Why Every Christian Should See “God’s Not Dead” While it’s in Theaters

Gods Not DeadI have a love/hate relationship with the media. I love watching captivating stories on television and in movies. But, as a believer, I struggle with whether that hobby glorifies the Lord. After all, whatever I do, whether I eat or drink or whatever I do, I am to do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) So can I justify spending more money on cable TV and movie tickets each year than in missionary support?

Anyone who is familiar with Bowling for Jesus blog posts knows that I often call attention to the fact that movie theaters resemble temples and typical celebrity worship is more fervent than devotion to Jesus. But we have a lot of downtime while we’re here on earth. So is it realistic we should spend every second of it in prayer and spiritual meditation? Is that what God honestly expects of us? I have to admit that, if so, I am in trouble.

I guess that conundrum explains why I wept through most of the movie, God’s Not Dead, which my family and I saw last night at a local movie theater. To pay for a ticket and sit in a capacity-crowd to watch something that not only recognizes God as the maker of the universe and Jesus as His Son was nothing short of amazing. I guess it bothers me more than I realized that almost every theatrical release fails to acknowledge the creator of the universe except to use His name in vain. If the name of our Father and His Son held no power, as so many claim, why would virtually every Hollywood script include them as curse words?

Admittedly, the acting in “God’s Not Dead” isn’t awesome and the script is not without holes. But Kevin Sorbo of Hercules’ fame does a convincing job, as do several others in the cast. And the script is the best one I’ve noted in a Christian production, to date. So, I urge every believer to see the film while it is still in theaters. We need to stand together and send a message to Hollywood that we are not the vocal minority, as they are so fond of suggesting. The outpouring of love and support for Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson during the GQ interview controversy prove that we have voices and opinions and, more to their point of pain — money to spend.

So don’t wait for God’s Not Dead to come out on DVD to see it. Use your money as a vote for more entertainment that glorifies God instead of openly mocking Him. Then, when the film lands on DVD, buy it to share with family and friends. Until we start putting our money where our mouths are, the acting in Christian productions will continue to suffer and the scripts will elicit nothing but justified liberal criticism. I noticed that several secular websites rated the movie 1 out of 5 stars. Pitiful sub-standard efforts like Ishtar fared even better. The bias is clear. So don’t let another Christian movie suffer in the ratings while you pay to see shows like the unbiblical “biblical movie,” Noah.

God’s not dead. He’s surely alive. He’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion.

 ~Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Jesus

Bowling for Jesus: Not Where We Belong

My family and I went to a party this weekend where we felt completely out of place. Do you know the feeling? We were invited guests. Yet we didn’t know most of those in attendance. And, understandably, the hosts were busy entertaining and chatting with everyone at the event. So we sat in the corner and tried to make casual conversation with passersby, counting the minutes until we could say our goodbyes and move on.

Post election 2012, I feel the same way about my home here in America. Prior to this election, I was never extremely political. With kids to raise and a job to do, I didn’t have the time to monitor newscasts and read commentaries. But, this year, I found myself mesmerized by broadcasts featuring political commentary and voraciously read about trends and predictions. It turns out that all of the pundits I followed were wrong. Every single candidate I voted for lost.

At first, the outcomes depressed me. How could a country which was founded on Judeo Christian principles have strayed so far? But I finally determined, after searching for answers in God’s word, that I shouldn’t be surprised by the voice of the people. What’s more, the prevailing political attitudes are far from novel. Job referenced them thousands of years ago, pointing out the fact that God remains in control:

“He deprives the world’s leaders of reason and makes them wander in a trackless wasteland.” ~Job 12:24

I need to remember that my residence here is temporary. In the words of the Christian band, Building429: “All I know is I’m not home yet. This is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus. This is not where I belong.”

Since I’ve been a believer since 1974, I marvel that this remains such a difficult concept for me to grasp. After all, when I placed my faith in Jesus, my citizenship changed…not just as an American but as a human being. Anywhere on this planet, I am an alien who is just passing through.

