowness of recovery. I actually have been blessed, and can truly say that, as I have been listening to lots of programs on the Internet and feel that the messages were specifically meant for me as the speakers have been talking about patience and the need to learn it and view these messages as affirmation of the need to continually learn this lesson.

Finally, I am learning and this is an ongoing lesson that I am learning, that I need to put my full trust in God knows what is best for me. This goes hand in hand with the fact that my life is not my own. I am learning to trust God more through this I feel. I admit I don’t know what lies ahead and I trust that in the next little while that my sight will be much better due to the operation but God knows what is best for my life. Though I definitely would not have chosen to have an eye operation yet God knew and for that I trust Him for my life.

I hope you have found this blog informative and hopefully encouraging as I have shared where I am at in my life. I by no means have learned all these lessons to their fullness and yet I trust that I am a little further along in my life due to the applications of these lessons to my life because of this experience. I trust you have been learning these and other lessons in your own life as you progress on your own personal life journey. God bless.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A Tribute to the World's Greatest Father

Today is Father’s Day a day that is set aside to give thanks for our earthly fathers. Today I know that unfortunately many in our world do not have or did not have a good relationship with their father for various reasons but I am very thankful for my father. Permit me to share a few insights that I have realized over the years concerning my father and how I believe he has displayed qualities that make him the world’s best father.
            First off, my father Arthur Daniel Goldsmith has given me his name, Daniel. My parents like to joke that they ran out of names to name their firstborn! The truth is that I am actually Daniel the fourth as my great grandfather, my grandfather, my dad and me were all named Daniel. I view this name with great delight as it means my father cherished himself as he cherishes me. The name also is a reminder that I should have a relationship with God as the very name means God is my Judge.  Just as my earthly father cares for me and looked out for me my heavenly father looks out for me and cares for me and desires that I live for him.
            Secondly, I am thankful for my father in that he has taken time out of his busy schedule over the years to spend time with me on an individual basis. For all my life my father has been involved in full-time Christian service be it as a pastor or in other capacities in ministry. I know that there have been times when he has mentioned that he felt he didn’t spend as much time with my siblings and myself as much as he felt he should and maybe sometimes I felt that too, but I have many fond memories of times being alone with him and also as a family. To this day I can still remember a trip he and I took to Saskatchewan when I was 8 years old and he was a representative of a mission called the Janz Team showing films to churches and schools. We went to Briercrest, just he and I, and I can still remember various aspects of our time together. I believe it is even more special to me in that it was just about a month after that trip in 1970 that I could have been orphaned in an accident, which I mentioned in a previous blog, my parents had. It was very special. There have been other times as well such as going to the radio station in Vernon, B.C. with him around the time of my fifth birthday and watching him do his radio broadcast and it was just he and I.
            Over the years other children maybe did have more time with their fathers but after the games or whatever it seems that fathers think that they have done their duty and that is good enough. My father took an interest in us not only by once in a while watching us at our swimming lessons or in my case coming to hear my attempts at speaking in college or even when I was a pastor but also encourage me and my siblings in what we did. I cherish the many walks I have had with my father over the years, and especially the more recent years as these have been times when I felt I have gotten to know my father and his heart and also been able to share my concerns about different things with him. Yes, maybe other fathers say they spend lots of time with their kids but I am thankful for the quality times I had with my dad.
            Thirdly I am thankful that my father has been a role model to me in so many ways. As I said earlier I realize that there are many in society today that don’t have good recollections of their father or even know their father but my father has been the kind of father that gives me a good idea of my heavenly Father. I am thankful that my father has shown to me how a man should treat his wife. Though I have never had privilege of being married I have watched my father for the past 50 or so years cherish his wife, my mother. I have said it before but I have never seen my parents argue or fight in front of my siblings or me nor put each other down. My father has cared for my mother and I think it is neat that even after nearly 53 years of marriage they like to be together and do things together. Sure they both have slowed down physically over the years but they care for each other and my dad knows how to treat mom right.
            My father has also been a role model to me in spiritual matters. He didn’t just talk the talk as a Christian but he has lived it out in practice before me. As a matter of a fact it was my father that led me to the Lord on August 6, 1966 in his study at the church in Vernon, B.C. It was also my father that baptized me on June 3, 1973 as I took the step of believer’s baptism while we were living in Lethbridge, Alberta. Dad has reminded my siblings and me that he and mom care for us by praying for us on a daily basis and I know this for fact. In the more recent years as I have lived several hundred miles away from my parents I have cherished the times that my dad has prayed with me over the phone about certain situations and those prayers have meant a lot to me. I still have a card in my possession that was sent to me by my father when I was living in the States in the 1980s which stated “Remember when I used to lift you up as a child? I still do before the throne of grace in prayer.” I have received many cards over the years from people and relatives but that one card is the most special to me as it shows me that dad cares for me spiritually enough to pray for me.
            On this Father’s Day I am again thankful for my dad and to him I say thanks for being the world’s greatest dad. Thanks Dad I love you.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

