Posts tagged ‘Trust’

God’s Presence in the Storm

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I took the above picture two years ago when I was out for one of my early morning walks, cup of coffee in hand, along the beach of Port Aransas.  Each summer, my family and I vacation in this charming Gulf town.  The pictures I have seen of Port Aransas after Hurricane Harvey, along with its surrounding communities of Rockport, Aransas Pass, Port O’ Connor, Refugio, and, of course, Corpus Christi, are devastating.  Homes have been flattened.  Businesses have been destroyed.  And now, our nation’s fourth most populous city is feeling Harvey’s wrath.  Houston has been deluged by than 20 inches of rainfall.  Forecasters predict that, by the time this is all said and done, some spots in Houston may receive in excess of 50 inches of rain.

None of this is easy to watch.  I have called Texas home for 21 years and have many friends who live in the affected communities.  To see places I know that are home to people I love be destroyed by nature’s worst is heartbreaking.

As Christians, we are never called to be idle in the face of devastation and distress.  Here are a few things to consider – and to do – as this tragedy continues to unfold.

Pray

One of the many wonderful things about prayer is that it operates both as a support from God and an encouragement to others.  When we cry out to God in prayer, He does hear and He does care.  But prayer is important not only because of the connection it affords us with God, but because of the reassurance it can give to others.  Not only praying for people, but letting people know that you’re praying for them is important in a situation like this.  Pick up the phone.  Send a text message.  Pray for those in the Coastal Bend and Houston and then tell them you are.  A note from you about your prayers for them could be just the boon their souls need in this troubled time.

Give

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine went through a disaster relief class being held by the Red Cross.  He said so many people are volunteering to help victims of Harvey that the Red Cross is overwhelmed.  What a great problem to have!  Of course, just because lots of people are volunteering doesn’t mean there’s not lots of work still to be done and lots of resources still to be provided.  You may want to consider giving to a reputable organization like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or the Disaster Relief Fund of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

Trust

In Adult Bible Class this morning at the church where I work, we were studying the story of Joseph.  When Joseph is sold into slavery to the Egyptians, there is this interesting line: “The LORD was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2).  If Joseph looked only at his circumstances, it would have seemed not that the Lord was with him, but instead that the Lord had forsaken him.  But we must never confuse the sweetness of our circumstances with the reality of God’s presence.  The cross of Christ reveals that God’s presence is not ultimately indicated by the comforts in our lives, but by the compassion of His Son, who endured the worst of human suffering to see us through all of human suffering.  Christ is there with the people of the Coastal Bend.  And He is there with the people of Houston.  The same Savior who was with His disciples in a storm on the Sea of Galilee and who was with the children of Israel as they passed through the waters of the Red Sea is with the Texans who are being pummeled by this storm and trying to get through some very deep waters of some very big flooding.  Harvey may be catastrophic, but this storm is no match for our Savior.  He will see us through.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” (Isaiah 43:2)

August 27, 2017 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

President-Elect Donald J. Trump

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Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

Whether you love him, despise him, believe in him, are distasteful of him, are worried about him, or are indifferent to him, Donald J. Trump is the President-Elect of the United States.  Regardless of which one of these categories you may occupy (or, perhaps, you’re in another category I missed), as Christians, there are a few things we are called to be during the transition from the end of Barack Obama’s presidency to the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency.  Perhaps you already know these things, but a little reminder never hurts.

Be prayerful.

The apostle Paul writes to Timothy:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Paul is clear that we, as Christians, ought to pray for our leaders.  But there is something I think we often miss in this passage.  Before Paul exhorts Timothy to pray “for kings and all those in authority,” he urges Timothy to pray “for all people.”  The category of “leaders” is a subset of the category of “people.”

Though this may seem painfully obvious, it is important to remember that our leaders are, in fact, actual people.  I say this because sometimes it can become far too easy for us to paint the leaders we don’t care for as soulless cartoonish villains, not worthy of even basic respect.

Regardless of what you think of President-Elect Trump, he is a person, made in the image of God and loved by God.  He is also a husband, a father, and a grandfather.  We should pray for him not only as a politician, but also as a person.

Be supportive.

Every person is sinful.  And yet, as Jesus puts it, even evil people “know how to give good gifts to [their] children” (Matthew 7:11).  In other words, just because no one is perfect doesn’t mean that everyone does everything wrong.  Instead, we are all mixed bags.  We do some things right and some things wrong.  We do some things that are good and some things that are evil.  Donald Trump, no doubt, will do some good things for America.  For instance, his promise to support the cause of life and minimize the scourge of abortion is vital not only to our national wellbeing, but to our human decency as well.  In cases such as this, Christians ought to graciously, thoughtfully, and humbly support that which is good and just. 

