Faith

It’s Who You Know

What if we started looking at our lives with all of its problems, joys, situations through the lens of what we know, really know, about God? What would change? What would life look like?

This seems like an obvious perspective for a Christian to adopt in daily life, and maybe for some it is. In the past I’ve flirted with this idea but have never really grasped the life-changing power this perspective provides. Let me explain.

Several months ago, I started attending the Revelation study through Bible Study Fellowship. This is the first time in its 50-year history that this study has been offered, and it took the writers three years to put it together. Currently, every week 400,000 women from around the world are studying this book.

My view of Revelation has always been from the perspective of how’s it all going to end and in what order. That first night the teaching leader reminded us that there are many interpretations of this book: literal vs. figurative, pre-tribulation vs. mid-tribulation vs. post-tribulation vs. pre-wrath, etc. She said that this study would not answer those questions for us. Instead she wanted us to concentrate on one thing: “Our hope is not in the details. Our hope is in God.” That was an “aha” moment for me.

Honestly, as a person who pays no attention to detail whatsoever (ask my detail-oriented husband), this really shouldn’t be an issue. It’s the reason in all the years of cleaning houses I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve noticed cobwebs in corners or dust on ceiling fans. It’s a detail. It’s the reason why when I make hamburgers for dinner we rarely have buns to put them on. Details often get lost in my day-to-day existence so why, when faced with frustrating circumstances, I focus on those rather than on what I know, is beyond me.

But God, the great Teacher, used a moment last week to show me how this could be applied in everyday life. One of my kids came home with a long list of expenses for different activities they are involved in. I was irritated, of course and directed a wordy diatribe at the Lord. Give me a break. Why do I always feel like I’m constantly putting money in pockets with giant holes? I just can’t seem to hang on to it. This kind of attitude will often put me in a funk that can last for days. But almost instantly I heard the voice of God: Your hope is not in the details of this situation. It’s in Me. What do you know about me? Concentrate on that. Eureka!

So I started recounting all the things I know about God in relation to money. I thought back to all of the times I’ve experienced His provision, what His Word says about Him as Jehovah Jireh, the Provider, what He promises regarding His provision. Miracle of miracles, I instantly calmed down within minutes-pretty good turnaround time for me. Oddly enough I felt relieved. I didn’t have to worry about how everything was going to turn out. It’s really not my problem. I just have to know that it will and hang on to the knowing.

So I ask you, what circumstances in your life have your knickers in a bunch? What do you know about God in relation to your situation? Comb the Scriptures for truth and your brain for experiential proof and cling to what you know.

This is what Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego did when faced with a fiery furnace at their refusal to bow down to the image King Nebuchadnezzar had built. Here’s the conversation:

 “Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, ‘Is it true,Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?’ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up’” (Daniel 3:14-18, NKJV).

If anyone had the right to question the details of a situation, it was these guys. But they didn’t. They clung to what they knew: God was able to deliver them right then and there if He so chose. If not, their greater deliverance was waiting. Either way, they had won.

The crazy thing about it is that even the most basic of faith, the newest of Christians can cling to what they know, that is, that Jesus is Who He says He is based on His revelation to that person. If that’s all a person has, it’s enough to hang on to. Every single one of us claiming to know Jesus as Savior should be hanging our hats on I Timothy 1:12:

 “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (NKJV, italics mine).

Here’s the simple truth: Our hope is not in the details. It’s in God. Rest in the knowing.

Faith · Uncategorized

Directionally Challenged

The first time my parents and I realized that I was born without a sense of direction was in seventh grade during a semester of map skills. I hated it immediately. First of all, as a visual person, the workbook wasn’t even a little aesthetically pleasing. Printed on newspaper-like paper and covered in bright blue and black ink on dirty white paper, it was all I could do to get through the pages stapled together. Coupled with my assumption that forward-facing is always heading north, it’s not hard to believe that I didn’t do well as evidenced by the massive amounts of red pen covering my work and screaming “fail!”.