May 18, 1970 - Didn't End it - Tribute to World's Greatest Parents

May 18, 1970 was and is a date that is burned deep into my mind and being. Some people may remember where they were at when they heard the news that President Kennedy was assassinated (for those of you who were around then) or you may remember where you were when you heard the news about the events of September 11, 2001 or bringing it closer to your own situations you may recall where you were when you heard the news about a family tragedy or triumph or found out about a health situation, etc. We all have those times and as I said May 18, 1970 is burned into my memory.

On May 18, 1970 my family was residing in the city of Calgary where my father worked for an organization called the Janz Team. For the previous 9 or so months since moving to Calgary in July of 1969 my father helped run the Calgary office and also travel showing a film called Downbeat. In mid-May of 1970 my parents went to a Bill Gothard seminar in Seattle Washington and left my two younger siblings, Brian (age 6) and sister Sharilyn (age 3) along with myself in the care of an older lady who looked after us back in Calgary. We were lonely for mom and dad but my parents promised they would return on May 18th, which was a holiday Monday.

I am a little foggy on whether my parents called the day before but all I knew that my parents should be back in Calgary around noon hour and I remember going out and sitting on the curb by our house eagerly awaiting my parents’ return. 12:30 came, 1:00 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:00, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30. Around 4:00 I can remember to this day sensing with deep horror that perhaps my parents weren’t coming home and to an 8 year old mind I thought the worse and apparently caused my younger brother to think the worse too. As we both started to wail that mommy and daddy weren’t coming home. Maybe they were dead! To make a long story short my parents did have an accident as the above picture would indicate and by all rights I should have been an orphan as apparently the police thought they were going to just pull bodies out of the car. My parents had hit some trees near Banff and if they had been wearing seatbelts they would not have made it. As I understand it a priest even stopped to give last rites! Others stopped too including a couple who my parents maintained contact with over a fair numbers after the accident. Yes, May 18th was and is burned into my memory.

However I am so thankful that May 18, 1970 was not the end of my earthly relationship with my parents as despite some broken ribs and other injuries my parents were back in Calgary 5 days after the accident. I just want to share very quickly a few reasons why I am grateful to God that he spared my parents, the world’s greatest parents, on May 18th and why I feel closer to them more and more.

If my parents had been taken on May 18th I would not have had the opportunity to been baptized by my father as an 11 year old. I would not have had the opportunity to hear my father pray at my graduation ceremonies, gone for long walks and talks, heard him pray over the phone for me in different situations, or so many other things. I would not have had the opportunity to enjoy my mother’s cooking, her talks, or in recent times the encouragement to find the answer to a query by googling it on the computer (this from someone who a few years ago would call me about a rather simple email problem!)

I am thankful that May 18th, 1970 did not end my earthly relationship with my parents as I along with my siblings would not have had godly role models as parents to follow. I know there is teaching from somewhat notable Christian personages that say a marriage has to involve conflict and turmoil in order to be a good marriage but I can truthfully say that I have never seen my parents fight or argue in front of us kids nor have I seen them put each other down. I feel their marriage is richer than anything a James Dobson or Chuck Swindoll or any other supposed expert has who says conflict means a good marriage. Absolutely not!! Though I have never married or for that matter really had a relationship I have seen in my parents’ relationship one built on love for each other and for God and family that many others unfortunately do not have.

