Category Archives: God’s Faithfulness

The Why’s and the What If’s

Life is an interesting experience. Trying to predict what life will bring is virtually impossible. We can plan and plot, but sure enough, something unexpected always seems to be around the corner. This can be good or bad depending on what happens and how we view things. One thing that I have learned, and continue to learn, is that things are often not how they appear on the surface or at first glance. I was reminded of this when seeing a photo from my senior year of high school.

I was a member of the varsity wrestling team at my high school. I was not a great wrestler. I was pretty strong from years of weight lifting, but I did not have nearly as much wrestling experience or skill as a lot of my team members. I also had an issue with endurance, which meant I rarely had matches that went the distance. I was a pin or be pinned kind of wrestler. This resulted in my mediocre record and a lot of quick exits in tournaments.

However, if you look at our senior yearbook, you might get a different idea of my success. I have two fairly prominent photos in the wrestling section of the yearbook, even though there were a lot of guys on the team better than me. This had more to do with having a friend that was a photographer for the yearbook than my actual success in the sport. The photo shown here is my favorite, especially the caption. It says, my opponent “bites the dust as Phil Hill out maneuvers him.” I still shake my head and laugh when I see it. It makes me look pretty tough. At the time, I was actually winning the match by something like 10-0. However, less than a minute later, the match was over and I had been pinned. I made a mistake, he reversed me, put me on my back and pinned me. It is quite a different result than the impression given in the photo.

On the other side of the coin, I also had a couple disappointing experiences. I will not go into details because I do not want to negatively portray someone in print who others might know. Let’s just say that there were other areas of my life and experience where I had more talent and abilities than were on display in my wrestling career. Not only was I passed over for awards or recognition, but, after the fact, I actually learned that a certain individual had gone out of their way to ensure that I was not even nominated for an award. When the individual spoke to me, they said that that they were unable to nominate me. What I learned later, through other individuals who were there for the nomination process, was that this person intentionally refused to nominate me, even when encouraged to do so by others at the meeting.

When I heard about this, it did sting a little. However, before much time had passed, I started to be grateful for that experience. In the end, it led me to devote more time towards interests and activities I might not otherwise have pursued. And those new pursuits are things that have helped provide a foundation for ministry opportunities I am involved in to this day. So, I am thankful that God led me through that time and showed me that disappointment does not have to be end. And that success in the eyes of God is not the same thing as success in the eyes of the world.

Like I mentioned at the start, life is hard to predict. You can plan, work, and strive to accomplish things, but it in the end, the results can be unexpected and even disappointing. You can give your life to something and yet not see the fruit of your labor. At other times, people can look at you and get a completely inaccurate picture of who you are based on the one snapshot they see of your life, for good or bad. It can make you wonder why things happen the way they do. It can make you wonder what life would be like if things were different.

God sees when no one else does. Does it ever seem that living the life of faith in following Jesus Christ has no impact on the world around us? I feel like that at times. I get to the end of my day and wonder what I accomplished that day to glorify God to those I encountered. But God sees all the small choices we make during the day in our goal to honor Him with our lives. As we seek to put our trust in Him, hold fast to His Word, and follow in obedience, God sees. No one else may notice, but nothing escapes Him.

God sees through the snapshots and facades. This is something we also need to remember. We can provide others with snapshots and phony facades of who we are. We can receive all kinds of awards, promotions, recognition, and engage in all the pleasures and rewards these things bring. But if our hearts are not right with God, it is all really meaningless. Read the book of Ecclesiastes sometime. It tells the experience of someone who gave themselves to every type of pleasure and pursuit, but in the end, it left them empty. The final conclusion was, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

God gives what is eternal and will never fade. The treasures of this life will all fade away. Only what God gives lasts for eternity. If we give ourselves to the pursuit of these temporary treasures and rewards, we will arrive at the end of life with empty hands and empty hearts. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

God calls us to be faithful, not successful. God does not call us to change the world. That is His job. We are called to have changed hearts by yielding our lives to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. We are called to follow Christ and to live our lives in obedience to Him in faithfulness. As we walk in faithfulness by the power of God, He can and will use us to shine the light of Jesus and the Gospel. We may be used to impact one person’s life. We may be used to impact the lives of many. In the end, that is really up to God. If we are faithful, then in God’s eyes, this means we are a success. That does not mean we are perfect. But we continue to pursue Christ and allow Him to demonstrate the power of God through us, whether we see the results or not.

Life can leave us with a lot of why’s and what if’s, at least from our perspective. If we let it, this can drive us nuts. It can leave us longing for things as we thought they should be or bitter because we did not get what we thought we deserved. God does not guarantee that things will go our way or that people will recognize us in the manner we think they should. God does guarantee that He is faithful. He guarantees that He will work all things for the good of those who love Him. He does not say how that will look or when we will see it. But nothing escapes God’s notice, and He promises to reward faithfulness, whether anyone else notices or not.

