WMBI Commentaries

Monday: The God of My Future ProblemsIt happened not long after I returned from a trip to Belize. While rummaging through an accumulated mountain of mail, I came across an article about “the prevenient grace of God.” The phrase-which was new to me-refers to “the grace that goes before.” Here’s a working definition: “In every situation of life God is already at work before I get there. He is working creatively, strategically and redemptively for my good and his glory.” Wow! So many times I tend to limit my thinking to the fact that God’s presence goes with me as I go through life. That’s true, but it’s only part of the story. He’s not only with me now, he’s already way up the road ahead of me. Think about it this way: While I am struggling with the problems of today, God is hard at work providing solutions for the things I am going to face tomorrow. He’s already there, working creatively in situations I have yet to face, preparing them for me and me for them. Or to say it another way: While I’m living in Tuesday, he’s clearing the road for me on Friday. That’s what Proverbs 3:6 means when it says that “He will make your paths straight.” It is the picture of a road that appears to be impassable. Portions are washed out, others are filled with potholes, and still others are blocked by huge boulders. In some places the road apparently becomes a dead end. It is the road of your life. God promises to remove the obstacles if they need to be removed. He will fill in the potholes if they need to be filled. He will redirect the detour so that what seemed to be a dead-end turns out to be the shortest way to reach your destination. The prevenient grace of God means that he is already at work providing solutions for problems I don’t even know I have yet! That blows my mind. Are you worried about next week? Forget it. He’s already there. How about next year? Don’t sweat it. He’s already there. What about that crucial meeting next week? Sleep well. He’s already there. What about that tough decision that looms ahead of you? Fear not. He’s already there. It would be enough if God simply walked with you through the events of life. But he does much more than that. He goes ahead of you, clearing the way, arranging the details of life, so that when you get there, you can have confidence that God has already been there before you. That’s the prevenient grace of God. He goes before his people. He’s at work in the future while we live in the present. With that encouraging thought, I wish you a very good day. This is Ray Pritchard of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park for Mornings on 90.1 FM, WMBI.Tuesday: Laughing Your Way to HeavenA blurb in USA Today reports that children laugh an average of 400 times a day while adults laugh 15 times a day. If anything, that latter number seems high to me. I know a few folks who apparently haven’t laughed since the Truman administration. But then again life is hard and no one gets a free ride and perhaps some people think that laughter is a sign that you don’t take life seriously enough.So I ask myself, Why do children laugh so much? I think it’s because no one has told them not to. They laugh because they haven’t yet learned to doubt everything they hear and see. The world still amazes them. Watch a child long enough and you’ll see him giggle over a ladybug and clap his hands with glee when the cat nuzzles up against him. Somewhere I read that angels fly because they take themselves lightly and God seriously. Our problem is nearly the exact opposite. We take ourselves so seriously that we don’t have time to laugh at anything. Laughter is for kids. Right, and the other part of the statement is true, too. We get so wrapped up in our own affairs that we forget that God is God and we’re not. Children have no problem taking God seriously, which is why Jesus said you need the faith of a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. Do you think we will laugh in heaven? Yes, of course we will. I should also mention that laughter is good for the body as well as the soul. Dr. Lee Berk of the Loma Linda School of Medicine says that laughter plays a role in promoting good health. Laughter helps produce NK cells, which fight infections, including pneumonia and bronchitis. Laughter also suppresses the release of cortisol, a hormone that weakens the immune system. Laughter raises the body’s pain threshold and acts as a muscle relaxer. It also increases circulatory capacity and strengthens organs, helping the body to become more resistant to infection while boosting energy levels. The article had a headline that said, “If you want to live longer, die laughing.” That’s nice, but Solomon said it better in Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Underneath all this is a huge theological truth that we keep bumping up against. As long as we believe that everything depends on us, we don’t have time to relax, much less to laugh. But if we believe in the prevenient grace of God, we can take time to chuckle because we know that the future rests in his good hands. Once again the Bible is proved true. A merry heart doeth good like medicine, a little child shall lead them, and having been saved by grace, we will enter heaven laughing with eternal joy. This is Ray Pritchard of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park for Mornings on 90.1 FM, WMBIWednesday: “All I Said Was…”It is a fundamental mark of spiritual health to be able to say, “I was wrong.” If you want a verse to go with my thesis, take a look at Proverbs 28:13, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” When we sin, Solomon says we only have two options. Option 1 is to conceal it. That means to cover it up, to make excuses, to rationalize, to pass the buck. When that happens, we do not prosper. We go through the internal hell of living with a guilty conscience. Option 2 is clear. Our other choice is to confess our sins and to renounce them. Both those words are important. To confess means to own up to what you did. When you confess your sins, you are saying, “Yes, I did it and I know it was wrong.” When you renounce your sins, you are saying, “I’ve been walking in the wrong path and now, with God’s help, I’m not going to walk in that path anymore. I’m going to change the direction of my life.” Sometimes we make our excuses so subtly that we don’t realize what we’re doing. Let’s