Along with my parents being an example of a loving couple I have seen them as they have followed God through good and bad times. Being a preacher’s kid growing up one sees a church and Christian people in a different way than others. I am thankful my parents taught us how to treat other people even when my parents were wronged and if they had been taken on May 18th, 1970 I may not have fully learned that. My parents have not only "talked the talk" as Christians but they have "walked the walk" in that they have shown me how a Christian should live. Though I fail many times I am thankful that they have been around to show me what a true believer in Christ should be like

I am thankful that my parents were not taken on May 18th, 1970 for they would not have been around for family gatherings including weddings, baby dedications (my dad dedicated all 5 of his grandsons), birthdays and other activities. I cherish the times we traveled as a family to friends and relatives be it to Edmonton or elsewhere in Alberta and B.C. or to Minnesota and Ontario. If they had been taken 42 years ago I would not have had that privilege.

So yes, May 18th, 1970 is burned into my memory and yes I can tell you almost to the minute and hour what happened on that day but thank God May 18th was not the end. I thank God daily for my parents and am so glad that I have had them around these past 42 years. Love you mom and dad. Love your eldest, Daniel Keith

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Qualities of a Fantastic Mother

Leona Clare Goldsmith is the world's best mother! Sorry to all of you that thought you had the world's best mother or maybe are the world's best mother but as there can only be one I have her. Yes, I am totally biased but here me out as I celebrate this fantastic lady who is my mother. Years ago in school I learned about corollaries and facts in math. That is in order for a statement to be true the corollaries also had to be true. That is if x = something and y = something then x + y must = z. In the same way I believe the best mothers will exhibit a lot of the qualities here. I admit I am going from a male perspective but feel that as I think of mothers and my mother in particular I have a good idea of what a fantastic mother is like. In Scripture we see the description of an ideal mother in Proverbs 31:10-31. In that passage we are told of a woman who is industrioius, supportive of her husband, cares for her children and is well spoken of by others. Indeed in 31:28 we are told tht "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her." I can remember many instances of my own mother doing these things. My mother kept herself busy, she cared for us indeed many years ago making some of our clothes, feeding us (as the picture above can attest to!) and looking after us when we were sick. She has been a support to my father over the years as they have ministered in numerous churches and places as a pastoral couple and never once have I heard her put my father down for anything. I believe other ladies have come to my mother for advice and yes my brother, sister and I along with my nephews all can attest that we thank God and praise Him for her. Thus a good mother is a Proverbs 31 mother and that is true of my mother. Also in Scripture we are told of the fruits of the Spirit and I believe these should be qualities of a fantastic mother. We are told that a believer in Christ and this would of course include Christian mothers should display love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. It is not my point to go into what all these qualities mean but having seen so many other bad examples of mothers, i.e. I work at a school and see the results of hurting children who are verbally, mentally and at times physically abused by parents including the mothers of the children, I thank God my mother has portrayed the fruits of the Spirit to my brother Brian, sister Sharilyn, and myself. Sure there have been times when my siblings have exasperated my mother (!), okay all of us (!) have and tried her patience but my mother has shown us love all our lives. She has been there with us in the good and bad times and encouraged us. I remember numerous times whether growing up or talking on the phone where I have come away glad that I had a chat to talk over things with my mother. So a fantastic mother should exhibit fruits of the spirit and that is true of my mother. Most importantly I believe a mother is one who shares the same love of Christ with her children. I know my mother does and indeed I share the same spiritual birthdate with my mother though she was saved 24 years before I was. It was August 6, 1942 that my mother was led to Christ by her mother and it was August 6, 1966 that my father led me to the Lord. Over the years mom has been along with my father one of the greatest role models of what a Christian should be like and live like. Though I fail many times mom has displayed Christ for me. Thus since my mother is a Proverbs 31 mother and also exhibits fruits of the Spirit and is a believer she is a fantastic mother and indeed the world's best mother. I trust you have been able to apply some of these to your own mother or to yourself if you are a mother. On this Mother's Day may all you mothers have a great day.

Friday, 20 April 2012

God and Elections

My province of Alberta is in the midst of a provincial election. In just a matter of days, April 23rd to be exact, Albertans are going to the polls to elect members to a new government. Indications ar that the political landscape of this province will change significantly. Though I try not to make statements about political dealings in the past while I have my own leanings of course, my mind has considered what part God plays in an eleciton and in government in general. Though many would say that "religion" and politics should be separate the fact remains that God, who is above religion, does play a part, indeed the ultimate part actually in the election process and in government. Please permit me to flesh this out a bit.

