Saturday, May 25, 2013


How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
Psalm 13:1 (NIV)

                We have all been there at some point in our lives. We have all felt like the Psalmist when he expressed his frustration to God. We pray and pray and yet it seems like God is silent. It seems like God is not listening at all. Our prayers seemingly bounce off the walls of an empty room. What do we do when we enter that echoing silence?

                Psalm 13 gives us some insights into dealing with those times of silence.

                How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:1-6 (NIV)

                 Our faith is tested during the silent times of waiting. There are numerous Psalms that express the frustration of waiting for God to answer. All of them challenge us to keep trusting. God’s silence is never indifference. It is a call for us to trust Him more fully. Like the Psalmist, during the silent times we need to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. Just because we don’t see God at work does not mean He has stopped or abandoned us. We need to hold onto Jesus’ promise that he would never leave us or forsake us.

                God is not in a hurry. We want things to happen quickly. We want to move through difficult times with as little discomfort as possible. That is not always God’s plan. God doesn’t answer our requests to appease us or to get us off his back. He knows that sometimes what we request will actually harm us if granted. He also knows when the timing is and isn’t right. Ultimately God wants what is the very best for us.
                 God delays action to refine our faith. Just as precious metal is placed in the fire to be refined, so our faith must face the fire for the same reason. If we come out of the fire too soon, we will not be sufficiently tempered for what is ahead. Paul shared with us one of those refining times in his life in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

                To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

                The message that God gave to Paul He gives to us as well. His grace is sufficient for all of the circumstances of life. When we recognize our true weakness, when we let go of our desire to be in control, then we can experience the power of God at work in us.

                There is no doubt that the silent times are difficult for us. But, we do not have to despair in the silence. Instead we can learn to rest in that silence. We can learn to use that time to refocus and reorient our lives. Sometimes God’s silence is a call for us to turn off all the other voices that fill our minds and to wait with eager anticipation until we hear His voice again.

                God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah
                        There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
                        Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Psalms 46:1-11 (NIV)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Ephesians 6:11-13 (NIV)
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

                I grew up in the 60s and 70s, at the height of the Vietnam War. At that time, it was very unpopular to support the war or the troops who fought it. Any military references were seen in a negative light. During this time, the Church pulled away from the image of believers being soldiers in a war against Satan and his forces. All military images were replaced by an emphasis on the love and grace of God. Until recently, this shift in how we communicate the Christian Life has held sway. Unfortunately the over-emphasis on God’s love has led to unintended consequences. Although we can always find exceptions to the rule, the following general observations ring pretty true.

                Christians approach life passively rather than aggressively. There are some outstanding exceptions to this observation, but it holds true for the majority of believers. We have been taught to soften our message and bath everything in love and grace. Unfortunately for many people, this means that we are to be passive. An aggressive Christian is labeled as a zealot or a fanatic. These are not labels most of us want to carry around with us.

                When you are in a war, you cannot afford to be passive. A passive army automatically gives the upper hand to the enemy. In WWII, the French and the British learned too late that taking a passive approach to Hitler was not going to work. Even though it was not popular, they had to aggressively resist the spread of Nazi power.

                Although, in our personal relationships with individuals, the Bible calls for us to seek to live at peace, we can never live at peace with Satan. As followers of Christ, we cannot appease Satan, or live in a defensive mode. Instead we need to aggressively proclaim the Gospel in as many positive ways as we can. Jesus called for us to storm the very gates of hell.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18 (NIV)

                We do not fight as the world does. Instead we fight with the positive alternatives to an ungodly world. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 (NIV)

                Christians are reluctant to take a moral stand for fear they will be seen as unloving. This trend is changing, but not always for the better. One of the greatest weapons the world has to use against Christians is the weapon of undefined, generic love. If a Christian takes a moral stand against abortion or homosexuality, he or she is automatically labeled as unloving. In fact, in the recent debate over same-sex marriage in Minnesota, those in favor of this trumpeted that it is the loving thing to do. Many Christians are now finding the courage to challenge this misguided approach. Unfortunately, some have allowed the pendulum to swing too far. Instead of taking a God-honoring moral stand, they have become abrasive and even abusive in the name of Christ.

                An army at war has clearly defined objectives. It does not listen to the propaganda of the enemy. It does not let the enemy set boundaries on what it can do. Instead it sets its sights on defeating the enemy by any means possible. The Church as allowed the world to define the ground rules for life. It is time for the Church to recapture its rightful place as the moral and spiritual leader.

                Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

                Christians have come to expect life to be filled with peace and a lack of hardships. When hardships do come, we complain that God is being unfair or unloving. We have believed a lie. That lie is that God never wants you to suffer and that if you follow Christ you will have everything that you want.

