Is God Good Enough To Trust?


October 13 (1 Thessalonians 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:7)

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.  (ESV)

Have you ever participated in a trust fall?  You stand up, close your eyes, fold your arms across your chest, and fall backward into the arms of another person.  It may seem rather hokey, but it does prove a point.  You simply will not give up your attempt to control your own life unless you completely trust the person you claim to trust.

What does it mean to walk by faith and not by sight?  Let’s start with the end of that statement.  It means not attempting to figure things out.  It means not trying to see what we cannot see about next week or tomorrow or later today.  It means not using all our experiences and education to control the future in an effort to protect ourselves from harm.  Are you scared yet?  A little bit nervous, perhaps?  We spend most of our lives trying to control life, either so it doesn’t hurt us or to get whatever it is we want.  Walking by sight is the natural way to go.

Why, then, would we give that up?  Let’s be honest for a moment.  How has that control thing been going for you?  Don’t you find that you expend more time and energy trying to arrange how things should happen than actually doing them?  Okay, you say, but why should I trust God?  Because of 1 Thessalonians 5:9.  God loves you!  The Bible says right here that God’s plan for you is not for you to suffer His anger.  Do you get that?  God does not want you to suffer punishment or be separated from Him.  He wants you to be united with Him forever, and He has made that possible through Jesus.

Now does that sound like someone you can trust?

God, I’m here again, giving back to You the control I have tried to take over my life.  It is just such an easy habit to fall back into, Lord.  Help me today, just today, to walk by faith in You and not by what my own senses perceive.  I will come to You with the same prayer tomorrow.  In the name of Jesus, amen.


God Raises You From Darkness


October 6 (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  (ESV)

You have either experienced what Paul experienced or you will.  If you have felt the emptiness of despair, then you know exactly what Paul is talking about.  Don’t feel bad about feeling bad.  No less than the apostle Paul went through a period of depression so dark that, as it says in the original Greek, he was at a loss how to live.  If you haven’t felt it yet, stay with me here so you will be prepared when you do.

We live in a fallen world, friends.  That is not just a metaphor.  We all know about the big things…wars, poverty, hatred, crime…but our smaller worlds are broken, too.  We suffer from uncertainty, doubt, and fear.  We face illness, both major and minor.  We have job difficulties and relational stress, and do I even need to mention finances?  And when two or three or all of those things hit at once, we would be lying if we said everything was okay.

Yet notice what Paul took from the experience of despair.  He learned to rely on God as never before and to stop relying on himself.  Friends, I know the dark times are painful, but what a blessed place to arrive!  I wish we could get to that place of complete trust in God without going through such pain, but that just isn’t how it works for most of us.

So how do we come through to the other side?  How do we arrive through the darkness to the place of reliance on God?  It helps to have walked with Him before the darkness strikes.  Even if you have not experienced despair or true hardship, read and meditate now on the verses that talk about faith and the goodness and provision of God.  Even if you think they do not pertain to you at the moment, let those verses deeply into your heart.  No one knew the Scriptures better than Paul.  He relied on the words of God during the worst of times to see him through, and they will do the same for you.

Father, I want to build up my protection against the assaults of the world by knowing You more.  Open to me Your words and reveal to me their truth.  Plant Your words deeply into my mind and my heart, that I may call upon them and find my way to You when I can see nothing in front of me.  In the name of Jesus, Who trusted You through the darkness of death and brought life to all, amen.

God Wears Your Shoes


August 25 (Philippians 2:7)

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.  (NLT)

“You should be in my shoes.”  We’ve all heard it and we’ve all said it.  We say it when we want someone to understand just what we’re going through, but when we hear it….  Let’s be honest.  We don’t always want to be in someone else’s shoes.  I know I don’t.  When I am tired at the end of a long day, the last thing I want is to hear about someone else’s struggles, much less stand in that person’s shoes and actually experience them.  In fact, I want someone to stand in my shoes, thank you very much!

It is not natural to stand in someone else’s shoes.  It involves a depth of love that humans do not naturally possess.  Oh, we can be genuinely kind, but when it comes to experiencing the struggles of someone else, our natural response is to defend and protect ourselves.  We do not want more difficulties to add to our own and bring us down.  On top that, taking on the burdens of another requires tremendous strength and energy, something that most of us lack in sufficient quantity in this hurly burly world.

Now consider Jesus.  He loved us so much that He was willing to set aside His divine life with the Father and Holy Spirit in order to become one of us.  He not only stood in our shoes, He actually took on human flesh and lived out the physical reality of what it means to be a human being.  And this incredibly loving God, Who is love and possesses more love than we could ever emotionally muster, was strong enough to do it.  Remember, He is the one Who created the stars and the atoms.  The one Who holds the universe together was more than strong enough to take on our flesh and our problems.  Knowing this, what do you want to say to Him today?

Jesus, I need to know that You know what I’m going through.  I need to be confident that You not only understand my situation, but that You will help me through it.  You have shown me that You are more than capable of handling my burdens and that You love me enough to be willing to do so.  Today I give You all of my struggles and worries and fears.  I know that You can handle them.  Amen.

Does God Want You To Do It All?


