“Hardest thing I’ve done in my life...”
Daily Tests –
Who Needs Them?
in this issue 3 Daily Tests Charles R. Swindoll pressure points
6 What’s So “Good” About Tough Times? Steve Johnson lifetrac
9 My Life in 3-D Robyn Roste 14 moment of insight lifelines
15 Short-term Depression: Hope for the Grey Days Barb Peil laughing matters
16 Chuck— On Church, Criticism, & The Hardest Thing He’s Done Phil Callaway
“Is it possible that God is much less concerned with our
23 My Trials & God’s Values Ben Lowell
physical and material comforts than we might expect?”
Copyright © 2011 Insight for Living Canada. All rights reserved. No portion of this monthly publication may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the publisher. Insights is published by IFLC, the Bible teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. IFLC is an autonomous ministry and certified member of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture passages are taken from the NASB. Printed in Canada. Unless otherwise noted, photography by IFLC staff. Cover photo of Chuck Swindoll by David Edmonson.
DAILY TESTS by Charles R. Swindoll
rs. Moses’ cookbook surely had a special section on “A Thousandand-One Ways to Fix Manna.” Unless I miss my guess, she had tried them all . . . many times. What potatoes are to Idaho, manna was to the wandering Hebrews for 40 long years (Exodus 16:35). They boiled it, baked it, broiled it, ground it, and ate it cold, hot, raw, cooked, sliced for sandwiches, sprinkled on their cereal—you name it, they tried it! When everybody came in to eat, they didn’t ask, “What’s for supper?” but, “How’d you prepare it?” Mealtime was about as exciting as watching paint dry . . . or listening to the minutes of last month’s meeting. The most familiar sound around the table wasn’t slurping or smacking; it was gagging. Oh, how they hated that manna! The book of Numbers tells us they actually lost their appetite because they were sick of looking at all that manna (Numbers 11:6). Everybody remembered the fish, cucumbers, leeks, onions, garlic, and melons back in Egypt—and you gotta be pretty miserable to want a combination plate like that! Hold on here! What was wrong back then? When you look closely at their circumstance, you get an altogether different picture. Let me explain. They didn’t have to work for their food or clothing . . . not one day for 40 years. Every morning, instead of going out to get the newspaper like you and I do, they gathered up from the ground the day’s groceries—delivered to their front door—for 40 years! In fact, God called it “food from heaven . . . the bread of angels” (Psalm 78:24–25). Accompanying the morning miracle was the faithful cloud by day and the comforting fire by night (Exodus 13:21–22), which gave them visible assurance of the Lord’s presence and protection. When thirst came, He
Daily Tests continued from p. 3
quenched it with water that flowed from rocks like rivers (Psalm 105:41). Those people enjoyed a perpetual catering service without cost, limit, labour, or hassle. All they had to do was show up, eat up, clean up, and look up, and yet they got to the point where they resented heavencooked angel’s bread. Already having much, they wanted more. Having plenty, they wanted variety. Having tired of manna, they wanted meat. Exodus 16:4 provides additional insight often overlooked: The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven . . . and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them.” Look closely at those last five words. The manna was more than it appeared to be—basically, it was a test. It was God’s examination, carefully planned, wisely implemented, administered on a daily basis. (Note in the verse the words every day.) God designed the diet to be a day-afterday, week-after-week test of their obedience, their patience, their determination to hang in there in spite of the monotony of the manna. They failed the exam. When I was only a boy, the Swindolls occasionally enjoyed a family reunion at my grandfather’s bay cottage near the Gulf in Deep South Texas. Because the crowds were so large, we’d hire the same man each time to help with the cooking. His name was Coats. His skin was as black as a cast iron skillet, and his quick smile and quaint comments are a lasting memory for me. I remember standing near Coats one evening at sunset, watching him smear the sauce on the chunks of beef cooking slowly over a pit of coals. He was telling me about his life, which had been etched with trouble and tragedy. He
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rubbed his big, leathery hand through my white hair as he knelt down to my height and said: Little Charles—the hardest thing about life is that it’s so daily. It’s so daily . . . what a simple way to say it but how terribly true! The tests that come like a flash and last no longer than a dash seldom do more than bring a brief crash. But the marathons—the relentless, incessant, steady, persistent, continual tests that won’t go away—ah, these are the ones that bruise but build character. Because virtue is not hereditary, God dispenses His “test of manna” to each saint in each generation, watching to see if there will be a heavenly appetite to accept a heavenly food. But most often, to borrow the terms from Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, “the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot” shrink under such demands. God knows that what we obtain too cheaply, we will esteem too lightly. Whatever your circumstance—and however long it may have lasted—wherever you are today, I bring this reminder: the stronger the winds, the deeper the roots . . . and the longer the winds, the more beautiful the tree. Photograph of Chuck Swindoll © 2010 by David Edmonson
Update Our newest Cuba project is well under way! THIS MONTH, translation was finalized and printing began on 30,000 books. We have raised half of the $50,000 necessary to print, ship, and distribute these books to Cuban pastors.
