Life is Hard!

I am a strong believer that God uses everything that happens in life to teach us something about Himself if we will just listen to His Spirit and allow Him to instruct us. Then I search God’s Word to see what God has specifically said regarding what the Spirit has impressed upon my mind.

I am a pen turner and I love to work at my lathe. I have learned many things about life as I work at my lathe. Each step of the process in turning a piece of wood or antler into a pen is painful to the material with which I am working. The process includes cutting, drilling, shaping, sanding, polishing, friction, and pressure. But when the process is complete the material has been transformed; it has new beauty, value, and purpose. Something of little value now has greater value, all because it endured a painful process! Life is full of difficulties and it easy to become overwhelmed. But there is a purpose behind each hardship; they are all part of a process to shape and mold us into some of greater value and purpose. My desire in writing this blog is to encourage and maybe stir up some conversation with the lessons that God has been teaching me through the painful process of life. Life is hard, but God is good. May He continue working His process in my life.

If you are going to read any of my posts be sure to ready "Introduction to Lessons from the Lathe". In that post I lay out the basis for all the other blogs.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Learning about God’s Faithfulness in Spite of My Unfaithfulness

Today's blog is not so much a lesson from the lathe as a life lesson that God was kind enough to teach me. As the title says, it has to do with God’s faithfulness in spite of our unfaithfulness.
The last time that I had my laptop repaired, my computer guy told me that I was living on borrowed time. It had been losing speed, the fan was loud and always running, and it kept shutting down because it would overheat. Last week, I lost internet connectivity. I thought maybe it was just our home internet connection because even our home computer has been slowing down a lot lately. I took it to my daughter’s when I was babysitting the grandkids and ran a “reset” back to a set point past a date when I was sure that my internet had been working. (Do I sound techy or what?!) After that, I updated my anti-virus programs, ran a complete a complete scan and my computer seemed to be running much better. I took it home and it worked well, for about an hour. Then it lost connectivity once again! Needless to say, this did not make me happy. After trying to reset the set point again without success, I knew it was time to put it out to pasture.

This is my business computer so I will need to replace it. Also, with my beginning Centurions this is not a good time for me to be without a computer that connects to the internet. Almost everything that I do for this class will be done on-line. I am a firm believer that, when God calls you to do something, He will provide what you need to complete it. I also believe that God will not do for us what He wants us to do for ourselves. I began asking God to make it clear what He wanted me to do. I reminded Him of His promise to provide all of our needs. I told Him that it really was a need and that I wasn’t looking to replace just because I wanted something new. I asked Him to provide in such a way that I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was His will. Then I began asking for input from people whose opinion I respect. There are many options available and I won’t bore you with the details of my search.
After making five calls to the Apple store in three days, I decided on an iPad. (Brenda hates it when I get into research mode; that is the thing that scares her most about my taking classes. I tend to get tunnel-vision. But that is another article for another day!) The iPad is really an incredible machine. They can do everything that I need to do, plus they function as an e-reader. I can download my books, carry my files, do my word processing, develop presentations, research the internet, and only have to carry one small iPad. Amazing!

On Sunday, money started showing up. First I had an order for 10 personalized antler pens come in unexpectedly. In the morning I was telling a hunter friend about the newest pen I was making; a mock 30 caliber bullet, bolt action antler pen (they are really nice!) I took one for him to look at in the evening and he placed an order for a personalized pen. He showed it to another person, who also placed an order. I showed it to a third person, who bought one of my sample pens. A fourth person asked about placing an order and will let me know next Sunday. I had sung at a funeral earlier in the week and the family gave me some money. Almost all the money that I would need for the iPad was provided in one day. It became very evident to me that God was answering my prayer.
I decided on a new second generation iPad because it was about $100 less than the new third generation iPad. I placed an order and everything was set…

