Wednesday, December 12, 2018


I’ve been exercising more the last few months.  Going to the gym. Walking around the neighborhood from time to time. I’ve been a member of a fitness center for years, but in most months my monthly fee was more of a donation than anything else. And my neighborhood has always been there. I haven’t moved from a neighborhood that prohibited walking to one that allows it. Back in September I decided I needed to be a little more weight conscious and shed some pounds, but it was a decision not without some provocation.
Each summer I see my doctor for an annual checkup and, since I was displaying some concerning symptoms and given my age, he ordered me to get some tests done.  I went unhappily, but went nonetheless.  Everything seemed to go okay but, as it is, I waited anxiously to get the results from the doctor.  After a day or so his office called and with relief I heard the words, “You passed the test.” It was the next words that set me back a little. “However, Mr. Catteau, the doctor says you’re underconditioned.” 
“Underconditioned.” I had never heard that word before except maybe in a hair product commercial. But since I have little hair, I figured in this context it must mean something else. It meant I was out of shape. Overweight. Chubby. Yes, it was a word I had never heard before, but I knew what it meant. I was then told what I needed to do and I had a decision to make. Would I do it or not?
Our family is planning a trip to Nepal where one of our daughters is living. Nepal is famous for its beautiful and challenging treks through the Himalayan mountains, so my daughter suggested we go on one of these treks. Nothing dangerous or hazardous, but not such a good idea for “underconditioned” people.  I wanted to go but I had a decision to make. Would I get in better shape or not?
I know I won’t live forever, and I know I won’t be able to climb mountains much longer, but I want to live life well. I want to take control of those things that I can control – those things that will enable me to live my days most effectively and allow me to enjoy the days that God has given me. Sadly, I haven’t always done that. I had allowed myself to get “underconditioned.” It happened without me really even knowing it. But that’s how things like that usually happen, don’t they? Slowly but surely without us even realizing it.
Have you allowed yourself to slip into an underconditioned state? And what’s worse than hearing those words from a doctor’s office is hearing it from the Creator’s office. Maybe like me you need a checkup. A spiritual checkup. Maybe someone can warn you before it’s too late. Maybe it’s happened without you even knowing it. Maybe you’ve drifted further and further away from the person you want to be, the person you were created to be, to the person you are. If so, you have a decision to make. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Give like you’ve won the lottery

Well, I’m guessing you didn’t win the billion-dollar lottery last week.  It is fun to dream though, isn’t it? Even knowing that the odds are remarkably against us, when the stakes get that high we all imagine how such a windfall would change our lives.  I love watching the media coverage as random folks are interviewed and asked what they would do if their numbers came up. Although the specifics vary, there is usually the typical response that they would give to some charity or help people in need.  Seems like people believe that if they had an insanely large amount of money they would certainly be generous with it.

I was watching one of those news pieces last week and the cynical side of me reared its ugly head. I wondered if that person was generous now, even though they’re not a billionaire. I asked myself, “If a person is not generous with what they have, why would they expect themselves to be generous with what they might have?”

I think we’re all like that. I am. We think that if we had a lot more, then we would be generous.  If we had enough money to really make a difference, we would certainly be humane enough to make the world a better place. And that’s a good sentiment. What good human being wouldn’t want to use that money for the common good?

As good as that sounds, that thinking may be dangerous.  We must resist the belief that my generosity is only meaningful if it’s big. Jesus would beg to differ:
  • He compared God’s kingdom to a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds.
  • He praised a widow woman who gave only pennies to the temple treasury even as others were giving much more.
  • Jesus commended those who only had a cup of cold water to give away, but did it in His name.
  • Jesus once received a donation from a boy who had only five loaves of bread and two fish. That little gift that even the disciples doubted could make a difference was enough to feed 5,000.
Jesus seemed to be delighted by people who gave like they won the lottery even when then hadn’t.

