Category Archives: Trust

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

Blog_Thumbnail

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…

For A Little While

Blog_ThumbnailHas someone ever come up to you and said, “Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. Which do you want to hear first?” I know that I prefer a different alternative. Can I just hear the good news? If not, how about neither? None of us like to hear bad news.

Last time, I talked about the living hope that we can have through Jesus Christ. Through the work of Christ, God is the source and foundation for that hope. It is a hope that is eternal, and one that God Himself secures for us. This is a great assurance and one that we can hold onto and rejoice in. The apostle Peter says as much, in the words that directly follow these promises. “In this you rejoice…” However, he then continues with words that we may not be so thrilled to hear:

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

Peter has just spoken of the wonderful hope we have in Christ. But, for those to whom he is writing this letter, he also knows that they have been going through some very hard times. This passage recognizes the reality of trials in our lives. It also shows how God works through the trials in our lives.

Trials result in grief and suffering. There is no way around it. Trials bring aggravation, struggle, grief, and pain. They are not pleasant. Peter mentions this regarding those who will be reading this letter. They have been grieved by various trials. One of the things I love about the Bible is its truthfulness. Not only is it the Word of God, without error and completely reliable, but it shows people and situations for who and what they really are. Suffering is not fun, and the Bible does not say otherwise. But at least we are not just left with that.

Trials are temporary. “Now for a little while…” Right now, things may be hard, but it will not last. There is no guarantee of when a given trial may end, or even that it won’t get worse. But it will not last forever. Even if it lasts a lifetime, that is a brief moment in view of eternity, where God has prepared a glorious inheritance for those who are in Christ. So, we can rejoice in our living hope, even in the midst of suffering, trusting in the Lord and holding fast to His promises and purpose for our lives.

Trials are used by God. “If necessary” notes that there is purpose in the trials that God has allowed in our lives. Trials serve the purpose of revealing the genuineness of our faith. They demonstrate where our true hope lies and what we truly value in life. Is my faith real or am I just pretending or going through the motions? I am afraid that my trials often reveal that I have a long way to go in becoming like Christ. My focus and the things I value are frequently shown to be selfish and temporary. And it does not take a very severe trial to reveal this.

Our faith in Christ is priceless. Peter says that our faith in God is more precious than gold. The faith and trust that we place in Christ is highly valuable. It does not say this specifically, but I think that this means that our faith is highly valued by the Lord Himself. It is precious to Him when we place our trust in Him. I think it is also valuable because God uses our faith to demonstrate the wonder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Trials refine us to be more like Christ. I think there is a reason that Peter uses the comparison of our faith to gold and the process of testing by fire. I heard the following illustration years ago and it has stayed with me as a reminder of how God work in our lives. It described the process for refining silver or gold, back before all of our modern technology was developed. A silver or gold smith would take the raw ore that contained the metal and heat it to a very high temperature. They were careful not to heat it too hot, because that could result in the destruction of the valuable metal in the ore.

As the material began to melt, the dross, or less valuable materials, would rise to the top. The smith would scrape off the dross and repeat the process. After a while, they would scrape off the dross and look into the pot. There, they would begin to see a dull reflection of themselves. As they continued, each time, their image would be a little clearer. In much the same way, God uses the “fire” of trials to help us become for Christ-like. As we trust in Him and allow Him to work in our lives, God sanctifies us, causing us to become more like Jesus. Our lives begin to better reflect the image of our Savior as we allow Him to scrape the dross out of our lives.

Trials result in praise, glory, and honor. As we become more like Christ and the genuineness of our faith is revealed, the result is celebration and glory being given to God. Also, we rejoice in the victories that God gives by bringing us through our trials and presenting us before His throne at the coming of Christ. Our genuine faith, more precious than gold, will be celebrated as we rejoice before the Lord for all eternity.

So, if we see this through the eyes of God, there is really no good news/bad news situation here. We have a living hope. We do have struggles and trials. However, if we allow God to use those in our lives, He can use them to transform us more into the image of His Son. So, when He looks into our lives, He sees a reflection of Himself. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

In the end, trials remain only for a little while. Compared to eternity, and the joy that awaits us, these are but momentary struggles. For a little while, we are tested. Forever, we will enjoy and celebrate the love and glory of our God and Savior.

Together for His glory…

Not Home Yet

In the beginning, the apostle Peter did not get it either. When Jesus was revealing who He was and the nature of His ministry and kingdom, Peter did not always understand. Peter would make great declarations, such as “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Then, he would proceed to feel the need to correct Jesus, when Jesus stated that He would suffer and be killed, which resulted in this response from Christ, “Get behind me Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). Peter did not yet fully understand that Jesus’ kingdom was “not of this world,” and that there were certain things that would not find fulfillment until Christ’s final return in glory.

Now, years later, Peter finds himself in the position of reminding the readers of his letter that they are not home yet. This earth was not their final resting place and the fulfillment of all their earthly and eternal desires. From the text of 1 Peter, it is apparent that the letter recipients were undergoing persecution. There was probably discouragement among them, as they struggled to understand their circumstances and why things were sometimes so hard or just did not make sense.

So, Peter starts off his letter by addressing these brothers and sisters in Christ as “exiles.” (1 Peter 1:1). An exile, in this sense, refers to someone who is living in a foreign land. They are a stranger or pilgrim in a place that is not their home. They are living among a foreign people who may not understand them, may see them as very different, and who may even hate and despise them. That can be a very tough place to be.

Peter’s letter is written to help them understand this and to also offer them hope. It is given to help them keep life in perspective – that this life is temporary, as are the struggles that come with it. There is an eternal hope and a glorious inheritance that awaits those who follow Christ. And that they can know the grace and peace of Christ in the midst of these temporary struggles on this journey in a foreign land.

As followers of Christ today, we are all exiles as well. As we strive to live a life that honors God, we are faced with many obstacles, pitfalls, and struggles as well. We face many struggles that are common to all who live on this earth. At other times, we go through suffering and persecution because we follow Christ. However, there are also times when we find ourselves too at home in this temporary place. We become too enamored with temporary trinkets and pursuits that do not draw us closer to God and may even pull us further away.

These are the things, among others, that we will find presented to us in this journey through the book of 1 Peter. We will be offered hope, and also called to humility. We will be reminded to be at home in Christ, while we walk in a land that is not our home. We will be reminded that we have a living hope, here and now, and also waiting in eternity. That “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11)

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…