It is God that ultimately decides who is in to be charge of a province, state, country, etc. No, God, does not go into an election booth and mark his choice for candidate on a slip of paper. He does not belong to or favor any one party such as the Progressive Conservatives, Wildrose, New Democrat, or Liberal parties or any of the other small parties running in the election here in Albera. Nor, surprise, surprise (!) is he a member of the Republican or Democrat parties in the United States as they are in their election year, though many would try to make you think He is. However we are told in Scripture by the prophet Daniel, as he got ready to address king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, that "he [God]changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings [premiers, presidents, etc], and setteth up kings..." This shows that God is in control of our political system no matter how much man may tinker with it. Again God doesn't play favorites but as nothing comes as a surprise to Him he is the One who decides the winner. I know that other questions arise in people's minds at time when they think back to leaders of the past who have been deemed corrupt, immoral, or very wicked such as Hitler, Stalin, etc and wonder how God would allow them to be in power. That is for others to debate in other places, but my point is that it is God who sets one up as leader and takes others down.

Secondly, as we think of the election process I believe we are reminded in Scripture by God that we need to pray for our leaders and I believe this includes all candidates of all parties. Yes I know there is the temptation, and I have given into it myself, to pray just for a certain candidate to get in or for someone to be voted out. It seems that in churches, though not voiced implicitly of course, that we should pray in such a way that our desired candidate get in or else God's will won't be done! Again in the federal election of last year in Canada and as I have watched the ongoing election process in the United States it seems that we are told or we feel that we need to pray people in or out but in Scripture that is not the focus. As a matter of fact this type of praying is not even considered when the apostle Paul in I Timothy 2:1-4 stated: "I exhort therefore, that first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all me; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." We are to pray for our candidates and leaders, not that they win or lose the election but rather that they be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (God's truth).

Thirdly, after the election, and indeed should be true all the time when considering our relationship to the government and those placed in authority over us by God, is the realization that I am to respect and give proper attention to them as the apostle Paul brought out in Romans 13:1-7. Again there are the arguments for protesting and disagreeing with the government over things when one feels that the laws of God are being broken by the government. That again is not the purpose of this blog but rather we need to realize that we are to "be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God...For he is th minister of God...wherefore you must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake..."

As I prepare to go vote yes I do have political leanings as I said but I know God has everything under control. No matter whether my candidate gets in or not it is God who has the ultimate election call (not CTV, Global, CBC, or in the states any of the networks there!). I need to be praying for all the candidates that they would seek to first of all follow God and I need to remember that even if my candidate does not win I need to give proper respect to those over me.

I trust that this has made you think some about God and elections. You need not agree with my political leanings or beliefs and you may interpret things differently even from Scripture but remember God does have all things under His control.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Thankful for Trials

You may have wondered if I had fallen off my “rocker” (hey I am 50!) by looking at the title of this blog, “Thankful for Trials”. Let me assure you I have not nor have I become masochistic in my thinking. Permit me to explain myself.

A number of months ago a young lady from my church challenged her FB friends to consider being thankful for things in life rather than complain about circumstances and see how it would change our thinking. I decided to take up the challenge and though there are days I could and have indeed complained about things I feel my attitude is changing somewhat as I do thank God for situations in my life. Not surprisingly it is a lot easier to be thankful to God for the blessings and good things that happen in my life, as the old hymn encourages us to, but I have found that I can thank God for the trials and what I would be tempted to call “bad” things and circumstances in life the past while. Over the past few years I have begun to learn to give thanks to God for situations I have found myself in.