The world doesn’t need more lottery winners.  The world does need more people who are generous with what they have, even if it is little. So, don’t wait for the mega-millions, powerball, or sweepstakes to be a generous person.  You can be generous - you need to be generous – with whatever you have.  All of us need to give like we’ve won the lottery!

The one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much. (Luke 16:10)

Monday, September 24, 2018

A New Perspective on Ugly Sweaters

Has anyone actually purchased this sweater? And if so, why!!

I am not stylish. I will never be named “best dressed” minister. I do not enjoy clothes shopping. Yet, even though shopping is a task, there are occasions when I do need to pick up an item or two and even though I don’t have an eye for what’s fashionable I can sense when something is absolutely garish. There seem to be some items that make you wonder how they ever ended up in a store. Some things are just so ugly you wonder if anybody has actually bought them.
That recently happened to me but then I looked at the situation from a different point of view. Since it is in a store, whoever buys for the store must have looked at that item and thought, “Wow, that’s very fashionable. I bet we could sell this in my store.” And going beyond that, whoever designs clothes must have sat down at their clothes-designing table (or wherever clothes are designed) and conceived that article of clothing and thought, “Wow, I’ve done a great job on this. It is beautiful. I am going to turn my concept into an actual article of clothing. I’m sure this article of clothing will be a big seller.”
I began to realize that even though it does not appeal to me, it does appeal to someone. The article of clothing that I consider appalling was someone else’s well-thought-out idea – an idea that they loved and cherished. That would go for clothes, cars, art, and just about everything – perhaps even people.
Let’s all be honest, there are some people who don’t appeal to us. I know it’s wrong, but it happens. There are people that just don’t sit right with us. It may be the way they look, the way they talk, they way they smell – there are any number of factors that might elicit in me a similar response that I had to that garish piece of clothing. “How could anyone love this person?” I might conclude.
Maybe I need to look at people from a different perspective.
Assuming you believe that God has created every person and since that person is on planet earth, He must have thought it was a good idea.  God must have sat down at his people-designing table (or wherever people are designed) and thought, “Wow. I’ve done a great job. I’m going to turn this idea into an actual person. I’m sure this person will be loved by everyone just like I love them.”
That doesn’t mean that I have to like every shirt. But what does it mean that every person who has ever lived is a uniquely designed creation of the good and perfect God? What does it mean that God has created each person in His image, the ones you like and the ones you don’t like?
That co-worker down the hallway. The neighbor down the street. The cashier at the store. The senator in Washington. The boss. And the list goes on. When God created them he said, “Wow. I’ve done a great job. I’m going turn this idea into an actual person.”
Maybe when we start seeing every person as designed and loved by God then we might be able to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Go to Church - It's Good for You!

Seems like we’re always looking for ways to make life better and there may be one way closer than you think:  Going to church! Several studies have indicated that church attendance is good for your health (both physical and mental), good for your marriage, good for your kids, and may even add a few years to your life. It’s almost universally accepted that regular church attendance yields many positive benefits. (I’ve included some links at the end of this post if you want to check out some of the research yourself.)

Now, I know the saying, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” So, what the research is talking about is more than just popping in and out of a building for an hour or so every once and a while. We’re talking about regular church attendance and an ongoing involvement in the community and service of the church.  It’s hard to deny – going to church is good for you.

Paul says as much when he writes to his protégé in the faith Timothy saying, “Training your body helps you in some ways, but serving God helps you in every way by bringing you blessings in this life and in the future life, too." (1 Timothy 4:8, NCV) Seems like Paul was ahead of the research on this one.

So, what are you waiting for, Christmas? I hear they’re open every Sunday and some even on Wednesdays.  You can probably find a group of Christians meeting on any night of the week.  If you’ve grown out of the habit of going to church, now’s the time to get back.  If you’ve never been to church, give it a try.  It’ll be good for you!


Why Do People of Faith Live Longer?

