Thursday, March 17, 2016

All Things

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8: 28 NASB)

Visions of how I would spend the money danced in my head!

In July of 2014 my brother and I were approached by an agent from a gas exploration company.  We grew up in western Pennsylvania, which had become an epicenter for hydraulic fracking to produce natural gas.  My Dad was an entrepreneur and had pretty extensive land holdings prior to his death in 1988.  The agent advised us that my Father owned the mineral rights to a twenty-acre parcel of land.  The company he represented wanted to sink a well on this parcel.  They offered us a 5-year lease, which included just under six figures of front money that would be renewed every five years as long as the well produced gas.  They also offered us eighteen percent of the profits at the wellhead.  If the well produced to the industry standard (20-30 years) the deal would be worth well over a million dollars.  This would be split between my brother and myself.  At first it seemed too good to be true, but with further scrutiny everything checked out. 

 I worked for seventeen years as a missionary.  This was a lengthy gap in my retirement earnings.  God had promised my wife and myself that he would provide for us in our old age.  It appeared God was making good on His promise.

In late 2014 we finished the negotiations.  The lease was signed, notarized and in ninety days we would receive our front money.  Though I resisted, visions of how I would spend the money danced in my head.  About two weeks after the signing we got an email from the agent.  It stated that upon reexamining the deed to the parcel they discovered that my stepmother’s name was on the deed also.   She had passed away but my Father had predeceased her.  So, she owned these mineral rights and we were not the heirs.  My stepmother never had children.  She remarried, a man without children, who also had died.   The inheritance would go to people who my Father had never known. 

To be honest for the next couple of weeks I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  Then I started to realize that God had made a sovereign choice.  I needed to reconcile with that decision or spend the rest of my life brooding over what might have been and asking the why question.  So, I sent an email to the agent and thanked him for all the work he had done.  I told him I was glad that someone had benefited from my Dad’s business expertise.  The outcome was not what my Brother and I had expected, but I was happy that my Dad’s work had not been in vain.  I also told him that I realized that he could not devolve the identity of the heir(s), but I asked him to convey to them that I wished them well with their inheritance.  At that point, as far as I was concerned, the inheritance became God’s and not mine anymore. He was free to do with it as He willed.  I prayed that God would use this money for His purposes.
hy did God wait four months before he revealed the real heirs?  Or for that matter, why involve us at all? They are interesting questions.  The answer to both is, I don’t know.   Pastor Alistair Begg once said,  “it is not ou

Why did God wait four months before he revealed the real heirs?  Or for that matter, why involve us at all? They are interesting questions.  The answer to both is, I don’t know.   Alistair Begg, a pastor from Cleveland, Ohio once said,  “It is not our job to explain the unexplainable.”  One thing I do know is that God knows and “all things” work for the good accomplishing His divine purpose.  I am not saying that all things that happen to us are good, but the all-wise God uses all things for our ultimate benefit.  We can only see the present; God sees from the beginning to the end.  God is always making choices, though at times puzzling to us, which are for our eternal good.

PS:  God has been faithful to provide for my wife and myself in other ways.  Maybe not as extensive as the lease would have been, but to date God has provided all our needs.  We are blessed.

Image used with permission by Microsoft.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sammy's Skateboard

Sammy’s Skateboard

….in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (I Thessalonians 5: 18 NASB).

Sammy could not understand why God would give him something and then take it away.

Sammy was a little blond-head boy from the Big Island of Hawaii whose family thought me the value of giving thanks to God in all things.

Sammy’s Mother was a single mom with three children who struggled financially to make ends meet.  His Mom couldn't afford to buy him a skateboard but that did not keep Sammy from dreaming. Sammy wanted a skateboard of his own in the worst way and not just any skateboard. He wanted a Hobie. This board was the Cadillac of skateboards of its day.  

Church friends drove Sammy’s family to church every Sunday.  On the way home one Sunday, Sammy spied a skateboard in the back compartment of the station wagon. The father of the family must've seen the longing look on Sammy's face and asked him if he'd like to have the skateboard. It was an old skateboard and it wasn’t a Hobie but it was a skateboard nonetheless.   Sammy was delighted to finally have a skateboard of his own.

One day not long afterwards Sammy was riding down the hill by his house on his skateboard.  He somehow got separated from his skateboard and it goes down the hill without him. As fast as he can he ran after the skateboard, but before he can catch up to it, he watched it go into a storm sewer.  He was horrified as he realized there's no way he can get to the skateboard.  He ran back up the hill forcing back tears until he reached home and his Mother.  He wondered out loud how God could give him a skateboard and then take it away.

His Mom was brokenhearted for her son and embraced him.  But she also knew that she must teach him how to respond in these kinds of situations. She explained to him how the Bible tells us that we are to give thanks in all things, both for the good and the bad. She told him how God is good even when bad things happen to us.  He tried to listen to his Mom as well as his little heart would allow. Finally, she led him in a prayer that thanked the Lord that He can take bad and make good out of it.

 Later his Mom called the city utilities department. She explained her dilemma to them and asked if they can send out someone to possibly retrieve the skateboard. In due time a worker arrived and removed the manhole cover and descended into the drain sewer on his ladder. After a few moments he reappeared holding the skateboard. Sammy and his Mom were delighted.  But they noticed he went back down the ladder. After a few moments he returned grasping a virtually brand-new skateboard in his hands. And yes, you guessed it, it’s was Hobie.  The utility worker said, “Until someone else claims it I guess it's yours.”  No one else ever laid claim to it.

Most dark clouds have silver linings.  God is at at work doing one-upmanship, always one step ahead of us revealing His goodness. 

Image used with permission by Microsoft

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing