Category Archives: Faith

It’s Really Not About Getting What We Want

Blog_ThumbnailHere we are. It is Christmas time again. The craziness and busyness has been upon for several weeks now, and probably won’t subside until days after Christmas. Then, we all collapse and head back to work to get some relaxation. Sometimes, I wonder how it ever got to be this way. I am sure that it started out simply and sincerely. This is not to say that this time cannot still be filled with simplicity and sincerity. But the insanity and commercialization (to echo Charlie Brown) seems too often to leave the true message of Christmas in the dust.

We spend a ton of money, if we have it (and even if we don’t). We worry if our gifts to others will be liked and appreciated. We gather with friends and family. We worry about impressing people we don’t even like. If you happen to have the pleasure of working in a corporate setting with annual giving campaigns, you may get to hear the annual plea or arm-twisting, whichever you prefer, to give to causes that you may or may not agree with. We run from event to event, hardly stopping to breathe or reflect on the reason this season is celebrated.

In the end, however, this season is all about selflessness. It is about sacrificing on the behalf of others. It is the celebration of the greatest self-sacrifice that human history will ever know. And this sacrifice was made so that we might know God, and call on Him as Father, and be welcomed into His family and kingdom. This all happened so that we could place our faith and hope in God.

“…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:18-21

Though being in very nature God, Jesus took on the very nature of a servant and was born in the likeness of man (Philippians 2:6-8). He humbled Himself and became obedient, even to the point of death, by coming as a baby and living out His life, so that He could die – all for us.

Christmas is not about getting what we want. Christmas is about getting what we need. And we need Jesus. We need Jesus whether we are lost and far from Him or whether we have been walking with Him for years. He is our greatest need – each moment and every day. And God offers this hope freely through salvation in Jesus Christ, if we will just reach out and receive it.

My prayer is that, this Christmas, we will all know the hope and joy that are offered through Jesus. For those of us who already know Christ, I pray that we will be reminded again of the magnitude of the gift that brought us our freedom. For those of you who don’t yet know Christ, I pray that the knowledge of the love of Christ would find a home in your hearts this season.

For all of us, I pray that our lives would come to reflect the self-sacrificing life given so freely for us, reflecting the true meaning of Christmas. That rather than striving for position, accumulating more things we don’t need, and always trying to have things our own way, we would demonstrate the humility and selflessness of Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift, and the only true hope and joy for this world.

Together for His glory…

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…

A Living Hope

Blog_ThumbnailHope that is not based on a solid foundation is just wishful thinking. I can hope that someone offers me a million dollars, tax free and with no strings attached. Fat chance of that happening. I can hope that I lose the additional 25 pounds my doctor says I need to lose. However, if I sit on my butt, don’t exercise, and consume large quantities of delicious and unhealthy foods, there is not much chance of that happening.

I can hope that I am going to get a big raise at work. I can do the best job I can, but there are other factors that play into whether I get a large salary increase. My manager has to agree that I have done a good job. He has to convince his manager that I have done a good job. The money has to be available, based on how well the company and/or department have done, and so on.

Biblical hope is not based on wishful thinking. It is not mustering up enough faith, or what the world thinks of as faith. It not trying to change my situation by thinking lots of positive thoughts, although there is nothing wrong with thinking positively.  I may even try it sometime.

From the Word of God:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

God is the source of hope. In His great mercy, God has supplied this hope, through the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death, as payment for our sin, provides the free offer of salvation to all who will receive. Through Christ, we are born again, given new life through the forgiveness of our sins and brought into His family as His sons and daughters. This is all accomplished by God, through Jesus Christ. He is our source of this hope.

God provides a solid foundation for hope. We are born into a living hope. It is a living hope because it is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. God, in Christ, demonstrated His power and victory over sin, hell, and the grave. We don’t have a hope that is based on wishful thinking, clinging to some fragile promise without substance. This hope is established on the very work of God in human history, raising Christ from the dead.

God’s hope is lasting and eternal. We are provided an inheritance that is imperishable. It cannot be destroyed or wiped out by any person or circumstance in this world or in heaven. It is solid and reliable. This inheritance is undefiled. It is unlike anything this world has to offer. It is not polluted by this fallen world. It rests in the perfection of our God. This inheritance is unfading. The gift of God is without end. It is there from the moment we are born again. It is there throughout our life and until we die. And when we die, it is still there, for all eternity.

God secures our hope Himself. This inheritance is kept in heaven by God Himself. This means that there is nothing on earth or in heaven that can separate us from Him or the hope that He provides to us. And we, as His children, are guarded by God’s power through faith for this salvation that will be revealed. God secures this Himself. It is grounded in His power and perfection. The very character of God Himself guarantees this for us. Now that is a foundation for true hope. A living hope.

Jesus Christ is our living hope. Through Him, we find a source of true hope, with a solid foundation, that is lasting and eternal, and is secured by God Himself. That is God’s version of hope. That is the kind of hope that we can rely on and through it, find true joy for living in Him.

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…

When God’s Footprints Are Missing

I have seen them for years. I am sure that many of you have as well. These are the pictures with the footprints in the sand, along with the accompanying poem. It speaks of looking back on the path that we have walked in life and seeing one or two sets of footprints in the sand, depending on the event or season of life. As the poem or story goes, when there are two sets of prints, it is when the Lord is walking beside us. When there is only one set, it explains that this is when the Lord is carrying us.

There is actually a passage in Scripture that speaks of the footprints of the Lord. However, the message is not the same as in the story above. It does speak of missing footprints. The difference, though, is that it is the Lord’s footprints that are missing.

It comes at the end of Psalm 77, which has a theme of seeking the Lord in the day of trouble. The Psalmist, Asaph, speaks of being weary and troubled. However, in places throughout the Psalm, he also remembers the faithfulness and works of the Lord. And towards the end, Asaph recalls the work of the Lord in delivering the nation of Israel from Egypt and the pharaoh at the Red Sea.

“Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” Psalm 77:19-20. A couple of things stand out to me in this passage.

God’s path was through the sea. God knew what His plan was for His people. They did not understand it. They were crying out to God and blaming Moses for bringing them to death’s door. But God had things under control, and His plan was to lead His people through the sea and bring them safely to the other side. In fact, God said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.” Exodus 14:15-16. It was as if God said, “What are you waiting for? Let’s get going.”

God’s footprints were unseen, but He was leading His people. Moses, Aaron, and the people did not see God leading them through the sea on dry land. There were no footprints in the sand or sea floor. But the presence of God was unmistakable. The traveled through the sea on dry ground. The water stood up like a wall on either side of them as they traveled through. As soon as they passed through, the water came crashing back to where it had been before, wiping out their enemies and oppressors. God’s footprints were unseen, but He was there with His people – leading, providing for, and protecting them.

We may not always see God’s footprints. We may sometimes have trouble seeing what God is doing. Obstacles and trials can press in on us from every side, making it hard to focus and remember the promises of God. Yet, He calls for us to continue walking in obedience, even when the way is unclear. We can do this with confidence, even if we don’t know what we are walking into, because God is with us.

God has promised that He will always be with His people. He will hear us when we cry out to Him. He is with us in times of joy and in times of suffering and trial. We need to remember His Word and His promises. We need to remember how He has worked in our lives so many times before. We need to recall the work He has done throughout history. The evidence of the presence of God is all around us. We only need to open our eyes to see it. He is there, even when He does not leave any footprints.

Together for His glory…