                In a war, it is the rear echelon soldiers who complain the most. They complain about the food, the living conditions and the occasional encounter with the enemy. Being in the rear, they do not expect to get shot at. The frontline troops have a very different attitude. They expect to encounter the enemy regularly. They are thankful to have food and to be able to sleep once in a while. They begin every day expecting to get shot at.

                Too many Christians in America today have the attitude of rear echelon troops. They don’t expect to get shot at and they complain loudly when it happens. We are in a spiritual war, and we should expect casualties. We are not immune from the consequences of living in a fallen world. In fact, it is when we face the enemy’s assaults that we most fully experience the power of God in our lives.

                To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)

                I don’t like conflict. I much prefer to live in peace with those around me. But, as a follower of Christ, I know that I will face hardships and obstacles of many kinds. These obstacles don’t mean that God has stopped loving me. They mean that I have been sent to the front lines. So maybe it is time to turn in our bathrobe and slippers for a helmet and combat boots.

                "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV)

                Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 (NIV)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

                Recently I read an article about the discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. One scientist stated that in the distant future, our night sky will be completely devoid of stars because they will have moved too far away from us. This got me thinking about heaven. I have always wondered about how God was going to accommodate all of the believers who have ever lived in heaven. The Bible tells us that there will be a new heaven and a new earth in which believers will take up residence. Maybe our expanding universe gives us a clue of what the future holds.

                One of the difficulties we have when we read the Bible is that we our limited by our frame of reference. We interpret everything by what we know. But what if there were no limits? What if our frame of reference was expanded? How would that change our view of eternity?

                For many centuries scientists thought the universe was static. Then they discovered that the universe is expanding. From their frame of reference they determined that this expansion was gradually slowing down and would one day come to an end. Then the frame of reference changed again. This time they discovered that the expansion of the universe is actually accelerating. Scientists now have to readjust their understanding of the universe again.

                God is not limited by space as we are. When we think about God and about eternity, we need to readjust our frame of reference. God’s frame of reference and ours are universes apart. Paul hinted at this in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.

                From our frame of reference, if all of the believers throughout all of history were restored to the earth at the same time, it would not be paradise. It would be grid-lock. But what if God spread His children out throughout an ever expanding universe? What if travel through space and time was no longer an issue? Then heaven could accommodate an infinite number of believers. Not only that. Heaven could hold an infinite capacity for exploration and discovery. We would never come to the end of the ever expanding glory of God.

                My point is not to speculate about the actual dimensions of heaven, but to break us free from our limited frame of reference. Our vision of God and what God can do is far too small. When Paul writes that God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, he really means it. We cannot fully comprehend the vastness of God’s creative power.

                What does this mean for us right here and right now? It means that we can stop putting limits on God’s work in our world and in our lives. We can trust the God of no limits. When Mary was confronted with the news that she was going to be the mother of Jesus, she immediately put limits on God. The angel responded to her by saying, “nothing is impossible with God.” When Jesus encountered the Rich Young Ruler, and explained to His disciples how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, He reassured them with these words. "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26) When the desperate father came to Jesus asking for his help, Jesus reminded him that God can do all things.

                Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?" "From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:21-24 (NIV)

                We all stand side by side with that father. Our frame of reference keeps getting in the way of our faith. So we cry with him, we believe. Help us overcome our unbelief.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


                Back in 1998, Pamela Gilliland bought an old hatbox at auction for one dollar. When she opened it, she discovered a treasure. It wasn’t money or jewels; it was over 200 letters from two brothers, written to their parents during WWII. Those letters chronicle the life of an American GI during one of the most monumental times in modern history. Recently, Pamela has enlisted the services of an amateur historian to unravel the stories behind those letters. You can read about it on

                The story about those letters got me thinking about our lives. In a real sense, each of us is writing a series of letters; although not with paper and pen. We write our story through the everyday activities of our lives. One of the things that is apparent from those WWII letters is that boredom and routine was a big part of the life of a GI. Much of our daily life is routine. We don’t see our activities as having any eternal significance. Yet each of those activities is a line in our story; a line that is creating the framework upon which the rest of our story hangs.

                As I have studying the Gospels, I am always struck with the impression that life with Jesus was a fast paced, thrill a minute experience. But the truth is that is not what really happened. The Gospel writers crafted their accounts of Jesus’ life to convey a specific message. Their intent was to show clearly the divine nature of Jesus and to how he came to redeem a lost work. They were writing not just a history of Jesus’ life, but salvation history. What they left out would fill volumes.

