[Also, 'THE LAST WALTZ' - Part 2 Of 2]
Continued from PART ONE.
|'THE RISEN CHRIST' - YARNELL, ARIZONA|
You can think of this blog bit as a combination book review & personal State Of The Union address. The book is ‘THE PROBLEM OF LIFE WITH GOD'. And by “a personal State Of The Union address”, I don’t mean my opinion about the condition of the country right now. (You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you about that! You can see and feel it for yourself.) What I mean is my view of the condition of my own personal mind, body, and spirit union.
One night I was reading some book reviews when I came across a review and some comments posted by a guy named Micah who went by the pseudonym The Heavy Revy. In a couple of comments directed to certain individuals, he wrote the following:
I'd also recommend the book "The Problem of Life with God" by Tommy Nelson. It is the greatest book I've ever read and I've read thousands. If you are struggling with the hard things of life, this book will bless your heart and strengthen your faith. It is a MUST read. … If I had to recommend one book for every Christian to read, it would be this one. It is an awesome book. Hope you find a copy and enjoy it. God bless.
Well, 'The Heavy Revy', Micah, seemed like a really nice guy with a heart for God. And an A-list book recommendation like that is something I simply couldn't resist, so I purchased a copy of 'THE PROBLEM OF LIFE WITH GOD: Living With A Perfect God In An Imperfect World' by pastor Tommy Nelson (2002).
After reading the book for the first time, I felt disappointed. The Heavy Revy's enthusiasm for the book seemed so stellar that naturally my expectation was unrealistically high. I was anticipating something mind-blowing that was going to instantly transform my life. But when I finished the book, my thinking was more like: That's it? That's the greatest book amongst thousands? Gee, what a letdown.
But then about two days later a funny thing happened. And by “a funny thing” what I mean is that God pulled a great, Divine trick on me. Illingworth was right – no matter what move we make on The Chessboard Of Life, God has a way of responding that can turn the board completely around. God is THE Master of masters when it comes to the game of chess ...and life.
A couple days after I finished 'THE PROBLEM OF LIFE WITH GOD' and felt the disappointment with it, I suddenly got the urge to look up some little detail in the book. When I say a little detail, I mean something incredibly stupid, Stupid, STUPID!...
Numerous times in 'THE PROBLEM OF LIFE WITH GOD' author and pastor Tommy Nelson mentions “Rocky Road ice cream”. Now lemme tell ya sumpin': I loves me some ice cream! I could happily live on nuttin' but ice cream. However, I have never particularly cared for 'Rocky Road' ice cream. I mean, it's OK, but it would perhaps be the variety of ice cream I would buy ONLY if NO other choice was open to me.
But for some totally incomprehensible reason I suddenly felt compelled to locate the very first place in the book where Tommy Nelson mentioned 'Rocky Road' ice cream. I had NO IDEA why I should look for that, but the urge was completely overwhelming. So I took my book off the shelf again and started flipping through it. And here's the “little miracle” that God performed: He HID the first reference to 'Rocky Road' ice cream from me! I did find that type of ice cream mentioned in several places but I could tell by the wording that these were not the FIRST mention of 'Rocky Road'.
I kid you not, I spent literally a couple HOURS trying to find what I HAD to find, but I couldn't find it. Now I was ticked off because I'd wasted hours of my time and had scanned every single page where it had to be. I mean, I was going through every chapter page by page but if it was on any of those pages it was completely invisible to my eyes.
I'm a fairly easy-going guy, but I DO have a stubborn streak that arises from time to time (got it from my Ma who got it from her Pa) and God knows this about me. Buried below my usually calm exterior is a stubbornness and a strong will that can make me as determined as a dog digging up a yard because it KNOWS it buried a good bone somewhere in that yard.
So, finally my frustration built up to such a peak that I got angry and thought: FINE! I'll just read this whole damned book again and find that first reference to 'Rocky Road' ice cream!
