As Is – No Warranty

3 05 2016

We recently had the opportunity (if you want to call it that) to look for a ‘new-to-me vehicle’. It became necessary because the transmission in our 12-year-old car started to fail. For many reasons we decided to replace the vehicle rather than fix it. So we were thrown into the not always so pleasant process of purchasing another vehicle. One common item that we saw throughout this process (because of the vehicles we were looking at) is a statement in the window that said, “As Is – No Warranty.”

as is

Now we all know what this statement means. It’s pretty simple really. ‘As Is – No Warranty’ means that there are no promises from the dealer to correct, fix, or otherwise repair any defects that the vehicle may have. You, as the buyer, assume all responsibility for the vehicle. I never did like that statement…As Is. It seems so calloused, so cold. It implies that nothing will be done when problems are encountered. And, let’s face it, when a pre-owned vehicle is in question there’s going to be issues.

As I pondered the meaning of what we were getting ourselves into…God started to impress something on my heart. As Is… It leaves you solely responsible for everything. You’re alone and on the hook for any problem, issue, concern, or anything else that may creep in. The cost of any repairs necessary is placed squarely on the shoulders of the buyer. No one else will come running to your rescue. It’s ‘As Is’ – just how you purchased it. Now…for an extra cost you can purchase an extended warranty. This will cover the vehicle for defects, issues, or whatever – of course depending on the warranty you purchase. The more you want covered…the more the warranty costs.

In life there are always issues, concerns, hardships and problems that crowd in. Sometimes it seems that just when one problem is corrected another issue surfaces. We were never promised a life without troubles though. Jesus told us just the opposite. “…In this world you will have trouble…(John 16:33).” Skeptics would call that an ‘As Is – No Warranty’ statement. No warranties of any kind are implied. The world we live in is going to bring about trouble, trials, and tribulation; and you’re on your own when facing all of them. Any solutions needed are up to you to find and implement. No one is going to help you out. Anyone left alone to face a trial or hardship can tell you that the one thing they would have liked is some help in the middle of it. If we listen to the skeptics they would continue to tell us that it’s just how the world is. We will always be on our own. “It’s you against the world,” they declare. “You might as well just deal with it.”

As Is – No Warranty.

The problem with this is the skeptics never read the last part of that verse. Jesus may have stated that we’re going to have trouble…but He never implied that He would leave us alone to face it. Look at the rest of that verse. “…But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)” Jesus never stated that we would be alone. He says that there’s trouble coming…but that we don’t have to face it alone. It’s declared all throughout the Scriptures that we’re not by ourselves.surrender

• Deuteronomy 31:6 states that God will not leave us.
• Psalm 23 declares that we will never be in want.
• John 14:27 promises that Jesus will give us His peace.

These are just a few of the many statements that we’re not on our own in life. Life in Christ comes with an irrevocable statement from the Creator of the Universe that we will never be alone. Nothing more is needed. No extended warranties are necessary. All of the benefits of the new life in Christ are available the moment we ‘sign the deal’. In the used car world we will have to deal with As Is – No Warranty…but that’s never the case with life in Christ.


There Is No Skip Button

2 03 2016

skip buttonDVR (digital video recorder) is, in my opinion, one of the greatest inventions of all time. I know that it’s the successor to the VCR but there are so many things that make it better. One of the best things about it is the skip button. This one feature grants the ability to skip small or large portions of the programming without watching at all. Have you already watched the first part of the program? Skip. Don’t care for a particular scene? Skip. Do you hate to watch the commercials? Skip. Do you not care about the Super Bowl but just want to watch the commercials? Skip. It’s convenience at the ultimate level!

Webster’s dictionary defines life as, “the period from birth to death.” This definition implies time and space. Both of which are fixed things. They can’t be changed no matter how much we would like them to (unless, of course, you’re starring in the latest science fiction blockbuster). Because of this fact we have to endure things as they come. No amount of wishing will change the circumstances that have happened or will occur.