As I tend to do, even after placing an order, I continued to do research and found that Apple was offering a $50 gift card for apps and e-books with the purchase of a new third generation iPad. (This is where the real lesson comes; God’s faithfulness to provide for our needs, I have learned many times.)
Covetousness hit me hard! The second generation iPad met my need; the third generation was just a want. I called Apple again, first thing Monday morning, to see if I could upgrade my order to the newer iPad. The other order had already shipped but they could issue me a return approval. I asked about the “Back to School” deal; they didn’t recognize Centurions as an approved educational endeavor. (I should have realized that I was stepping out of God’s will at this point but temptation is a slippery slope.) Did I have a child in school? Of course; but high school doesn’t count. Do you have any kids in college? (Now, we’re getting to the meat of the story. When you yield to covetousness, it leads to other sins.) Yes, Justin has been taking classes at GRCC; so what if he dropped out last year and I wouldn’t be buying the computer for him either. I am embarrassed and ashamed to say that I lied! I took advantage of an offer for which I did not qualify. But what is the big deal? I really was continuing my education, shouldn’t that count. Wasn’t Apple just discriminating against religious education? And, who would know anyway?!

As I was shaving, looking into the mirror; I got the distinct impression, “Is this the face of a man of integrity?” I was so convicted that as soon as I finished shaving; I, once more, called the sales rep at Apple. I prayed so hard that he wouldn’t answer and that I could just leave a message.  God did allow me to get the answering machine. I left my apology and asked them not to send the gift card since I wasn’t really eligible for it and I hung up; relieved that I had obeyed God.
This is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I do remember that, as a child, my dad had made me take a ball that I had stolen back to the store and apologize to the owner. It is one thing for a three or four year old child to do this, but a 50 year old man?! God is good and His promise to forgive, when we confess, is true. I called a close friend, my “iron sharpens iron” buddy, and told him the story. He gave me grief just as I knew he would. He also encouraged me to keep making good choices and to confess and repent when I blew it. We had a good laugh as only brothers in Christ can have.

Why did I go into so much detail in this story? I wanted you to get a sense of the battle that I faced as I went through this. It is the same battle that we all face many times, every day!  I wanted you to know the shame and disappointment I felt in myself. We should feel embarrassed when we sin; it should prick our conscience. We need to mourn over our sin more often. But I also wanted you to know that God is faithful to His promise to forgive. He knew, even before I choose to sin, that I was going to and He still offered forgiveness. And when I confessed, He extended it and gave peace as well.
There is one last lesson that I want to share. No sooner had I hung up the phone, when the Apple rep called back. He had every right to be mad. I had wasted his time, I had lied to him, and I had taken advantage of an offer for which I did not qualify. He had every right to laugh at me. Who in their right mind calls to do admit to lying, when they have gotten away with it? Everyone takes advantage of the system when they get a chance; everyone stretches the truth. Why was I making such a big deal out of this? He did neither! He had been impressed by my apology. He even shared my message with his supervisory, who also was impressed. They deal with all kinds of people but seldom have someone demonstrate integrity in this manner. More often people are trying to get all they can for as little as they can; even if that means lying, like I had. They wanted me to accept the gift card for just being honest or, if I didn’t feel right about accepting it, to give it away.

I take no pride in this, nor do I present this as a way to manipulate God into giving you what you want. I want you to see how gracious our loving God is. He loves to give us things we do not deserve, simply because we are His children. There have many times that I have asked forgiveness and He has given it, but I still had to suffer the consequences for my actions. I was well prepared to accept any quiescence that He saw fit to give. At first, I wasn’t prepared to accept this response. I had sinned, shouldn’t I have had to pay for my sin. Then I remembered that Christ had already paid the price for all my sin, even this one! If He decided to offer me an undeserved blessing, would I have demonstrated lack of appreciation to refuse it? Isn’t that what many of us do? We tell Christ that we know He has done all that we need for our salvation but that there certainly must be something we have to do to make up for our sin. Why do we have such a hard time accepting God’s free gifts and feel like we have to do something to earn them? If you have to earn it, it is not a gift!
Another thing this story illustrates is how God works all things, even our sin, together for good. I do not understand how He can do this. I do know that I had the opportunity to share the love of Christ with an Apple rep and his manager; not because of my sin but because of my obedience to follow through with God’s prompting to not only confess it to Him but to Apple as well.

God is faithful and gracious even when we are not; especially when we are not!
God is good.

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