And that is the ONLY reason that three days after completing 'THE PROBLEM OF LIFE WITH GOD' I read the entire book a second time, cover-to-cover!
But guess what! After reading the book a second time, already knowing everything in it, so I had no unrealistic expectations, I found that I REALLY LIKED THE BOOK! Apparently, God had intended for me to give the book a second chance, and so first, He planted this unexplainable compulsion (NOT “compelsion”, Barney!) in me to find the initial mention of 'Rocky Road' ice cream in the book. Then He literally HID the reference from my eyes, and utilized my stubborn streak to force me to read Tommy Nelson's book again.
Below are just some of the passages that I particularly enjoyed, passages that really said things that I KNOW I was meant to read again and take to heart:
'THE PROBLEM OF LIFE WITH GOD:
Living With A Perfect God In An Imperfect World'
by Tommy Nelson (copyright 2002)
The book of Ecclesiastes is amazing. It answers some of the most troubling questions we face as men and women:
How can I keep from becoming bitter toward God?
How do I deal with the uncertainty of life?
What do I do when I'm not sure of God's will?
As a pastor, most of the heartfelt questions I get asked have to do with what is called the problem of evil: If God is sovereign, He is powerful enough to eliminate evil. If He is good, He would. Since evil clearly exists, God must not be sovereign or He must not be good.
~ page 1
Nature is not heading toward a climactic point but is performing an endless cycle of the same thing every day. You can almost hear the “pocketa pocketa” of the cosmic machine's gears and pistons in motion.
~ page 14
What is the most important verse in the Bible? That's easy. It's Genesis 1:1 - “In the beginning God...” If you want to understand reality, you have to start with God.
~ page 39
In some ways, we'll have as much of a problem with God as we had without Him in the first few chapters [of Ecclesiastes]. That's something I love about the Book of Ecclesiastes: Solomon is brutally honest.
~ page 43
Yet God turned the most evil thing that has ever happened into the best thing that has ever happened. Today we can celebrate Jesus's suffering and death because He triumphed over sin and rose from the grave. For three days, it didn't make sense. On the third day, everything became clear. Jesus had been “delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23)
~ page 57
Can't [God] take your situations and use them for His good? Will He explain it all to you? He will not. God doesn't promise that there will be a “third day” when we will understand all the bad things that have happened in our lives. But He does give us the promises we need to place all our trust in Him. He requires one thing of you in the face of this uncertainty: Don't let what you can't control destroy what you can enjoy.
~ page 58
God has rigged life so that we have to trust Him even though it doesn't always make sense.
~ page 60
Solomon reiterates his earlier point: Do not let what you can't understand destroy what you can enjoy. As encouraged in the previous chapter, go eat some Rocky Road, find some good friends, and read a good book. Go catch a baseball game. Choose a beautiful afternoon, grab your friends and go sit in the stands, get a cold drink and a Snickers, and enjoy the game because we're all going to die someday.
Do you know what the word “lot” means in [Ecclesiastes 3] verse 22? It means a heritage – an inheritance. God gives you fun times right now. God gives you Rocky Road – that's the Hebrew. Don't live in constant fear of what might happen.
~ page 63
[“Most things I worry about never happen anyway”. ~Tom Petty / 'Crawling Back To You']
We are always shaped by pain.
~ page 98
A wise man knows God can change things in a heartbeat. Anytime God wants to, He can turn your world upside down. So a wise man rests in the sovereignty of God, rather than taking matters in his own hands.
So if you have trouble that is heavy on you right now, know that it's all in the sovereign purposes of God. Change what you can change. Be wise. But in what you can't change, rest in the sovereignty of God.
~ page 132
Remain poised. ...Keep listening. Take the first fruits of your wealth and give them to the Lord. Spend time every day in your Bible and prayer. Check yourself for moral purity.
On things you can't control, you can rest.
~ page 133
I know I'm not in control. If the results depended on me, I'd be worried sick. But it's not up to me, it's up to God, and He's a lot more dependable than I am.
I know Who holds tomorrow even if I don't know what tomorrow holds.
