October 13, 2019 was the beginning of my lesson in heeling (don’t lose your mind here; there’s method to my perceived malapropism). The day before while hiking at Tallulah Falls Gorge here in Georgia with my wife and a friend, I thought I had food poisoning from a less-than-tasty breakfast sandwich purchased that morning. Because of this, I cut my trek short, told the girls to finish the trail and I hiked back the two-and-a-half miles to the car.
I’ve had food poisoning many times in my life and it has never been enjoyable. I had no idea that a part of my body which I had invested fifty-eight-and-a-half years building a relationship with was at that moment strapping on a proverbial bomb vest and by the next afternoon was going to blow itself up and take me with it!
I have never hurt so badly in all my life! I spent the next five-and-a-half days in the hospital recovering from a “perforated appendix with peritonitis.” It’s been over five weeks since my surgery and I’m still not back to where I was before. Yet here is what I have learned from this particular incident.
There are no accidents or coincidences in God’s kingdom. Those who belong to God, who have a relationship with Him and are being obedient to Him to the best of their ability, will never be a victim. The two basic rules I teach are these: Rule #1: God is Sovereign; Rule #2: Never forget Rule #1!
This does not mean that during the depths of discomfort I did not question God as to “Why?” I had to go through this! I hated every single second of this experience. I cried—and I’m not exaggerating here—I literally cried because of the pain of this. I begged the Lord to just give me a few minutes of relief from the cramping, the pain and the nausea. When I could think more clearly sometime later on the Monday after the surgery, the thought crossed my mind, “Does this have any comparison at all to the sufferings of my Lord?”
I still hurt. I still was in incredible distress, yet there was a silence within my soul that demanded I listen. Did I hear a voice? Nope. Just silence and the words I have studied and taught so many times came back to me, “My grace is sufficient; My strength is made complete in weakness.”
Since those who are justified by God through election and salvation, “Must live by faith,” the closest equivalent to our faith is the air we breathe. We get nutrition through our study and submission to God’s Word. We strengthen our relationship with the Lord through prayer. Yet (and sticking to these metaphors) how do we “touch” the Lord? We touch the Lord through our interaction, fellowship and ministry with other believers; those who possess the Holy Spirit of God.
How often have we heard someone say, “The pain was so intense it dropped me to my knees?” If I had not been lying in a bed for five days, I would have easily expressed the same thing. God in His wisdom, however, allowed me to experience a “perforated appendix with peritonitis” to bring me closer to Him—and it began “on my knees.”
When my wife and I used to have dogs, one of the first “lessons” in training a dog is teaching it “to heel.” When walking a dog—especially if you’re a Type A personality with an elevated level of desire to control—you do not want the dog to run ahead of you (dragging you behind them) or to trail behind you where you feel you must drag the dog after you. You want the dog “to heel.” To walk beside you, to stop when you stop and walk when you walk but doing so alongside you and willingly.
Being on this side of the pain, I can now see some of the reasons God allowed my body to attack itself. It wasn’t because He looked at the “books” and saw I hadn’t experienced pain in a long while (this was my first surgery and first hospital stay as an adult). I believe with all of who I am by God’s grace, that God desired me to learn “heeling” and “to heel” to Him through the process of my healing.
I’m still not at the “100%” I desire to be physically. It’s frustrating when I realize the strength and endurance I have lost—yet I am able to build it all back. The process of healing has very few shortcuts. The Lord reacquainted me with the true nature of prayer; not getting what I want, but through trusting Him (through the use of the faith He has given to me) I have found I want what He wants more than I want what I want.
In this there is great benefit and healing while learning to heel.
I am conservative in my politics, my morals, my finances and my theology.
As of November 6, 2012 Barrack Hussein Obama was re-elected to his second term of office as President of the United States.
In reference to my opening sentence, President Obama is my president.
He is my president because I know this is the path God has chosen to allow for this country. Did God do this because Mitt Romney is a member of a cult? Was President Obama re-elected as a means to punish American believers for their lack of trust and commitment to Him? Does the Lord know President Obama is uniquely qualified to avert an upcoming disaster only God can see? Or is it God has prevented us from becoming a nation of bicycle-riding, white-shirt wearing missionaries from Salt Lake?
I mean, really? Seriously.
Evangelicals have perhaps over-invested themselves in the political process. We feel we must mould all of society into our likeness and everyone must believe our beliefs. We far, far too often forget this is not a Christian country; it never was. Oh, there was a time when a Judeo-Christian world-view was not only accepted but practiced, but one should never equate the acceptance of the Judeo-Christian world-view as equal to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Of course this brings up the question, “What is best for the country? I mean, shouldn’t we be about the process, as Christians, of expanding the kingdom of God (I am speaking to believers here), for seeking to pass God-honouring laws and to ‘fight the good fight’?”
Yes . . . . and no.
I am convinced (not by polls but through the study of God’s Word) we are as professing believers to seek and promote God’s laws and to expand His kingdom; yet we are never called by God to legislate change for the cause of Christ through the ballot box!
This doesn’t mean we do not support those who we find in agreement with biblical principles. As many times will occur, we are often called to decide the lesser of two proverbial evils. My thought about this has always been rather straight-forward: who better to determine which evil is indeed “less” than those who know what is indeed righteous and moral?
We should view our calling as believers in Christ as being about the task of performing political triage. I do not believe Christ is best served through single-issue voters who base their support of candidates on a single issue whatever they may be. This is not a call for either compromise or a call to become political chameleons; it is a call for us to live lives of holiness while making the best decisions possible for a pagan, pluralistic dying world and for it to be the best place possible for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to accomplish its task of changing people!
Christians far too often are afflicted with the hubris of ignorance; we fail to remember the basic tenets taught by Scripture. The Pharisees sought to fulfil every aspect of the Law personally and attempted to convince others they must do the same—all to no avail! Just like the Pharisees of Christ’s day, believers today are too invested in arguments regarding life, policies of sound economics and legislation promoting our moral values. The Law only punished unacceptable behaviour and highlighted the reality no one could follow it perfectly—and we have forgotten the importance of living a life changed by Jesus Christ!
We, as believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, must realize who we are and where we live. First, we are sinners saved by the grace of God. As such, we are commanded to convince others of the truth we believe by living lives changed and empowered by God’s Spirit!
I have pastored some incredibly hateful and bitter people who proudly proclaim they are pro-life. While doing this they make everyone around them to desire their life will quickly end and in the process they further polarize the world around them. If we desire to see our world change, to see laws passed which honor God and His Word, then we should heed Peter’s warning in his New Testament letter: judgment begins in God’s house! God’s blessings are not contingent on everybody being obedient to Him; God states, “If my people, who are called by My name!,” If God’s people would obey, then He would bless and heal the land! The whole country does not have to obey God’s laws, just God’s people do.
Second, Christians in the United States need to get over themselves!” We live in a pagan, pluralistic culture and we, as those who carry the name of Christ, are minimally culpable if not outright responsible for the condition of our nation! All believers are expected to be a “sweet smell” of Christ according to the Apostle Paul. Unfortunately, too many who profess the name of Christ just stink.
Far too many Christians act like their whole salvation—this country’s, its economy and security—is dependent on who we elect! Have we so quickly forgotten the One on whom we believe? If there are those who are convinced God has given us “the government we deserve” in order to bring about punishment, have we chosen to ignore God’s call for us to “turn from our sin” and therefore receive His blessing?
If we desire our country to change, believers must be changed by God. If we desire security, we must draw closer to God in obedience. If we want real change in our government and our leaders, then we better pray passionately for them!
Then if we are indeed faithful in the little, God may choose to bless us with the “much” we desire.