“So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household.” ~Eph. 2:19

I shouldn’t be surprised that I no longer feel at home in the world. In fact, the more at ease I feel, the more ardently I should pursue the Lord, who promised to take care of me while I’m here while warning me not to get too comfortable. He also assured me He would have my back while I am here.

“I have given them your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” ~John 17:14-15

I have to confess, at times, I am ready to leave the party. And I’m not talking politics. In many ways, it would be easier to think, act and believe like the masses. It takes a lot of mental and emotional energy to constantly be on my guard. As Christians, we are living in hostile territory, where selfishness, pride and greed are the norm.

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of this world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.” ~John 15:19

When I’m feeling strong, it’s relatively easy to hold on to these promises. But in times of trial, my resolve weakens and my focus shifts to circumstances instead of to my position in Christ. But, thankfully, miraculously, mercifully, because of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins on the cross, my citizenship remains in heaven no matter my earthly situation. If you are a follower of Christ, you too can rest assured this party will end and where we are going, we will never feel out of place.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” ~John 16:33

~ Bowling for Jesus

Bowling for Jesus: The god of entertainment

It’s more difficult for me to write this week’s blog post than usual. The reason for that is my rebellion about the topic. I’ve been arguing with the Lord about it now for quite some time. But I am finally willing to admit that I am being disobedient and double-minded when it comes to television and movies.

Gently yet persistently, the Holy Spirit has been teaching me God’s view on the subject since about 1994, when I became addicted to figure skating broadcasts. That was the year that Tonya Harding hired someone to smash Nancy Kerrigan’s knee during a practice session before the national championships. It was also the year I was hemorrhaging. So I had a lot of down time because I was on bed rest, awaiting surgery. I spent most of it lying in front of a flashing screen.

This is a difficult subject to broach because entertainment is a sacred cow in evangelical circles. Did you get that? Why do we call this kind of thing a sacred cow? The roots of the phrase go back to the golden calf that Aaron helped the Israelites fashion while Moses was on Mount Sinai, receiving the 10 commandments from God.

I wish I could say the standard applies only to me. But I honestly believe that Christians grieve the Holy Spirit when we spend precious time and limited financial resources taking nourishment not from God’s Word and through fellowship with other believers, but bowing to the god of this world… entertainment!

Like the proverbial frog in hot water, we have grown so comfortable in Egypt, we bristle when anyone suggests that it isn’t God’s plan for His children to spend the gift of life in the same way as unbelievers. Just like the world, we:

  • Fill the silence with noise instead of quietly listening for God’s still small voice.
  • Pay to have cable or satellite television piped into our living rooms.
  • Use “extra” money to buy video players, DVDs, CDs, albums and gaming systems.
  • Devote our “free time” to reading magazines about movie stars instead of poring over the Word so we can get to know Jesus.
  • Wait in lines and pay high prices for seats in theaters which are often more ornate than cathedrals and boast not just screens—but altars.
  • Spend so much time at the world’s table, we know more about celebrity trivia than the Bible.
  • Schedule video recorders so we have plenty of programming to pass the idle hours.

This behavior is easy to justify because “everyone is doing it.” Except for the most conservative (even “Amish-like”) Christians, many of us own numerous flat screen TVs and give more money to Best Buy and AMC than to the church. But Jesus warned us about this type of behavior:

~2 Corinthians 10:12

For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

 

~Matthew 7: 13-14

“Enter by the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”   

 

Spiritually speaking, I try to remind myself of this verse whenever I find myself on a very crowded Christian street. If Jesus returned again to earth in the flesh and was sitting in my living room, would I invite Him to watch our family’s programming choices? Do we think it odd that the long-time number one show in the country is called American Idol? Is it accidental that the prize for winning is something our culture values above all else—fame and fortune? Is it coincidental that the other top-rated reality hit, Survivor, rewards lying, cheating and scheming and offers exemption from a token they call the idol?

Few today would argue that Satan, the prince of darkness, has control over the media. Most movies and TV shows glorify exactly the behavior that Timothy cautioned against in the last days:

~II Timothy 3:1-5

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Here’s where things get tough. Maybe you don’t watch mainstream TV or go to R-rated movies. So you can sit back and feel good about making “spiritually mature” programming choices. But I challenge you to consider this: even if the shows you watch, the movies you attend, the books you read and the music you listen to are void of obvious evil, are they for your good?

~Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy  — think about such things.

 

~John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

It’s easy to apply the concept of idolatry to pagans physically turning away from God and choosing instead to bow down and worship a carved image or statue. After all, few of us in America in 2012 own wooden or clay statues of false gods. That practice is mostly relegated to Catholicism in the form of molded images of the saints. So avoiding this type of idolatry is painless for most evangelical believers.

However, that is only a portion of the meaning of idolatry, which God considered important enough to mention 200 times in Scripture. If idolatry were truly limited to this narrow definition, would it be necessary to devote so much attention to it in the Bible and warn of such harsh consequences if it concerns a relative few?

Another definition of idolatry, agreed upon by biblical theologians such as R.C. Sproul, Charles Spurgeon and A.W. Tozer, not often discussed in the Church, is “putting anything before God.” Anything! This means that even if something is inherently good, it can become bad if we put it before God.

~I John 1:21

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

Even if you do not spend more time taking pleasure in entertainment than enjoying God, is it possible that your pursuit of it has made you friends with the world?

~James 4:4

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?”


~I John 2:15

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.


~John 17:14

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

 

~I John 2:15

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

While we are here, we are supposed to feel, act, think and speak differently than those around us. After all; this is not our home. We are strangers. We are aliens. We are not of this world. If we are more comfortable discussing popular culture with our neighbors than sharing biblical truth, I have to wonder if our hearts truly long for heaven or if our roots are buried too deeply on earth.

The good news is that God is ready to forgive and provide us with the strength to avoid temptation. He loves us and wants to restore us to fellowship with Him as soon as we repent and turn from our sin and submit to His lordship over our lives. I find great comfort in Romans 7, where Paul confesses he struggled, much as I do, in my inability to live my entire life according to the courage of my convictions.

~Romans 7:14-19

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

~Romans 7:24

Oh wretched (wo)man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

This encourages me not only because I am relieved I am not alone in my struggle against sin but because it guarantees that Jesus is my deliverer.

~Bowling for Jesus

Bowling for Jesus: A Bird’s Eye View

I have no idea how she got it to stick, but a very determined bird somehow built a nest on a highway sign near the entrance to Lake Arrowhead Village. Somehow defying gravity, the small nest is suspended on the hard metal surface of the sign that says California 173.

Every time I drive by the sign, I wonder why the bird chose to set up housekeeping just outside the breathtaking beauty of Lake Arrowhead. If she had flown only a few yards east, she could have perched in a sturdy pine tree and enjoyed a glorious home right by the lake. Instead, she has taken residence alongside a busy highway, adjacent to several other cold, hard metal road signs.

If I’m honest, I have to admit that I am very much like that bird when it comes to my Christian walk. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am supposed to live an abundant, joy-filled, victorious life in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. And what better invitation could I receive than to walk the path with the One who created it? But instead of entering His sweet fellowship, I usually camp right outside of His presence, fretting about temporal things like money, my diet and my to-do list. When I focus on my vaporous life, I am missing the whole point of being here. In His Word, God repeatedly expresses His goal for the lives He has given us:

“You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

~Psalm 16:11

“Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our heart.”

~Isaiah 26:8

“You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of joy in your presence.”

~Acts 2: 28

 “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.”

~Psalm 95:2

“These things have I spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

~John 15:11

So what are we supposed to do to set things straight? After all, we have to live our lives in these crude cartons until we die or the LORD returns. We have to shower, dress, and work, eat, pay bills, interact with other human beings, clean, pay more bills and sleep. How are we supposed to do all of that while practicing the presence of God? Is it possible? Is it worth the effort? You bet your life it is! In fact, it’s the only thing that IS worthwhile.

In his book, Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper puts it like this:

“(Jesus Christ) is pushing us to see our lives with a single focus, and for the cross of Christ to be that focus.”

We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes Him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that He really is.”