Together for His glory…

Be Still and Know that He is God

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It is over… finally. The marathon of the campaigns and election has come to an end. As I write this, I think of my family, church family, friends, and acquaintances. There is a mixture and wide range of emotions going on. Sadness, joy, anger, relief, worry and fear, expectancy, unsettledness, hope, doubt, smugness, disgust, and combinations of all of them. I have no idea what our future holds. But I do know that yesterday’s election was not the solution to all of our problems or the end of all of our hopes and dreams, regardless of how we now view the situation.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

God is on His throne. Throughout the insanity of the past year or two, God has not been wringing His hands, awaiting the results of our American elections. He was not troubled as to whether the outcome would derail or thwart His eternal plans. His ability was, and is, never limited by what a group of fickle, often self-serving, human beings decide to do. He uses all things and all circumstances to bring about His purposes and ultimate good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). God purposes will be accomplished – period. We may not understand the means or the journey used to achieve His ultimate goals. But we can believe that He knows what He is doing and, if we trust in Him, that He will work things out for our good and His glory.

God is not a Republican, Democrat, or any other political affiliation. I know that there are some of you who may think that a particular political party is endorsed by God Himself. I do not believe it. Let’s just take to two primary political parties as examples. There are policies or beliefs within both party platforms that reflect moral principles revealed in the Bible. There are also current stances or views within these two parties that do not reflect biblical principles, and, in some cases, are in direct opposition to biblical teaching. I am not going to get into specifics, but both parties fall short of biblical standards when held to God’s standards for righteousness, justice, showing kindness, and walking humbly before God (Micah 6:8). Neither party is exempt. Neither party is holy. Neither party holds the true and definitive solutions for the needs of this nation. And God’s requirements go far beyond and supersede those of any political party.

God, in Christ, is our only true hope. The ultimate solutions for what our nation and the world needs will never come through a political movement or government. Yes, God may, and does, use these means to accomplish some of His purposes. However, true change will only come in this nation when hearts change. When God reigns in our hearts, it is only then that our thoughts, actions, and words take on a different tone and purpose. Even when there is disagreement, our actions are governed by our love for God and our concern and compassion for our neighbor. Without this, it degenerates into what we had during the recent campaign. We are left with the fear and disdain that was, as is still, being expressed. Yes, we need to engage the political process to implement change, where possible. But our main focus, as Christians, should be to share the gospel and introduce people to Jesus Christ. Only He can truly change the heart and the direction of someone’s life.

Be still, and know that He is God. We need to take a step back, catch our breath, and we need to trust in God. We need to view things from the perspective of God’s sovereign, loving care for all that He has created. Even if things don’t go our way and the world keeps changing, often for the worse, God still has this world in His hands. No matter the circumstance or challenges this life brings, our lives are still in His hands. We can trust Him. He is on His throne. Trust and pray and seek His face. Delight in Him. Only God will always have our best in mind. We cannot say that about anyone else, any system, or institution, because they are all fallible. Only God is forever true and forever faithful to be Who He says He is and to do what He says He will do.

Throughout the centuries, those who have followed God have lived through all kinds of differing circumstances. Some enjoyed times of peace, but many also endured times of trial and suffering under a variety of unfavorable societal environments and governmental systems and reigns. Through it all, God was still with them and used them to proclaim His truth, and He used them in the lives of people and nations for change and transformation. We need to always be ready to go and do what God calls us to do. But in our hearts, we need to be still, and trust Him. We need to be still, and rest in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We need to be still and know that He is God.

Together for His glory…

Planting Seeds

Note to Reader: A link to a video is provided below.  It is a tribute to someone who has exemplified a life of planting seeds, as discussed in this article.

Blog_ThumbnailBoom! There are times when we can see the impact of our actions instantly. I remember watching a friendly game of washers turn into a goofy and out of control game of basketball washers, where they were trying to block each other’s attempt to get the washer in the box. The problem with this was that there were cars nearby, and one of the washers went through the rear window of my car, shattering the glass all over the back seat. Not a fan of that version of the game.

There are other times when we don’t see the impact of our actions for a long time. Maybe we never see any during our lifetime. However, every action that we take, or don’t take, has an outcome, whether for the good or the bad. Again, some actions or events can have instant, large impacts. Other actions may result in small or even unseen impacts. A small, simple effort may not seem to have any effect initially, but, years later, could influence numerous people and events. In fact, these may end up having more long-term, lasting influence then events that seem to have immediate, blockbuster impact.