Sometimes in life we wish there was a skip button. It would make it so much more convenient. We wouldn’t have to deal with any of the things we don’t like. But, alas, there’s no skip button. We don’t have the convenience of skipping the heartache and pain and going right to the fun and bliss. We don’t have the ability to skip disappointment or hurt. Sometimes we have to dig in and weather the storm that blindsides us. Sometimes we have to deal with a difficult circumstance that we would rather avoid. And at other times we get to experience the joy and blessings that life can bring. It all progresses along as a normal cycle. It comes and goes as time and choices that we make dictate the course of our lives. Each moment is experienced. None of them can be skipped.

nopainNo one is immune from wanting to skip things. Who wouldn’t want a way out of painful situations? Even Jesus wanted out of a looming situation that was going to cause Him great pain. When praying in the Garden of Gethsemane He asked if He could get out of what was coming. “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ (Matthew 26:39)” Basically Jesus said, “I really don’t want to do this. Is there any way we can skip this part?” The human part of Him didn’t want to suffer the pain, humiliation, and agony He was about to endure. The key in His response is the last part of the verse, “…not as I will, but as you will.” It was a statement of trust in the Father and His ultimate plan.

There is one other thing about the DVR that I like. It is the ability to slow things down and look at something frame by frame. We are able to look at miniscule movements of characters on the screen and see subtle movements that are sometimes missed in ‘real time’. We need to learn to forget the skip button and search for the ‘slow motion’ button in life. This is the button that lets us stop and see the hand of God in all things. It’s the one that lets us hear the whisper of God when the world is roaring around us. It is the discipline of seeking God no matter what may come. How would it change our outlook if, instead of wanting to skip things, we brought them to God and trusted that He would be faithful to His promises? I’m guessing that it would radically change how we live and view things. When everything is viewed as an opportunity we embrace trouble in our lives rather than wanting to skip it. Then those opportunities can be acted on to enhance and enrich our lives and the lives of others. What we thought was a bad thing can be used as a tool for God’s glory. And it makes the great times that much sweeter.

remote controlUnfortunately life doesn’t come with a remote control. There’s no way to skip the things that we think are useless, painful, depressing…the list can go on and on. Why would we want to remove those things though? They can be moments through which we learn the greatest lessons in life. They’re invaluable opportunities to grow and learn. The ‘skippable’ moments can give us insights that we never dreamed of. So stop looking for the remote because, alas, there is no skip button.

A Safe Place

17 11 2014

One of my absolute favorite set of verses is found in Psalm 91. Pretty much the entire chapter ranks among my all time go Scripture references. But verse two has been bouncing around in my head. In the New Living Translation it reads this way:

“This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.”

Now I’ve heard countless sermons on this passage and, to be quite honest, I’m not going to mention any of them. They were all great, eloquent, encouraging, and uplifting. But the thing that I most hear in this verse has not been preached in any of those messages – that I can remember any way.

Safety is something we all take very seriously. We build it into our playgrounds – known as a safety zone. We build it into our schools and church programs – known as a safety protocol. It’s built into cars and trucks – known as safety features. We take safety so seriously in society that when it’s threatened we take action to protect it. We alter our homes to be safer for our family to relax and enjoy life. Safety is, whether we realize it or not, always at the forefront of our mind. The word safe is defined as, “secure from liability to harm, injury, danger, or risk” according to In fact the example cited is ‘a safe place’. So what do we do when that safe place is not so safe?

At some point our safe place can become threatened and risk of harm is possible. This peril can take many forms from a car accident to a home invasion to a natural disaster. At these times we seek an alternate, more secure place of safety. But what do we do when the threat is not physical? Where do we turn when life is raging around us and our safety and security is threatened? Schools all over the country practice what to do when their safety is threatened. They all have a safe place to run to when peril strikes. The news alerts us to impending storms with tornado watches to help keep us safe. But even with all the preparation there are still those storms that hit us suddenly.

The disciples experienced this very thing. “Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ (Mark 4:36-38 – NIV)” There are no warning sirens or alarms. There are no storm trackers or early alert system. Suddenly, without warning, their safety is threatened.

You know we’ve all seen it. I know I have. It can be anything. The company isn’t doing so well and makes some cuts and suddenly you’re out of work. A child suddenly falls ill and the doctors give a grim outlook. A husband or wife suddenly decides that they’re done and file for divorce. A volunteer makes some accusations and suddenly questions are being asked. Safety is violated and further harm is threatened.

The disciples’ fear must have been overwhelming. They forgot what David knew. “…he is my God, and I trust him. (Psalm 91:2)” To make somewhere your ‘safe place’ you are willing to trust your life to it. Who better to trust your life with than the Creator of life?
Though the storm raged around the disciples they were still in a safe place because God was there. Though the storm rages around us we are safe because He is our safe place. Whatever circumstances we face, though fierce, they cannot threaten our safety. We just need to run to the right place.