Will you partner with us? visit insightforliving.ca/cuba or call 1.800.663.7639
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)
think we have all been there at one time or another, perhaps even now daily— facing some harsh difficulty in life. A terminal illness, a dying loved one, a financial setback, job layoff, the list goes on. And everybody’s got stuff like that somewhere in life. If you don’t now, just wait. As you think about your tough situation there may be nothing good about it as we define good: nothing favourable, agreeable, pleasant, or even remotely nice. And then, almost as if to mock us, we have Romans 8:28 that suggests those hard times are somehow good.
All things? For our good? How can that be true? How do we reconcile that with our tough life experiences? I believe it comes down to a difference in values. We value different things than God does. I value things like comfort, convenience, ease, and being happy and free from pain. And I value them for those I love as well. They are good things. We should enjoy them when we have them. But God has a different value system. He values Christlikeness over comfort, character over convenience, and holiness over happiness. He has a higher good in view. While we might strive for what is good, He is working for that which is best. How do I know this? The next verse (v.29) gives God’s purpose as “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” That’s
About Tough Times?
by Steve Johnson
Christlikeness. It doesn’t say His purpose for us it to be comfortable in life. His purpose for those He redeems is to be like Jesus Christ. Romans 5:3-4 says God values character over convenience for us, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” God wants us to be people of character—compassionate, self–controlled, and humble to name a few qualities He values. Finally there’s Ephesians 1:4: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” That’s holiness. It doesn’t say He chose us before the creation of the world to be happy and pain free.
Does all this mean God doesn’t like it when life is going smoothly for us and we are comfortable, happy, and pain free? No. It’s just that because His value system is different He will allow those things we value to be set aside for the highest good.
“All things? For our good? How can that be true? How do we reconcile that with our tough life experiences?” If that then is God’s value system, how do I transform the difficulties I face into the good result God desires? It all boils down to our response. As Chuck Swindoll says, “The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 7
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10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how we respond to it.”1 When the unhappy, inconvenient, uncomfortable, and painful things come then we must respond correctly and co-operate with Him. Here’s how: Look beyond the tough stuff by remembering that God is working in and through all things—everything. He has a higher good in mind than just our temporal good. He has eternal good in view as He is fitting us for heaven. Accept the difficult things He allows, knowing that He loves us infinitely and His ways are infinitely wise. The path to peace amid hard times is to resign rather than resist. It was Job who said, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD,” and “Shall we indeed accept good from God
This Month’s Gift
and not accept adversity?” (Job 1:21; 2:10) Resignation in this sense does not mean giving up in the face of adversity. It means saying with Jesus, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Thank God for the hard things knowing that He is using them to accomplish His good purposes for you. Like Dan Burgess’ song, Thank you Lord, As I thank you Lord for the trials that come my way In that way I can grow each day as I let you lead And thank you Lord for the patience those trials bring In the process of growing I can learn to care Ask the Lord daily and humbly for the grace, desire, and power to persevere through your tough times. His assurance for us is the same as it was for Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12). With the right responses, our tough times can be turned into God’s good times. Steve Johnson is the communications director at IFLC 1 Swindoll, Charles R. Strengthening Your Grip: How to Live Confidently in an Aimless World. USA: W Publishing Group, 1998 (194).
