Sunday, July 17, 2011

Where is God?

God is there, even in the midst of uncertainty and even trouble.
I would speculate that most people have experienced a difficult time in their life and wondered where God was in the midst of their trying set of circumstances or if God had forgotten about them, or why He didn’t intervene in their time of trouble.
My wife has given me permission to share this story. A few years before she and I got married, my wife had to have back surgery and was told by the doctor that she would have to remain flat on her back for at least six weeks to recover. During her recovery she quickly used up what little sick and vacation time she had accumulated in her short tenure with a small company. She then had to start taking time off without pay. Her employer ended up letting her go.
She was very upset, lonely and depressed. In that moment she began asking God questions like, “Lord, where are you in all of this? I had to have back surgery and now I’ve lost my job.”
While she believed her back injury occurred while on the job she didn’t pursue any wrongful cause on the company’s part because she really just wanted to be done with it all. I won’t go into all the details, but the company she had worked for was not a good environment to be in and some of the employees were not positive influences in her life. Even still, it was difficult for her to lose that job especially when she was hurt and didn’t have another job to step into.
During her recovery and time away from work however, she began to spend more time in God’s word, meditating on Scripture and going through a Bible study. Her relationship with God and faith in Christ was strengthening with each day.
A few months went by before she approached a temp agency to find some work so she could pay her bills. She took a series of tests to measure various skills and, while she had a degree from The University of Texas at Austin, she was offered only a temporary secretarial position. The temporary position however, was with a Fortune 100 international company and she was paid more in that position than at the smaller company from which she’d been let go. She worked hard at her new job and was appreciated and recognized for her performance. Within nine months she was hired on full-time and given a raise with full benefits. The next year she was promoted and accepted into a two-year management-training program and rotated around in various departments within the company to gain more experience and a bigger picture of how things operate. With that opportunity her income doubled! A few short years later she managed a project and led her team, even as the youngest member, to receive the company’s Excellence Award, which is the most prestigious award within the organization. She was flown to the company’s headquarters in New York with her team and presented the award. (Knowing she was a UT grad the company also gave her two coveted tickets to the Texas vs. OU game that year.) She felt on top of the world.
Where was God when she underwent back surgery and was let go from her job? He was there all along; allowing her to go through difficulties because he knew what type of character it would produce in her. God had to remove her from that unhealthy environment to take to her a better place. God was protecting her from bad influences and used that situation, as painful, lonely and confusing as it might have seemed, to teach her to rely completely on Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Throughout Scripture we can read of story after story of how God used tragic circumstances to mold and shape the lives He used. It should be no surprise to us then that when He decides to use one of us He may take us through some difficult times.
Imagine being Joseph as recorded in the book of Genesis. Here’s the short version: One day Joseph is the favored son and the next day his brothers sell him into slavery never to be heard from or seen again. Joseph probably thought his life was pretty much over. He would never see his family again and would now be forced to serve at the pleasure of his master. Joseph had to get to a point where he would have to rely on God completely. God also wanted to build character in Joseph’s life and teach him some lessons along the way, mainly, lessons in humility. Joseph continued to trust in God, work hard and he was eventually elevated to second in command of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. Through the wisdom God gave him, Joseph was able to save the people of Egypt from a great famine. Later when Joseph was reunited with his family, he forgave his brothers, telling them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Most likely we will never experience being sold into slavery like Joseph, but many of us may go through a time when we wonder if God is even aware of our hardships. What do you do when you find yourself in one of these situations?
If you are going through a tough time right now, trust in God and continue trusting in Him. Stay faithful to Jesus Chris and believe in His faithfulness to take care of His children. Look for the good in the midst of the situation and try to discover what God may be trying to teach you or even protect you from. It may sound silly, but along with prayer regarding your situation, begin to praise God in the midst of all your trouble and acknowledge His sovereignty over everything. When you do you will be amazed how the anxiety you’re feeling will begin to shrink.
Dig into Scripture and meditate on God’s word. Even if you’re not sure what to read, don’t procrastinate, just open up your Bible. I am always amazed at how often I seem to find stories in the Bible that I can identify with. God’s word not only teaches us how to live, but encourages us through our difficult times. It’s one of the ways God communicates with his people.
Keep your head up, move forward and continue to work hard. Growing up I once heard my father say “There’s nothing unspiritual about hard work.” You never know who may be watching you and observing your work ethic. Even if no one else sees you, remember that God is always watching and it is our Lord that ultimately rewards us. No employer or person could ever give you what God can.
If you’re not experiencing such a circumstance look for the opportunities to minister to and encourage those who are going through a difficult time; they are all around you.

