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Lowell Brueckner

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Handling Life's Minuses


Just a little over a week ago, on May 10, we published a great message given by Dan Brueckner, pastor of Swanton Christian Church in Swanton, Vermont. In the next town to the south lives his twin brother Dave Brueckner, who gave this message several years ago in the Swanton Church. When I first published it in our quarterly "Call to Commitment" in the Summer of 2008, people wrote us about the help they received from it. Then I published it on this blogspot in March of 2015, but I am offering it again, because I think it will be a great encouragement for many of you. Dave is not presenting a theoretical message, but something from the pains of real life. We dare not be idealists; life does deal us minuses and we have to live with them. It will really be helpful to us, if we can see God behind it all with His wisdom and love, intimately involved, moving everything for our good. This will be a blessing for everyone...

How Do You Handle Life's Minuses

by Dave Brueckner

We enter this planet with nothing in our hands. As time goes on, we accumulate possessions, relationships and knowledge. We are not to hold these with a tight grip, but loosely, as a loan from God, because when we exit this earth, our hands will be empty again. The death shroud has no pockets.

Sometimes we are separated from earthly possessions before death. If we hold on unrelentingly, we will grumble and complain, because we feel we were cheated from what was rightly ours. After Job lost everything, he blessed God and said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” How do I handle life’s minuses?

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, lived in a critical time in Israel’s history. There was not “one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth” (Jer. 5:1). Israel had become worse than the nations who had lived before in the land of Canaan. They had false hopes, because they worshipped in God’s temple (Jer. 7:10), but judgment and discipline were lying at the door.

There was also a New Testament weeping Prophet (Lk. 13:33), who wept over Jerusalem (Lk. 19:41). Things were hard for the Israelites in Jesus’ day with the Roman yoke upon them. They looked for the Messiah, but when He came, He was not what they expected. The temple, the house of prayer, no longer represented God’s interests. Jesus said, “Your house is left to you desolate” (Luke 13:35).

Here is how Israel’s leaders treated the situation in Jeremiah’s day. “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). Sin is serious, but they didn’t treat it seriously. They thought that nothing could change, even if the Babylonians came. God protected the city many times and it still existed, but now they had gone too far.

God intends good by His discipline

Dave's oldest son, Jared
Our faults are obvious to others, but not to us. In the Catholic mass, the priest says, “The Lord be with you” and the people answer, “And also with you.” One Sunday, the priest was having trouble with his microphone and the faithful couldn’t hear well, when he muttered, “There’s something wrong with this thing.” They responded, “And also with you.” We do well to take God’s side against ourselves, when his finger is pointed in our direction.

Is God’s discipline good for us? Jeremiah tells the story of the potter. The good news is that He can make something beautiful out of the same clay that didn’t turn out right at first. It is in God’s heart to do something about Israel. He will not leave them as they are.

However, not all those taken to Babylon were doing wrong. It wasn’t Shadrac, Meshak and Abednego’s fault that they were there. What did Joseph do wrong, to be sold as a slave and taken to Egypt? Away from home, friends and all that was familiar, the goals and plans of these young men were demolished. What happens when you are getting a raw deal, because of someone else's sin? Maybe you know no reason for a situation that you detest, but you just find yourself there. Things have gotten out of your control.

Stand at the crossroads

How do you react, when you have to reach up to touch bottom? Some give up. Some complain and become bitter. If I can get you to lift your eyes momentarily, I want you to see that God has something to say. Thank God, He spoke to those in Babylon! The loss and despondency of these suffering people is the context of the oft-quoted Old Testament verse, “I know the plans that I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). God hasn’t forsaken even those who are in bondage because of disobedience.

Your reaction will make you or break you. In the U. S., there is a mountain chain called “The Great Divide”. Water that falls upon it, can either eventually empty into the Pacific in the far west or into the Atlantic far to the east. Depending on your reaction, your destiny can be miles apart. God brought Israel to a crisis and this was His counsel: ““Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths” (6:16). Choose God’s old way. Many in today's chrome-plated society live for self and refuse the way of the old rugged cross and the kingship of the Ancient of Days. People say that the Bible is oldfashioned. An old preacher, Vance Havner, said, “Air is old-fashioned; water is old-fashioned.” We can’t live long without them. The path that has stood the test of time works in the Christian’s life. It is the one that God has cleared. The people said, “We will not walk in it.” Jesus longed to gather Jerusalem’s children as a hen her chicks, but “You would not!” (Luke 13:34).

Grow where you are

Don't get caught permanently longing for what is presently impossible to obtain. Let’s begin to work with our situation where we are right now, not where we wish we could be. After all, Israel became a nation, while living in slavery. In Babylon, they could well have been saying, “Here in this hell-hole I can’t do anything. If I were in my homeland, things would be different.” However, God says to them “increase and do not decrease” (Jer. 29:6). God tells them to build houses (ver. 5). Grow! Your situation may not be ideal, but make the most of it.

Use what you have

God works with us with what we have, not with what we think we need. Don't dote on what you once had. God will work with what you have now. Miracles start with little things. David defeated a giant with his sling. He didn’t have a chance to learn to use Saul’s armor. Sampson grabbed the first thing he could find, a donkey’s jawbone, and killed 1,000 Philistines. He didn’t have time for a course in self-defense. God asked Moses what he had in his hand. He did not send him to take a course in leadership and public speaking. The disciples had no clue as to what to do with the 5,000 men before them, but the account tells us that Jesus knew what He would do. He asked them, “What do you have?” In God’s economy, five loaves and two fishes were enough.

If life has dealt you minuses, first examine your heart to see where you stand before God. Are you suffering for your sin? Then don’t deceive yourself, but deal seriously with it and God, in His time, will restore you. If your heart is clean before God and you cannot find a cause for your situation, then make a decision to react properly and take the right course in the matter. Choose God’s ancient paths. Don’t wait for the situation to change, but make the most of it and grow. Let God bless what you have now in hand and above all remember this: God has plans to give you hope and a future.                                        ■


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