Time Tracker

I’ve tried different ways of tracking my time. But I finally found a good app for it. It’s available for Windows and Android, and maybe more. It shares from device to device using either Google Drive or One Drive clouds. I just installed it on my phone and “bingo” — my data was there.

Give it a try. The free version works fine.

Right here for Windows

Or right here for Android.

WorkingHours

Suffering, Evil, and Pain:

Symptoms of BROKENNESS

Many people stumble

… over the question of suffering and evil. They ask, “Why would a good God allow such bad things?” They assume that this question forces us to accept that either God isn’t good, or He isn’t God.

But it isn’t good for finite people to make rash assumptions about an infinite God. We end up either making fools of ourselves or turning God into an enemy. So, let’s consider this question for a bit.

We live in a broken world. But it is a world that looks forward to better things. Pain, evil and suffering are merely the birth pangs leading to a better world. (See Romans 8:16 – 22)

Romans 8:16 – 23

… uses the concept of suffering to explain what it is like to be a Christian. It also gives us some reasons why suffering is important. Notice the two pictures that Paul gives us here. On the one hand we have suffering Christians. On the other hand we have nature, also suffering.

For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (Rom 8:16-23 NLT)

Here are some concepts

… from this passage.

  • If we expect to share in the glory of Christ, we need to accept his suffering. Why should we expect the one without the other?
  • Any suffering we might face is nothing in comparison with the glory we look forward to. So why should we balk at paying the price?
  • God had created man and woman perfect. He had also created nature perfect. In this perfection there was no evil, no pain, and no suffering.
  • Sin changed it all. It broke us, and we died spiritually. God also cursed nature, because broken humans needed a broken home to live in. Now nature is broken too. Broken beings and broken things suffer.
  • God told Eve that she would be saved by child birth. I’m sure that every time that she conceived a child she looked forward eagerly to her labor pains. Maybe this child would be the savior! Nature too is suffering labor pains. Suffering reminds us of better things coming. It is a very foolish mother who thinks that she can have the joys of child-birth without suffering labor pains.
  • It is through suffering that we give birth to the glory in store for us. Nature will also be reborn someday and will be part of a new heaven and a new earth—perfect once more. It will the perfect home for a perfect people who have been reborn with perfect bodies and perfect, sin free spirits.

No mother enjoys the pain of delivering a child. But through that pain she receives a “new” son or daughter. It makes her a mother!

My grand daughter was delivered by C-section. She didn’t go through the pains of being born. But the painful experience of birth is necessary for the health of a child. She suffered later because she didn’t suffer those pains. Even so, we wouldn’t become perfect people living in glory without the labor pains we suffer here on earth.

Join the society of the broken

… living in a broken society on a broken earth. But birth pains never last forever. The time is coming, and coming soon, when the pain will burst into GLORY!

God’s Grammar…

Every writer knows that active voice is better than passive voice. The same is true in our spiritual life. Here is a short list of spiritual active voice elements and their passive voice opponents. Let God work in your heart to eliminate your passive defaults.

Light 

Darkness is not the opposite of light. Rather, it is the absence of light. God is the source of all light, and He wants to share His light with you. In turn, you should share light with those around you, so that darkness can be driven out of their lives. 

"You are the light of the world.... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mat 5:14-16)

Good

Evil is not the opposite of good. Rather, it is the absence of good. Just like light will always overpower darkness, so good will overpower evil. So if you struggle with evil, allow good to fill your life. If you feel as if darkness is taking over your life, flood your life with light!

Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. (Rom 12:9)

Love

Hate is not the opposite of love. Rather, it is the absence of love. Like light overpowers darkness and good overpowers evil, so love will always outdo hatred. Allow God to fill your heart with his love and hatred will need to flee. 

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1Co 13:4-8)

Peace

Turmoil is not the opposite of peace. Rather, it is the absence of peace. Like light, good, and love, peace is active and will always overpower turmoil. Let the peace of God fill your heart, and turmoil will go.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (Joh 14:27)

Counterfeit Voices

Where God offers good things to us, the devil usually comes up with a counterfeit to sidetrack us. He gives us positive thinking instead of good, and transcendental meditation instead of peace. He promotes toleration to replace love, and social reform to replace goodness. 

Don’t be satisfied with counterfeits!

You can have the real thing.

Jesus is Coming!


“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.” (Mat 24:36-42 NLT)


Are you ready? 

What did God REALLY Promise You?

Introduction

The following passage from Psalms 37:4 has troubled a lot of people. They feel that it makes a promise to them that God has ignored. For instance, they might feel that this verse promises them that God will give them a marriage partner and a family. This is their desire and they feel that they are meeting the caveat.

