Category Archives: Trust

Game on, God!

Last week I blogged about Susan and I rediscovering Super Mario Brothers – the video game. We have made significant progress but still have a way to go. And I’ve noticed a couple of similarities between the video game and our journey with God.

As you move into different parts of the game there are blocks that will provide various powers. Fireballs, freeze balls, a penguin suit (don’t ask), flying, etc. There have been times when we wondered why we were provided a particular power but as we moved into new challenges or faced new enemies we discovered that the power was exactly what we needed at the time.

God does the same for us. No matter what it is that we are facing His grace provides exactly what we need at the moment. Patience, encouragement, boldness, forgiveness, wisdom, etc. The Holy Spirit is not surprised by what we encounter and knows exactly what we need in order to glorify God in that moment. 

Also, as you progress through the levels of the game new skills are required for facing new obstacles or new enemies. The new challenges start out pretty basic but get progressively harder as you move deeper into the level. The game is designed to stretch you and grow you with specific skills.

I see the same thing happening in our journey with God. He gives us new challenges that get progressively harder. He is stretching our faith and trust. He is developing within us the character of Christ with a passion to bring Him glory. He is teaching us how to more fully participate in His unfolding story of redemption and grace. So…

Game on, God!

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Filed under Determination, Encouragement, Faith, Glory of God, Grace, Holy Spirit, Hope, Morphing, Trust

Facing our biggest fear!

Even if it’s not our biggest fear it tends to rank way up there – facing death. There have been many perspectives on death through the ages:

  • Aristotle called death the thing to be feared most because “it appears to be the end of everything.”
  • Jean-Paul Sartre asserted that death “removes all meaning from life.”
  • Robert Green Ingersoll, one of America’s most outspoken agnostics, could offer no words of hope at his brother’s funeral. He said, “Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights.”
  • The pessimism of French philosopher Francois Rabelais was equally cold. He made this sentence his final one: “I am going to the great Perhaps.”

The culture Jesus grew up in was not much better. Traditional Judaism was divided on the topic of the afterlife. Some, like the Sadducees, believed there was no resurrection; that death was simply the end. Others, like the Pharisees, believed in a resurrection but only one that was spiritual – less real than this life.

Jesus completely, radically changed the context for viewing death by providing a new perspective on resurrection and the afterlife. Listen to what He tells the disciples, just prior to His arrest, as He prepares them for His imminent death.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” ~ John 14:1-3 (NLT)

What’s significant is that Jesus speaks of “going to prepare a place for you.” This was a phrase used in the realm of weddings and weddings are great news; they were reason to celebrate because they marked a new beginning!

When a man and woman wanted to get married, and the families agreed to it, the groom would return to his fathers’ home and add a room so that he and his bride would have a place to be together once they were married. Jesus uses this familiar phrase to give a whole new perspective to death.

Jesus not only promises an afterlife, but a better life. He elevates funerals to the same hope level as weddings. From His perspective the trip to the grave and the walk down the aisle warrant identical excitement. Jesus is taking something that was viewed as an end and turns it into a new beginning; a new adventure. This was a completely new perspective for those listening to Jesus. Because Jesus’ tomb is empty, His promise is not. And because of this…

We can face our biggest fear with hope and courage!

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Filed under Courage, Fear, Heaven, Hope, Trust

Go ahead Lord, stoke the fire!

Last week Susan mentioned to me some facts of history that she and Brynden had been learning about. One had to do with how people would break the edges off of gold bars before using them to buy materials. It was a means of getting ahead by cheating others. To prevent this practice they began to mint gold coins.

I found this little tidbit of history interesting but wondered how they could break the edges off of hard bars of gold. Every time I’d ever seen gold bars in a movie or TV show they were rock hard; solid enough to break things or hurt people.