Who and why?

16 05 2014

worryIt’s been a crazy week. Timelines on projects have shifted, meetings have popped up, and other things have reared their head. The juggling act is becoming increasingly difficult. The funny thing about all the hustle and bustle is that, while it’s crazy, I’m not then least bit worried about any of it. As I sit here in the main auditorium of our church, writing this post, I can’t help but feel grateful for all of it. I love being Pastor Jeff!

For many of us, at least the men out there, our identity is wrapped up in our work — the better it goes the better we feel. Just the opposite is true as well…if work is horrible then we don’t do so well. Our worth is wrapped up in our successes and failures. Because of this our feelings rise and fall more than the stock market. This, however, should not be. Especially if we know Jesus. We get to sit with the creator of the universe whenever we want to. That drastically changes things. Suddenly the meetings and ’emergencies’ don’t seem so big.

I totally understand that there are pressing issues that need to be resolved. I get that appointments need to be kept and tasks need to be completed. But who we do them for and why should be firmly understood. Do we tread through the day just wanting it to be over? Do we dread Monday and celebrate Friday night and the weekend? If the answer is yes…then I suggest a perspective change.

A little boy ran out into his backyard, bat and ball in hand, declaring, “I am the greatest batter in the world!” He tossed the ball into the air and swung. Strike one! He tossed it up again…missing the second time. Strike two! A third time he tried. “Strike three. You’re out!” He then announced, “I am the greatest pitcher in the world. I have just struck out the world’s greatest batter!”

When we filter our worth through our work we short change ourselves. That roller coaster ride is not a fun one to take. A life of peace, joy, and contentment is ready for all of us. We, just like that boy, need a different outlook. Paul said it this way, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Colossians 3:23 — NLT)” The writer of Ecclesiastes said this, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…(Ecclesiastes 9:10 — NIV).”


Maybe we have the issues we do because we’re not doing all we can. Do we go through our days and years trying to skate by? that’s not the way we were created. God created us for so much more. He put so much potential inside all of us. We just need to tap into it.

Or maybe we just need to change our perspective. Do we dread the days to come? Do we loathe the tasks that we are assigned and wish we could be doing something else? If the answer is yes…then it’s possible that our perspective should change. Life is not about the things that you can get…it’s more about the things you can give.

It’s time to get off the roller coaster. Change who you’re working for and why you’re doing it When that happens…joy, peace, and a different value is established. Have fun! Work for the Creator rather than the created.

For more posts like this one head over to Working For Christ. You won’t be disappointed.

How Will You Spend It?

28 04 2014

questionIt’s hard to find the time to do some things. They’re good things too. I love writing on this blog. But sometimes it’s hard to find the time to do it. I don’t understand why either. We usually find the time to do the things we want to. We plan the vacations, outings, and day trips to relax and recuperate. The date nights with our spouse are not neglected. The play days with the kids are fiercely protected.

So why is it that I can’t seem to find the time to do the things God has laid on my heart? It’s not because He has asked something difficult of me. Sometimes He does but not with this. As I think about this I am reminded of the time that Jesus had to go through Samaria. He did so against the urging of His disciples. While there He met and talked with a woman and that one conversation not only changed her life but the loves of the entire town. Going through Samaria took extra time and effort. There’s also the account of His friend Lazarus. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick. When Jesus heard about it He stayed where He was 2 more days. Staying there meant that Lazarus dies. But it also meant that Jesus had the opportunity to perform a spectacular miracle. Maybe that’s what it is…the extra time it takes. But if I look at the example of Jesus the extra time is worth it. It could mean that someone is touched by Jesus that may not have been otherwise.

There’s one thing we all have in common regardless of financial status, nationality, age, spiritual background, or anything else. We are all given 24 hours to spend each day. The thing about having this time is that we can’t save any of it. We can plan and prepare for certain things but at the end of the day we are left with no extra time. When it’s gone…it’s gone. So how do I find more time to write like God has tasked me to? The answer seems pretty simple. I take the time to do it. Just because God asks something of us doesn’t mean that He gives more time to accomplish it. It’s up to us to figure out how we’re going to divide up the 24 hours each day to get His assignment done.