~ page 134
In a game of chess, different pieces occupy squares all over the board. The pawns, bishops, rooks, knights, queens, and kings have different abilities and positions of power. But at the end of the game, where do all the pieces end up? In a box.
Solomon says that life is the same way. The righteous and the unrighteous, the moral and the immoral, the goody-two-shoes and the low-down, no-good[nik], egg-sucking dog – they all die. Every last one of them will end up in a box.
~ page 145
Have you asked God to forgive you and surrendered your life to Christ in repentance and faith? Let me encourage you to deal with this issue right now.
If you evaluate this world based on the here and now, you'll be frustrated, confused, and depressed.
Even in difficult times, remember that your day will come.
~ page 155
But how do you live confidently and boldly when you're not sure how things are going to turn out?
~ page 174
Solomon is saying to live boldly and let the chips fall where they may. Live fearlessly in a life you can't always control. If you live scared, you won't have a life. … Still, you have to find balance. Don't let your boldness make you foolish. You can't gamble everything because nothing is a sure bet.
~ page 175
God will get you to His destination, but en route He makes sure you go through things that force you to trust Him.
~ page 176
Too many Christians freeze because they don't know what God wants them to do. They suffer from a paralysis of analysis. When facing a decision in their lives, they want God to tell them exactly what their choices should be. Does God have to tell you what to do? Will God tell you what to do?
~ page 178
I feel the following paragraphs address the idea that I, personally, was MOST meant to take away from Tommy Nelson's book, although there were plenty of other important lessons for me to meditate upon which I found within this excellent publication:
There is a difference between right or wrong decisions and right or left decisions. In the Bible, the will of God always refers to moral choices – decisions where one path leads to sin and the other to righteousness. For these right or wrong decisions, we can know the will of God. It's found in the Bible. We need to pray and pursue the path of righteousness.
For the right or left decisions, God is under no obligation to reveal His plan to us. More than likely, He will not. That's why in Ecclesiastes Solomon says you just have to be bold and act.
Too often, Christians are looking for a no-fault deal. We try to do insider trading with God to get some information that will show us which choice is best for us. But God doesn't do insider trading. He does not reveal His plan to men. ...
God won't tell your fortune; He has already told you your duty. If it's a right or left decision, pray about it and then boldly follow your heart. Instead of withdrawing, let the uncertainties of life make you more faithful.
~ page 179
You have to venture out boldly and let the sovereignty of God be your comfort, not your excuse. Try lots of different things. You never know which ones God will choose to bless. Give yourself every chance to succeed.
Let God be God. Do what you have to do and then trust God's sovereignty.
Even when it doesn't cooperate, life is still an amazing adventure.
[Yeah, I'm looking at you, Nitro!]
~ page 180
We ask, “Should I take this job or that job?” Which job do you want to take? Take it.
If something is not against God's law, you can do it just because you want to. God wants us to enjoy life. We don't always have to turn everything into a mystical decision. If you love God, do what you want to do. God will control things in His sovereignty.
Quit being a worrywart. You can't enjoy life if you're always scared. Live large, go for it, and have fun within the context of holiness.
~ page 183
Read your Bible all the way through every year.
[This recommendation I've already been doing for about the last 20 years. No matter how disheartening my life has become over the years, I never stopped reading The Holy Bible. I can say that much for me.]
There's a story told on pages 204 & 205 that brought a tear or two to my eyes. It's about a Russian woman in Paris encountering a pastor's wife on her way to Detroit by way of Chicago. [Sounds like it could be a pretty WILD SONG.]
But I've decided not to tell that whole story here. If you want to know it, buy Tommy Nelson's book 'THE PROBLEM OF LIFE WITH GOD'. I'll just type the closing few sentences of that nonfiction story below:
You don't have to have great faith, but rather the simple faith of trusting Him with childlike innocence. No matter what you are going through, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The Bible can sometimes seem overwhelming. But the entire Bible was written to bring you to one point.