*I wrote this post for the July 2011 edition of Frisco Style Magazine and is printed on pages 76-77 (

Saturday, July 2, 2011

You're In My Seat

Just after my wife and I were married we decided to support Buckner’s Shoes for Orphan’s Souls program. A few months after making our first donation we were invited to attend the annual R. C. Buckner Founder’s Day dinner held at a fancy hotel in Dallas. We were excited and felt privileged to be invited to this event.

On the evening of the dinner we dressed up in our finest attire, doing our best to appear sophisticated. When we arrived at the hotel and checked in we were told that we could sit in open seating. As we entered the banquet room it was filled with who’s who. I wanted to get as upfront a seat as possible so after saying a few “hellos” I walked my wife all the way to the front row. I noticed there was no name on the table so I sat down and took a sip of the water at my seat. Moments later a middle aged man walked up to us and informed me that we were sitting at his table reserved for his family and that he was being honored that evening. How embarrassing? I had just taken a sip from the guest of honor’s glass. Immediately my mind went straight to Luke 14:7-11 which says,

When he [Jesus] noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Each time I go to a banquet I am reminded of that embarrassing event and of Luke 14:7-11. On most occasions and unless I have an assigned table or seat I will now try to wait until everyone has sat down and then fill in at an open table (not wanting to repeat that embarrassing moment). Not every time, but sometimes as a result of waiting I’ve ended up at a much better seat than I might have picked out on my own.

One great example happened to me during this last 82nd Texas Legislative Session in Austin. I was attending a luncheon and was subject to open seating. I waited until everyone at the luncheon had found a table and sat down. While I was still in the doorway entering the banquet room someone asked me where I was sitting and when I told them I had not yet found a seat they invited me to sit at their table. Would you believe I was invited to sit at the head table on the front row along with a state senator, two state representatives, the two guest panelist, and two senior level executives (one from a fortune 100 and one from a fortune 500 company)? As the program portion of the luncheon began the state representative I sat next to went up on stage to make a few opening remarks and introduce the guest panel. During his opening remarks he mentioned me by name and the organization I was with.

As I sat there I thought this is exactly what Jesus meant. Don’t try to exalt yourself by rushing to sit in the best seats. If you do you just might get humbled when you’re told the seat was meant for someone more important than you. Instead humble yourself by allowing others to choose a seat before you do and allow God to exalt you. I learned a great lesson the hard way, but I’ve also experienced the reward of doing it God’s way. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not holier than thou and I’m not saying that every time you humble yourself at a banquet you will end up with the best seat in the house. (It hasn’t always happened that way for me). But I will confirm that God’s word is true. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself before the Lord and He will life you up.”

A few months after I posted this blog I was at a luncheon and didn't have an assigned seat. I was standing in the back talking with a County Commissioner and he was about to head toward his seat when he asked me if I had a place to sit. I told him that I did not, but that I typically just wait around in the back for a seat if I'm not invited to a table. (The Governor of Texas was speaking at this luncheon so the room was packed.) The County Commissioner pointed out the only remaining seat in the room which was on the back row so I made my way over to it and sat down. I was literally the last one in the room to take a seat. I sincerely enjoyed visiting and getting to know the people at the table I was sitting at. Then the Governor walked into the room and stopped at my table and introduces himself and starts a conversation. Crazy. It was the one table he stopped at before making his way to his table. If that wasn't enough, the media videoed our conversation and it made the news that evening. (See picture below. BTW - The Governor told me to stay seated.)

Trust God With Your Money

I am grateful to have parents that modeled for me obedience in tithing. After my wife and I married in 2001 we discussed and agreed tha...