Category Archives: Doubt

Though You Have Not Seen Him

Blog_ThumbnailOne of my favorite parts of The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis occurs towards the end of the Prince Caspian book. Aslan has returned to Narnia after being away for a long time. The land had fallen under the tyrannical rule of King Miraz. He had banished all remnants and talk of the old Narnia, the time when animals talked and Aslan walked the land. These stories were regarded as fairy tales or “baby talk.”

Now, however, things were being put right once again. Prince Caspian, the true heir to the throne, would be made king and the land would once again awake to the wonder of the talking animals and the joy that Aslan had intended for Narnia. As Aslan bounded through the countryside, he came upon a small cottage, where Caspian’s old nurse lay dying. She had been banished by Miraz for teaching Caspian of the old, true Narnia.

Aslan began to enter the house, but, being too small for him, the whole house lifted up, fell backwards and came apart as he pushed through the door. The old woman, still in her bed, which was now in the open air, opened her eyes and saw Aslan: “…when she opened her eyes and saw the bright, hairy head of the lion staring into her face, she did not scream or faint. She said, ‘Oh, Aslan! I knew it was true. I’ve been waiting for this all my life.’”

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

The example of the old nurse in Prince Caspian illustrates what the apostle Peter is saying in this passage. For those of us who have believed and trusted in Christ today, we are in much the same situation. We have believed the revelation given to us through the Word of God and the testimony of the many believers that have followed through the years. We have not seen Him, but we love Him.

Many will scoff at our faith. Don’t expect the world to support you in your love for Christ. Oh, they will tolerate you, up until the time when you really get serious about following Christ. At the point your faith really starts to make a difference in your life, though, they will start to avoid you, mock you, and even try to silence you. Because the life of Christ in you is the smell of death to them. However, for some, who are drawn to Christ, your life will bring the aroma of life – the life that Christ wants to give them (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). So, hold fast to your faith and following Christ, because He is working in and through you. Doubts and trials will come, but we have a sure faith, based on a God Who is trustworthy.

The truth about God and the life, death, and resurrection of Christ are reliable. Even C.S. Lewis, who was an atheist, had to come to terms with the truth. In the end, it was unavoidable to him, even though he was reluctant to give in. Don’t be fooled by the voices who tell you that there is no evidence for God and that no “real” scientist believes that there is an all-powerful God Who created the universe and holds it together. That is a flat out lie. In fact, the more I hear of recent discoveries being made in the sciences about our universe, rather than present less evidence for a creator, I believe that it demonstrates even greater the evidence of design and a creator. It’s almost as if God were coming right up to the scientist, nose-to-nose, and saying, “Look at me! I am right here.” But they still choose to not believe.

In addition, the reasons to believe in the Word of God, and the truths and historical details presented there, are great. There are many who will scoff at the reliability of Scripture, even those who call themselves Christians. They will tell you of errors and legends and go on and on about reasons why the Bible is reliable for certain things, but not all things. And, of course, they in all of their wisdom, are going to tell you the parts that are not reliable. I guess they forgot to discuss this with Jesus, Who said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18

There are many biblical scholars who uphold the authority and trustworthiness of the Word of God. And I am not talking about the kooks that they parade before us on television or the internet every time they want to demonstrate how out of touch the “bible thumping fundamentalists” are.  I am referring to godly men and women, who pour their lives into studying Scripture, its historical roots, archeology and ancient cultures, and the ancient biblical and early church manuscripts. Their work continues to demonstrate the reliable nature and truthfulness of the Word. So, when doubts arise or someone questions the Bible, don’t run from the situation. Take on the challenge as an opportunity to dig in and learn more and work through the questions and difficulties. Throughout the years, the Bible continues to prove skeptics wrong, demonstrating the faithfulness of God’s Word. For a great message on the evidence for the resurrection, listen to The Great Awakening, presented by Mike Priest on Easter Sunday.