The Secret to Facing Hard Days Insight on Discouragement, Guilt and Anxiety paperback, 68 pages Nothing takes the wind out of your sails like discouragement. Who hasn’t known a restless night filled with worries about tomorrow? Our newest resource—and gift to you this month— offers a personal look at God’s provision for your hardest days and walks through what the Bible says about discouragement, guilt, and anxiety. (see centrefold for ordering information)
by Robyn Roste
On lifetrac.ca and facebook.com/lifetrac this month: Shifting Perspectives by Robyn Roste
n the last semester of my fourth year of university I had an assignment, which was challenging to say the least. I had to create a conceptual mixed media photography project based on a chosen photographer’s work. OK, it doesn’t sound that bad. But I promise, it was. My major was print journalism but I was desperate to have photography training so I pleaded with the prof to make an exception. Although I enjoyed the courses immensely, I didn’t exactly “fit in” if you know what I mean. Often people in my courses chattered about hidden metaphor and layers of meaning. Meanwhile I’d find myself staring at the work of a revered photographer and never have any sort of insight. Layers of meaning? I don’t even know how to make layered cake! I think of this experience when I read verses like Isaiah 6:9. “…You will hear my words, but you will not understand. You will see what I do, but you will not perceive its meaning” (NLT). I get it! Sometimes I think we wonder how the Israelites, or the Pharisees, or non-Christians today could possibly miss the work of God in their lives. But the truth is, there are times everyone misses the point. It all comes down to perspective. Chuck Swindoll says we tend to view life horizontally rather than vertically1, and I think that’s a good way to put it. Often when times are tough we will sit and stare directly at a situation, wondering, “What does this mean?” rather than looking up and asking God for wisdom. So how do we look at a discouraging situation and see more than what’s directly in front of us? In one class I studied a photographer whose work intrigued me. She studied perMy Life in 3-D continued from p. 9
spectives by taking a photo of something, then taking a second photo after turning 45-degrees to the right. Her work was displayed in twos, with both images side-byside looking nearly identical. It was just different enough to make me think. When you take a photograph, you are essentially cropping your surroundings and focusing on one aspect of it. Those who view the photo don’t see anything except what you’ve chosen to capture from that scene. By moving slightly to the right, you are capturing more of the scene and if you were to move again… even more. This work spoke a lot to me about the choices we make every day—of what we choose to focus on and share with others. Yes, it’s a choice.
“How do we look at a discouraging situation and see more than what’s directly in front of us?” What if next time life gets rough you tried turning slightly to the right? Maybe for you that means reaching out to God in extended times of prayer, or reading through passages about God’s faithfulness like in Hebrews 11:1, Colossians 3:1, or 1 Peter 1:18. Maybe it means talking to a friend or pastor about your situation. Turning slightly to the right means doing whatever it takes to widen your perspective from what’s right in front of you. It also means you choose to take action, to actively seek God in your situation and keep going. Daily we face difficulties and unfair situations. The truth is life doesn’t make a lot of sense in those times. We ask tough questions and hear resounding silence. Where is God in our trials? Where is our Helper in times of trouble? Life in these times seems muted, flat, 2-D.
For my final photography project I decided to take the perspectives approach, since I found it so intriguing. I started by creating photos in the same manner— taking two shots with the second turned slightly to the right. I tried to find some sort of meaning in the images, but I couldn’t. The images were so similar I was hard-pressed to see much more than what was in front of me. That is, until inspiration struck. I was reminded of another time when I had looked at two nearly identical images side-by-side behind an old device called a stereoscope. Invented in 1838, a stereoscope takes two 2-D images and gives the perception of 3-D depth. Not only does it add layers of perspective, it creates an exciting and engaging scene with treasures to be discovered within. The flat, boring image comes to life. Now energized, I built my own stereoscope-like device and created 3-D images. In the process of taking two images and making them appear as one, I learned how to give life to my seemingly meaningless photos and see them in a new way. It was a transformation in my project and my perspective. Sometimes a slight shift in perspective can make you see everything differently.
How to make a simple 3-D image:
In Matthew 13:13 Jesus said, “That is why I tell these stories, because people see what I do, but they don’t really see. They hear what I say, but they don’t really hear, and they don’t understand” (NLT).
