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The Withered Leg: excerpt number 9 from my book, Overcoming the Trials of a Lifetime

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My best guess is my book will be available at end of next month (May).

Withered Leg and Childlike Faith
When one of my sons was younger, he was in Awana, a great children’s discipleship program. I helped him with his weekly exercises, and one week his assignment was to pray for someone in his house, a grandparent, and a parent. So he picked our dog, his grandfather, and me.
Here’s what he prayed:
“Dear God, I hope our dog will get his eyes better, so he can see again and not be blind. God, I hope Grandpa’s polio leg will get better and be normal again. [His grandpa had polio in the 1940s.] Dear God, I hope Daddy’s left ear will work again, and he won’t be deaf in it anymore.” I had mumps at age seven and lost the hearing in my left ear.
I listened to my son’s prayer, and when he prayed, it was clear his God could do anything—absolutely anything; not even the sky was the limit. Beyond imagination is what his God could do, and so I thought, Wait a minute—I need to talk to him. He hasn’t been around the block like I have. He isn’t praying for stuff that might happen. I don’t want him to be disappointed.
Although his God could do anything, my God was in a box that I constructed, based on what I thought God could do. I thought God could do whatever was inside the box, but whatever was outside the box was beyond God’s reach.
Speaking of how to manage expectations, here’s a scene from my two boys’ younger days: Alex was about ten years old, and Spencer was about eight. I was late in driving us to church, and to compound the problem, I was teaching that morning and just couldn’t be late. I drove as aggressively as I could, but I had to stop at seemingly every red light.
I began praying out loud, something like this: “Dear heavenly Father, I am your servant, and I thank you for the many blessings you have granted us. But forgive me, Lord God, if I ask for one more blessing. Can you please give me some green lights? Not all the time, just when I’m trying to get to church and especially when I am teaching. Please, Lord, give me green lights.”
Unexpectedly, Spencer offered a theological problem-solving method. He said, “Dad, just ask for red lights, and God will give you green lights. That’s how it works.”
Could reverse psychology work on God? Not a chance.
Then Alex said in soft deadpan, “Why don’t you just adjust your alarm clock, so you get up earlier?” Always the practical one.
By the way, on the rest of the way to church, I got a mix of reds, greens, and yellows.

Creepy Tunnel Syndrome Excerpt number 8 from Overcoming the Trials of a Lifetime

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Creepy Tunnel Syndrome
Hezekiah’s Tunnel is an ancient waterway connecting a valley spring outside of the walls of Jerusalem to the Pool of Siloam inside the walls.
Back in 1981, Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem was very primitive, and it was not the tourist site it is now. There was one security guard sitting on a folding chair and reading an Arabic language newspaper. At first, I thought I saw movement from the guard, but he just sat there on a folding chair next to the tunnel entrance. In 1981, things in that area seemed more tranquil than they do now.
Nowadays, I would have prepared by getting dressed like I was going fly-fishing in Wyoming, with those rubber pants that go from your toes to your armpits. But this is now, and that was then. Being foolhardy like every twenty-year-old, I was ready, wearing shorts and sandals. We also had no protection against critters.
The guard warned us that we needed flashlights, which Todd and I didn’t have. Our solution was to go into the church in the nearby garden of Gethsemane and steal a couple of votive candles—the little ones with the paper around the top so the wax doesn’t burn your hand.
As we ventured into the tunnel, the water was only ankle deep at first, but the tunnel was not level, and the water level fluctuated, reaching a high level at just above our knees. (Today, I wonder what creatures were in that water.)
When there was a slight draft, our candles went out, leaving us in the pitch-black and knee-deep in dirty water. Naturally, we pressed forward in the dark, reasoning that we had come too far to turn back. What idiots. We accomplished this by putting one hand on each side of the tunnel and then just creeping forward, inch by inch.
Eventually, we saw a light at the end of the tunnel, went toward the light, and came out of the tunnel, soaking wet, in the middle of the Pool of Siloam. A group of French tourists was next to the pool with their guide, who was carrying her “Follow Me” umbrella. We just walked past them, as they were all rendered speechless.
Although it seemed like hours, we had been in the tunnel no more than fifteen minutes. One day I’ll share this story as an illustration of the wisdom of being prepared. But for now, it is the best example I have to show the importance of having the teachings of the Bible at the ready, as they are the lamp unto our feet.

Excerpt Number 7 from my soon to be released book, Overcoming

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My Father’s Mental Illness.

Somewhere in the vicinity of 1967 and 1968 something inside my dad snapped. At the time, people called it a “nervous breakdown.” Later, more clinical descriptions became Dad’s labels, such as “paranoid” and “schizophrenic”. My dad was in and out of the Veterans’ Hospital. During one of the times, my dad was outside the hospital, I experienced one of the saddest and most frightening events of my life.
My father feared to lose my mom in a divorce. Acting upon this fear, he abandoned reason and held my mom against her will in a bathroom in the house. He threatened to kill my mom, but after several hours my mom talked her way out.
The following week, he grabbed me and took me to the bedroom that he and Mom had shared happier times. But this time was different.
Dad didn’t threaten me or hurt me, but he did give me two sleeping pills to swallow without water, and then he told me to calm down and be quiet. After locking the door, he retrieved his favorite handgun from the closet: A World War II German “Lugar” handgun.
Soon the police were on the other side of the door demanding that he give me up and saying something like “come out with your hands where we can see them.”
Very quickly the police ascertained that both my father and his brother were veterans and firefighters with the Minneapolis Fire Department. This afforded some time for my dad to think as the police agreed to stand down out of professional courtesy to a fellow first responder.
Soon after that, my Uncle Bob was talking through the door with my dad, his brother. Bob eventually secured my freedom by removing the bolts from the door and convincing my dad to surrender. The most enduring memory I have from those days was of me that night, sitting at the top of the stairs, weeping, as I watched my dad hauled away in an ambulance and wearing a straight-jacket. I was seven.

Slides from Lesson 3 on Romans 8 for the Maranatha Mens Ministry

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Here are the slides from Lesson 3 on chapter 8 of Romans from the Maranatha Mens Ministry.

ROMANS 8 THIRD OF THREE

Slides from Lesson 2 on Romans 8 for the Maranatha Mens Ministry

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Here is a link to my second lesson on Romans chapter 8 for the Maranatha Mens Ministry.

ROMANS 8 LESSON 2

“College Days” Excerpt Number 7 from my upcoming book, “Overcoming the Trials of a Lifetime”

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College Days

I began my studies at Stanford University in the Fall of 1979. I was 18 years old.

That first year at Stanford was exciting and life-changing. I was constantly surrounded by both teachers and students who were, putting it simply, brilliant. There was the premed surfer from Orange County, California. There was the space-camp summer scientist majoring in physics. There was the Hawaiian dancer girl who grew up in rural Hawaii, on the “Big Island,” and whose parents were missionaries there. I could go on and on.  Spending too much time thinking about how brilliant my friends and teachers were causing self-doubt because it is only natural that you ask yourself: “what am I doing here with these people?”
I was in a veritable cafeteria of learning experiences, with no limits or bounds. I think Heaven will be something like attending Stanford, except for the political and politically correct stuff.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to anyone else, I found my personal prayer and Bible study habits first wavered and then withered. My efforts to continue in personal fellowship with Christ first began to fail.

Having no car, I was unable to drive myself to church and relied only on the occasional chance to ride with someone else to the driver’s church. This way I visited Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and Peninsula Bible Church (where Ray Stedman was) but because of transportation difficulties was not able to become very active in either. From attending church several times-a- week in high school, I found myself doing well to attend church once per month.

I did get pretty involved in Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and also a small organization on campus called the Christian Studies Association (which made me its president). I attended and led on-campus Bible studies, attempted to witness to my dorm mates, and went on retreats.

It was no surprise that outside of the Christian groups, such activities did not win me a lot of friends on campus. I began to feel lonely. Living in dormitories surrounded by non-Christians, I began to want to have more friends, to be more “normal” and not to be such an outsider.

As a sign of things to come, I was asked to be the leader of the InterVarsity chapter at Stanford, but I turned it down because I was concerned the time commitment would adversely affect my grade point average.

                My Thoughts and Theories.

As you would expect, being far from home, unaccountable and surrounded by temptations of the flesh never experienced by me up to that time, I began a period of cycles of sin, guilt, repentance and then sin again, repeatedly in a seemingly endless cycle. A cycle which fatigued my will and soul.

A big part of my problem was guilt. Before I really turned my back on God calling for my life, I’d been on a seemingly endless cycle of sin followed by repentance followed by growth followed by sin followed by repentance. An even larger part of my turning away was that I was just plain tired, exhausted, ready to quit, feeling defeated. I’d hoped God would have used me like Joseph or Calvin or Spurgeon or something, but I was a spiritual failure.

Perhaps if I had returned to any good church where I was reconnected with the fellowship of fellow believers, I might have returned to him sooner. But I was cut off and far away from all my Christian friends and mentors. And no one held me accountable, rebuked me or disciplined me. Accordingly, I strayed further away during those subsequent years and as a result, my heart just got harder and harder.