~ page 205
DON'T WAIT FOR GOD TO REVEAL YOUR FUTURE; OBEY GOD AND FOLLOW YOUR HEART.
We ought not to be paralyzed by fear of the future. We know that God cares for us. If we are seeking to love Him, we ought to follow our dreams and step out in faith to serve Him.
God will determine the outcome. It's our job to walk faithfully with Him along the way.
In the New Testament, there are 1,934 verses that quote the words of Jesus. Almost ten percent of these contain an Old Testament quotation or allusion. Jesus knew the Word of God. … Are you actively applying God's Word to your life?
~ page 211
One problem for me is that I’ve always been expecting this one big moment to occur when God would reveal His plan for me and help me to achieve it. But Tommy Nelson (and Tom Petty) have set me straight on that:
Tom Petty: “Everybody’s waiting on something that hasn’t come yet.”
‘YOU CAN STILL CHANGE YOUR MIND
(You Can Change Your Feelings)’
It's gonna be another hard night
You wanna take it all alone
You wanna face up to your trouble
You wanna face up to your soul
And, baby, you can have it any way you want it
You just get a little lost from time to time
Sometimes it gets a little crazy
Somewhere down inside
But you can still change your mind
You can change your feelings
You can change your mind
Everybody wants all the world can give 'em
Everybody wants to get all they can get
Everybody's waiting on something
That hasn't come yet
And you can hide it for a little while, honey
You can try and just lose it for awhile
Then it's gonna do something to ya
Somewhere down inside
But you can still change your mind
You can change your feelings
You can change your mind
Yeah, and it gets harder by the minute, girl
Oh, it gets harder every day
Listen to me, darlin', oh, you don't have to wait
It's alright, you can still change your mind
You can change your feelings
Just hold tight, EGBOK
If you change your mind
You can change your feelings
God bless Robin, because she seemed to echo and verify messages I felt I'd already received from God via the books 'GOD OF HOPE', 'BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW', and 'THE PROBLEM OF LIFE WITH GOD'.
In the Numerology Chart analysis that my friend Robin Emailed to me (as mentioned in greater detail HERE), she included the following insightful paragraph:
Once again, the 5 has popped up. I like "this vibration is called to transform our daily lives." When you achieve the destiny of the 5... kaboom. Yes, it is in conflict with your Life Path (that dratted 4 that longs for security), but when you can let go and just let those horses run and trust the double 7s to keep you spiritually grounded your life will be one huge adventure. You just have to LET GO. That 4 in the 14 isn't helping you achieve this destiny, so be very aware of it.
(Me – GIRL WONDER)
Well, in walking away from this blog, in vowing to return to daily meditation sessions, and in abandoning the security of life in Airheadzona (no matter how much I dislike life in Airheadzona) and making the bold move to start life over again in a state where I've never lived and in a city where nobody knows my name, I believe I am indeed following the advice to “let go and just let those horses run and trust the double 7s to keep (me) spiritually grounded”.
This is a “right or left decision”, so I am going to “pray about it and then boldly follow (my) heart”.
On this 'Thanksgiving Day', I am thankful for the ability God has given me to start over and to choose to more fully align myself with Him ...again.
I love y’all – every single one o’ ya.
(Yeah, and I mean YOU, too!)
Ladies and gentlemen (for now anyway),
"Stephen has left the blogging."
Having A Nightmare That We Are Elsewhere.
May You Bless And Be Blessed!
|...VAYA CON DIOS.|
"I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
~ Jeremiah 29:11
(aka Denleilu 03:18)
~ Stephen T. McCarthy
I will continue to publish and respond to comments left on this 'Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends' blog for as long as I'm able to (see 'Ye Olde Comment Policy' below). I also intend to keep my blog STMcC Presents 'BATTLE OF THE BANDS' operational for as long as there's an interest in it. I post new music “Battles” there on the 1st and 15th of each month. Feel free to meet me there, to comment and vote. I'd love to interact with you, whoever ya are.
YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.