Free mp3 If you struggle with anxiety, this message is for you. No one has the same list of worries, but they all cause the same effect. In Getting Through the Tough Stuff of Anxiety, Chuck Swindoll teaches that worry makes us uneasy and steals the smile from our faces; it adds a frown to our brow; it blinds us to the pleasant possibilities of the future—it rips us off and steals our joy. Don’t let worry steal your joy. Download this great mp3 message and learn how to overcome anxiety at lifetrac.ca
Hearing Important Things
What do you do when you lose heart? We’ve all been there. You’re so discouraged you just want to give up. One of the best cures for discouragement is a good laugh.
1. Take two photos, almost identical, but shift 2” to the right for the second photo 2. In an image editing program, convert the images to grey scale (and then convert the second image to RGB but it will still look grey) 3. On the second image, select the red channel 4. Copy and paste the first image on to the second image 5. Line the two images up as closely as possible. If done right it should look mostly grey with red and blue shadows
Listen or subscribe free online at lifetrac.ca
Comment on this article Robyn Roste is the LifeTrac coordinator at IFLC.
Swindoll, Charles R. “Groanings of a Sad Dad,” Joseph: A Man of Integrity and Forgiveness. Charles R. Swindoll Inc. 1980.
March Featured Resources Experience the Land and the Book
Insights on 2 Peter: Conquering Through Conflict
6 CD messages
10 CD messages
$28.00 reg $40.00
Second Peter is a power-packed letter of warning against moral corruption, doctrinal compromise, and false prophecy. Peter reminds believers that those whose faith rests in the Lord will not only survive, they will be victorious.
$22.40 reg $32.00
Suddenly One Morning: The Shopkeeper’s Story
Family Squeeze: Tales of Hope and Hilarity for a Sandwiched Generation
radio theatre CD, approx. running time 1 hour
$12.00 reg $16.00
This original Easter radio theatre production will help you and your family experience the coming of the Messiah through the eyes of a firstcentury Jerusalem shopkeeper.
Get ready to embark on an exciting journey through Israel with Chuck Swindoll! Hear life-changing messages as Chuck teaches at the very locations where these Bible stories took place.
paperback by Phil Callaway, 192 pages
$14.25 reg $19.00
It is possible to navigate the Middle Ages with grace and style! This guide to “middle-aging” provides fresh insights for bringing joy to life because there’s nothing like a smile to make wrinkles less noticeable.
This Month’s Gift The Secret to Facing Hard Days: Insight on Discouragement, Guilt and Anxiety
Hope for our Troubled Times Set 2 CD messages + paperback, 123 pages
paperback, 68 pages fir st co py
FREE! additional copies:
$9.00 reg $12.00
Walk through what the Bible says about discouragement, guilt, and anxiety in this very personal look at God’s provisions for your hardest days.
$16.50 reg $22.00
Chuck Swindoll speaks directly about our times, charting a path through the troubling changes and disturbing realities that characterize our world. The book has age-specific chapters to help you fearlessly parent your teens from a biblical perspective.
March Featured Resources
$21.00 reg $30.00
$12.00 reg $16.00
Experience the Land and the Book 3 DVDs + Bible companion Chuck delivers six messages on-location from the Mount of Beatitudes, the Sea of Galilee, the southern steps of Jerusalem, and the Garden Tomb. The DVDs also include educational bonus features.
$23.25 reg $31.00
Sunday to Sunday: A Pictorial Journey Through the Passion Week softcover devotional, 74 pages, 8â€? x 11â€? Take a walk through history and experience the events of the Passion Week of Christ. Follow the Lord Jesus day by day as He walks the obedient path to the cross and then to His glorious resurrection from the grave.
Insights on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus
Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus
hardcover, 320 pages
paperback by Wayne Stiles, 192 pages
Journey with Chuck through these books of the New Testament and discover their relevance for your life today. This hardcover edition includes an in-depth commentary of all three books, along with maps, charts, and pictures.
$5.25 reg $7.00
By retracing the windswept roads Jesus took during His earthly life and ministry, you will encounter Him in a fresh and vital way and grow to a greater understanding of His will for your life.