Then a couple of days ago I learned that purified gold is actually very soft and pliable. It’s the other metals – copper, iron, nickel, etc. – that make it hard. And the only way to purify gold is to subject it to the intense heat of a fire. The heavier gold sinks to the bottom while the other metals float to the top where they are skimmed off.

The exact same thing happens with our hearts. Sins like unforgiveness, greed, lust, envy, gossip… all contribute to turning our hearts hard. It is a dangerous condition to be in and one that God passionately wants to help us avoid or overcome. But there’s a catch! While Gold is purified through the use of fire, our hearts are made soft and pliable by a different means.

3-5What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

6-7I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. ~ 1 Peter 1:3-7 (The Message)

This new life that we’ve been given by the grace of God is in process; it’s ongoing. To fully embrace it God must accomplish a work in us that develops genuine faith which happens ONLY through our exposure to trials and suffering. I wish there were a different way. I wish God could or would just snap His fingers to accomplish the work of transformation necessary in me.

But the trials and hardships of life serve as a fire to bring to the surface those issues of sin that can easily remain hidden when life is smooth sailing. I’ll be honest. I’m fairly disappointed with how I tend to respond to tough times. It’s easy to feel like God has forgotten about me. But it’s actually the exact opposite.

The presence of hardships in life means God is not only present with me but actively engaged in the process of transforming me, purifying my faith. As my faith becomes stronger and more pure, I’ll respond to hardships by more quickly trusting God and that in turn will serve to bring Him glory.

So go ahead Lord, stoke the fire!

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Filed under Faith, Glory of God, Morphing, Sin, Suffering, Trust

Honest to God!

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” ~ Matthew 28:16-17

Jesus had been arrested, crucified, buried and raised from the dead. He had appeared to hundreds of eye-witnesses after His resurrection. He ate and drank and cooked fish. Can you imagine a more significant demonstration of God’s existence?

But it’s time for Him to return to the Father. So the disciples meet Him on a mountain. Understandably, they worship Him. But did you catch those last three words? “…but some doubted.” They what? They doubted!

But they weren’t the first. Consider these others who walked by faith choosing to trust God and yet still battled with occasional doubts.

  • Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise for a child.
  • Abraham doubted God’s plans and on two separate occasions lied about Sarah telling others that she was his sister.
  • Elijah went toe-to-toe with 500 priests of Baal and watched God demonstrate His power and yet doubted God and ran from one angry woman – a queen – who made a threat against his life.
  • John the Baptist declared “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” when he saw Jesus. But not long after that he was in prison and sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the promised one or if they should look for another.

Or consider that 60% of the Psalms are laments with people screaming out, “God, where are You?” As Lynn Anderson observes, “Normal faith is allowed to beat on God’s chest and complain.”

But my favorite demonstration of faith and doubt co-existing comes from an account in Mark chapter 9. A crowd has gathered as a father tries desperately to get help for his son who is demon possessed. Here’s a portion of the dialog between the father and Jesus…

“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief! ~ Mark 9: 21-24

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever find yourself facing a difficult situation where you trust God to be in control yet struggle with a few doubts? If you do then welcome to the club. You are not alone. In fact, you are in rather good company. And nowhere do we see God chastise any of these people!

“Lord, as we head into a new week with untold challenges and adventures around every corner, we profess our trust in You, but help us when we struggle with doubts.”

PS - Yesterday’s sermon “Is God real?” is posted on the sermon/audio page – check it out!

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Filed under Doubt, Encouragement, Faith, Trust

Why are you so afraid?

Have you ever heard someone ask a question that made you scratch your head and wonder what in the world they were thinking? The following questions are purportedly true and were asked by lawyers in a court of law.

  • Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?
  • The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
  • Were you present when your picture was taken?
  • Doctor, how many of your autopsies have been performed on dead people?

As ridiculous and confusing as these questions are, I wonder if the disciples didn’t feel the same way about Jesus’ question to them in the boat. Read Matthew 8:23-27. The storm was so fierce that Matthew used the word seismos - the term we use for measuring earthquakes – to describe it. The disciples genuinely believed their lives were in danger. So they wake up Jesus who promptly asks them…

Why are you so afraid?