I love that Piper qualifies the way we are to live God-centered, God-glorifying lives: “If we try to display the excellence of God without the joy in it, we will display a shell of hypocrisy and create scorn or legalism.”

In my 49 years on this earth, I’ve discovered that the only way to live a joy-filled life that honors God is to stay in constant, unbroken fellowship with the Holy Spirit. When we commune with Him as we go about our day, we experience a deep sense of joy and purpose.

“Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”

~I John 2:28

The first time I heard about this type of faith-walk was when I read a book by the lay minister Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God. In it, he discussed how he was at peace when he lived as if there were no one except God and him in the world. Sure, he lived a relatively normal life in France circa 1600 AD. But, somehow, in that normalcy, he challenged himself to pursue unbroken fellowship with the Father:

“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things; I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees.”

In other words, stay connected to the LORD by conversing with Him throughout the entire day instead of only at certain prescribed times of prayer and Bible study. Instead of worrying, I’m slowly learning to turn my anxious thoughts into prayers. Rather than fretting about stressful circumstances, I strive to pray. And when I’m thankful, I remind myself to turn it into praise.

Admittedly, I’ve got a long way to go on this path. Hours go by when I realize I haven’t voiced a thing to my Constant Companion. I shudder at the thought that I so often ignore my LORD and Savior. But I’m trying to learn to include Him in everything because the reward of His sweet fellowship is the secret to living the abundant life.

Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? He lays it out for us in easy-to-understand terms in I Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I suppose that instruction applies even to those of us who choose to build our nests on the highway.

Love,

~Bowling for Jesus

 

Bowling for Jesus: Natural Instincts

Our dog, Kuma, is a great workout buddy. Even when it’s snowing, he follows me around -and sighs loudly — hoping his guilt trip will work. And it usually does. Today, while we were walking on the dirt path that follows the lake, he stopped in his tracks and threw himself on the ground and proceeded to roll around. When I realized he was rolling on a dead animal, I yanked his leash and scolded him. But the stench remains. To clean him, I’m going to have to give him a thorough bath.

As we meandered back to the condo, I wondered what would draw him to death. Although scientists are unsure why dogs have this particular impulse, one thing is certain: it is an instinct. And it is not unlike my own natural instinct to rub myself in the things of the natural world, and in the process, cover myself with the vile stench of death. Apparently, I’m not alone:

For the good which I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.

~Romans 7:19-20

Despite the fact I desperately want to obey my Lord and Savior and keep myself unstained by the world (James 1:27), wretched woman that I am, I continue to sin. Now, mind you, I don’t plop down on the dirt and rub myself on dead carcasses. However, all too often, I participate in sin.

While these habits aren’t the ones that Christians (erroneously) rank as the “worst sins” [God says all sin is sin. I John 5:17a “All unrighteousness is sin.”] But, believe me, I am a dirty rotten sinner desperately in need of God’s grace. And one sin I am repeatedly guilty of is filling up with the world’s sewer water, leaving myself stuffed and without room for the Living Water available to me as a child of the King of Kings.

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.  

~Jeremiah 2:13

Jesus answered and said, “If you knew who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

~John 4:10

Living in 21st Century America provides us with plenty of great opportunities and benefits. But it also offers tons of distractions and a veritable bottomless pit of material with which to fill our time and attention. Movies, television, magazines, music, computer and video games, social networking — the list is endless. Our freedom in Christ enables us to decide how to spend our time — feeding our flesh or feeding our spirit.

Next time you are deciding whether to participate in something the Holy Spirit has shown you is not profitable, picture yourself standing by two bodies of water. One is clear and clean and blue, bubbling and moving, while the other is a stagnant pool of brown sewer water, filled with dead bugs, empty beer cans and sludge. Which one do you dive into?

“For you were called for freedom; only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

~Galatians 5:13

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

~Romans 13:14

Satan tries to convince us to spend our valuable, precious time on earth engaged in what he assures us are harmless worldly pursuits. In more than 2,000 years, his MO hasn’t changed a bit.

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Yea, hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’”

~Genesis 3:1

God makes it clear that He wants us to be wise with our time on earth.

