Posts made in April, 2016

Life Verse

Posted by on Apr 29, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

IMG_1979For as long as I’ve been a Christian I’ve heard other people refer to their “life verse.” I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you had one come to mind as you read that first sentence. After years of time reading Scripture, I imagine most people would collect a number of such verses that God used to bring about substantial growth and change during different seasons of life.

A pair of verses that have repeatedly challenged and guided me throughout most of my walk with Christ are found in the book of Proverbs. This collection of wise words, primarily from King Solomon, is all about cultivating skill in everyday living. So finding “life verses” in Proverbs is like shooting fish in a barrel.

The phrase I want to explore with you is found in chapter three. It’s nestled in the first nine chapters, a segment of instructions Solomon first recorded for the benefit of his son. It’s the kind of guidance every child needs from his/her father, guidance God has graciously preserved for all of His children.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, ESV)

As frail human beings, who do not ultimately control the perilous world in which we live, nor the future in which we face, we are forced to trust. The freedom we have is choosing who or what to trust. Positively, Solomon urges us to trust in the Lord, the One who has given us life (twiceover if we have trusted in Christ). He goes on to tell us that we should do so with all our heart, essentially with all of our being. In other words, we are to recklessly abandon ourselves to the Lord, believing that He alone knows and wants what is best for us.

But you and I and Solomon know that trusting in the Lord in that way can be pretty daunting. Think about all of the ways we arrange our lives in order to eliminate our need to trust God. Rather than live in a state of dependence, we are prone to play it safe, hedge our bets, and avoid those things in our lives – even if commanded – which cause us to feel vulnerable. Basically, we do the very thing Solomon discourages … we lean on our own understanding.

At our core, isn’t it a lot easier to believe that we know what is truly best for us? And haven’t we all come across commands in the Bible that fly in the face of what we presume to know about the way the world works? Things like forgiving our enemies, denying ourselves, submitting to authorities, giving sacrificially and considering others more important than ourselves are completely counter-intuitive. And yet God tells us those things lead to life.

So who do we trust? Ourselves or God? It’s a tough pill to swallow, but on our own we’re pretty dim, even on our best days. Solomon will say later in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” God, on the other hand, always get its right. He is never surprised, never unsure, never out of His depth. He very literally holds everything together that is in existence. There’s no better option if you’re trying to find the next right step.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God assures us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9, ESV) Elsewhere, the Apostle James reassures us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5–6, ESV)

To “acknowledge” God as Solomon recommends, is to relate to Him and respond to Him in every aspect of life with the above in mind. It is to consult God every step of the way, believing that He is infinitely wise and that He gladly provides wisdom to those who ask for it. It means orienting all of life around an intimate knowledge of who God is, what He has done, and what He is doing as revealed in His word.

Those who engage God in this way are promised, “He will make straight [their] paths.” This isn’t assurance of a comfortable path, an easy path, or a prosperous path. It is, however, a path that is reliable, virtuous, fulfilling, and most importantly … pleasing to God. If that’s the kind of life you’re looking for, keep leaning into the wisdom of God. Years from now, when your life is mostly a memory, you’ll be glad you did.

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Psalm 91: Refuge

Posted by on Apr 25, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

What in this broken world do you most fear?

We don’t have to look far or long to find ominous reminders that much in our little corner of the universe isn’t right … natural disaster, poverty, corruption, terrorism, disease, betrayal, humiliation, injustice and death. All of it comes with a cost we hope never comes due at our address.

Is there such a thing as a “safe place?” Can our trembling hearts find refuge in the face of the unknown? Yes!

castle-1176422_1280When our fear finds faith anchored in the faithfulness of God, we are delivered – sometimes immediately and always eventually – from all that threatens to undo us. Our heavenly Father is our fortress and the vast bulwark of His love surrounding us is impenetrable.

We will undoubtedly suffer loss in this life. But none of it will be outside of God’s sovereign care nor beyond His good intentions. He is our hope and He alone can turn our mourning into dancing with promises of ultimate protection.

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19

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“I can do all things …”

Posted by on Apr 17, 2016 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Our capacity for survival and achievement is truly staggering! We’ve all heard jaw-dropping tales of people enduring unthinkable conditions; some as a result of tragedy and others out of a desire to push the physical and mental boundaries of human ability. Perhaps more than any other people group, competitive athletes are notorious for chasing the elusive PR with dogged determination … just a little faster, a little higher, a little further beyond known limits.

IMG_1966In the quest for progress, Christian athletes inevitably look to the Giver of all good things (James 1:17) for enablement (strength, endurance, wisdom, etc.). And where better to look for these things than to the One who made us! That brings us to a passage that is often quoted among athletes, but frequently misunderstood … “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, ESV) If this is a favorite of yours, hang with me; its meaning is even better than most think.

With the best of intentions, this phrase is rehearsed as an assurance of God’s enablement for personal pursuits. It is fuel for a motivational mindset bent on overcoming an obstacle, be that a competitor or a record yet to be broken. It’s positive self-talk that is common – even essential – when flirting with the edges of known ability. But is that what the Apostle Paul intended?

As inspiring as Paul’s words might be all by themselves, they are distorted when applied apart from their actual context. Like any portion of the Bible, the meaning of a passage is determined by the author (not the reader) and limited by what comes before and/or after it. So what does Paul mean?

If we include verses eleven and twelve with thirteen, we get a clearer idea of Paul’s intent. “… I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13, ESV)

Paul’s aim here is contentment, not achievement. Rather than envisioning all that he can accomplish, he is focused on his heart response to his circumstances, whether they be favorable or not. As you probably already know, poverty and prosperity come with serious snares. On the one hand, poverty can leave us bitter, resenting the lack of what we want. On the other hand, prosperity can trigger pride, self-reliance and complacency. Either way, we’re in trouble if we fail to see our circumstances the way Paul did.

Now, keep in mind, Paul didn’t always see things the way he describes in this passage. In his words, he had to learn to be content in the ups and downs of life. I take that to mean he didn’t always respond well, but responded better over time by embracing a “secret.” He learned a timeless truth that served to anchor his wandering heart as the winds of his circumstances swirled around. He spells it out in verse thirteen!

Paul grew to believe with great conviction that all of who Christ was in his life – his Savior, his Friend, his Provider, his Lord – was the essence of what he needed most. The sufficiency of Christ that Paul experienced enabled him to have a strong heart of contentment (joy, peace, and gratitude) in the best and worst of times.

Please understand, contentment here isn’t promoting apathy or mediocrity. This in no way commends half-heartedness in our daily endeavors. If we are to do all that we do to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), then it would seem that we should exert ourselves fully. After we’ve left it all on the field, so to speak, Christ enables us to be content with the outcome, win or lose.

Paul could have said it this way … “I have learned over the years that I can do all things – I can be brought low, I can abound, I can face plenty and hunger, abundance and need – with enduring contentment because of the strength I receive from the sufficiency of Christ.

Christ-followers who grasp what Paul is saying here ought to be the most passionate people on Earth! We need never lack motivation regardless of how daunting our task may be. Our motivation, however, isn’t rooted in prize of personal achievement, but in the abundance of what Christ has already achieved on our behalf.

If anything, Paul’s words in Philippians four release us to give our all, knowing that our all is enough to glorify the One who is most definitely enough for us.

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