God gives time

I’m not much of a coupon clipper. I would rather find a store that sells for less than redeem the coupons. I have heard stories of those who have saved hundreds of dollars because they invested the time to find the deals. They didn’t save any time…but the time they spent brought huge rewards. Paul put it this way, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. (Ephesians 5:16 — NLT)” Every minute of every day is an opportunity that God has given us. Some of those opportunities need to be taken to do the things God has placed in our heart to do…regardless of how much extra time it takes. It may be that the extra hour or two spent could have miraculous results. We won’t know until we spend that time. Or should I say…invest that time. That’s probably a better way of looking at it. An investment is designed to give returns back to the investor. If we invest out time in God’s Kingdom the returns that come back could very well be life changing…not only for you but those that the investment touches.

It takes time to do what God asks. We don’t always have the extra time to spend. Trust me when I say, though, that the investment is worth it. So…how will you spend your time?

First of Firsts

3 01 2014

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It’s the third day of the year…of a new year. Most people are looking at the new year and counting the firsts. News channels are detailing the stories of new year babies. Others are looking at goals for the year. As I thought about this year and all the ‘firsts’ that would be talked about my mind drifted to the past and future firsts that we have all experienced.

The first time our kids cried in the delivery room. The first time they walked. The first time they talked. We remember the first day of school and the pictures that we all took. We recall our first job (whether mowing lawns or babysitting…or whatever it was). We remember the first time we drove with our brand new driver’s license. Maybe we remember the first day of our new job after graduating college. The smell of that not-so-new first car (mine was a Ford Bronco II in case you’re wondering).

All of these things are great to remember. And I believe that it’s important to look at the year ahead of us and make goals. We can’t, however, forget the first of firsts while we do this. Just in case you haven’t figured out what I’m talking about let me share this verse. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 — NIV)” We can’t forget that the Creator of all of our firsts is still there, in the beginning of this new year. He was always there…when we took our first step or when we laughed for the first time. He was there during our first heartbreak. He was there on our first difficult school test. He was always there…because He created you.

He is there in the tragic firsts. Like April 10, 1997. That was the day my first daughter stepped into Jesus’ arms. He is there in the joyous firsts. Like January 6, 2014 (this coming Monday). I have the privilege of changing jobs. I get to start full-time ministry for the first time in 20 years (first time ever…really).

trophyAs we look at the past and future firsts we can’t forget their purpose (because they really have one). Paul wrote to the Romans that, “ all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 — NIV)” Some of our firsts are difficult and some of them are not. Whatever the circumstance we can rest assured that God is in the middle of them. He has a vested interest in all of them since He uses them to mold and shape us for His glory.

Some of the firsts I would rather avoid. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like pain. It hurts. But if I avoided the pain I wouldn’t have seen God in the same way that I do now. So if that means that I have to experience some firsts that I don’t like the so be it. I’m willing to if it means God gets the recognition.

As we stand on breaking of this new year I challenge you to look for the firsts. They will teach you something about yourself and God as you walk through them. Remember and cherish the past firsts and the lessons that they taught you. Finally…always remember the First of firsts, God Almighty, is walking through each one of these with you. How do I know that? Well, He promised He would. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8 — NIV)”

It’s All New For All Of Us

30 12 2013

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Well here we are again. It’s the end of another year. We see countless end of the year reviews. We see the year in pictures and hear interviews of the most interesting people of this past year. There is an anticipation of what is to come. An excitement of the new things that the next year will bring. At least for most people it’s this way.

There may be some who are reading this that are in anguish, hurt, or pain because of events this past year. The prospect of another year just means that they must work though more of that hurt and pain. Some of my friends are walking though circumstances right now that resemble this. For those individuals a new year is not exciting. There is apprehension and a longing simply to survive. They most likely won’t be celebrating on December 31.

It is to both of these groups that this post is directed. No matter our circumstances we all stand on the brink of one year ending and another one beginning. Whether the past year was filled with pain and heartache or full of excitement and adventure it is now passing. The next year is upon us. It is and will be what we make it to be.

Paul, when writing to the Corinthian church, said this, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17 — NIV)” Now I realize that this verse is talking about living life in Christ. Isn’t life lived inside of time though? Since we all know it is we can apply this verse (the last half of it) to this part of time in our life.