                Just as in the life of a soldier, the life of one of Jesus’ disciples was filled with routine and, at times, even boredom. There were periods of time when Jesus “disappeared” and they were left on their own. There were many long, grueling walks around Galilee, and between Galilee and Jerusalem. The disciples had to secure and prepare food, wash clothes, bathe (I assume they bathed at least once in awhile), and many other mundane tasks. This routine life was punctuated with amazing miracles, intimate conversations, and large group gathering.

                We live most of our lives in the routine tasks of life. This encompasses our job and our home life. We are so used to this routine that we hardly notice it; it is just life. We break up this routine with occasional vacations or weekend getaways. Occasionally, God speaks powerfully into our routine. It may come at a worship service or in a quiet conversation with a friend. It may come on a mission trip to a foreign country or helping a neighbor. The point is that God hangs the “significant events” of our life on the framework of our routine. Without our routine life, we would not be in the place for God to speak to us or use us in a mighty way. It is the routine of our lives that places us where God can use us for His glory.

                Those letters I mentioned earlier were written by two brothers to their parents. As we live our lives, we are writing letters to our Heavenly Father. He delights in receiving them. When we live with God on our mind, He is glorified. Parents love to have their children share their life with them. It doesn’t matter if the things they share are significant or mundane. Parents want to be included and involved in their children’s lives. The same is true of our Heavenly Father. He is watching all that we do. He is fully aware of all that we do. But He is most delighted when we actively share that with Him. Over and over again, God invites us to share our lives with Him.

                Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)

                "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

                "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

                There is one other important thing I want to point out. Those WWII letters were discovered by a person to whom they were not written. Pamela has the privilege of stepping into the lives of two brothers that she may never meet or know personally. Yet her life can be enriched by their letters. So it is with our letters to God. In a very real sense, other people are reading our letters to God every day. We may not know it, but they are. They watch how we handle the routine of life, as well as the unexpected and the difficult. Through our lives, they are learning what it means to have a vital relationship with God through Jesus Christ. God wants the letters that we write every day to be an encouragement to others. Our earthly lives will one day come to an end, but the letters we write will live on long after we are gone.

                You may think that what you do every day is insignificant, but it isn’t. God is using your routine life to build a framework upon which He wants to display His glory.

                Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)

Friday, May 3, 2013


                There is nothing quite like the unconditional love of a parent for their child. When I was growing up, I was rather accident prone. No, that is an understatement. I was very accident prone. Stories about my misadventures are legendary in my family. When I did something dumb, my parents didn't reject me. They extended unconditional love toward me. They bound up my wounds and helped me clean up my mess. They did this not because I deserved it, but because I am their child.

                As a follower of Christ, I am a child of God. Not in some universal, generic sense. I am a loved, valued, embraced and forgiven son of my Father in Heaven. That is an amazing thought. The Apostle John, who was the closest disciple to Jesus, never quite got over the amazing truth that we are God’s children. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 (NIV)

                My parents have loved me all of my life. I was physically born into their family. They claimed me from day one. (What were they thinking?) But it is different with my Heavenly Father. I wasn't born physically into His family. In fact, I was born on the wrong side of the spiritual tracks. I was born in the enemy camp. I was born into a life of rebellion against God. Yet, he still loved me! That is truly amazing.

                Paul puts our situation into perspective when he wrote to the believers in Rome.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 (NIV) There are three concepts that stand out for me from this passage.

                God’s love is timely. At just the right time He sent Jesus into the world. Jesus came at a time in human history when people were ready for a Savior. Although there was relative peace under the rule of Rome, there was a longing in people’s hearts for something more significant. At just the right time Jesus came into the world.

                And at just the right time Jesus came into my life. I grew up in a Christian home and made a commitment to Christ when I was very young. But when I was 13 I really encountered Christ in a life transforming way. It was at a time in my life when I was unsure about my future. Jesus met me and gave me the assurance that I belonged to the family of God.

                God’s love is extraordinary. He didn't wait for humanity to get it right. He didn't wait for us to clean up our mess before he extended His hand. No, while we were still mired in our sin and rebellion, Jesus came and died for us. In no way do you deserve God’s love. In no way can we earn God’s love. God still extends His love to us, in spite of our rebellion. That is called grace, and it is amazing.

                As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

                God’s love is intentional. God had a plan from before the beginning of creation. His plan all along was to love us, so He created us in His image. Our sin twisted and distorted that image. God sent Jesus to reclaim us and to restore His image in us. God has not given up on us. He continues to extend His love to all who will receive it.

                There is an old hymn that begins with these words. “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene. And wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned unclean.” When I contemplate the love that God has shown to me through Christ Jesus, I stand amazed.