Faith and trust in Christ brings joy and salvation. Though we have not seen Christ, the life He is producing in us results in joy that is not available from any other source. It is the joy that transformation brings. It is the joy of victory over sin and death. It is the joy of hope and expectation, looking forward to that day when we see Christ face to face. On that day, we will see the One Who we have been waiting to see since that the day we gave our life to Him. On that day, when we are made completely new, our salvation complete, we will see Him as He is and be filled with awe, wonder, and joy that is inexpressible.

What a day that will be. Until that day, we walk on in faith, placing our trust in the One Who is more than reliable. God’s Word is true and He confirms this in our hearts and minds by His Spirit. When many of Jesus’ followers had turned away, He asked His disciples if they wanted to go away also. Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69). Though we have not seen Christ, God has confirmed in our hearts that He alone has the words of eternal life. He is our sure hope and salvation.

Together for His glory…

I Just Don’t Have That Much Faith

I was sitting in the drive-thru lane at a fast food place today, when something caught my eye. Or I should say caught my ear. I had my car window down and I could hear a bird chirping. So, I starting looking around and finally saw the bird, sitting atop the menu sign, chirping away. After a moment, he flew away, swerving this way and that, until he was out my sight. Maybe, after viewing the menu, he realized no one should really be eating this stuff, and headed off somewhere else to look for food. Unfortunately, for the rest of us in line, we did not come to that conclusion.

But as I watched the bird, I once again was amazed at the wonder of God’s creation. By just watching a simple bird, there are so many facets of its existence that are astonishing. Watching them fly, if we really stop to observe it, is a marvel to behold. There are so many things that have to be exactly right for that to happen. Once again, it brought to mind what Scripture says:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.” Psalm 19:1-3  “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20

I have said this before, and will say it again. I am not a scientist. I know scientists, but I am not one. I have listened to scientists who deny the existence of God and the purposeful design of creation. I have listened to scientists who acknowledge the existence of God and His intentional creation of the universe and everything in it. None of them witnessed the beginning of life in the universe. Therefore, all of them have to take what they observe, both current and the remains of previous life, and make a determination or hypothesis about how it all came to be.

For those who deny the existence of God, I am not going to argue with you. You will use a lot of big words that I don’t understand. But I have listened to your arguments, and I don’t buy it. I can’t buy it. The more you talk, the more absurd it sounds to me. Your arguments against purposeful creation often have the opposite impact on me. The longer you speak, the more incomprehensibly impossible it seems that it could have taken place in the way that you propose. I just don’t have that much faith. You may say that I am mixing in religion or faith with science. Well, my friends, I say you are doing the exact same thing. And I think it takes far more faith to believe there is no God, than to say that no one is responsible for the universe in which we live.

Everything I see screams, “God, God, GOD!” I see design. I see purposefulness. I see care and provision. I see the fingerprints of a Creator and, if you are honest, I think you see it too. Or, at least, you once did. Maybe you have hardened your heart to the point where you can no longer see it. I pray that this is not the case.

For those who hold on in faith to the One Who designed and created the entire universe and each one of you, your trust and hope is not unfounded. Take refuge in the One Who cared so much for those He created, that He sent His Son to pay the penalty of our rebellion, in order to receive all who would come to Him in faith and trust.

As I close, I would like to quote from one of my favorite books, The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. The quote is from Puddleglum, who is one of my all-time favorite characters in a book. This quote takes place when Puddleglum and the children, from our world, are captured by the queen of the Underworld. She is trying to convince them that there is no such place as the Overworld and the land of Narnia.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.” C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

And unlike the characters in The Silver Chair, who were trapped in the Underworld of darkness, we live with God’s creation in full sight. And it speaks of His glory and character, His eternal power and divine nature. And the more that science uncovers, the more it declares this truth. The universe declares that it has a Creator, and He is the Almighty God, regardless of what many will say. And this truth is far more appealing than the unintentional and purposeless view of the existence of the universe that many hold to be true.

Together for His glory…

Suffering For No Apparent Reason

I once knew a guy who thought God had it out for him. Everything in his life was going wrong. The problem was that he was responsible for most of things that were happening to him. When you get ticketed for driving on expired driver and vehicle licenses, this is usually your fault. Especially when they expired a year prior and were from a different state than where you have been living for a year. This was one example of many things. When I suggested that he might be the one responsible for the bad things happening, he was shocked.