5 Surprising health benefits of church attendance

Should you raise your kids religious? Here’s what the science says

How declining church attendance harms society

Religion may be a miracle drug

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Choosing the prize over popularity

One had more fans, but the best player got the trophy
It’s not the norm that a sporting event makes headlines not for who won, but for who almost won. Yet that was the case for this year’s PGA Golf Championship.

For the first decade of this century, Tiger Woods was THE golfer. He was racking up victories at a record pace until injuries and personal problems derailed his historic career. It had been nearly a decade since he won a tournament and many fans as well as experts had serious doubts as to whether he would be able to contend, let alone win, a professional tournament.  Earlier this month Woods almost broke through at the PGA Golf Championship coming in second place, and it was this surprising performance that made headlines. In fact, his runner-up finish seemed to get more press than the actual winner of the event.

Watching golf in person is a lot different than most sporting events. Some spectators hunker down at one location and watch as the various players play through, but many choose instead to follow a particular player from hole to hole. Also, the typical golf tournament is played through four days, Thursday to Sunday. On the first two days the players tee-off in more or less a random order.  But on the weekend, the order of play is determined by the player’s score, meaning the players at the top of the leaderboard tee off last and, naturally, finish last.  On Sunday, the final round, Woods’ group was the next-to-last group while the final group consisted of those players ahead of Tiger. The eventual winner came from that final group.

Normally the final group would have the most travelling fans following them, especially if one of the golfers in that group is in contention (which was the case in this tournament. In fact, the leader going into the final round never relinquished his lead). The odd thing about this tournament is that the vast majority of fans were following Tiger, not the leader. The runner-up clearly had more fans than the winner. Despite having fewer fans Brooks Koepka held on to win the championship by two strokes.

As the trophy was being presented to Koepka an irrefutable fact dawned on me – the trophy always goes to the best player, not to the player with the most fans. And that’s true not only in golf but in just about every pursuit.

I think too often we make choices based on how many “likes” or “followers” we’ll get.  We confuse popularity with success. We crave fans more than victory.

Jesus was appalled by those who put their morality on display to be seen by others. Religious people who do what they do to attract more fans, Jesus said, may get a lot of followers but they won’t receive the trophy from God.  The great missionary Paul made it a point to focus on pleasing God, and not people. Paul said the servants of Christ can’t be in the business of people-pleasing.

As Brooks Koepka hoisted that trophy I was reminded of that irrefutable fact that even applies to our spiritual lives - the trophy always goes to the best player, not to the player with the most fans.

Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Blind Spot Detection

Last month my wife and I went on a road trip to Tennessee with my in-laws.  We took their car that was equipped with a newer technology (at least newer to me) called “blind spot detection.”  A light illuminates on the side mirror when there’s a vehicle in that area to your right or left that isn’t covered by the mirrors.  If you put your blinker on to change lanes, a little buzz goes off warning you that there’s a danger you perhaps can’t see. It’s a little annoying but comes in handy.  I suppose the annoyance is worth the potential danger it is intended to prevent.

The fact of the matter is that when we’re driving we can’t see all the potential dangers around us simply from our vantage point in the driver’s seat. When we are taught to drive, we are trained to use our rear-view mirror to see what’s behind us.  We use the side mirrors to see what’s to the right or left of us.  Now many cars have a rear-view camera that lets us know what is directly behind us.  We rely on all these different points of view to help us avoid accidents and safely arrive at our destination.  Granted, it’s a little annoying checking all those mirrors, but the annoyance is worth the potential danger they are intended to prevent. It would be unwise to drive a car and not use these safety devices.

Life is a journey and, like driving a car, there are dangers along the way.  Some danger we can see plainly.  They’re right in front of us. However, life has a lot of dangers that sneak up on us.  Dangers that are only detected by using our mirrors.  We all have blind spots and we need mirrors to help us avoid danger.

I’d like to think that the loving and wise people in my life are my mirrors. I look to them to advise me. To warn me of the dangers that I can’t see.  Sometimes they beep at me to alert me.  Granted, the beeps of advice are sometimes annoying, but I suppose the annoyance is worth the potential danger they intend to prevent.

