God often speaks to other people. To me, not so much. And yet ten years ago I distinctly heard God. Don’t worry, it was not an audible voice like those muttering homeless guys hear. It was ten words that took shape in my mind on the night after my eldest daughter’s wedding. It was a promise from God: “I am going to bless you and increase your house.” I wept for joy. But the days and weeks turned into years, and still no grandchildren were forthcoming. It wasn’t until seven years later that my eldest daughter informed me that Cindy and I were going to be grandparents. Luca was born on September 5th. He is now three years old and the lad has been more of a blessing to me than I can articulate. He has become more precious than career, a comfortable retirement, possessions, you name it. In short he is more precious to me than me myself.
A week ago my youngest daughter informed me that she is pregnant. Then last Friday my eldest daughter told me (via text) that she is also pregnant, again. My cup runneth over. My wife, Cindy, has nearly lost her mind with excitement and utter joy over the soon-to-be additions to our clan.
We are an immediate satisfaction society. But God does not act on our timetable, no matter how often we pray, beseech, plead, or throw a tantrum. I can’t stress that enough: God DOES NOT act on our schedule. We either have faith that he knows when and how it is best to bless his people, or we don’t. Ten years ago I was forty-nine years old. Back then I would not have appreciated grandchildren as much as I do now that I’m knocking on sixty and the things I once thought so important have faded into the background. The place I’m at has freed me to be completely present when I am with my grandson. He gets my undivided attention. So will the grandchildren who are on the way.
If God makes you a promise, he might deliver right away, or you might have to wait for it . . . a long time. With the benefit of hindsight (a skill I employ with expert proficiency), ten years ago I was not ready for grandchildren. In the church, we often hear it preached that God’s timing is perfect. That isn’t just a trite slogan to help us develop the admirable character trait of patience. It is a reality that must work itself into our faith. So why does God reveal what he intends to do and then he makes us wait, sometimes for many years? I don’t know, but I have a theory: he does it so we can see how much he has helped us grow and prepare for receiving his promised blessing. In other words, so he gets more veneration than he would if he’d simply given us the blessing right away. And that’s very appropriate.
The picture to the left demonstrates the tragic irony of a world that hates Jesus. The picture shows two People magazine covers that I spotted in line at the grocery store today. The one on the left says “Goodbye Bruce, Hello Caitlyn” while the cover on the right says “The Duggars’ Dark Secrets.”
For some unknown reason, the reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting never popped up on my radar. I don’t know if the show is good or bad TV programming. But the brouhaha over Josh Duggar’s recent admission that he molested two of his sisters when he was about 14-years-old definitely caught my attention. Why? Because many people have gone apoplectic in their hatred for Josh and, it would seem, his entire Christian family. But after watching celebrities and media professionals vomit their vitriol at the Duggars, a question popped into my cranium: What if Josh had come out and said that he began to feel like a female in a male body when he was 14-years old? What if Josh said that he was confused back then and so he experimented sexually in a desperate bid to discover his sexual identity? Would his critics be so outspoken today? Would there be any criticism at all? (We all know the answer.) If only Josh had said he felt sorry for touching his sisters inappropriately but now that he is an adult he feels compelled to admit to himself and to the world that he is meant to live his life as a woman? Josh would be hailed as a hero by many of the same people currently heaping on the criticism.
Some people call the Duggars hypocrites because the Duggars supposedly tell others how to live when the Duggars had this big “secret” sin in their own family. Wow! How ironic that those who criticize the Duggars for hypocrisy would themselves be revealed as hypocrites if every detail of their childhood (and adulthood) were revealed. Let’s face it, many who castigate the Duggars are not doing so out of sensitivity and concern for Josh Duggar’s young victims. No, they do it because they hate Christians, certain forms of religion, and specifically they hate Jesus and what he represents. Also, unbelievers despise God’s moral code because it often does not align with their own. They cry hypocrite when they themselves are hypocrites. Here’s the truth: We are ALL hypocrites. Hypocrisy is part of our human nature. Any lout can spot hypocrisy among people and ideologies they loath. And more than a few can spot hypocrisy where there is none. But a wise person can also spot hypocrisy in his own camp.
I feel sorry for the folks who are dumping on the Duggars. Why? Because many of those who hate the Duggars have embraced the terminal ways of this world. Their very souls are in jeopardy and yet they believe with all their heart that they have gained the high moral ground. Their hatred for the Duggars is cut from the same cloth as the hate that ISIS has for Christians in the Middle East. The haters here just dress it up a bit nicer.
A family friend passed away a few weeks ago. We went to his funeral recently, which was held at a traditional Lutheran church. It was a formal, pleasant, and moving ceremony. The organ played, a choir sang, the congregation and pastor did responsive readings, and the pastor preached about the deceased man’s hope in Christ. That evening we went to a Winter Jam concert featuring several famous Christian bands and artists. The music was so loud I could feel the thump, thump, thump, of drums and bass in my chest. Thousands of people attended, though it was predominantly a young audience. Fans danced, sang, swayed, stomped their feet, lifted their hands, prayed, took pictures with their mobile phones, and lit up the arena with thousands of lights from smartphone aps.
I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between the funeral services that morning and the concert that night. And yet both events provided followers of Christ a means to worship God. This raises the question: are some church format’s overly dry while others are uncomfortably glitzy? Absolutely! But I must admit I felt God move my heart in both venues that day. Solemn AND lively expressions of faith have tremendous poignancy when you see that coffin in front of the church altar. Solemn churches show us how to have reverence for the God who defeated death (the most serious subject of all) on our behalf. Lively church venues show us how to celebrate the God who defeated death on our behalf.
If you only experience God’s presence through one style, I encourage you to try new styles now and then. It will enrich your faith and expand your encounters with God. It will empower you to move between diverse expressions of faith without feeling dry or out of place. It will broaden your community of fellow believers. Warning: You may find yourself occasionally visiting a church with an unhealthy style. (If they break out a box of poisonous snakes during worship, well, LEAVE!) I believe the Holy Spirit warns us when we are in an unhealthy style of worship. But we have to be listening to the Spirit’s promptings. On the other hand, it is too easy to let our preferences stifle the Spirit’s attempts at touching our hearts. When we set limits on how we allow God to communicate, well, that’s extreme . . . extremely limiting and unfulfilling.