Trust

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Chronicles 11

bible

Read 1 Chronicles 11:1-9

…because the Lord Almighty was with him.”

What do you put your hope in?  What do you have faith in?  What do you believe in?  What thing, if you have it, puts your life in order?  What thing, if you were to lose it, would cause your life to unravel and deconstruct?  The Israelites thought they had a King.  They thought they had a savior who would protect and bless them.  Then, abruptly, that King was taken from them.  The absence of this King left a void that the Israelites were forced to look into.

The loss of something we love causes us to ask questions.  We ask ourselves, “Why is this loss so painful?”  “Why do I miss it so much?”  “Why do I feel incapable of moving on?”  “What will I do without it?”

When we face loss, our most honest and sincere feelings are revealed.  When seeking answers to our reaction we often find uncomfortable truths:  that our love for what we lost was unnaturally great and what we loved was naturally finite.

To know God as HE is and to love Him for who He is we must lose something.  We must take the thing we treasure the most and let it go.  We must begin to see the things in our lives in their natural order.  Our love for people is naturally beautiful, but our faith in them is destructively irrational.  We love things, but a love for a mere thing that cannot love us in return is illogically unreasonable.

But ultimately, what we must lose is neither a person nor a thing.  We must understand that the love of self is the greatest opponent to the love of God in our lives.  The truth is that without Jesus Christ we are lost, sheep without a shepherd.  We will find temporary success, but only a success that is fleeting and painful to lose.  In Jesus Christ there is no loss, except for the loss of the one thing that could never truly give you anything in the first place.  In Jesus Christ we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and in Jesus Christ we are no longer investing in a losing battle.  With Jesus Christ, the loss of our self is the painful first step to a life where our treasure is Christ, and to know Him is gain.  With Jesus Christ we have a King that has already won the victory. Through faith in His life, death and resurrection, that same victory is ours and we can and will overcome.

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Kings 6

bibleRead 2 Kings 6.1-7

Grace is a concept easy to accept upon becoming a Christian but more difficult to believe as we begin our walk with Christ.  We know how much Jesus has done for us.  We know how our prior condition was not only harmful to ourselves but to others around us.  We know that the promise of eternal peace and joy in Heaven is real.  We know that the struggle with our sinful nature is ever-present and ongoing.  However, after “knowing” all of this, many Christians fail to move.  They feel like to move is to open the door to making the wrong decision or going in the wrong way or hearing the wrong thing from God.  We are paralyzed by fear, suffocated by hypotheticals and worst-case scenarios.  We don’t want to mess up.  We don’t want to make a mistake.  We don’t want to lose what God has offered us.

But while all of these feelings are natural and justifiable, where is the heart of the Gospel?  Where is the cross?  Where is the resurrection?  Where is Jesus?

When you met Jesus, did you meet a savior who sought opportunities to punish wrongdoers, or who brought healing and forgiveness?  Did you meet a savior who set traps for people to fall into or who was the first to reach out and touch the unclean and unworthy?

The tragedy of the Christian is the fear of making mistakes.  While the Gospel of Jesus Christ MUST establish a new heart and a new way of life, must seek to honor God and His commands and must never tolerate sinful behavior, there is still grace.  There MUST be grace! There is still understanding.  There is still the authority of the living God to cover a multitude of sins by the righteousness and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The mark of a Christian is how often and willing we are to allow God’s authority and glory to be revealed in us.  This often comes by the action of faith.  The faith of a Christian is believing that the living God is real and is with us.  The God of Creation commands us to move, to work, to live, all for His glory.  If we love God and choose to serve Him with all that we are and all that we have, mistakes no longer become a paralyzing fear.  Fear of making mistakes is predicated on an expectation of perfection.  Punishment is associated with fear, and if we believe in Jesus, we know the punishment was His and is not ours.  We will of course make mistakes. We will fall.  However, the God of Creation has never demanded perfection from us, but has desired for us to choose Him first.  Our salvation does not hinge upon our perfection.  Our salvation rests on if we believe in Jesus, who embodies perfection.  Faith in Jesus allows us to try and fail, to move and to fall and to reveal a Father who loves that we believe.

Born Again: People (Isaiah 20)

people

source

Welcome to Week 3 of our reflection series “Born Again.” The born again life is focused on Christ’s power and nothing else. Through this reflection series, we’re looking at the things that try to take center stage in our lives. This week, we’re studying what Isaiah 20 has to say about “People.”

Read Isaiah 20.

In the book of Isaiah, chapter 20, Israel was starting to realize that by this point in the story, their footing as a nation in the face of encroaching powers was less than stable. So, like most people facing trouble, their first instinct was to find something to hold onto.  In this case, Israel was looking to grab onto Egypt, although God, through a naked and barefoot Isaiah, was clearly advising against such loyalties.

The conclusion to this story was that by putting their security in an apparently strong and trustworthy ally rather than in God, Israel ultimately sealed their upcoming invasion by Babylon and Assyria.  But does this passage teach us not to trust people? No.

Trust in people is at the heart of our relationships.  Because we were created in the image of God, trust is at the heart of our relationship with him. Trusting people is not the issue. The issue is that, when we entirely locate our hopes and security in people, the countdown for disappointment and pain has already begun.

We put our hope in people because we believe, for some outlandish and irrational reason, that these particular individuals are not like us when it comes to trouble.  We believe that they are better.  We believe that they are different. Unlike us, they seem successful and strong. Unlike us, they always seem to have a plan B. Unlike us, they never seem troubled by anything. Their glass is not only half full, but will never be depleted.