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

But is this what God is really saying in this verse? Is this a blank check that you can cash anytime you feel like it? Can you actually force God to give you whatever you want?

Context

It is important to consider the context of a verse before we base a strong conclusion on it. When we isolate a verse from its context, it is easy to make it say anything we want it to say. So note the following statements also found in this Psalm.

  • Trust in the Lord, and do good
  • Commit your way to the Lord
  • Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him
  • Do not fret
  • Cease from anger

In fact the first eight verses of Psalms 37 list behavior patterns God expects of us. The rest of the Psalm then goes on to clarify the promises in the first part. When you read the verses carefully, you will notice that the promises are actually future ones. While God is free to give us these things anytime that He wants, He might wait until we get to heaven to do this.

Compare Other Verses…

I’m troubled by the number of people who try to coerce God into doing what they want. Some feel that He promises us wealth and power. Others try to claim marriage partners under this promise. Some go so far as to blame God for being unfaithful to His promises if he doesn’t do this.

In the New Testament, Paul faced a similar situation in his life. He had a thorn in the flesh and he felt that it was hindering God’s work. But God viewed it from a different perspective.

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:7-10)

What is Your Desire?

In the passage above, we have a clear example of a time when God’s will conflicted with a Christian’s desire. So does this mean that this contradicts the verse in Psalms 37?

I don’t think so. It just clarifies it. Since God doesn’t contradict himself we need to understand that in a situation like this we need to understand the two passages in a way that they complement each other. There are several ways we can do this.

In the first place, God understood Paul’s desire better than Paul did. Paul felt that he could serve God better if God would heal him. So his real desire was to be able to serve God better. God knew him better than he knew himself, and told him that he would be a stronger witness with the thorn in his life than he would without. In fact, if God removed Paul’s thorn, it would lead to people glorifying Paul rather than God.

Paul did want to glorify God, from the bottom of his heart. So he was willing to praise God for his weakness and accept God’s verdict. So did God fulfill His promise? I think Paul would have said that He did.

God’s Will, Not Mine

Jesus faced this same situation in the garden before His crucifixion.

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt 26:39)

Sometimes we simply need to lay down our desires at the feet of God and say, “You know best, Lord.” If Jesus needed to do that, how can we expect anything else?

This means that we might need to give up…

pexels-photo-415571.jpeg

  • health
  • our job
  • having a spouse and family
  • wealth and possessions
  • friends
  • etc.

God told Paul that, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” If we want to serve Christ from the bottom of our heart, then isn’t it our deepest desire to have His strength made perfect within us? This means that we must be willing to lay our personal desires on the altar at His feet. God doesn’t refuse to honor His promise. He just changes our desires so that He can honor them.

Read the book Hinds Feet in High Places for a wonderful illustration of this.

Using an Outline Template in MS Word

Using Heading Styles in Word

To get the biggest benefit from all this, you need to turn on your Navigation pane in Word. Click on the view tab and make sure it is turned on, as in the screen shot.

 

 

 

When you have done this, the navigation pane will show up on the left part of the document window. Click on headings to show your outline. I find this a very handy way to navigate through a longer document. You can also right click on a heading and promote or demote it, or drag and drop it somewhere else.


If you click on the Home tab in your Word ribbon, you will see the styles, somewhat like above. You can then type in a number of headings and points using the normal style, then sort them by highlighting and applying heading styles. If this entirely new to you, find some YouTube videos that show you how to use styles. In my opinion styles are one of the most powerful features in Word, and you need to know how to use them. You will save a lot of time in formatting when doing longer documents.

Word’s Templates

This is what my outline looked like when I finished it. You can download this document by clicking HERE

You can download this file and play around with it. Or you can download this template and use it to build your own outlines.

This is a very cursory treatment of an important subject. I know that this doesn’t fit at all into some people’s way of working. But with some time it can become second nature to you.

Outlining Made Simple

An Outline is a Snapshot

Years ago, before the days of Windows, I picked up a freeware or shareware outliner. During those days I was teaching at a Bible school in Ohio every winter and I needed good outlines. I discovered that an outliner forced me to think more logically.

Now I’m not necessarily promoting that you need to get outlining software. In fact I built a little template in MS Word that does the same thing, even adding numbers and letters and all those good things. It allows me to drag points around, demote them or promote them, etc.

But my real point here is that outlining gives a different perspective of your book, essay, sermon, or Sunday school class. It forces you to pick out your main idea, the one big thing that your presentation is about. It also forces you to go through your thoughts and see which ones can be used as legs on which your presentation can stand. Everything else needs to fit into one of those “legs”. If it doesn’t, you need to throw it out.