“Look therefore carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

~Ephesians 5:15-16

“All things are lawful for me; but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

~I Cor. 6:12

“What is your life? You are a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

~James 4:14

“I am the living bread which came down out of heaven; if any man will eat of this bread, he shall live forever.”

~John 6:51

So, next time you have some down time, I challenge you to partner with me in rebuking the enemy and making a better choice. Put down the remote, magazine or video…and head to your Father for nourishment. Grab your Bible, spend time in prayer or call someone who could use a friend. Or, if you prefer, you could wash my dog — because that’s gross.

Only by grace,

~Bowling for Jesus

Bowling for Jesus: Dead Wait

The first person I knew who died was my kindergarten teacher. My mother tried to break the news as gently as she could, reading select portions of the story which appeared in The Denver Post. Particularly unsettling was the fact she had died in a high rise hotel fire. I wasn’t sure what it meant to die. But my mom said I would never see Mrs. Dale again. And that realization made me cry.

Later that summer, as we were driving along I-25, I sat in the backseat of our Pinto and marveled at the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. With my nose pressed against the window, I stared at the trees, flowers and birds. And, despite my youth, or maybe because of it, I instantly understood a simple but profound truth—someone had to have created the world…and me along with it!

When I asked my parents if they believed in God, they said, “Of course.” But religion wasn’t something we routinely discussed. My father was raised Catholic, serving as an altar boy before his family sent him off to reform school when he was 12. My mother’s family occasionally attended a Presbyterian church in Michigan while she was growing up. But neither of my parents went to church at the time. So I wondered how it was possible they could know there is a God and yet fail to acknowledge Him or include them in their everyday lives.

When my dad died nine years later, I was thankful that he had since professed faith in Jesus and had been baptized along with my mom and me at a non-denominational Evangelical church in Englewood, Colorado. I loved my father. But I didn’t cry when I found out about his death. As shell-shocked as I was by his passing, I knew that his body was in the casket…not his soul.

If you think about it, it’s a bit odd how human beings accept death as a normal part of life. Not that we have a choice. Like taxes, it’s unavoidable. No doubt you know someone who has died…maybe even recently. The past few weeks alone have brought the deaths of American astronaut Neil Armstrong, comedienne Phyllis Diller and the voice of Sesame Street’s Count Jerry Nelson.  In fact, on average, 150,000 people die every day!

So we all know the deal. Even if we enjoy an extraordinarily long life, we will eventually die. So why do we invest so much of ourselves on earth when we know…whatever our beliefs about life after death…that our days here are numbered? And if our days here are numbered, how then shall we live? Here are a few hints from Scripture:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;” whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”~ James 4:14

You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before you; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.~Psalm 39:5

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.~Ephesians 5:15-16

I find particularly poignant the spiritual writings of people who have died—heroes of the faith including every single apostle, Dietrich Bonheoffer, John Bunyan, Amy Carmichael, Oswald Chambers, Keith Green, Brother Lawrence, C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer and David Wilkerson…to name a few. Equally heartrending  is the work done by people, now deceased, who lived their lives on earth apart from Christ. The reason this affects me is because…ready or not, they are all standing in eternity, where we too will be.

So what should we do with the time we have while we’re here? For my part, I want to take my cue from the Apostle Paul:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

~ II Cor. 4:18

By grace alone,

~Bowling for Jesus

Bowling for Jesus: The Point of Pain

While we were still homeschooling, I was driving my kids to Park Day when my left arm and hand went completely numb. Thinking part of my body had fallen asleep, I tried to vigorously shake it awake while holding firmly onto the steering wheel with my right hand so the car wouldn’t swerve out of the carpool lane. The endeavor made it look like I was having a seizure.

“What are you doing, mom? Are you trying to kill us?” Lauren asked, while Brianna and Kaitlin giggled at the wild ride.

“Calm down, girls,” I answered. “I just can’t feel the left side of my body.”

