Saturday, September 27, 2008

Redemptive Intervention in the Face of ALS

In the last posting to my blog, I used the term, “redemptive intervention.” What is redemptive intervention?

To help clarify what I mean by “redemptive intervention,” I appeal to Merriam-Webster. This standard reference work defines “to redeem” (among other things) as meaning:
-to free from what distresses or harms
-to free from captivity by payment of ransom
-to extricate from
-to help overcome something detrimental
-to change for the better

The same authoritative reference work defines “intervention” as meaning:
-to occur
-to come between points of time or events
-to come in or between by way of modification
-to interfere with the outcome or course especially of a condition or process
-to prevent harm
-to improve

With these authoritative definitions as a frame of reference, I define “redemptive intervention” as meaning that God gets involved in a human life situation so as to restore wholeness, freedom, or whatever is needed to return the person and his/her circumstance to a more desirable, normal, or idyllic situation.

Biblically, redemptive intervention is what God does when Romans 8:28 comes true in your life. It is God becoming an active participant, bringing you and/or your life situation into conformity with his will. It can be because of, or in spite of the situation. Either way, it is God protecting you from harm as he restores and blesses your life with his favor.

Here are some examples.
When God led the Israelites out of Egypt’s oppression and into the land of promise.
It occurred when Joseph was released from prison and promoted to become prime minister in Egypt.
When Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac on an altar, it was God’s redemptive intervention that provided a sacrificial ram in a thicket.
Redemptive intervention occurred when Jesus came into our world and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

In your and my life situations, God’s redemptive intervention is seen when we experience what is needed to alter, modify, or correct a life situation.

Life seems to present many situations in which we need the redemptive presence of God. It may be due to disobedience or having accidentally strayed from God’s leading or directive. Redemptive intervention is often needed when outside forces bring harmful and destructive circumstances into our pathway.

Any situation when you impulsively cry out, “Oh God,” is a setting for redemptive intervention.

The good news is that God has put Himself on record that when we need redemptive intervention, all we have to do is ask. One such promise is “Call unto me and I will answer thee and show you my salvation” (Ps 91:16, NIV). Salvation shown in the face of difficulties and dangers is redemptive intervention.

The redemptive intervention that I need is to be set free from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

When you read this – whoever you are – please set yourself in agreement with me – and God’s word – that “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matt 21:22, NIV). Please join me in this prayer: “Father, in Jesus name and on the basis of your word, I agree with Charles Hodge that he is being set free from Lou Gehrig’s disease and that his body is being restored to health and wholeness.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

As You Walk With the Lord, Change is Always in Your Favor

A friend from a Bible fellowship group I led back in the mid-seventies commented on my August 24 blog entry with these words: "Bill and I will be praying with you and Margaret as you go through this. Just today someone wrote back to me your quote of so many years ago. 'When you are walking with the Lord change is always in your favor.' Those words have comforted me and so many over the years. May those very words (a Hodge paraphrase of Romans 8:28) comfort all of you. You are loved."

Yes, I said that. It was true then – and it is true today. In spite of the stuff Satan is bringing into my pathway, God’s grace touches my life in such a way that it works for my good. The Adversary – who goes about "seeking whom he may devour" – brings a lot of unwanted and destructive stuff into my pathway. But never mind Satan's stuff – God still causes all things to work together for my good because I am walking with the LORD. In the face of the Devil's destructive stuff, I focus on this: God’s "divine power has given (me) everything (I) need for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called (me) by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).

How can I be certain that change is always in my favor? Like anyone else who is targeted by the Devil’s destructive stuff, I must focus on, and access, what God has already provided for me, and what he is doing in my current life situation.

Instead of following the wisdom of the world and look where I’m going, I choose to redirect my focus -- to look for God's leadership in my life and his redemptive intervention in every life situation.

As I walk with the Lord -- following his leadership and allowing his redemptive intervention -- change will always bring his favor into my life.

Monday, September 15, 2008

For better or worse

It was over fifty-four years ago that I stood at a marriage altar with the girl of my dreams and heard her pledge her love to me. She emphasized her commitment with such phrases as “in sickness and in health” and “for better or worse.”

Now, fifty-four years and twenty-five days later, both of those phrases of commitment have been put to the test. She has passed every test like an Olympic gold medalist.

There were times that she stayed by my side as we swam through the murky waters of financial needs in our struggle to rear a family of five children. During those same years, there were many hours of dealing with other hardships and sicknesses.

Possibly the greatest test of her commitment and faithfulness came as we heard the top physician of the Oklahoma center for the Muscular Dystrophy Association confirm what my neurologist had suspected -- ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) – better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Through it all, Margaret – who committed herself to be faithful “for better or worse,” and “in sickness and in health” – has done just that.