Let’s get one thing straight at the start here. No one is perfect. My list of failures, blunders, and stupidities could wrap around the world a few times. Apart from the grace of God, there is no way I would still be standing today. If we are honest, we know this about ourselves. And yet, there are times that this life does not seem to make sense. Suffering and hardship seems to come when it should not have or when we would not have expected it to.

I know someone who finds themselves in a very difficult work situation. She has been teaching for about 20 years. She used to love her job. She works in an area that is tough economically and where many students drop out or don’t succeed. But she looks at these kids as if they were her own and works hard to help them, not only in her subject expertise, but in other areas of life. It is no surprise that many former students still contact her years later. In spite of all this, she is enduring suffering within her profession. Recently, an administrator sat in on one of her classes for 5 minutes, then departed, and then proceeded to give her a substandard teaching review. This is in her permanent record. Unfair? Yes. Infuriating? Absolutely. Immoral? Probably. One would only have to talk to former students and parents to know that this kind of review is not accurate or fair. And yet, there it is. What do you do?

I know a family. They love their children. They do everything that they can to provide for their kids. Life together started “normally.” They were married and in the next few years, their children started coming along. That is when things began to change for them. You see, all of their children fall on the Autism spectrum. Two of the kids are much more significantly impacted. I understand very little about autism, other than how I see that it impacts people, both those with the diagnosis and their families and friends. One diagnosis would be difficult. Three just seems like a kick in the teeth. What happened? Did God blink or something? Does He not care? Why would this level of hardship be allowed to reside with one family? As this family loves, works hard, struggles for solutions, and tries to do what is best for their kids, the many questions seem to go without answers.

I am reminded of the question Jesus was asked. “Who sinned?” (John 9:2). In other words, whose fault is this? We want to find some way to explain why these things happen. Jesus’ response was “no one.” Okay, that’s great, but what about the suffering? What about the hardships? Why does it seem like some people coast through life and others get dumped on, without any relief on the horizon?

In the Bible, there are examples of many people who suffered. Much of this suffering seemed undeserved. Two examples that come to mind are Joseph and Job. Both men endured suffering that they neither understood nor deserved. In Joseph’s case, God’s ultimate purpose was revealed. In Job’s case, it never was, that I am aware of. Job lost everything, except for a nagging wife, who told him to curse God, and friends who blamed Job for his own demise and gave him terrible and inaccurate advice. In the end, God restored Job and rebuked Job’s friends, but there was never an explanation provided. And I am sure that the scars, both physical and emotional, were a reminder throughout the rest of Job’s life.

Suffering is a tough issue to deal with. The very presence of suffering in the world is what causes some people to reject the existence of God altogether or to not want anything to do with a God that would allow such things to happen. And yet, if there is no God, suffering becomes even more terrible to deal with, in my mind. If there is no God, there is no hope beyond what we can achieve and survive in this life. There is no ultimate justice in the world. Many things will come to with an end without a satisfactory or just solution. I find that possibility a far worse option.

I have been recently reading in 1 Peter 2:13-25, where Peter is instructing believers to be subject to those who God has placed in authority over them. This included the emperor, like Nero, who persecuted and had Christians put to death. It included masters, who may have treated their servants cruelly. In this age of always defending our rights, this seems so contradictory. Why would Peter say this? He states the reasons. “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” 1 Peter 2:15

Okay, I can mostly get this. By doing good, it is a testimony to others by our obedience to God. But what about unjust suffering? This is where it gets more difficult. Peter continues, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 2:18-20

God seems to clear up at least one thing here: there will be unjust suffering in this world. Peter goes on to say that when we endure in the midst of unjust suffering, it is a gracious thing in the sight of God. What does this mean? The ESV Study Bible suggests that this is an indication that God’s people will receive a reward from Him for enduring suffering righteously. In addition, it could also mean that patient endurance of suffering is evidence of God’s grace at work. So, regardless of the “why,” the suffering does not escape God’s notice. When we suffer and patiently endure, it is evidence of God’s grace at work in us and, in addition, that we will be rewarded by Him.