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” 1 Peter 1:10-12

There are many things that could be said about this passage. One of major points relates to the prophecy of Scripture. The Old Testament foretold the coming of Christ. Their prophesies not only indicated what type of Messiah the people should expect, but it even provided details about when he would be coming. In other words, the people should not have been surprised by Jesus Christ when He came. It is one of the ways in which God shows the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Word of God. I spoke on this last time, so I am not going to touch on it at this time. However, if you would like to study more on the topic of the reliability of Scripture, see the resources available from the 2015 EFCA Theology Conference which focused on The Doctrine of the Scriptures. This is excellent material from some leading evangelical scholars and teachers.

For today, I want to focus on one phrase in 1 Peter 1:12, where it says, “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you…” These prophets were writing what the Spirit had revealed to them. However, in addition to the actual prophecies of the coming Messiah, it was revealed to them that they were serving a people yet to be born. They were told that they were serving the people who would come to trust and follow Jesus Christ. Long after they were dead, the writings of the prophets would serve the followers of Christ. Therefore, their faithfulness to listen and respond to God, served those who lived hundreds and even thousands of years in the future. And this includes those of us today who follow Jesus Christ.

What immediate results did the prophets see when they proclaimed the message given to them by God? Stephen, right before he was stoned to death, provides the answer. “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:52-53). The primary result the prophets saw from their faithfulness was persecution and death. And yet, the prophecies they recorded would serve God’s followers for years to come.

So, how does this apply to us? When we follow Christ, we are called to live our lives to give glory to God, faithfully serving through the opportunities that He gives us. Sometimes, we see the results of our efforts. Other times, we don’t see any positive results. If fact, there are times when it seems like the opposite. We give ourselves in service to God and others, and we receive criticism and opposition in return. Or, the recipients of our gift of service actually turn away and go the opposite direction, walking away from God. This can be confusing and even heartbreaking. So, how do we respond?

Be faithful and keep planting seeds. Whatever God has called you to do, continue to do it faithfully. Whether you are a pastor, executive, laborer, housewife, teacher, service provider, or whatever you do, continue to serve and take the opportunities that God gives you to plant seeds along the way. God does not call us to produce results. He calls us to faithfulness. That is a weird message for modern America. We can get instant anything.  We want instant everything. God does not operate on our culture’s standards. We should be thankful for this.

Be humble. Some “Christians” receive opposition and criticism simply because they are jerks. I wanted to use a stronger word, but that would probably get me in trouble. It is true that the true message of Christ will be offensive to many. However, that does not mean that we have the right to idiotic behavior that would be offensive regardless of what we were presenting. In Scripture, God continually calls us to humility and to have a servant’s mindset. Do the work God called you to do with humility and compassion as you seek to plant seeds of the Gospel. We need to leave pride and arrogance at the cross, where they need to die.

Trust God with the results. As I said, God calls us to be faithful. He is the One Who produces the fruit from the work that He does in and through us. God may allow you to see the fruit of some of your efforts. For other things, you may never see the results in this lifetime. A faithful act performed today may result in someone’s life being changed hundreds or thousands of years from now. You may plant a seed through your service that leads to impact several generations from now. Trust God, He knows what He is doing. He will be faithful to complete the work He is doing in us for today and for generations to come, until Christ returns.

The video I have linked below dates back 27 years ago, to April 22, 1988. The quality of the video is not great. It is probably a copy of a copy of a copy of an old VHS tape. I don’t share it in order to show what a great performer I am, because the performance is not that great. I don’t share it to show how high my vocal range used to be, how much thinner I used to be, or how much more hair I had then. I share it to illustrate a point. This event was held in a large auditorium in Kansas City. However, there were not many people in attendance, even though we had advertised the event through radio and other avenues. Several music groups performed and a pastor friend of mine provided the message. I remember the event date because it was his birthday.

I was on the stage that night because God had used him as a faithful witness in my life. It was this man who first encouraged me in leading worship, even though I always thought that he was far better at it and more gifted than me. For almost five years, this man had been my friend and planted seeds in my life, encouraging me to seek God. This was during time of great time of struggle with doubt and confusion regarding my faith. It was a dark time spiritually. I was lost and floundering. And yet, there I was, five years later, on that stage, back on the road of faith in God and His Word, and giving praise to God.

I can’t point to any one thing that turned things around, but there was finally a point where things clicked, and I came to a decision that, though I did not understand everything, I was going to put my full trust in the Lord. It has not always been a smooth journey. There have been ups and downs. But I can say that I am where I am today because God used a faithful man, planting seeds, to serve the needs of others. To serve me. I am forever thankful for his friendship and his faithfulness.

So, keep living faithfully for the Lord and planting seeds because God will use you to serve the lives of others, even long after you have gone to be with Him.

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…

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…