Monday, May 18, 2009

Switched At Birth

Kay Rene Qualls and DeeAnn Shafer made a shocking discovery recently – they weren’t who they thought they were. Their story goes back over five decades to a small hospital in Heppner, Oregon. The two women were born on the same day, May 3, at Pioneer Memorial Hospital. The two infants closely resembled each other and, when nurses took them and bathed them together, an unintentional but tragic mistake was made. The babies were switched and returned to the wrong mother. One mother was too heavily medicated to be aware of the problem. The other mother insisted that the wrong baby had been returned to her, but nurses brushed off her concerns. And so, when the time came to be released from the hospital, each mother went home with the baby girl that had been born to the other.

Through an odd set of circumstances and the results of modern DNA testing, the persistent rumors of the switch were finally proven to be true after 56 years. By this time, both sets of birth parents were deceased. And the two women are now struggling to process this new bit of information in their life. Thankfully, in spite of the “what ifs,” both families have reached out to each other and are making the best of a difficult and confusing situation (www.eastoregonian.com; 5-11-09).

If you are a child of God, you also were switched at birth. Note how the Scriptures describe the swap: God “…rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). If we are people of faith, we have “…passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). If we are in Christ, we are “…a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

How thankful we can be that our merciful God “…caused us to be born again to a living hope...” (1 Peter 1:3). This is no tragic mistake – God desired to make the exchange from the very beginning. Praise God for switching us at birth!

God loves you!
Mike

Monday, May 11, 2009

Our Relentless God

Last week during my sermon, I spoke of how Moses initially ran ahead of God in his efforts to be a deliverer of the Hebrew people. Afterwards, one of my younger daughters gave me her copy of the sermon note sheet. Among the fill-in-the-blanks and various drawing of Pharaoh, Moses, and Egyptian princesses, she had jotted down this note: “P.S. Don’t run ahead of God. He might have to pack a suitcase!”

God is relentless, isn’t He? The following illustration makes the point well. R. Kent Hughes (1001 Great Stories and Quotes, pp. 393-94) shares the story of a mission effort in Russia. In the 1930’s, Stalin ordered a purge of Christians and their Bibles. In the Russian city of Stavropol, his edict was carried out with great efficiency. Numerous believers were sent to prison camps and many of the Bibles that were confiscated ended up in a warehouse in Stavropol where they collected dust.

Many years later, when that part of Russia was again open to missionary activity, a team was sent to Stavropol. When the group experienced difficulty in getting Bibles shipped from Moscow, someone happened to mention the existence of the stash of Bibles in the warehouse. The missionary team received permission to remove and distribute them. A truck was secured and local workers hired to load them.

One helper was a young skeptic who had come just for the wages. After awhile, the missionaries noticed he was gone. They found him in a corner of the warehouse, weeping. He had slipped away, hoping to quietly take a Bible for himself. What he found shook him to the core. The inside page of the Bible he had picked up had the handwritten signature of his own grandmother. It had been her personal Bible. Out of the thousands of Bible still left in that warehouse, he had stolen the one belonging to his grandmother – a woman persecuted for her faith all her life.

Coincidence? I highly doubt it. It’s just another example of a God who doesn’t give up easily.

God loves you!
Mike

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spiritual Heroism

In a recent blog posting, John Mark Hicks (johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/) reprinted two articles he wrote for the Gospel Advocate in 1981 following the death of his wife a year earlier. She was only 25 years of age at the time. The articles were entitled “Divine Providence and Human Lives (I and II). They are brief, well-written essays on the working of God in times of trial by a young man who had experienced a great loss in his life.

In a subsequent posting, Hicks looks back at his words of twenty eight years ago and reflects on how time has changed his perspective. While he still agrees (for the most part) with the theological content of the articles, he now realizes he was hiding the real pain, grief and anger he felt at the time. What caught my attention was when he spoke of the pressure he felt, both internally and externally, to play the part of a “hero” with reference to his emotional struggle. Thankfully, over time, Hicks was able to begin to come to terms with the fa├žade he had created and start to work through the emotions he had buried for so long.

Of all the faulty ways we have crafted to deal with our struggles, perhaps playing the “spiritual hero” is the most dangerous. Why? Because it insulates us from the very help that we need in times of crisis. The emptiness we harbor inside will eventually betray the thin veneer of external control. Left unresolved, we will eventually stumble under the oppressive weight of a mantle we are ill-equipped to bear.

There is only one real Spiritual Hero – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Only He can assume the role of hero without pretense. The rest of us are tragically broken and flawed. I applaud John Mark Hicks for being so transparent concerning his spiritual battle as well as his progress on the road to recovery. Perhaps his story can be a wake-up call to those of us who are still hiding behind our own masks.

God loves you!
Mike