Be skeptical.

Even as sinful people can do good things for which they should be commended, they can also, obviously, do sinful things for which they must be confronted.  Christians should be willing to call sin for what it is regardless of the political party out of which it comes.  Certainly, President-Elect Trump has said some things that are not only not befitting of the office of President of the United States, but also defy basic decorum, decency, and truthfulness.  The warning of Jesus’ brother should ring in our minds: “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).  Reckless words may be legal in a society that has enshrined free speech, but legality does not equal morality.  Christians should continue to call President-Elect Trump, and all of our public officials, to account when their behavior turns ugly.

Especially because of the rancorous nature of this year’s election cycle, I would add that we should be careful not to allow a healthy skepticism to turn into a bitter cynicism.  Skepticism is honest that sin is constantly afoot and must be confronted.  Cynicism, on the other hand, finds a certain schadenfreude in another’s sin because it can sanctimoniously condemn it and boast over it.  Skepticism is wise.  Cynicism is hateful.  Let us not fall prey to the latter.

Be faith-filled.

Our nation is deeply divided, as even the statistical outcome of this election demonstrates.  Donald Trump won in the electoral college and, hence, has secured the presidency, while Hillary Clinton bested Mr. Trump in the popular vote.  As Christians, we have a uniquely unifying message because, in the midst of a division as deep as ours, we can point to a God who made us all and to His Son who sacrificed Himself for us all.  Christ is the One who can break down what separates us.  Now is the time to share Him.

Ultimately, whether you are satisfied with the outcome of this election or fearful because of it, remember to guard your faith.  Fear can lead us to lash out in anger as we try to forcefully and artificially rectify something we think is wrong.  Satisfaction can lead to gloating and glibness as we trust in a set of comfortable circumstances that will, finally, prove to be fleeting.  Both of these reactions can lead us away from Christ rather than toward Him.  A reaction of fear can refuse to trust in the peace Christ wants to give as it stews in its own self-righteous anger.  An enshrinement of comfort can minimize the provision Christ wants of offer as it lounges in its own self-sufficiency.

Thus, what we need now as the presidency of the United States shifts parties and hands is what we have always needed and will always need:

Faith.

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.  When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. (Psalm 146:3-5)

November 14, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Following Jesus Day By Day

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve watched the scenario play out again and again. A young Christian man is climbing the ladder of success. But then something snaps. The trappings of success begin to strangle his heart. And he decides to give it all up. His job. His house. His source of income. Traditional means of supporting his family. He gives it all up and announces, “I am going to stop trying to manage, control, and plan for everything my life and just follow Jesus one day at a time.”

Now, on the one hand, I respect and admire this deeply. This kind of decision brings into crystal clarity the trappings of an affluent life. The truth is, we don’t need the stuff we have. And when we treat it like we do need it, we break the First Commandment. We turn the stuff we have into an idol we trust.

In his book Radical, David Platt paints a picture of an Asian house church that haunts me:

Despite its size, sixty believers have crammed into it. They are all ages from precious little girls to seventy-year-old men. They are sitting either on the floor or on small stools, lined shoulder to should, huddled together their Bibles in their laps. The roof is low, and one light bulb dangles from the middle of the ceiling as the sole source of illumination.

No sound system.

No band.

No guitar.

No entertainment.

No cushioned chairs.

No heated or air-conditioned building.

Nothing but the people of God and the Word of God.

And strangely, that’s enough.

God’s Word is enough for millions of believers who gather in house churches just like this one. His Word is enough for millions of other believers who huddle in African jungles, South American rain forests, and Middle Easter cities.

But is His Word enough for us?[1]

I sure do hope His Word is enough for us. Because if it’s not, the Church has lost her foundation, her purpose, her uniqueness, and her hope. God’s Word must be enough.

I say all this so that you do not misunderstand what I am about to write.

I have no inherent problem with people who want to follow Jesus day by day with nothing but the shirts on their backs. I am concerned, however, that the impetus for following Jesus in this way is sometimes based on a misreading of what Jesus actually says. When it comes to trusting Jesus day by day, Jesus explains:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:25-32)

Jesus is clear. We need not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

There is a difference, however, between worrying about tomorrow and planning for tomorrow. One is discouraged. The other is encouraged. Jesus tells a story about ten virgins who bring oil lamps waiting for a groom to show up for a wedding party. But five of the ten did bring enough oil for their lamps. Do you know what Jesus calls those five? “Foolish” (Matthew 25:3). Why? Because they did not plan. The book of Proverbs includes admonitions to plan (Proverbs 21:5; 24:27; 27:23-27) and God Himself plans (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Jesus’ ministry is intricately planned as can be seen from His passion predictions (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34; Luke 9:18-22, 9:44, 18:31-33) and His training of the disciples for the mission of the Church (Matthew 4:19). Thus, not worrying about tomorrow does not preclude planning for tomorrow.