It’s not uncommon for people to dismiss the advice of others.  At times we even discourage it telling people “to mind their own business” or scolding them saying “who made you my boss” or even misapplying the scripture “judge not.” Dismissing the advice of others would be tantamount to tearing off all the mirrors in our cars because they annoy us. Ignoring advice, even when it is annoying, is just plain foolishness.

Do you have mirrors? Are you using them? Do you welcome advice or dismiss it? Don’t you realize that we all have blind spots and need input from others? Maybe instead of cursing those who beep at you, you need to thank them. They are your blind spot detection system.  Those beeps, however annoying, may very well save you from unspeakable harm.

Plans fail without good advice, but they succeed with the advice of many others.
Proverbs 15:22 (NCV)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Dad on the Sideline

As Father’s Day weekend approaches, I have many memories of my dad, but one always comes to the forefront.  It’s when I was a senior in high school.

Growing up I was a good-but-not-great athlete.  I loved playing any sport but early on baseball became my passion.  I started organized ball at age 8 and played through high school.  At about 12 I started playing football and actually was pretty good.  As quarterback, I was MVP of my youth teams and the clippings from the local paper made me think pretty highly of myself. As I entered high school there was talk of my ascension to starting quarterback of the varsity squad, but a funny thing happened on the way from sophomore year to junior year.  I stopped growing!  My height became a liability and my arm strength hadn’t developed.  Entering my junior year, others soared past me and I was relegated to the role of backup.  So that year, after the agony of summer football camp, I chose to bypass football to concentrate on baseball.  It was a painful decision, but I wasn’t eager to put in all that work only to ride the pine! 

It was the right decision, but I struggled with feelings of being a disappointment to my coach, my friends, and my dad.  I felt that others perceived I was not tough enough to play football, and that bothered me.  I didn’t want to be known as a quitter, so I decided to play football my senior year even though I knew there was little chance of getting any meaningful playing time. I was deep on the depth charts but worked as hard as the rest.  I never missed a practice, gave it my all, and cheered from the sidelines on gameday.

Practices were the worst.  As a backup, I’d run the second team offense against the first team defense and boy did we take a beating. There were two constants from that season. One was me getting my bell rung day after day. The second constant was my dad.

At the end of each practice I could look up and there he was in the distance watching his son. And as he watched I could feel a sense of love and pride he had in me just as if I were the star of the team.  That difficult season of football taught me something about him that I have valued all my life.  That lesson made all the hits worth it.  My father’s love for me was not based on my accomplishments.  He loved me because I was his son.

My dad was an ordinary man. A blue-collar working man born in the 1920’s and served in WWII.  As many men from that generation, he rarely voiced his feelings.  He was not well educated. He was not a theologian.  But my dad on the sideline, proud of his second-string son, taught me a lesson that has shaped my image of God more than any lecture, professor, or upper-level college class.  He taught me that God, my other Father, loves me not based on my accomplishments, but because I am his son!

Your Father really loves you.  And I mean, he really loves you! I pray that this Father’s Day you feel that love and approval not because of what you’ve done or haven’t done, but because you are his child.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

“Whack-a-Mole” Syndrome

Remember the old arcade game “Whack-a-Mole”? If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a brief description.  It’s a table about waist high with five holes where toy moles would randomly pop up and almost immediately pop back down.  The object of the game was to use a padded mallet to whack the mole before he disappeared back into his hole.  It was two minutes of frenzied fun!

The game took on a broader social meaning representing any futile and repetitious action. It became a symbol for the frenzied pace of our lives where one problem pops up, we try to whack it, and, as soon as that one is taken care of, another problem surfaces. Whack-a-Mole became emblematic of our lives - problem after problem consuming our time and energy leaving us exhausted and stressed.