That’s right. I said (or wrote, for all you purists out there) THROW IT OUT. It might be a really good illustration, definition, or theological term. But if you have to “bend” it to make if fit, get rid of it.

So how do we go about it?

Building an Outline

I found the paper pictured in the featured image floating around here recently, and it spurred my interest. Someone (I won’t say who) was writing an essay. That person had an assigned subject, I think, which always makes it a little easier. I liked how they (okay, it was one of my daughters, so she) illustrated this. She put the title, the big idea, what this was all about, in the middle and drew a circle around it.

Screenshot - 2018-06-12 , 6_53_54 PM

Okay, that’s easy enough. Next you need to find some legs for the main idea to stand on. Centipedes don’t work well, no matter what your project is all about. Anything short, like a sermon, an essay, or a Sunday school class can’t handle more than about four or five legs. A book might have more, but even a book can be too broad in its approach.

In this case, the writer picked three legs: bad effects of computers, good effects in the workplace, and personal benefits. If she had known that a thousand people were going to see this posted online, she would have improved it a bit more. This was more or less off the cuff with a time limit on the finished product.

Screenshot - 2018-06-12 , 6_50_59 PM

Notice how she then started to flesh out the various legs with more ideas.

Screenshot - 2018-06-12 , 6_49_46 PM

Notice that we haven’t used all of the points yet. So we continue adding to the legs, like you can see below.

Screenshot - 2018-06-12 , 6_46_10 PM

Note that B.3.b could have been turned into A.3 since it is actually a bad effect. In that case, B.3.a would become part of B.3 since you shouldn’t have a single point under another point.

In Conclusion

The last part of the process, in this case, was transfering this into a full blown essay. You also might want to transfer it into PowerPoint, or print it. But this kind of a process is almost guaranteed to improve your writing or speaking. It will force you to discipline yourself in presenting your ideas from a logical perspective.

It will also be a big aid to those who need to read what you wrote, or listen to what you say. It will take some self-discipline if you aren’t a logical thinker, but do it anyway. It’s like switching from hunt and peck typing to touch typing. It will slow you down at first but eventually the benefits will be HUGE.

Note: I'm going to try to follow up and post my MS Word template so that you can download it and use it, if you want. I'll include instructions with it, but its easy to use.

A Tribute to my Father

My father was the kind of person you only meet once in a lifetime and he made a big difference in my life. He died several weeks ago and I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye to him, so I’m writing this instead. Travel with me as I think back over the years.

If I reach way back, I can vaguely remember living on a farm in southern Ontario. I only remember a few things from that, and they are mostly about my mother. But apparently my father had an accident with a farm gate that resulted in him having a very stiff neck and a serious arthritis condition called ankylosing spondylitis.

Ever since I knew him, my father lived in pain. He couldn’t turn his neck. But he persevered and held down a job, and eventually owned his own business. The doctors said he’d be in a wheel chair by the time he was thirty, but only in the last few years of his life did he use one at times.

My parents were very poor, but they tried hard to give my two sisters and I a normal childhood. I can remember my father pitching a softball for us, and taking us fishing. We had a few family trips, but they were rare enough that we still remember them. 

My father was especially interested in talking to people about Jesus. He was one of the people who actually walked his talk. He would walk the streets giving out tracts, and I remember a wedding held at our house for a couple that he had led to the Lord. We still consider them as part of our family to this day. 

My father also went regularly to a local prison for Bible studies every week for years. There were times that he had to crawl into the house because of his pain afterwards, but I don’t remember him ever staying home because of it. After he had his own business, I worked for him, along with the occasional inmate who was on day parole and needed work. I realize now how he might have worried about me, but those men respected him too much to every be a threat. One of them (I think) did steal his pickup truck once. And another broke into our house, but none of that ever stopped him. 

You can imaging the impression this made on me as a teenager when I started to realize what kind of qualities that my father had. I can honestly say that I had a good relationship with my father pretty well all my life. When I stood beside his coffin and thought back over his life, I couldn’t find any bad memories. None. And I tried, but they weren’t there and still aren’t.

I hope that when I pass on, my children will feel this way about me. I fear they won’t, because I know I’ve failed them at times. Probably my father would say the same, but if he did I don’t remember. 

We found the poem above with his personal papers. I don’t think he wrote it, because it was with a collection of poems people had given my parents when my youngest sister died at two days old. But it described him so well that we put it on his memory card. The pastor in charge at the funeral read it to the audience of his own accord. 

We all knew it was true.