It is any wonder that over the years I have come to think of her as “BESTWYF?”

If you ever see a lady driving a car with an Oklahoma license plate reading BESTWYF – that’s my wife.

Believe me, she has earned the name.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Asking Why – Without Doubting

When things get tough or even seem to going in reverse, is it ok with God for us to ask why? Can we ask God why without doubting him?

Jesus did. He did it while he was hanging on the cross. Even though he knew he had come into the world to bear the sins of all mankind and take them to the cross, he asked his Father why He was forsaken while hanging on the cross. Of course He knew the answer to that question, too. For God, in his holiness, could not embrace the sins of the world even when Jesus was bearing them. Jesus knew that. But still, in his torture and agony, Jesus struggled to understand why.

To wonder why in the face of tribulation, adversity, and hardships is human – understandably human. But to doubt God is to question that He cares. It is to wonder if He actually keeps His word. To doubt God is to question that he is powerful enough to meet the need.

But think about it. Asking God “why” acknowledges that he exists; that he cares; and that he keeps his word. Also, asking God why reflects a confident assurance that he can meet the need.

The core strategy for overcoming any and every adversity is maintaining confidence in the compassion, character, and faithfulness of God. When Jesus asked why he was forsaken on the cross, the fact that he asked, “My God, My God, why…” shows that he had confidence in his Father. Jesus struggled with the “why” even though he knew why he was on the cross.

In the face of having been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and learning that my nine-year-old grandson is battling an aggressive lymphoma, my entire being has clamored to understand why.

In reality, I know why. A quick review of the Garden of Eden recaps the answer. God gave Adam authority over everything God had created – but Adam sold out his authority to Satan. Equipped with that authority, Satan goes about seeking whom he may devour. He attempts to destroy everyone in Adam’s race, especially those who are allegiant to Christ. We humans have become targets used by Satan to destroy the works of God.

Just as Jesus asked the Father why, each of us humans must also seek our answers and reassurances from the Father. Even when we wonder why, by asking the Father we reaffirm our faith in Him. Scripture assures that to come to God, a person must believe that he exists and that he rewards. When we go to God with the “why” question, we demonstrate that we are certain of his existence and that we have confidence in his character, compassion, and faithfulness.

When my wonderful wife – Margaret – became aware that I was getting ready to post these thoughts on my blog, she forwarded the following words to me from her computer. They make a fitting conclusion to this entry.

“For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. (Eph. 2:10 AMP) This being true, it is any wonder Satan is after us? He’s trying to get back at the One who has already overcome him.”

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pray for Elijah Charles Smith

Elijah Charles Smith, my nine-year-old grandson, is undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma.

Elijah enjoys listening to the Bible on his personal iPod. He is a young man of faith. My prayer is that Elijah Charles Smith shall live and not die, and declare the works of the Lord. Please join Margaret, me, and our family in an all-out salvo of prayer in faith for Elijah’s prompt return to health.

My personal encounter with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) pales in the presence of this dastardly attack from Satan, who is the enemy of everything good.

This is a part of life that I would rather not experience. Even though Jesus alerted his followers to expect tribulations in this life, the tribulations are never easy. However, Jesus immediately assured that we should not fear, because He has overcome the world. He is in us, and we are in Him.

Great is our God!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Defeating Depression

One of the first things the physician treating me for ALS did, was to prescribe an antidepressant. This seems to be standard for ALS patients. ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) gradually worsens to the inevitable demise of the patient. Hence, depression is a common experience.

However, depression is not restricted to people with ALS. Many centuries ago, the psalmist queried, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm. 42:5, NIV) But he did not reach for an antidepressant pill. He immediately responded out of the innermost recesses of his soul, saying, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (verse 6).

It seems obvious and clear-cut. The Psalmist only pondered his problem briefly and immediately focused on the solution. The solution he found for his depression still works today.

My self-talk should follow the example he set. Why should I allow a medical diagnosis put me in need of an antidepressant? I have a never-failing resource – the same One to whom the psalmist turned for an answer. Therefore, I can sing with the songwriter…

“God is still on the throne,
And he will remember his own;
Though trials may press us
And burdens distress us,
He never will leave us alone;

“God is still on the throne,
And he will remember his own;
His promise is true,
He will not forget you,
God is still on the throne.”

For what its worth, my bottle of antidepressant pills sits unopened on my chest of drawers. Instead, I have opened my inner-being to the unending grace and favor flowing from God – the eternal Author of everything good.