Have you ever found yourself playing a non-stop game of Whack-a-Mole? I have. The pesky mole of family issues pops up, and then the worrisome mole of financial woes appears, and before you know it, the bothersome mole of sickness taunts you, and then the irritating mole of work-place worry surfaces.  Mole after mole after mole.  At the end of the day you stand there exhausted. When you finally get to lay your head on your pillow, the moles of the day continue to pop up in your mind robbing you of the rest you need to play another round the next day.

Whatever the source of our moles, God knows there are so many things that can obsess our minds and deprive us of the rest and joy he wants us to have.  Jesus gives considerable time to this in Matthew 6:25-33 as part of his longest recorded sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. I recommend you read the text itself but allow me to try to summarize a few words of advice from Jesus.
(1) Don’t exaggerate your problems.  Some of the things we worry about may not be as significant as we make them.   Are we able to distinguish between wants and needs? Do we trust that God knows our needs?  An obsession with getting everything you want will never end.  Be satisfied with and thankful for the daily provisions from God.  Develop the discipline of contentment in your life and many of those moles will disappear.
(2) See the futility of worry.  Jesus says, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) Of course we need to do what we can do to address problems and circumstances in our lives, but incessant worry accomplishes nothing. The English clergyman William Ralph Inge said, “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.” Many of the things we worry about never come to pass.  Take care of what you can today and face the next day when it comes.
(3) Keep spiritual matters at the top of the list.  Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) Ask yourself, “Will the mole that is bothering me so much today have any meaning or significance in my life in 10, 20, or 30 years?” Most importantly, does what's bothering you have any eternal significance? Living from a spiritual/eternal point of view brings today’s problems into perspective and often helps alleviate the grip that passing afflictions have over us.
God doesn’t want us to live in a frenzied state of worry and panic, and he assures us that he will share those burdens with us.  He promises to somehow see us through if we’ll only lean on him and find peace in his presence and his promises. So, put down the mallet and remember the words of Peter, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

The Sunday After Easter

Easter is over!  What a relief. For those of us in the church business Easter is one of the busiest times of the year. There are Easter egg hunts, passion plays, holy week services, extra weekend services.  It can wear out even the most devout ministers.  Don’t get me wrong – we love all the planning and revel in the full houses we get to preach to on Easter Sunday but come Monday we all breathe a sigh of relief.  We made it through another Easter season.

We’re glad Easter is over. 
Yet, at the same time, we’re sad Easter is over. The Sunday after Easter may be one of the most depressing for ministers. The additional seats are no longer needed.  The gaps in our sanctuaries and worship centers return. We welcomed back some church members on Easter Sunday whom we hadn’t seen in weeks, maybe even months, maybe even since last Easter. And then the Sunday after Easter we look around for them and they’re not there. We’re glad they were here last week and will welcome them back next year with open arms.  But it is sad.  It’s sad that Easter is over. 
I know it’s just a fact of life for us ministers.  We were told to expect such through our training.  We even have become accustomed to it to some degree.  No minister in their right mind expects the same crowds on the Sunday after Easter. It’s a reality of the trade, so to speak.
If you’re one of those who show up for Easter and rarely come any other Sunday, I hope you don’t think I’m mad at you.  I’m really not.  Don’t think that I’m trying to make you feel guilty. That’s not my intent.  I do want you to know that you’re missed.
We loved seeing you Sunday, but we’d love to see you more often.  And it really isn’t all about having full churches.  I admit, we struggle with our egos and having larger crowds feeds that egotism that I suppose every preacher struggles with. But we really do miss you.  We want to see you every Sunday.
Certainly, we ministers are part of the problem.  Maybe we make so much of Easter that somehow we’ve communicated that the other 51 Sundays are not as important.  Maybe you wonder why we haven’t called, emailed, or texted you all those Sundays you’ve missed. Perhaps we’ve said something or have done something that has upset you. We’re sorry. We hope that our weaknesses don’t keep you away. Please forgive us. 
This Sunday may not be as exciting as Easter, but we’ll be here nonetheless.  We’ll have another sermon that we’ve worked hard on.  Our worship may not have as many “bells and whistles” this Sunday, but is God really looking for “bells and whistles”? I don’t think so. I hope that’s not why you came last Sunday.  
The Sunday after Easter is back to business as usual, but we believe it’s an important business.  This resurrection we spoke of Sunday is something to be celebrated every week. We believe that the real power of the resurrection is truly experienced when church is a habit and not just a holiday.  So, we invite you back – again and again.
We minsters will be back at it this Sunday and every Sunday of the year.  We love what we do. So, come to church the Sunday after Easter.  We’ll be looking for you!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Good but gruesome Friday