If it came to defending the faith, arguing evolution vs. creation or any number of other things, I was thoroughly and adequately prepared. No professor or seminar class was my undoing. On the contrary, in classrooms, I regularly spoke out defending my faith and I felt no fear of the non-Christian intellectual academic citadel.

You can prepare your children to face attacks from non-Christian worldviews, but if they’re not prepared to deal with sin, there’s going to be a problem. I don’t mean just being able to resist sin all the time. Sooner or later they’re going to sin, but how will they deal with the consequences and the aftermath of sin?

But I should have known better. God gave me a long leash and there was no fire and brimstone because God relates to his children as their father, not as their judge.

 

Romans 8:28? Excerpt Number 6 from my upcoming book: Overcoming the Trials of a Lifetime

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Rom. 8.28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

                Entire books have been written about Romans 8:28. This verse about God working everything for good is probably the most frequently quoted verse spoken to those who are suffering and afflicted.

                In some case, the delivery of this message actually fans the fires and is downright hurtful. But the world has many alternatives to Romans 8:28 that are not Biblical and are quoted by mindlessly by meaning-well Christians.

For example, during an ecumenical ceremony honoring those who died on 9/11, the speaker misquoted God’s word by merely saying,” All things work together for good.”

                Several important elements are missing from this misquote: It is God who does the working. It is not a promise for everybody, but only for the called/those who love God. The good that is worked together is God’s good which is according to his purpose. The good in this verse is God’s good, not whatever “good” you desire or describe.

In some cases, we will never know what “good” was the purpose. Deut. 29:29.

Besides misquoting Romans 8:28, we also encounter many lookalikes or worldly substitutes.

Below is a list of some worldly wisdom commonly offered as a substitute for Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28 Doesn’t Mean:

                 1. ”Every cloud has a silver lining.” The “good” in Romans 8:28 is not in the things themselves. It is in their divine purpose. It is in the plan God has for the things.

                 2. ”Things just have a way of working themselves out for the best.” Romans 8:28 is not about benevolent fate. It’s about a personal God who takes care of those who love him.

                 3. ”If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” Romans 8:28 is not a command, it’s a promise. The good that God purposes in the lives of the called is not dependent on human efforts.

                 4. ”God helps those who help themselves.” God’s promise in Romans 8:28 is unconditional and applies to those who are called and love God, not those who are self-reliant.

                 5. ”Trust God but keep your gunpowder dry.” There are no exceptions or surprises for God. He works all things together for his good purposes.

                6. ”Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” We can be assured that the things in our lives truly work for good, even if they appear not to.

                7. When imagining Gods plan for our lives or when struggling with the issues of God’s sovereignty being used selectively to ensure that only those who love God and are called according to his purpose will benefit. Especially before loading the debate and argument guns, it is very advisable to take a moment to worship God and remind ourselves of just how much above our understanding God truly is.
                No illustration I could ever conceive would do justice to the vastness of the universe, let alone God its Creator.

Romans Chapter 8: First of Three studies: “Victory Through Mind Control

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These slides are from my teaching of Romans 5:11-17 at the Maranatha Men’s Ministry.

Romans Chapter 5: The First Adam and the Last Adam.

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These slides are from my study of Romans Chapter 5 at the Maranatha Chapel Men’s Ministry.         

Sorry, this Chapter 5 Study is being published after Chapter 8, it was overlooked.

Dead Sea Scrolls Expedition Excerpt Number 5 from my upcoming book, Overcoming the trials of a lifetime.

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                Dead Sea Scrolls Expedition.

                After my time in Greece, I went to Israel and had a few adventures with my traveling companion, Todd. The two most notable adventures were in the desert at the Qumran caves and in Jerusalem, at Hezekiah’s tunnel. I thought “Maybe there are more Dead Sea Scrolls out there to be found.” Why not?

                Todd and I went to a fancy rest stop kind of place down by the Dead Sea where there’s a big panel window and you can see the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947-1948. You can identify the caves if you stand in a certain place and look through a window. They were only about a half a mile from where we were standing.

                When I was in the desert sun my eyes were dilated and was squinting because the Sun was so very bright. So, I went into the cave that was dark, as dark as dark could be. I stood there in the dark so that my eyes would adjust.

                It was an easy decision, really, since we knew that we would never be so close to the Qumran caves in our lifetimes. Soon I was out there climbing a cliff and I go into one of the caves. No flashlight, no ropes, no first aid kit. What was I thinking? Soon I was out there climbing a cliff and I go into one of the caves. What was I thinking?

                When my eyes adjusted, I found myself nose-to-nose with an upside-down face of a vampire bat. I ran out of the cave screaming, and that was the end of my Dead Sea Scrolls expedition.

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