There are only two possible explanations for this question from Jesus. 1) Jesus was so sound asleep and out of it that He didn’t realize how bad the storm was; or 2) Jesus was aware of something that the disciples didn’t know about. I’m betting on the second one.

If you consider only the physical storm then Jesus’ question seems a bit out-of-place; even clueless or cruel or insensitive. So why would Jesus ask such a question? Because He was aware of a bigger reality. He knew that our heavenly Father was in control and could be trusted.

So what are we lacking? What is keeping us from having this same kind of assurance in the midst of lifes’ storms? FAITH!

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. ~ Hebrews 11:1-3

The One who formed the universe by merely speaking it into existence is still in control and can be trusted!

Yesterday we began a new sermon series called Fearless that will explore the various areas of life that trouble us the most. If you missed it you can listen to the message on my Sermon/Audio page. If you missed yesterday’s blog check it out and give me your feedback on your “Top 5 Fears.” If you wrestle with fear at all – and we all do on some level – imagine being in the boat with Jesus as He asks the question…

Why are you so afraid?

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Filed under Courage, Faith, Fear, Trust

He guards you always!

Psalm 121

A Pilgrim Song

 1-2 I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?
   No, my strength comes from God,
      who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

 3-4 He won’t let you stumble,
      your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
   Not on your life! Israel’s
      Guardian will never doze or sleep.

 5-6 God’s your Guardian,
      right at your side to protect you—
   Shielding you from sunstroke,
      sheltering you from moonstroke.

 7-8 God guards you from every evil,
      he guards your very life.
   He guards you when you leave and when you return,
      he guards you now, he guards you always. 

          ~ From The Message

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Filed under Encouragement, Faith, Hope, Scripture, Trust

I can’t help but wonder…

When I started blogging back in January of this year I really didn’t know what to expect. I was looking for an outlet to share some things God had been laying on my heart, but it felt very risky. You know that feeling of uncertainty when you first join Facebook and wonder if anyone will respond to your friend requests? Starting a blog was 100 times worse because you’re not joining a group, you’re doing your own thing and wonder if anyone will show up to share the journey.

Blogging has been both rewarding and challenging. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter how many people show up on a daily basis but I am encouraged by days when a lot of people stop by. I still don’t have any expectations and tend to just share whatever God has laid on my heart, but I can’t help but look for patterns in how frequently people view the blog posts. Do certain days of the week make a difference? Does the length of the blog or including pictures make a difference? Do certain topics tend to draw more attention?

I write the blogs ahead of time and schedule them to post early the next morning. So one of the first things I do when I get up in the morning is check the blog to make sure the new entry got posted. Yesterday I posted a blog entitled “Recognizing the end of the rope.” When I checked it in the morning I was surprised to discover that within a couple of hours of being posted it had already been viewed 72 times, about twice the daily average. Hmmm?

Periodically throughout the day I contemplated why it struck such a nerve; why it got so many views that quickly. (Feel free to offer any perspective you might have by leaving a comment). I concluded that the most likely reason was because it dealt with God’s grace and our common need to be embraced by it. But then later that evening I realized that perhaps people read the title and thought I was going to share some big news about reaching the end of my own rope! Ha! Who knows.

I enjoy that God has wired me to look for the flow of patterns or currents below the surface; the motives for why we do what we do. While I’m usually pretty good at discerning these types of unseen dynamics in various settings, I have to admit that after eight months I haven’t figured out much in regard to blogging. But that’s OK. It serves to remind me that God is the Storyteller and life is His epic story. I don’t have to understand how it’s all fitting together. I just have to be willing to do my small part, whatever it is on any given day, and trust that God is weaving together a story that will ultimately bring Him glory.

Thanks for sharing the journey!

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Filed under Blogging, Trust