Following Jesus can mean so many different things. But here, Peter goes on to say that something that I don’t necessarily like to hear. We have been called to follow in the steps of Jesus. And in the context of this passage, that means following through suffering. What? “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21. In the context of this passage, I don’t think this can mean anything else. However, I don’t think this means that we go out looking for a life of suffering. I think it is meant to instruct us on our perspective to suffering. There are several things we can take from this.

First, this is a broken world. There is no way around this fact. The results of sin and a fallen human race are evident all around us. There are evil people who will cause suffering for others, whether on a small or large scale. In addition, the impact of sin has corrupted God’s beautiful design for His creation. Disease, disorders, and disabilities are not God’s design. These have come as a result of a broken world that rejected God’s perfect will. And until He renews and restores it at the culmination of history, we all will suffer the impacts of sin on creation.

Second, following Jesus will bring suffering. Jesus said that the world hates Him and, therefore, will hate us. We are living in an age in America where the allusion of a Christian nation is fading away. This world lies in the power of the evil one. It has since the fall of man. The Bible is clear on this. Satan will do whatever He can to destroy the work of Christ. We should not expect the world to stand up and applaud when we follow Jesus.

Third, Jesus suffered more injustice than anyone ever has or ever will. Jesus was completely without sin. God in human flesh. The Creator of the universe walking among us. Yet, He was despised and rejected by those He came to save. He was beaten, abused, cursed, and humiliated. And He bore the complete weight and punishment for the sin of the world. He deserved nothing but glory. He suffered more than anyone in history ever has or ever will. And in the midst of it, continued to trust the Father, who judges justly.

Fourth, because of Jesus’ unjust suffering, we can have hope. We can have hope because His suffering has provided us a way to escape a just judgment. In our sin, we deserve God’s wrath and judgment. Christ has purchased, through His suffering, our forgiveness through His blood. If we receive Christ, we are provided the righteousness of Christ as our very own. This is not justice. This is not fair. This is grace. And this gives us hope, for we can entrust our lives to the One Who judges justly. We can trust Him to resolve all of the suffering, grief, and tragedy that we see in the world and even in our own lives. It has not gone unnoticed. It will not be without reward. It might still be very, very difficult. It might not always make sense. We might doubt and struggle along the way. But our God knows our suffering. He endured it Himself on the cross. He promises to be with us all along the way, until we make it safely home.

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:22-25

Together for His glory…

Do Not Be Anxious

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’” Luke 12:22-34 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, we come to you as the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  We praise You because You have blessed us with many good things, always providing what we need.  You are the sovereign and all-powerful God and there is nothing too difficult for You.

Forgive us, Father, when we doubt Your faithfulness and become anxious about the present or the future.  This always happens when we take our eyes off of you and start relying on our own strength and wisdom.  As You have promised, please provide us with the things that we need to accomplish all that You have called us to do for Your purposes and Your glory.

And Father, You know that we have many hopes and dreams for our future and for those we love.  Bless us with the desires of our heart.  However, where the desires of our heart are outside of Your perfect will, please lead us into the path of greater blessing for us and for the greater glory for Your holy name.

Give us wisdom and strength to appreciate and enjoy Your gracious gifts and to use them for the building of Your kingdom.  Help us to hold fast to the enduring hope that we have in Jesus Christ, trusting You to provide for all of our tomorrows, from now until eternity.  Amen.

Together for His glory…

Trust God and See What He Will Do

Over 20 years ago, I pulled up in front of my parents’ home. My wife was beside me in our car and our three children, all under the age of five, were seated in the back. We had less than $5 in the bank and there was even less in my wallet. We were a family in transition and not sure where God was leading us. Across the state, we had left behind some special friends and experiences. God had worked in our lives, bringing change and renewal. However, the path ahead was not clear. In fact, it was not even visible.

