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…

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…

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…

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…