Moment of Insight
One who views life through perspective’s lenses has the capacity to see things in their true relations or relative importance. He sees the big picture. She is able to distinguish the incidental from the essential… the temporary from the eternal… the partial from the whole… the trees from the forest. - Charles R. Swindoll
Swindoll, Charles R. Come Before Winter and Share my Hope, Illinois: Living Books:1985 (508).
by Barb Peil Comment on this article
ome call them “Jonah days”—times when you feel down in the mouth, unable to get a positive perspective on life. But Jonah wasn’t the only person in the Bible to suffer this kind of depression. Elijah also felt overwhelmed. So did King David. Closer to home, depression of varying degrees visits us all from time to time. More than one in five of us can expect to suffer from some sort of depression in a lifetime. And medical doctors tell us that short-term depression is as common as the cold. Depression even casts its shadow over Christians. The only difference is that we have a refuge—a shelter in a time of storm. Glimpses of God beyond the Grey God can and will use this experience for good in your life. You may want to argue, ignore, or shout against your circumstances, but believe that God is working. God does something marvellous in you when, despite your pain, you remain consistent in your desire to trust Him. He teaches you new dimensions to prayer when you feel alone, patience when your world feels out of control, goodness and gentleness when you would rather lash out, and a hope that can never be broken. God will not waste even this difficult time. He will redeem this circumstance and turn it into a gift.
“You may want to argue, ignore, or shout against your circumstances, but believe that God is working.” How to Get Perspective 1. Cultivate intimacy with God. Spend time thinking, praying, and seeking God. Read the Psalms and other encouraging selections and rejoice in His character. 2. Look for good and expect to find it. Your choice of attitude will often determine what you find. Fill each day with thanksgiving. 3. Stop trying to discover why. Although it is not uncommon for depressed people to question God’s presence, character, or plan, some answers are not to be found this side of heaven. Accept that God is in control. 4. Focus on the needs of others. Consider joining an intercessory prayer group or volunteering in your church or community. 5. Choose healthy ways to cope with stress and anger. Whether you talk it out, enjoy an activity, spend time in solitude, or develop a different mindset—find an anxiety-buster that works for you. Depression often brings tremendous depth to our personal relationship with God as we learn to surrender to His direction while travelling through the dark valley.
Barb Peil serves as managing editor and assistant writer at Insight for Living US. Taken from Peil, Barb., “Depression: Hope for the Gray Days,” Insights (Jan. 1999).
On Church, Criticism, & The Hardest Thing He’s Done by Phil Callaway Phil: When my wife and I were first married we began reading Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life and you showed us that faith is not stuffy; it is exciting, it is relevant, it’s filled with joy. Would you still say that after all these years? Chuck: I certainly would, maybe now more than ever. I do meet a lot of grim and heartless folks—they’ve lost their heart for life. I know times are hard. Cynthia and I came to the realization the other day: it’s always been hard. It was hard for my parents, married in the Depression, had their kids during the Depression and shortly after that World War II happened. Boy, that was hard. And then the Cold War. And then teenagers. Now you’ve got to seriously go to school and then the military. And then for me, finding out you’re called to the ministry—that’s hard. You’ve got to go through seminary—that’s hard. It’s always hard. You never have enough money. God doesn’t do skywriting so you have to trust Him by faith. You have to go with what He gives you and let Him guide you and listen to His reproofs and love one another and all that goes with that. It’s always difficult—always. So we’ve learned that since times are difficult there’s no reason why we ought to make it more difficult. We ought to spread some joy. We ought to take God very seriously, but not ourselves all that seriously.