Of course, the reality is that this is not the case. These “superhero” figures in our lives are far from superhuman. These are simply humans. Just like us. And just like us, they experience hardship and moments of uncertainty, and are capable of experiencing pain as well as inflicting it, just as we are.

People will be there for you, but then they won’t. People will love you, but then they won’t. People will understand you, and then they won’t. People have limitations. And when we put our hopes and security entirely in people, these limitations will be unveiled in disappointing and hurtful ways.

In this passage of scripture about Israel’s loyalties, God was trying to shock them to the understanding that only he was enough to rely on. No other relationship and no other fellowship can compare.  He was showing them the wall of destruction towards which they were speeding in the hopes that they would turn back.

We were created to form relationships, to trust those relationships, to make friends and ask for help. But the ultimate relationship, the only one that can and should be trusted to the fullest extent, is the relationship between God and his people. Out of dust he created us for the pure and simple reason of fellowship, so that the love shared within the Trinity could be expressed beyond the triune relationship. Regardless of our behavior toward him, his love and patience led him to ultimately send his Son so that none would be lost.

Regardless of differences of testimony, everyone who has been born again experiences similar spiritual changes. This is because, while all things human and earthly pass away, one thing stays the same.  He is the only ally who will never fail you. He is the only father who will continue to provide for you. He is the only one who whose love is so enduring and pure. He is the only person so close to us that, in him, we never have to feel alone or misunderstood. He has always known us, and he always understands.

Thursday Reflection Series: Candles, Cakes, and Prayers

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Some of my fondest childhood memories are of birthday parties.  Birthday parties were always exciting and joyful.  A birthday party was an isolated moment in time where, especially for the person whose birthday it was. Everything seemed to go just right.  On that one day you could eat all of the foods you ever dreamed of eating, you could play the games you wanted to play, and people would literally personally deliver you gifts.  For most of us this is the closest we would ever get to living like royalty.  In the middle of all of this impossible-becoming-possible birthday magic, we find one of the most central birthday traditions.  At the right moment, all activity built to a suspenseful crescendo, the all-important cake was finally presented to all of the awaiting guests and partygoers.

The ideal birthday cake would incorporate the passions, hobbies and personality of the recipient, carefully represented and etched out in the cake’s decoration. The cake would be a dream come true.  It’s no surprise that the core of the birthday cake tradition was intricately connected to dreams coming true.

Before the cutting and after the candle-lighting, the important moment arrived: the moment to make a wish and blow out the magic candles. This was the final step, before the entire party could proceed.  There seemed to be a holy, almost spiritual, reverence for this moment. Time stood still and breathing ceased, if only for a brief moment. There was a sense that all those present put some small hope in the chance that a dream might actually come true.  It’s easy, given the atmosphere of a birthday party, to almost give into the idea that if so many impossible things could be made possible already, why would it be unreasonable to think that one more thing would press the limits of this magical day?

As children, there is a true hope that blowing out birthday candles will lead to a miracle.  As a child this was not joke, fantasy or ritual.  As children, up until a certain point, we believed.

As we got older and the “magic” of birthdays and birthday parties was replaced by the somber realization that a birthday merely symbolized aging, the belief in the candles disappeared completely.  We began to see that we do not live in a world where dreams are fulfilled, that miracles are not commonplace.  Like children losing faith in birthday wishes, as we grow up,our faith in promises beyond reason is likewise dampened.

It is from a similar place that people today, Christian and non-Christian, view prayer.  For many, praying is nothing more than making birthday wishes via candles, nothing more than a silly superstition.

In this reflection series we will take a closer look at why many people have equated prayer with birthday wishes.  We’ll approach this discussion in two parts: three statements on the nature of doubt regarding prayer and three contrasting statements on the Biblical approach to prayer of trust and belief.

 

Three reasons why people associate praying to God in the same light as wishing on candles are:

 

Prayers spoken but not heard

Prayers spoken but not believed

Prayers spoken but not answered.

 

On the opposing side, three reasons why people believe in the power of praying to God are:

 

Prayers heard before spoken

Prayers that believe in what is spoken

Prayer answered in ways unspoken.

Join us on Thursdays as we reflect on prayer!

Tuesday Devotional: Jeremiah 2

Read Jeremiah 2 bible

Faith is foundational to the human experience.  We all profess faith in something everyday.  It is a fact that we do not know much about this world that we live in, or the lives we live in it.  Due to our ignorance we spend most of our time wondering, guessing and trusting.  Yet it seems that most of us profess the strongest faith in things that disappoint us.  We are quick to be offended by “faith” in the gospel of Jesus Christ, yet most would be quick to admit that they have far more faith in their bank account than in religion of any kind.  The God of the Bible seems perplexed by this, and shouldn’t we be as well?  Why this overwhelming faith in our financial systems?  Have they ever failed us?  Yes.  Has religion?  Maybe.  Has God?  I wouldn’t be so fast.  While it is true that many have been wounded by religion, one must reflect honestly on this wound and ask oneself if it was God that caused the pain, or was it a person, a group, or a Church.  God has entrusted his gospel to the hands of man, and man is flawed.  This takes enormous faith on His part!  Faith is trusting in something when reason or logic offers plenty of reasons to doubt, not trusting naively or stupidly but because something real and true resides below the surface.  Faith in humankind is illogical and unreasonable from the perspective of God.  Unless, that is, he knows that within all of us exists the potential to truly change the world through His power in us.  Faith in God defies our logic and reason.  However, to those saved by Him, there is no question that what our eyes do not see and what our hands have never touched truly exists and has changed our lives forever.  Thus, through the lens of the Gospel, it is not the world of God but the world of man that is foolish to trust.