say that a husband is describing an argument he had with his wife. He justifies himself this way: “All I said was, ’Is your mother coming again?’” Now you don’t have to be an Einstein to figure out that you’re in trouble the moment those words come out of your mouth. Whenever we preface something with the four words, “All I said was,” we’re in big trouble. Those are four of the most destructive words in the English language. They imply that you are sane, logical and loving and the other person is a nut. When you use those four words, you’re really saying, “It’s not my fault. I don’t have a problem. Somebody else has a problem.” In one of his books Bruce Larson mentions visiting a halfway house in Western Ontario. It was a place where people with severe emotional struggles might come and find healing. The main meeting room was the living room of an old farmhouse. A beautiful sign above the fireplace caught his attention. It read, “Do you want to be right or well?” What a great question. Each one of us faces that same choice. As long as you demand that you be right all the time, your life will never change. Once you learn to say, “I was wrong,” then you begin to get well. This is Ray Pritchard of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park for Mornings on 90.1 FM, WMBIThursday—Stumbling Toward HeavenOver lunch, a man shared how he came to Christ just a few years ago. He said that after his conversion, someone asked him to explain what it really means to be a Christian. What difference does Jesus make once he becomes both Lord and Savior? His answer was profound: “I’ve learned that I can sin but I can’t enjoy it like I used to.” You can still sin, and you can enjoy it for a while, but not forever. God will not let his children enjoy the pleasures of sin indefinitely. Sooner or later, he steps in and brings his wandering sons and daughters back home to him. If we graphed the spiritual experience of most Christians, it would move up and down, up and down, up and down but always moving in a generally upward direction. At any given moment, the graph of your life may show you relatively up or relatively down spiritually. You may be down for a long time, but if you know Jesus, eventually you will start moving up again. I draw two conclusions from this: 1. Direction makes the difference.2. True believers move toward heaven. Although we may fall into grievous sin, that’s not where we belong, and we will not stay there forever. If you are a Christian, you wont be comfortable living in sin. The direction of your life will be away from sin and toward Jesus Christ. It has been said that, “I would rather be one foot away from hell heading toward heaven than one foot away from heaven heading toward hell.” Direction makes the difference. Some people are saved one foot from hell. God turns them around at the very brink of the pit. When they are saved, they still have the smell of brimstone on their clothing. That’s why new Christians sometimes look and act pretty rough. They’ve been snatched from the flames. Some of those same people will still look rough after five or ten years. That’s okay because they started so low. You don’t judge people by where they are now, but where they’ve come from yesterday. The only thing that matters is to keep moving in the right direction. The direction of the true believer is always ultimately toward heaven. Sometimes we fly like the eagle. Sometimes we run with stallions. Sometimes we walk in victory. And sometimes were just stumbling upward. I love that phrase – stumbling upward. That’s the testimony of nearly all Gods saints. We’re stumbling upward toward heaven. This is Ray Pritchard of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park for Mornings on 90.1 FM, WMBIFriday—Steve and LizI’ve known Steve and Liz for almost 18 years. Steve was an elder of the church I pastored in Texas and Liz often sang solos during our worship services. Their children attended Awana with our children. We lost touch when we moved to Oak Park in 1989. About eight years ago Steve came through Chicago on business and we ate supper together. I was surprised to learn that he had started writing poetry, and I recall that he sent me a poem about Nick and one of his friends. Then in 1996 we traveled through Dallas and saw Steve and Liz at a reunion of folks from our old church. That’s when I learned that Liz had been having some serious health problems. A few months ago Steve wrote to say that Liz needed a kidney transplant and that their son Aaron was going to donate one of his kidneys to his mother. After the operation Steve sent me a small book of poems he had written called Plans For You. At a low point he wrote a poem called “The Author of Miracles"- “We need a miracle now, a band-aid or aspirin won’t do, ’cause we need a miracle now. Not a walk on water, or mountain in the sea miracle, but a healing from you. We’ve so little faith somehow, but since all power resides in you, that’s where we’ll rest now. Lord, we’ve just found out, that we need a miracle now, so we send up our request and rest in you now.” Evidently the miracle came in one form or another because the surgery was successful even though Liz’s body keeps trying to reject Aaron’s kidney. The battle continues, the war is not over. In a recent note he commented that trials are difficult mostly because we don’t know when (or if) they will end. Then he added this thought: “Liz and I are beginning to appreciate Job. He kept getting sicker and sicker, yet he refused to curse God and die. (I’m working on a spoof piece dedicated to our choir entitled, ‘The More You Pray, the Sicker We Get.’) Trials are not about time. They are not about double blessings you might get if you endure like Job did. (If Job had bugged out one day early, would he have received anything from God? How many Christians bug out of their college/business/marriage one day early?) Trials are about God. Illness happens because life happens. So you’re having a bad year. So!! Who’s in charge?” “Trials are about God.” What a good thought that is. God is large and in charge. He sees what is hidden to us. We have chosen to believe even when we cannot see, and in that faith we find the strength to face each new day. This is Ray Pritchard of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park for Mornings on 90.1 FM, WMBI

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