When I realized that the numbness had spread all the way to the middle of my left ear, I tried to hide my panic because the girls were young at the time. I changed course and drove straight to the nearest urgent care, where the triage nurse said I was likely experiencing a TIA. She ushered me straight to the doctor, who examined me and said that he didn’t think I was having a mini stroke. Instead, he thought I was stressed. Call me crazy. But I think he was paying more attention to the three kids I had in tow than to my symptoms.

“I’d skip the park today,” he continued. “But you should be just fine.”

I didn’t skip the park because I needed time with my homeschooling friends, all of whom had stressful kid-filled lives and numerous nonspecific symptoms. Since we were all amateur armchair physicians, we felt qualified to discuss my course of treatment, which included lots of naps and massages. I left the park encouraged but still numb.

Unfortunately, however, even as I tried to shake them, the symptoms refused to subside. In fact, as the weeks wore on, they increased in severity until I could think of nothing except the fact that I was in pain and that I was unable to muster the strength to squeeze a tube of toothpaste. I won’t bore you with the details of my medical odyssey. Suffice to say it all came to a head when I begged a neurologist to order an MRI before I would agree to fill a prescription for medication he was sure could correct my “chemical imbalance.”

As soon as the MRI results arrived, the neurologist’s assistant called and asked me to come to the office immediately so they could schedule my surgery. It turned out that I had Spinal Stenosis and Disc Degeneration, which were crushing my spine from C-5 through C-7. Apparently, the condition is uncommon for someone in her 30s who wasn’t in an accident. Thankfully, surgery did the trick. Almost immediately following my discectomy and spinal fusion, the strength and feeling returned to the left side of my body.

People often ask me why I agreed to let a neurosurgeon slice into the front of my neck and remove some pretty important pieces—and then replace them with titanium mesh. My answer is simple: pain.

Consider your thoughts immediately after slamming your hand in a door, stubbing your toe or dropping something on your foot. If you’re like me, you probably don’t ignore the stabbing pain and focus on the original task at hand. I tend to yell, “Crap” (which, by the way, is something I am working to correct, since I am not a fan of the term).

I think the Lord uses pain to get our attention because we are so easily distracted. We’re human. So our immediate response is to cry about the throbbing and then do whatever it takes to stop the pain—at all costs. A prime example of this is the Apostle Paul, who was given what he referred to as “a thorn in the flesh as a messenger from Satan to buffet me.” Paul says he asked God three times that it might depart from him. But the Lord’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Indeed, God’s grace is sufficient. But it doesn’t always feel like that’s the case. After all, pain hurts. And if I’m being honest, I have to admit I’d rather avoid the whole messy business and live a carefree, easy life. But then I wouldn’t be learning how to glorify God for eternity if my life on earth was a walk in the park. And that’s why we’re here in the first place—to glorify God. Did you catch that? The entire reason we are here is to glorify God. I don’t know about you. But, for me, that’s a startling revelation.

Perhaps the Westminster Catechism summarizes the concept best: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

But that’s not all. The hypothesis appears repeatedly through the Bible:

Isaiah 60:21

“Also, your people shall all be righteous. They shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.”

Psalm 50:15

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.”

Romans 1:20-21

“For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

I Cor. 6:20

“For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

I Cor. 10:31

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

I Peter 4:11

“If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability with God supplies, which in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 14:7

“Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

So what should you do if your pain becomes a distraction? I’m not just talking about physical tenderness, which we can attempt to tackle with the aid of physical therapy and medication. I’m talking about gut-wrenching emotional distress, which has the potential to knock our feet out from under us.

  • Has someone you love hurt you so deeply that it rocked you to your very core?
  • Did someone you love die?
  • Is your son or daughter in rebellion against God?
  • Have you lost a treasured friend?
  • Are you lonely…lost… hurt…helpless?

If you’re in pain, I’ve got great news. God cares. Even though He fully expects us to follow the example of His Son’s journey on earth by glorifying the Father while we’re here, He also knows how difficult it is for us to maintain laser focus. And He offers to help us along the way:

Matthew 14:14

“And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”

Psalm 103:13-14

“As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Isaiah 61:1

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.

If you’re in pain, turn to God. There is no one more equipped to help than Jesus, the Great Physician.

Love,

~Bowling for Jesus