August 18 (John 15:4)

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.  (NLT)

One of God’s most common messages is that we cannot do it all by ourselves.  One of the most common messages of the current age is not only that we can do it all by ourselves, but that we should.  From e-trading that no longer requires a broker to the self-checkout line at the grocery store, technology has put more and more power into our hands to do things alone that before would have required others.  Just consider the filmmaking power you have on your phone.  You can record sound and moving images, add background music and credits, edit the whole production, and upload it for grandparents and the world to see before you even get home from your child’s game or recital.

How does all that power make you feel?  Does it really make you feel powerful?  Or does it increase your stress and anxiety because everyone now expects you to do it all and to do it perfectly?  Not that this would come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I am not God.  I could not have kept up with the demands of the pre-industrial age, much less the pressures of our 24/7, interconnected world.  I can’t do it and I am not going to try.  What I can do is stay connected to the true vine, Jesus Christ.  What does He want me to do today?  Whatever it is, Matthew 11:28-30 tells me it will be a lighter burden than what the world puts on me.  Whatever it is, Philippians 4:13 reminds me that I can do it with His strength.  Whatever it is, 1 Corinthians 12 says that other people may be gifted to do part of it and that I would do well to work with them.

There’s one other thing.  Trying to do it all may keep you from doing what God has actually called you to do.  Busyness is not holiness.  What will generate your agenda this week?  Will it be your calendar and your inbox and the electronic voices of all those who have your contact information, or will it be God, Who knows you and formed you to do His good and perfect will?  If you set out to do all, but only, what God has for you to do, He will give you all you need to accomplish it.

Father, rather than asking for help to do all the things I think I must, I will first ask what You actually want me to do.  Show me the path You want me to take, and I will trust You to provide what I need to get there.  In the name of Jesus, amen.

Eternity And The Heart


August 4 (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

He has planted eternity in the human heart.  (NLT)

The tyranny of the urgent crushes the human spirit.  Consider for a moment the things that make you nervous or anxious, scared or worried.  Are they not things like paying your bills, dealing with a difficult relationship, or handling the mountain of work at your job?  The young person knows this anxiety as she prepares to enter a new level of school, and the elderly person knows it as he frets over burdening his family.  Seventeenth century thinker Blaise Pascal identified why this is so.  “Our imagination so enlarges the present by dint of continually reflecting on it, and so contracts eternity, by never reflecting on it, that we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing.”

Contrast that with how God designed us.  He planted eternity in our hearts.  We were made to dream of and to ponder the limitless.  Do we have to put gas in the car?  Of course we do, but activities like that are not the focus of our lives, and neither are things like wealth, honor, and the accumulation of achievements.  We live in discrete moments, minute to minute, in bodies no taller than the tops of our heads and no faster than our muscles can contract, yet our hearts are made for eternity.  How, then, do we reverse the absurdity that Pascal identified?

We dwell in the eternal when we surrender to God.  When we give Him our fears and our worries, when we give Him our plans and our dreams and focus not on any of those things but on Him and His rich, extravagant, lavish, warm, perfect love for us, in such a moment our moments expand to eternity.  Confidence and peace become ours as we walk in sure relationship with our Lord.

Oh, Jesus, You overwhelm me with Your love and friendship.  When I think about it, I can’t imagine why I ever look to anything, be it my worries or successes, other than You.  If anything tempts me to look elsewhere, please draw my gaze back to You.  Amen.

Does God Like Us?

Beautiful Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills

July 21 (Psalm 104:14-15)

You allow them to produce food from the earth—
     wine to make them glad,
olive oil to soothe their skin,
    and bread to give them strength.  (NLT)

You do not have to like people to love them.  In fact, being able to love without liking is something Christians are called to do.   Remember that whole “love your enemy” bit?  This is how forgiveness is possible.  We love those who do us wrong, even while fully admitting that what they did was indeed wrong and that we do not like it.  On the other hand, we all want to be liked, and this leads us to an important question.  Does God like us?  We know He loves us, a fact that was made clear for all time through the death and resurrection of Jesus, but does He actually like us?

The answer is yes, and Psalm 104 proves it.  Because God loves us, He gives us what we need, but because He likes us, He goes beyond that.  Bread for strength is necessary, but wine to gladden the heart?  Olive oil to soothe the skin?  We can live without those last two, but that is not what God wanted for us.  It is true that Jesus said we are to deny ourselves and follow Him, but we often take this too far, assuming that God is a harsh taskmaster wanting nothing but Spartan soldiers as His followers.

Ponder this for a moment.  God gave us wine to gladden us and olive oil to soothe our skin.  He orchestrated the songs and calls of the animal kingdom to fill us with music and He painted the oceans and landscapes and the far-flung reaches of space with colors to dazzle and thrill our eyes.  How, then, will it change your relationship with Him to know just how much God likes you?

Lord, You have shared with us the glories of Your imagination brought to life.  First of all, thank You.  I truly do thank You for the glory and wonder and spectacle and comfort and adventure that You have spread before us.  Thank You for liking us enough to give us such a life now, and thank You for loving us enough to give us life everlasting with You.  In the name of Jesus, through whom and for whom all things were made, amen.