In February 2004, the film The Passion of the Christ hit theaters to the excitement of most Christians.  The movie was financially backed by Hollywood super-star Mel Gibson, so this was going to be a first-class production. It opened to full houses, but one immediate concern arose – it was so bloody!  The depiction of Jesus’ beating and crucifixion was so gruesome the movie earned an “R” rating.
Was this another example of Hollywood exploiting violence for box office success or was the representation of the passion gruesome because the event itself was gruesome? The consensus was that the movie was horrific because the event itself was horrific.  There was no way you could make the passion of Christ “G” rated.

But I wonder why?  Why did the event have to be so gruesome? Is there anything about how it happened that reveals to us something about the nature of God?

Before I address that question, let’s get two things clear.  First, Jesus could have stopped it anytime he wanted.  During Jesus’ arrest Peter pulls out a sword to which Jesus responds that he has 12 legions of angels at his disposal. All it took was a simple request and all this would come to an end.  Second, the way it happened was the way it was supposed to happen.  Jesus assures the apostles that Scriptures predicted that his death would be messy.  Passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 make it clear that his death was going to be ghastly. 

Back to the question at hand – is there anything about the manner of his death that is significant? Here’s something to think about.

(1) His great pain corresponds to his great love. Who has made the greatest sacrifices for you?  Friends, family, and, most likely, parents come to mind.  It’s those people who love us most who are willing to suffer for us.  The cross was for our benefit and if Jesus was wiling to suffer like he did then he must really love us.  Who does something like that unless they deeply love you?  All that pain reminds us of his great love for us.

(2) His pain reminds us of what we have been saved from.  What he experienced should have been our experience.  We should have been the ones who endured all the pain.  We are the sinners.  We are the ones who deserve the punishment. All he went through, we have been spared of.

(3) He never asks us to do something that he wasn’t willing to do.  When Jesus calls us to follow him he calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross.  Aren’t you annoyed by people who ask you to do something that they won’t do?  Jesus isn’t one of those people.  When we suffer for our faith we can be assured that he has walked that path.  And in his suffering, he leaves us an example to endure pain with endurance and grace.

(4) His pain assures us that he can empathize with our pain.  In addition to the obvious physical pain, he suffered the emotional pain of being betrayed, denied, and deserted by his friends.  He suffered spiritual pain as he bore the unfamiliar guilt of sin.  He experienced the full spectrum of pain in the passion and can therefore understand the pain we suffer. When we suffer we have a God who understands.

The pain of the passion reminds us the we are loved, that we have been rescued, that we have an example, and that we have a compassionate God. He suffered all that so we would know.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Undercover God

It’s odd that in the ordinary tasks of life God has a way of teaching me about him. 

A while back I was filling up my car at a local gas station when I saw an employee emptying out the trash cans by the pumps.  She was on the other side of the pump I was using, and I noticed her struggling to get the liner out of the trash can.  I reached over and gently held down the trash can to help out.  With just that little assistance she was able to get the bag out and go about her work. 

I expected a “thank you” but there was none.  Then I realized that she had never seen what I had done.  The trash bag she was lifting was blocking her view.  Besides that, I was partially hidden behind a pillar, so she never knew I helped! I guess she just figured that somehow, someway she managed to pull the bag out all by herself.  She didn’t thank me because she didn’t know that I helped. I was tempted to say something but decided the best thing to do was to remain anonymous.

