When the Rains Come Down–and In

rain on window-tagged

Since our backyard slopes downward toward the house, when heavy rains come, the accumulation sometimes invites itself right into our kitchen without even knocking.

The efforts we’ve made so far to divert the rainwater away from our house haven’t worked too well, so next we’ll try an outdoor sump pump.

This week the rains have really been coming down—and in. The first night of flooding I didn’t get a full night’s sleep, getting out of bed periodically to deal with the problem.

The wet/dry vac we borrowed from our neighbor has been a tremendous help in keeping the inflow manageable.

So what helps put situations like this into perspective?

It could be a whole lot worse.

A family we knew in Pennsylvania had floodwaters fill their basement and their first floor, and up into the second floor a foot or more. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rank that a 10—and ours only a 1, if even that.

It’s only temporary.

It helps to remember that 99.9% of the time our house is dry. Floods always subside and the sun will shine again.

If we are faithful in Christ, even the very worst of our troubles in this life cannot pursue us into the next.

It’s an ideal opportunity for growth.

Though the apostle Paul experienced many severe hardships, he could still say,  “. . . we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope . . .” (Romans 5:3-4).

Many believers have discovered from their own experience that hardship can actually turn out to be a very positive thing (Psalm 119:67, 71; Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10; 12:7-10).

We can either let trials embitter us, or we can be open to the lessons they can teach us.

There’s so much to learn!


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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How God Stretches Our Understanding

Moving beyond what we know

God designed our minds so that we can absorb new insights much more easily if we can connect it with something we already know. In other words, we move from the familiar to the unfamiliar.

So often Christ taught this way. He drew parallels between common things in everyday life and not-so-familiar spiritual concepts. He used figures of speech such as simile (“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . . .”) and metaphor (“I am the good shepherd . . . .”) (Matthew 13:31; John 10:11).

It’s remarkable how many different ways Jesus describes Himself. Jesus is too big for any one single comparison to be adequate. Jonah, for example, is quite unlike Jesus in some important ways, but in at least one narrow sense there is a parallel, and in that one respect Jesus draws an analogy  (Matthew 12:38-40).

The New Testament compares baptism to a birth (John 3:3-5) and to death (Romans 6:3-7). These are not contradictory but each comparison sheds light on a significant aspect of baptism. In one way baptism is an end (death to the old life of sin). In another sense it is a glorious beginning (a new birth).

Moving beyond what we’ve experienced

The Bible shows us how to have fellowship with the God who is both like us and not like us. The Bible prepares us for life beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. And so God uses His word to help us make that challenging transition from the physical world we are so familiar with to a life that far exceeds anything we’ve ever known.

God uses Scripture to develop in us a whole new way of seeing so that “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

What exciting vistas God lays out before us! Are we willing to move beyond the familiar here-and-now to the less familiar but far more wonderful then-and-there?


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Over Our Heads?


They just didn’t get it!

It’s remarkable how often what Jesus said went right over the heads of His hearers.

When Jesus was talking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, He offered her “living water” that would deeply and permanently satisfy, unlike the H2O she drew from the well.

Her response? “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw” (John 4:13-15). By “living water” Jesus meant the Holy Spirit imparted to believers (John 7:37-39).

When Jesus’ disciples returned from buying bread, they urged Him to eat. Jesus replied, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” The disciples assumed He meant literal bread, but then Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:31-34).

So often Jesus and His listeners were operating on different wavelengths. Since His words were so frequently misunderstood, was He then an ineffective communicator?  As the Master Teacher, He was aiming to elevate the sights of His listeners from the mundane to the spiritual, from the earthly to the heavenly.

He refused to dumb down His message. He was trying to make people think—something many of us would rather not do.

Note this interchange: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Those who heard Him say this thought He meant the Jerusalem temple, but as John explains, “He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (John 2:19-22). It finally clicked!

When we finally get it!

Jesus’ statements are all the richer as we understand them in the context of the Big Picture of the great plan of God. Our faith in Him can be strengthened as we think through His words until a light comes on in our minds, and our faith grows. Those “Aha!” moments are priceless!

I once heard a highly-educated and accomplished man say that in all the various fields of study he had pursued, he has found none more challenging than the study of the Scriptures. How true! There’s more than enough there to keep us occupied for a lifetime.

This is but another evidence that the Bible is what it claims to be: the inspired and living and powerful word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

As a result of its divine origin, for nearly 2,000 years it has been transforming millions of hopeless sinners into the likeness of God’s Son.

Can you think of any other book that could do that?


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Not Much Fun, But . . . .

children in school-tagged

Fun and games?

A teacher told me she disagreed with the idea that school must be fun. To her, school is for learning.

If learning’s fun, great! But what happens when a student graduates from a fun, fun school, only to face a world that can be tedious and frustrating?

The Christian perspective

“. . . we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulations brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope . . .” (Romans 5:3-4).

“Consider it all joy . . . when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

The key to joy is knowing that.

But what if we didn’t know that?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Lessons Sufferers Learn

Tough times teach

All of us go through the University of Adversity (a.k.a. the School of Hard Knocks), and we’d better graduate with honor!

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

Job learned things he did not know before suffering: greater reverence for God; humility.

Only later

God refused Paul’s pleas to remove his “thorn.” Only later could he write, “Therefore I am well content . . . with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

The Prodigal valued home only after experiencing the bitter aftertaste of sin (Luke 15:11-32). Warmly welcomed by his father, he discovered something else: the sweet taste of grace.

What have we learned lately?

man suffering-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Three Ways to Learn

The ideal way

Q: What’s the best way to learn?

A: Listen to what God says in His word—then do it! When we do, a very positive outcome is guaranteed (Psalm 1:1-3; James 1:21-25).

Another good way to learn is by profiting from others’ choices, both good or bad, so we can avoid the pitfalls they experienced (Ezekiel 18:14-17), and imitate instead those whose lives are a blessing (Philippians 3:17).


The hard way

Then the third option. The only way some people ever learn is the hard way. Suffering the consequences of their foolishness, they may decide to amend their ways (Luke 15:11-24).

Note the word “may.” Some are so stubborn that no matter how much misery they bring on themselves, they stay right where they are (Jeremiah 5:3). How sad!

So what’s your learning style?

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