Phil: Well, you’ve been criticized for that, for laughing too much. How do you respond to criticism? Chuck: You know, Phil, it still isn’t fun. I can make light of it, but it hurts. It stings. I think the price you pay for that is that you’re sensitive. Pastors who are worth their salt, care. If you don’t care then nothing affects you and you’re like a piece of steel. But who wants a minister who’s a ball bearing? But if you care, those jabs hurt. Phil: You have waited awhile to do this book, The Church Awakening. Is this a hill you’re willing to die on? Chuck: Yes I am. I’m really concerned, Phil, that we’ve picked up a marketing scheme for something that was never meant to be marketed. I’m saddened, really, to see the silliness that passes for what people call “church.” I weary of guys that feel that if they preach they’re going to be called a dinosaur when they’d have to admit that what changed their lives was strong preaching, the faithfulness, the clarion call of a minister of the gospel who had the guts to stand there and tell you the truth. Why wouldn’t that still work? Do I want to go to a physician who says, “You know, actually, you’re going to be fine?” And I walk out not knowing I have a cancerous tumour in my stomach? But he 15 17
wants me to feel good. He wants me to really sleep well so he says to me what I want to hear. I don’t admire a man like that. I admire him when he says, “I want you to bring your wife and come back this afternoon.” And we sit down together and he says, “Chuck, you have a tumour in your stomach and after the biopsy, I need to tell you it’s malignant. Now, here’s what we can do.” I tell you what—I’m going back to that guy. Why? Because he told me the truth. He didn’t dress like a clown, do a skit, have fun and games, serve punch and cookies and have everybody leave liking life. He said, “Come back with your wife and sit down and listen to me.” Phil: You tell early in the book how your grandfather measured the erosion of a cliff near his cabin when you were a boy and the need for churches to measure where they are on that erosion scale. How can we measure that? Chuck: Well, first of all, we have a book of directions, so let’s just take the New Testament. If you want to, just the letters of Paul, and go to those letters that address the church, like Timothy and Titus, and make a serious study of what they say.
“And I realized—
we are moving south. We’re not moving north on this. This is wrong.”
How are we doing? Are we carrying out the assignment set forth in this timeless, true book? If the answer is no, then where are we off ? Then let’s do a course correction. We had to in our church. We had the wrong elders so we had to dismiss some. Was that easy? Hardest thing I’ve done in my life, Phil. They hate me 18 16
today. They’ll never understand why I did it. I tried to explain it. But we were moving in the wrong direction. Part of it was my fault because I let it go on too long. Much of it was their fault because they really didn’t have a heart for what Scripture taught. They wanted to run it like a business. Phil: How did you recognize that at the time? Chuck: Oh man, by things they would say. And I began to feel more and more like a figurehead. They wanted me to come and preach, not come to the study at the church. They’d run the church like a business, they’d hire and fire. I’d show up and I’d say, “Why do you want me to do that?” And they’d say, “Well, because you bring in the crowd and the money.” And I finally had to say, “Stop. Do you know what you just said?” And they said, “Yes, that’s exactly what we meant.” And I realized then that I’d been too far removed. I was trying to run the seminary, trying to handle several things that were like forest fires, I was writing three books, I was all involved in starting a church and I just thought, They’re good guys, let them take care of it. And I realized—we are moving south. We’re not moving north on this. This is wrong. So I acknowledged it and I said to them, “I cannot work with you. It’s either you or me.” I’d never done that in my life. Never. And I hope never again to do that. And I said, “I take full responsibility because I voted for you guys to be here. I was wrong. We’re going to do this biblically. We’re going to do this right.” The salvation is that it never got to the congregation. I’m telling you more than the vast majority of our congregation ever knew. It never got there, thank goodness, or we would have split the church.
Phil: I think you said in the book that was the most difficult season for you in five decades of ministry. What got you through that time? Chuck: That’s a great question. A magnificent wife who was with me all the way. A handful of very close friends, several of whom were not connected to the church. A body of praying individuals, my extended family, my sister and a few of her friends who knew the depth of what it was. Only Cynthia knows how deep it was. But you see, if I ever go down for anything in my legacy, it will be saving the life of Stonebriar Community Church. I think I did that and I’m more grateful for that than any book I’ve ever written, any sermon I’ve ever preached. I’m grateful that I decided, today is the day. That’s it. I’m not looking the other way any longer. We’re going to turn this thing around. And we did. And the joy we have now is beyond measure. Phil: What would you say to people in the pew who are recognizing an erosion in their church?
Chuck: I have a good friend who is in that position right now. For 21 years he was in a church that was doing it right and now he’s watching the erosion. I’ll level with you, Phil. I’d say you’ve got to talk to people who can make the decisions to bring about a change. If you don’t get anywhere, learn a lesson from Luther who thought he could clean up the Roman Catholic Church. Finally they excommunicated him because he called a spade a spade. But you know what? He couldn’t continue on in that church. So I have to say to some, if you’re in a church where Christ isn’t being exalted and His Word isn’t being taught and truth isn’t taking first place and worship isn’t meaningful and it’s not going to change, you’re in the wrong church. The tragedy is that in some places there isn’t another church to turn to. Hopefully this book will help say, “you know, folks, it’s never too late to start doing what is right.” So as a pastor you can start by saying, “This Sunday morning I stand before you a broken but an honest man to say, ‘I have not been leading this church as I should have and I acknowledge it and I repent before God. I want all
of you to know that’s going to change. I need your prayers, I need your patience, I need courage, I need a team of people around me who will go with me through this. But I want all of you to know we’re no longer going to erode. We’re going to turn this around and here’s why.’” And I would spell out the reasons. If he needs to quote from my book, fine.