I chalked it up as my “good deed of the day” and then it struck me.  How many times in my life has God helped me and I didn’t thank him?  How many times has God offered a little hand to assist me but remained anonymous? Does God do things like that?  Does God help us out ever so slightly that we don’t even notice?

Of course, there can be no definitive answer to those questions, because if God remains anonymous then how would we know?  Yet, I suspect that He does.  Looking back on my life I can see some curious times when in retrospect I suspect God was at work -- events that at the time I thought were mere coincidences or maybe even incidents that I attributed to my own strength or cunning that lead to a favorable outcome.  Maybe God was reaching around offering that ever so slight hand of assistance to help me out. Maybe there are some times in life when God acts yet remains anonymous.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, tells a story of a man named Joseph (he of the technicolor dream-coat) whose life has more twists and turns than a downhill slalom. Eventually he ends up in a very favorable position yet all the events that led to that outcome could easily be attributed to coincidence or the normal events of life.  Yet, at the end of the story he credits his good fortune to the hand of God. In a meeting with his devious and betraying brothers who brought a good deal of grief into his life he says this: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good” (Genesis 50:20).  Joseph sensed God’s anonymous hand at work throughout his life.
That little experience at the gas station got me thinking that maybe God is helping me in ways I’ll never know.   It’s reminded me to thank God not just for his obvious and discernable help but for all those times he lends a gentle hand without fanfare.
Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Maybe with watchful and attentive eyes we can catch God every once in a while.  At the very least, we can give him thanks for those times when he works undercover.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The God Who Bothers

I don’t understand God.  I’m confident he’s working in the world, but I just don’t get why he seems to do some things and doesn’t do others.  I believe in answered prayer.  I believe in providence.  What really throws me for a loop though is the why, when, where, and how of things.  Even so, the fact that I don’t understand God doesn't surprise me.  If fact, if I did understand God then what kind of God  would he be? If God did everything I suggested, that would surprise me. I’m not surprised, but I am bothered.
It bothers me that God doesn’t consult me when he needs advice.  It bothers me when God doesn’t do the things that I think God should do.  It bothers me that God is silent when I think he should speak, and he speaks when I think he should be silent. God is bothersome, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.
David, the great king of Israel and author of many Psalms, wrote this: “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1) He also wrote this: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:1–2)  And this is the man who was referred to as “a man after God’s own heart!” God bothered David.
The lesser-known but equally-bothered prophet Habakkuk opens his Old Testament book like this: “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?“ (Habakkuk 1:2) You can add Moses, Abraham, and Job to the long list of people who have been bothered by God.  I would suppose that your name has appeared on that list at some time in your life.   What are we supposed to do with this bothersome God?
Sadly, some people just quit believing in him.  I guess some would rather have a god who was predictable, aggregable, and less-mysterious or have no god at all (if a predictable, aggregable, and less-mysterious god could actually exist seems almost as bothersome to me). But many a bothered soul has somehow managed to still believe. The above-mentioned David, Habakkuk, Moses, Abraham, and Job are all members of the bothered-but-still-believing club.  How is this possible?
When I look at these bothered-but-believing souls there seem to be certain qualities they possess.  They seem to acknowledge that they may not always know what is best.  They seem to give God time to work things out knowing his timetable is different than theirs.  They seem to know that running a universe filled with freewill gone amok is a little complicated.  They seem to trust God to such an extent that they refuse to stop believing that he has a long-term plan even if it appears that randomness is the rule. And maybe above all, they possess hope.  They have the unfaltering hope that a good, wise, loving, and all-powerful God has written a beautiful ending that will make all the bother worth it.
Are you bothered by God?  Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Join the club of the bothered-but still-believing!
(Note to reader: I encourage you to read the endings of Psalm 13, 22, and Habakkuk 3:17-19)