Once I got my license, things didn’t improve much. Because that was the era of no GPS or cell phones, much of my time on the city roads included tearful stops at the nearest gas station to call my mom and ask for directions on how to get home. If I thought ahead and got directions before leaving my house, they always started with, “Imagine you’re at the mall…” For some reason, I always knew where I was in relation to it, and the following instructions seemed to make sense.

After marrying my husband, he took over the task of getting me from point A to point B; often taking me to the house of a new cleaning client the night before I started so I wouldn’t get lost on my first day. When he wasn’t with me, his instructions would often start with, “Ok. Imagine you’re at the mall…”

I’d say the GPS has been helpful, and it has been to a degree. But even the talking machine sitting on my dash has failed me as it did one day as I was driving to work. It was a fairly new area for me with road construction, and after doing exactly what “she” said, I still ended up in a farmer’s cornfield where he stood at his door screaming at me to get off of his property. “Do you think I want to be here,” I screamed back at him tears pouring down my face.

Hebrews 13:8 says this,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”

In recent months, I have been hit by just how closely this idea of alternate routes parallels the Church’s evolving theology. If you pay attention you will notice everything from Christians wanting to change the message of salvation to appeal to the culture, to questioning whether we can really be sure that absolute truth exists. We’ve gotten to a place of entertaining Satan’s age-old question of “Did God really say?” leaving ourselves naked and without God’s hand of protection meant for us. I recently heard someone say that one of the greatest issues facing the Church today is homosexuality. This makes about as much sense as our government telling us that the biggest problem facing our world is climate change.

While homosexuality in the Church is definitely a disheartening trend we are now seeing I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that it is one of the greatest issue we face. The greatest issue facing the Church today is the absence of absolute truth and the courage to stand by it.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6).

As a person who cannot read maps, decipher drawings, or leave the house without a GPS, this verse is especially meaningful to me. Nothing strikes fear in me quite like the big orange detour sign I’m not expecting. I only know one way to get to any of my destinations.

One of the worst instances of getting lost happened when my friend Mary and I were headed to a conference in a town about 2 hours away. I didn’t realize her sense of direction was as lacking as mine until I watched an exchange between her and her husband taking place right before my eyes, echoing the one I’d just had with Bruce. The conversation was filled with concentrated instructions and words and drawings in an effort to help us get to our destination as smoothly as possible. An hour later, we still hadn’t made our way out of our own town. Due to road construction, the exit that both of our husbands had told us to take was shut down so we continued to circle the circumference of the city until we had to decide which one of us would put our tails between our legs and call our husband. When I explained the situation to my husband later on from the hotel (by the way, we totally missed the opening night activities), I remember wondering if he was even listening due to the silence at the other end, until I heard him finally take a breath in the middle of hysterical laughter.

There are multiple ways to get someplace in any given city which for people like me is a real problem. Praise God that His Word never changes, nor does His truth, nor do His instructions. In a culture that is constantly changing, don’t we want to cling to the one thing that doesn’t? I would caution all of us with these words:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power “(Col. 2:6-10).

Want know how to obtain eternal life? Open His Word. Want to know how to treat other people? Open His Word? Want to know if what you’re being told from the pulpit or the culture is correct? Open His Word. It’s all in black and white, much like my map skills workbook. However, instead of screaming “failure”, the words in red are coaxing, “follow me.”

Faith · Uncategorized

Let There Be Light!

Two months after my son was born, we moved to Chicago so that my husband could attend graduate school. Bruce was working full-time on campus and going to grad school part-time. I was home full-time with a two-month old and a two-year old. Despite the fact that we knew this was what God had for us, it was still hard. We left the familiarity of Peoria and all of our friends for the big city which looked a whole lot different to us with two little kids than it did when we were just dating. I spent that first summer crying and being impatient with my two-year old. At one point, I remember Nick screaming as he often did for some unknown reason while at the same time my daughter needing me for something and not letting up until she got a response. The one she got was not the one she wanted judging from the look of hurt in her eyes. That was a wake-up call for me; a lesson in operating out of the darkness in my dealings with other people rather than out of the light that God shines into us if we will let Him.

“Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious and full of compassion, and righteousness.” Psalm 112:4

When I first read Psalm 112, this is not the verse that stuck out to me. In fact, upon closer inspection, it appeared to contain two completely unrelated thoughts. What does light and darkness have to do with grace and compassion? And who is this verse talking about?

As is usually the case, God did not leave me flailing around for too long before enlightening me, calling to mind examples from His Word and my life that explain what He’s trying to get across to me. In this case, I was immediately reminded of the story of Joseph. This verse could very easily be used to sum up the theme of his life. From the moment of his enslavement due to his brothers’ heinous actions against him, Joseph’s life became a living example of finding light in our darkness and allowing it to light the way in our relationships with other people.

At the end of Joseph’s life, after his father Jacob had died, his brothers were concerned that Joseph would finally take his revenge on them for their sin against him. I’d like to take four verses at the end of Genesis 50 to make a case for Psalm 112:4.

“Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.’” (Genesis 50:18-21, NKJV).

Here’s what the life of Joseph has taught me about Psalm 112:4.

1). “Am I in place of God?” By begging for Joseph’s forgiveness, his brothers had placed him on somewhat of a pedestal where he knew he didn’t belong. At some point in his life Joseph had to come to the realization that he wasn’t calling the shots, and the sooner the better. We can’t know when and how his conversations with God turned his heart to submission. Was it in the initial betrayal when he was cast into the pit? Or was it on the road as he was being hauled away into slavery? Maybe as he sat on the dirty prison floor among criminals when he wasn’t one, that he surrendered to the idea that he wasn’t charge. Whenever it was, he learned the lesson we all need to come to grips with-placement is everything and we are not at the of the table.

2). “God meant it for good.” Darkness doesn’t exist simply for the sake of darkness. Paul understood this when he said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” in Romans 8:28.

I can’t imagine being Joseph at the end of his life and reflecting on all he’d been through and having the rare opportunity of seeing the bigger picture. How different would his life have been and the life of his brothers had he chosen to wallow in his darkness, refuse to let the light in and seek revenge on those who’d wronged him? How would history have changed? Perspective is everything.

3). “I will provide for you.” There is a vast difference between the righteous and the unrighteous in how they behave toward other people, especially those who’ve wronged them. What separates the righteous from the unrighteous is from where they are living-out of a position of light or from a position of darkness. It is from a position of light that the upright mirror the life of Christ through their grace, compassion and righteousness. It’s amazing what a little light will do.

Unless we’ve chosen to live off the grid, out in the middle of nowhere completely devoid of human interaction, we will deal with people every day. That’s what this life is about. How we do it depends on what we do with our darkness. Darkness comes in many different forms. Everything from the death of a loved one to difficult relationships, fear, depression, worry, illness, all of it and so much more casts shadows of darkness over our lives often to the point of rendering us paralyzed, unable to function at the level of life we’ve been called to. At the point of our deepest darkness, we have a choice to either sink further into it or to surrender ourselves completely to God and let Him shine His light in the dark corners.

“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and he knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from me; nevertheless not My will but Yours, be done.’” Luke 22:41, 42.

“Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, in to your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” (Luke 23:44-46, NKJV).

Talk about darkness! The whole earth was shrouded in it. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, surrendered His will to the Father, gave up His Spirit and finished the work they had set out to do from the moment of the Fall. To the human eye, the crucifixion was a dark day, but the bigger picture would argue otherwise. To those of us who know Him personally, the light seeped in the moment He died and the veil was torn giving us unlimited access to Him culminating at His resurrection. Because of His willingness to die in the murky darkness of sin, He made a way for us to experience His light in our lives. His surrender granted us grace and compassion. This is what the righteous man is to mirror. The darkness often has a higher purpose, but not for the purpose of wallowing in it. We would do well to remember our place, surrender to it, and allow the light of God in so that our dealings with others will be marked by grace, compassion and righteousness.