The old year is gone. It’s over. It’s spent. It no longer exists except in our memories. We can’t change anything about it. Sure it held some pain and hurt. If we look closely there were some good times (maybe even great times) too. But all of them are in the past. They’re gone. We have no way of living them over. I know I’m starting to sound like a scratched CD (or corrupted .mp3 or broken record…depending on your generation). I believe, however, that many times we hinder the growth that God wants to bring about in us because we fail to realize that the old is gone. We can remember the lessons the difficulties taught us and cherish the memories…but none of them can be changed. The milk is spilled.

Although the above is true (we can’t change the past) there is something that can be done about the future. We stand on the brink of an entirely new year. It’s fresh. It’s new. It’s the same for every person on the planet. The Pope will wake up in 2014 with the same number of days in it you do. “…the new is here!”

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Now…I’m not so sheltered to think that we could have hardships that follow us into the new year. We will all have trouble (John 16:33). I’m simply saying that we have a choice how this new year will be lived. We can look back and anchor ourselves to the past. Alternatively we can walk into the new year free to live life as it comes…enjoying the good and conquering the bad.

This coming year is new for all of us. None of us has seen it before. No one knows what it will bring. We all have the same opportunity ahead of us. 2014 is coming whether we want it to or not. It will march into each life the same way and it brings everyone the same thing…a fresh, clean start. How you greet it is up to you.

Really…Don’t Quit

16 12 2013

keep going“Hang in there.” “Don’t give up.” “You’ll make it.” We’ve all heard or said all of these things at least once in our life. I have heard them many times and have said them even more. They’re the default statements to our friends and family when in the midst of difficult circumstances. I really don’t like these statements though. Don’t get me wrong…I always appreciate encouragement…but it just seems like they’re the default things people say.

Most of the time we feel defeated, alone, and abandoned when we’re told these things by the well-meaning. Life has beat us up and we’re on the ropes waiting for the final knock-out blow. The crowd seems to be cheering for ‘the other guy’ and when we look in our corner it’s empty. So what’s the use? Why not give up? We’re done for anyway…right?

Over the last few days I have been listening to Tony Evans’ messages on stewardship. Really they were messages on sowing and reaping (great messages by the way…you should really listen). As he taught, I could tell God was trying to place something in me. Something that I could draw on in the times I’m ready to give up. And then I heard the verse that God had been getting me ready for. Are you ready for it?

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 — NIV)” That verse hit me really hard and it has been rolling around in my head ever since. As I thought about the implications God began to unfold something to me. It is this. Too many people have missed what God was trying to do because they gave up.

One of the things I had to do in Southern California was replant the lawn twice a year. We had to plant summer grass and winter grass. It had to be done every year and I hated doing it. It was a two-day ordeal and things looked horrible after I completed the task. Well…in the beginning it looked horrible. Part of the process was cutting the existing grass down to the dirt so that there was nothing left of the existing lawn. I then needed to plant grass that would survive in that particular season (summer or winter). If you asked me whether I liked how the lawn looked after I was finished with the process I would tell you that it was ugly. Why? Because nothing was there. It looked like a patch of dirt. But oh the joy when I came home from work and saw the first shoots of green grass growing!

Go back to Galatians 6. In today’s society we are accustomed to instant results. We have video on demand, fast food, microwave popcorn, and many other things at our fingertips. Some things though take time. It takes time to grow tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers in the back yard. It takes time for the seasons to change. It takes time for the California Redwoods to grow to their splendor. It’s not instant. There’s a proper time for it to come about. If the tomatoes were picked too soon they wouldn’t taste good.

It is no different in life. There is a proper season for EVERYTHING that comes about. God hasn’t forgotten about us and is carefully keeping an eye out for the proper time..HIS proper time. Sometimes though it depends on us. We have a say in whether that proper time comes about. As much as we don’t want to hear it…don’t quit. Really. Hang in there. Your proper time is coming! God made a promise and He intends to keep it. Just don’t quit.

It Is Well With My Soul

3 12 2013

Over the last three days I have repeatedly heard the story of Horatio Spafford. He is the author of the famous hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. As I listened to the story I couldn’t help but think of the verse in Psalms that reads, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5, 42:11, 43:5)”


If you’ve never heard Horatio’s story it is one of heartache and loss. We have all experienced similar things in life. While on their way to Europe the ship that Horatio’s wife and 4 daughters were on collided with another ship. His wife, Anna, was the only survivor in the family. A few days later, while travelling to meet his wife, Horatio passed the spot where the tragedy happened. It was that day that He penned the words to the hymn.