“So I have to say to some, if you’re in a church where Christ isn’t being exalted and His Word isn’t being taught and truth isn’t taking first place and worship isn’t meaningful and it’s not going to change, you’re in the wrong church.” But go somewhere to say on the basis of this, “This is the direction I’m going to take our church. Tell me now if that’s not where you want to go. If it’s not, I won’t hang around. I won’t make a scene; I’m gone. I’m going to find a place where we can do it right.” I have the feeling, Phil, that church would stand and applaud that man. Now, some would leave because they want to be entertained. That’s OK. There are lots of places that will entertain you. But I’ve found this, when I do have that cancer in my stomach, I don’t need entertainment. I need somebody who will say, “Come here. I’m going to love you through this because I care about you even if you can’t swallow your food. I’m right here for you.” That’s Christlikeness. 18 20
Phil: You have been in ministry five decades, which makes you 54 years of age, Chuck, by my math—I’m not real good at math. What is something you wish you had done sooner? Chuck: I’ll tell you something negative and something positive. It’s the first time I’ve been asked that in a long time. First, the negative. I would have cared less about what people thought or said. With that I would have cared more what Scripture said. Positively, I would have been a better husband and father. I’d have been better at home. Phil: In what way? Chuck: I’d have been there more. I’d have been more understanding, more forgiving, less demanding. I would have loved them into righteousness. I would have told them how much they meant to me earlier. I tell them often now. But I’d have built a bridge back to my younger son. Both of our daughters have been through tragic divorces. I don’t know where I figure in any of that—maybe I don’t. But every parent feels like maybe I could have said or done something that helped. But sometimes divorce can’t be helped and it’s how you survive. If I had been closer, would they have talked to me more? I would have been a better husband during seminary, a better father when they were little. Phil: One more question: what would you like on your tombstone? What would you like to be remembered for? You mentioned Stonebriar Church. Anything else? Chuck: It’s a good question. I think, “He exercised the gifts God gave him and he did it for God’s glory.” For the full interview with Phil and Chuck go to philcallaway.ab.ca
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My Trials & God’s Values
by Ben Lowell
hat do I expect from God? What should I expect? And, are these expectations shaped more by who I believe God is or what I believe He can do? Are we quickly disillusioned with God when we can’t identify an obvious connection between His faithfulness and our need? For example, I expect God to heal, I expect God to provide my daily meals, shelter, warmth, or a job. We know in advance how we envision these needs being realized but what if His answer doesn’t meet our expectation? Is it possible that God is much less concerned with our physical and material comforts than we might expect? Less concerned with our chosen profession, location, or livelihood? He promises to provide, even bless. But have we somehow equated His provision with our comfort or even our prosperity? In contrast my experience has been that I have learned much more about who God is in times of discomfort than comfort. C.S. Lewis wrote, “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth— only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with, and in the end, despair.”1 Perhaps God is more readily found, more completely understood, in the most difficult and challenging times of life. It is in these times we gain a greater understanding of His nature, His character, and that which He values most. God hears your prayers and He responds. He promises to. But let’s not predetermine what His provision might look like. Let’s not assume how He might best work out His will in our lives. The greatest provision we might have is the ability to trust in His faithfulness despite our circumstance. “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). I’m praying for you today, praying God is at work in the areas of your life that burden you most. But can I ask that you seek God out right now in the middle of it all, discover something new about His faithfulness beyond a way out? Commit to knowing Him, not simply pining for what you hope He will do, but seeking to know what He is about doing within you right now. Just a thought… Ben Lowell is the executive director of IFLC
Lewis,C.S.Mere Christianity, USA: Harper Collins, 1952 (31).
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