So, to my friends who have jettisoned plans to follow Jesus day by day, I say, “Blessed are you.” But remember that a time may come when planning, once again, becomes salutary. And if you’re worried that your plans may somehow be out of step with God’s will, you do not need to be afraid. After all, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

If your plans go awry, the Lord will get you back on track. He has promised to. You can plan on it.

_____________________________________

[1] David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream (Colorado Spring: Multnomah Books, 2010), 26.

February 2, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Act Like Men: Sobering Lessons From Ray Rice and Janay Palmer

Ray Rice, Janay PalmerWe’ve known about it since last February. But last Monday, when TMZ released video of former Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then fiancée and now wife Janay Palmer in an elevator, knocking her unconscious, the flames of public outrage instantly erupted. The video was so shocking and the violence so brutal that, hours after the video was released, the Ravens terminated Rice and the NFL banned him indefinitely.

Much of the discussion surrounding the assault and the release of this video has centered on the NFL’s inept handling of this terrible tragedy. People want to know: Why was the NFL’s initial reaction to this domestic violence story so weak? Originally, Rice received only a paltry two-game suspension. Why did the NFL change its response once the video was released, considering the video gave us no new information? It just confirms what we already knew.  New information indicates that the NFL did, in fact, have a copy of this video in their possession as early as last April.  Why didn’t the NFL take swift and decisive action against Rice then?

These are important questions. But for the purposes of this blog, I want to focus on Rice himself. His brutal actions serve as clear cautions and teach us important lessons. Here are three of those lessons.

Lesson 1: Humans deserve dignity.

Time and time again, Scripture upholds the dignity every human being. The Psalmist writes:

What is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:4-8)

The Psalmist extols man as the crown of God’s creation. Though on earth, he is just a little lower than heavenly beings and is called to steward and rule God’s creation. Man has preeminent dignity in God’s created order.

Part of the reason what Ray Rice did to Janay Palmer is so appalling is because it robbed her of this dignity. To knock out your soon-to-be spouse and then to drag her out of an elevator is to treat her with contempt rather than, as Solomon says, a “crown” (Proverbs 12:4). Rice treated Palmer as someone less than human. And this is unacceptable.

Lesson 2: Humans need patience.

Though we do not know the specific circumstances that led to this incident, it is not a stretch to surmise that Rice punched Palmer because he was angry with her. Something had been said or done that sent him reeling.

What Rice needed was patience.

The apostle Paul famously extols patience as part of the fruit of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The Greek word Paul uses for “patience” is makrothymia. This word is made up of two parts. Makros means “long” and thymos means “hot.” To be patient, then, means to take a long time to get hot. It means to keep your cool when everyone else is losing theirs.

Everyone gets frustrated. Everyone has disagreements. Everyone endures a pricked pride from time to time. What makes the difference in how these troubles turn out is how we react. Do we react in anger? Or do we take a long time to get hot?

Patience can protect your job and sustain your reputation. But most importantly, it can save your relationships. This is why, when Paul discusses how to love another person well, the very first thing he says is “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Lesson 3: Humans value trust.

I have counseled with far too many battered women. Some have been hit many times. Others have been hit only once. Regardless of the number of times these women have been abused, one refrain remains consistent: “I don’t know if I can trust him anymore. I’m afraid he’ll do it again.”

Violence breaks trust. It breaks trusting communication because you never know if something you say will set the other off. It breaks trusting intimacy because the same hands that reach out to hold you once hit you. Violence cannot be quarantined and contained as merely “one problem” in an otherwise healthy relationship because it breaks trust in every area of a relationship. So men, let me say this as clearly as I can: Raising your hand at a lady, even just one time, is one time too many. Don’t even think about it. Go for a walk to cool off. Call a trusted friend or your pastor for counsel. Pray for strength to keep your cool. But do not raise your hand. Ever. No exceptions. No excuses.

Is there forgiveness from God for men who break this rule? Of course there is. Can breaking this rule end a man’s marriage and irreparably harm a precious daughter of God? You bet it can. So just don’t do it.

Coming to Dallas this November, and then to Chicago next May, is a Christian conference called “Act Like Men.” It’s based on Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). A man who hits a woman rejects Paul’s admonition. He does not act like a man. He acts like a brute.

So what does it mean to act like a man? It means simply this: to act like Christ. So whether you’re a famed NFL running back, an affluent businessman, or an unknown factory worker, it’s time to put down your hand and take up your cross.

September 15, 2014 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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