In some way we can all relate to this man as tragedy and heartache respect no one. They touch the lives of the young and old, rich and poor, male and female. We are reminded of this daily when we turn the news on. Yet there is one thing that we can remember in all of this…the verse in the Psalms.

I would absolutely love to say that we know why tragedy strikes. If we knew that it could be avoided. And wouldn’t that be nice? We could avoid the pain that tragedy brings. We could avoid the loss that it brings. We could avoid all the bad things that it would heap onto us. But we would also miss the grace and mercy of Almighty God in the middle of the tragedy.

“…his compassions never fail. They are new every morning…(Lamentations 3:22-23 — NIV)” I believe that one reason that they are new each morning is so He can pour them out on us when tragedy strikes. The advantage to renewing mercy and compassion is that they never run out. God has plenty to give us when we need it.

That’s why the psalmist could write that verse. “Why so disturbed within me?” The psalmist understood that God’s compassion and mercy was a renewable resource that could be drawn upon in times of trouble, tragedy, pain, and heartache. They continually renew to guide, comfort, direct, and soothe.

questionI can relate to Horatio. I have experienced the loss of a child. In 1997 my first daughter was born. Due to complications she was born at 29 weeks (that’s almost 3 months early). Because she was so early her lungs were not developed enough to bring the oxygen necessary to sustain her life. After 3 days of constantly changing ventilators, Laura went to see Jesus. I remember sitting in the waiting room, praying that I wanted her to stay here. She didn’t and tragedy rolled in. Now, almost 16 years later, I still don’t understand why…but I know that God’s mercy is new every morning.

I’m sure that Horatio Spafford asked why. I know that I did. We all will. We may never know the reasons that life happens as it does. We can, however, know that our soul need not be downcast. Though heartache and tragedy will come…when our hope is placed in God we can say, just like Horatio did, “It is well with my soul.”


26 11 2013

Surprises come in many shapes and sizes. Some are not so good. We get a bad report from the doctor. We lose our job. We’re admitted to the hospital for illness. No one likes those. Sometimes the surprises are good. We get an unexpected end-of-the-year bonus. The report from the doctor was wrong. You get a raise at work. Whether it was good or bad we are suddenly in the middle of something we didn’t expect. Surprise!


I wrote about one of those surprises not too long ago. My grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. Thank you for all your prayers and concern. Well…surprise…he’s going to be just fine. It turns out that the tests showed 5 Large Cell Lymphomas on his leg that have to be removed and that’s it. Skin cancer is all that was there. No chemotherapy or radiation is necessary. Praise God!

I just had a birthday this past November 17th. I turned another decade. Yep…I’m 40. I share my birthday with a very good friend so we decided to celebrate together. Well…it turns out that they were all scheming behind my back! My wife decided that she wanted to throw a surprise party with more friends. So she proceeded to sneakily plan and scheme. All the while I as oblivious. I just thought we were going to have lunch with friends. Well…I was right. But instead of 4 there were about 20 that all yelled, “Surprise!” when I walked in the door. It was a great time. I like those surprises.

Sometimes though it’s not like that. Sometimes there is not a favorable outcome and the surprise is that the family is dealing with a tragedy. In that moment you have no idea which way is up or down. You feel like you’re living in a fog and suddenly you’re in survival mode. Surprise! How can life take such a turn? Many of us have been there. If you haven’t…hold on because it’s coming.

Whether you’re in a good surprise or bad surprise there is always one constant. God is in the midst of all of it. The Bible says that He is always there. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8 — NIV)” Whether we’re rejoicing and celebrating or grieving and surviving God is near. In the surprises that knock the life out of us He is “…an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1 — NIV)” In the surprises that confuse us and turn us around He “…guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3 — NIV)” In the surprises that bring tragedy, pain, and darkness He is right there. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…(Psalm 23:4 — NIV)”

reachGod is there when the surprises bring joy and happiness too. A new family member joins the world and God’s hand was right in the middle of it. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…(Psalm 139:14 — NIV)” He is there when blessings are dropped in our lap from unexpected sources. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 — NIV)” He is even there in the struggle that threatens to overwhelm you…walking through it with you. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2 — NIV)”

Surprises are, by their very nature, unexpected. They have the potential to bring joy and happiness or sorrow and hurt. In the good ones remember to see God’s hand. In the bad ones know that you can lean on God’s hand. Because God is always in the surprises.

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