The next several years were filled with trials and growing. I worked a seasonal job for several years. I enjoyed the work, but I had to find other employment every winter. God always provided and I found something to do to provide for my family. We were without health insurance for six years. Again, God provided, as we were relatively healthy and without major incidents. With three growing boys in the house, that is a miracle in itself.

We never had a lot of money, but God provided us with places to live, some in neighborhoods where we would never have been able to afford a home. One of our homes during this time placed us in an area where my annual salary was probably equal to what our neighbors made weekly. No joke. And yet we rented a two-story, historic house, on over an acre of land, for a few hundred dollars a month.

With as little as we made, God also allowed us to be generous in giving and, in the process, showed us His faithfulness. This came about, primarily because of an error on my part. Our church had a missions’ conference, and, as part of the event, we made pledges to support the missions’ efforts of the church. As I mentioned before, we did not have much money, so we pledged to give $25 per month for missions.

When we returned home that day, we pulled out our copy of the pledge card and were shocked to discover that I had pledged $25 per week, not per month. My initial response was to contact someone and notify them of the mistake. However, my wife and I discussed it, prayed about it, and decided to honor the pledge. We really did not have the money to cover it. But we decided to see how God would provide. And everything was smooth sailing. Well, not exactly.

As I mentioned, I worked a seasonal job. That year, we had a rainy fall season, and so I did not work as much as usual. Then, winter came along and though I found work, it was about half of the income I normally made. Rent was due in a couple of weeks. I knew that if I made out the check for our tithe and missions’ pledge, we would be $200 short for rent. I told my wife. We told no one else, but we prayed for God’s provision and wrote out the giving check.

Following the service that week or the next, we returned to our car in the parking lot (which we left locked).  We found an envelope on the front seat. When we opened it, we found $200 in cash inside. To this day, we have never discovered who it came from or how they got it into a locked car. Yet, once again, God had shown us that we could trust Him for our provision.

This past Sunday, our pastor taught from Matthew 6:19-34. In this passage, Jesus teaches us to store up treasure in heaven and to not be anxious about our lives. He concludes this section by saying, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34

God is not on His throne, wringing His hands and wondering how we are going to survive. I, on the other hand, find myself frequently concerned with the future. In fact, I find that I worry more now than when I had less money and possessions. Isn’t that something? It is really not surprising though.

When I made less, owned fewer possessions, and had very limited resources, I had no choice but to trust God. It is not that I did not worry. I was, and am, far from perfect. But then, I knew that there was nothing within my power I could do to create something out of nothing. It was either trust in God or live in despair. Now, with more resources, I somehow think I am the one making it all happen. How quickly we can forget that God is the provider of all things. Also, what we have today can be gone tomorrow (check the stock market today?).

Jesus clearly teaches us to seek Him first and He will take care of the rest. In a world that believes that we control our own destiny, this is a radical departure. It is a call to not hold onto the possessions and treasures of this world. We cannot allow them to rule our hearts. By releasing these things to God, it gives us freedom. It also allows us to be more radical in our trust and giving, and therefore, storing up treasure in heaven.

When we seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, His work in our lives shapes our priorities and builds our faith. God becomes bigger in our eyes. It is not that He actually becomes bigger, but we see Him for more of Who He really is. Our focus begins to shift from our abilities, or lack thereof, to the character and unlimited resources of the eternal God.

As a result, He can then pour out His love and generosity through us, even if we do it by mistake. I am so glad I made that mistake years ago. Because it taught me that God was faithful. I can trust Him, always. However, it is a lesson that I have to learn over and over again. I have a short memory. I think we all do. That is why we are reminded about God’s faithfulness and urged to stir up each other to love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).

We need to tell the stories of how God works in our lives. And then tell them again and again. It reminds those who listen, as well as us, of the goodness and faithfulness of God. It reminds us that He is worthy of our trust. And when we trust Him, He will always come through. It may not be according to our timing and expectations, but He will provide us with what we need. And it will be better. He has promised (Romans 8:28).

Together for His glory…