It was 33 years ago on March 20, 1979 that as a senior at Prairie High School (now Prairie Christian Academy) in Three Hills, Alberta that I gave my sermon on “Patience through Trials” using as my text James 1:2-4. I actually still have a tape of my sermon given that day and was tempted to pull it out and see what a 17 year old said about trials. Not wanting to bore you with all my sermon in a nutshell I shared that I was thankful that God had enabled me to triumph over my trials as I noted that the past couple of years prior to that time I had experienced some health issues. I shared how that I had to drop out of grade 11 and finish it by correspondence due to asthma conditions that caused me to cough constantly and have a hard time breathing. I even had spent some time in the infirmary at the school at Three Hills that year already and yet I felt I was learning patience. On that day that I gave my sermon I was thankful to God for teaching me patience and indeed had used as a hymn (we had to choose a hymn or special number to go along with our sermon) the old hymn Day by Day. The first few lines of that hymn state: “Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here; trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear.” Truly I felt I could thank God for my trials as I was starting to learn patience through them.

Exactly four days after my senior sermon I was back home in Calgary enjoying a weekend with my family. As we were expecting some relatives for dinner that night my mother asked me to polish the silverware neither of us realizing that this would cause me to have an asthmatic reaction. To make a long story short for the next 11 weeks or so I endured coughing spells lasting all day which kept me out of the classroom at Prairie. Actually I ended up spending my days in my dorm room and fellow classmates would drop off my homework assignments. At that time I admit it was hard to thank God for my trials health wise, I mean had I not just said I was learning patience (!) yet looking back on it I can say I thank God for my health trials there since through that experience I actually was recommended to a doctor who treated my allergies/asthma and I have been much better these past 33 or so years.

Another example of how I thank God for trials is related to another health situation (sorry this was not meant to be a health blog, but health issues have indeed been a means God has used in testing me!) that I experienced a few years ago. Over the past few years I have had to deal with a choking problem related to various health conditions. It got to the point where just over 5 years ago I ended up being taken by ambulance to Edmonton because of a choking episode. Now, you may wonder why I would thank God for allowing me to experience a choking episode but this particular episode ended up resulting in the discovery of a small tumor in my stomach. Though it proved to be benign and relatively small it was removed. I thank God for the trial of choking for I am 100% convinced that if I had not had that choking episode and ended up having to have a minor operation the doctors would not have discovered the small mass in my stomach otherwise. As the first few lines of the second verse of the hymn declare: “Every day the Lord Himself is near me, with a special mercy for each hour; all my cares He fain would bear and cheer me, He whose name is Counsellor and Pow'r.” I am more than convinced that God was with me through that trial with the tumor and I thank Him for allowing me to go through it.

There have been numerous other occasions when God has allowed me to go through trials, whether sometimes caused by my own foolishness, or otherwise, to teach me various lessons that I would not have learned if everything in life had been easy. I am not saying that I was or am always thankful for the trials as I fail many times, yet over and over again often in hindsight I have seen God has worked through trials to mold me. I can remember times when I was looking for work and wondering why certain things didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I remember years ago considering a pastoral position in the States and then saying no to it. I remember at the time thinking I had done the wrong thing in turning down the position but later realizing that it was for the best. There have been other times such as when I had a car accident and ended up upside down in a ditch just shortly after realizing in my own spirit that things were not as perhaps they should be with God. God used that incident to get my attention and I thanked Him for allowing me to go through that episode.

No, as I said before I am not a super Christian, far from it, and there are many times in life that I complain about my lot in life but as Scripture says to be thankful in every situation I am slowly learning to be thankful to God in my trials. I admit that I do not look forward to facing trials of any kind. I don’t know what the future holds just as I didn’t know that four days after saying I was learning about patience through trials back in 1979 and then faced more yet I pray that I will be able to say thank you to God for what my trials teach me. Yes I have a long way to go and I know that many of you have gone through many more trying times than myself but I would encourage you to not only be thankful to God in the good times but remember that He is with you in your trials and ask Him to help you be thankful even in those situations as He uses them to mold you for His purposes.

In closing let me encourage you with the words of the hymn that I used on March 20, 1979 when I gave my sermon on Trials.
“Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here; trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear. He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure, gives unto each day what He deems best, lovingly its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.
Every day the Lord Himself is near me, with a special mercy for each hour; all my cares He fain would bear and cheer me, He whose name is Counsellor and Pow'r. The protection of His child and treasure is a charge that on Himself He laid; “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure," this the pledge to me He made.
Help me then, in every tribulation, so to trust Thy promises, O Lord, that I lose not faith's sweet consolation, offered me within Thy holy Word. Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, e'er to take, as from a father's hand, one by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till with Christ the Lord I stand.”