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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Holding Firmly to the Faith We Profess

Hold firmly quote by Thomas-Aquinas“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). The New King James Version states it like this, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Not grow weary . . . . Folks, there are days when I have grown so weary from these past five plus years of unemployment that I can hardly stand it. And the weariness does not come from the fact that I’ve been unemployed all this time, not that it doesn’t have a huge and detrimental effect on how I can live my life. For example, just try renting an apartment as an unemployed person and see how far you can get. No, the weariness comes from people. And one of the hardest realizations I have had to face has not been from the futile search for a job but rather from the lack of genuine compassion from people including fellow believers that I have been around–folks who claim the name of Jesus Christ just as I do.

However, with that being said, on any given day if you were to run into me when I am out and about in the community, and that includes when I’m attending church every week, you would find a smile (genuine, not fake) on my face, and a willingness to engage folks of all ages and backgrounds in conversation. God shows no partiality when it comes to people, and neither should we (see Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11). Even when I grow weary from the duplicity that I find at times in others (but certainly not all others), my conversations and responses are genuine.

On the rare occasion when the weariness gets to be a bit too much, I’m reminded of the fact that as a believer in Jesus Christ, I can always “come boldly to the throne of grace, that I (we) may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV). Taken in context, the passage reads as follows (from Hebrews 4:12-16):

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The word of God is the Bible. And it does, indeed, “discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” And that includes every heart . . . even those who do not believe. “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

We all are easily deceived at times–by others and by ourselves. If we want something bad enough, we’ll go to any length to create a deception to appease our own conscience in order to acquire what it is that we want. We can even convince ourselves that what we want–regardless of the deception we have created and believed–is from the hand of God (for those of us who believe in God), whether or not it is (and most often it is not). However, if it involves abusing another person or group of people for our own purposes, gain, or satisfaction, it certainly does have a source, but that source is not God.

The Thomas Acquinas quote in the photo at the top of this post–“Hold firmly that our faith is identical with that of the ancients. Deny this and you dissolve the unity of the Church”–makes for an interesting statement. What exactly does he mean when he said that our faith should be identical with that of the ancients? The faith of the ancients is not a faith we often experience here in America unless we fall on very hard times. And our faith doesn’t often appear to require much of us on a daily basis, either. In fact, if a “Noah” (who built the ark) showed up in our culture today we’d laugh and mock as hard as the folks did back in his day. And that is most likely true regarding many of the other Biblical characters who went against the mainstream of their culture (see list below from Hebrews 11).

We need to take a look at what the faith of the ancients entailed in order to see how our faith measures up to the faith that they exhibited, and the best place to look is in Hebrews 11, titled the “Faith in Action” chapter and also known as “Faith’s Hall of Fame”:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

That which we don't understandCan we say that our faith is identical to the faith of those mentioned above? That is the kind of faith that pleases God. If we spend any amount of time mocking others instead of believing what God has clearly stated about those who possessed genuine faith, we need to consider what believing faith really means and whether or not we who claim to have faith actually use it.

The opening verses (vv 14-16) in another classic reference regarding faith found in James 2:14-26 state the following:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

And further down in the passage, verse 24 states “a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” And it’s not about a specific list of things we have done that we can point to and say “see, I have faith.” No, it goes all the way to the heart of the issue and why we did it in the first place. Motives are key. Is what we do genuinely done to help others, or are we looking for some kind of “kick-back” from it without really caring about those “others” except on a surface or “looking good” level? And if “the crowd” doesn’t like someone, do we automatically not like them either? Do we judge them unfairly? Do we point fingers and mock?

When it comes to our motives God is not deceived, even if we think we can deceive everyone else including ourselves. We live in a culture that, over time, has become increasingly biblically illiterate while many claim to have faith. The question is, faith in exactly who or what? When was the last time our faith was put to a test of endurance, or tested when we didn’t get what we wanted (and we didn’t try to manipulate the outcome)? And when was the last time we just plain stopped judging others and gossiping about them? And when was the last time we tried helping someone outside of our own comfort zone? When?

If you’re a bit disgruntled at this point, stop being disgruntled. We can be a hard-headed and hard-hearted bunch. If we can’t stop judging and start loving, there is something seriously wrong with our faith. And confession is the only way to fix it by confessing it to God (I John 1:9). And by meaning it, too. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Genuine faith requires action . . .

Will we act, or just react?

The choice is ours . . . .

YouTube Video: “Walk by Faith” by Jeremy Camp:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

An Open Letter to The White House

7.23.14 SocialSecurityYesterday I received something that gave me a small yet welcome break from the past five plus years of unemployment. And it’s not that I haven’t been actively looking for a job during this entire time (should I attach to this blog post the 40-page list I’ve created that shows each and every job I’ve applied for in the past five plus years–I stopped counting at 500 in 2011).

While I’m not a fan of the current administration (I’m very much a conservative and have never believed in giving away the kitchen sink to just anyone who asks), what happened yesterday (July 23, 2014) was something that was greatly needed yet I hated to have to take it because I can’t find a job (after 5+ years) in the greatest and most prosperous country on the face of the planet (e.g., the United States of America). Some say it has to do with my age. I say that’s bull. I was 56 at the time I was hired by the company that fired me seven months later and left me unemployed for these many years now. And I had a successful career for over twenty years in my profession before I landed in that ill-fated job.

What I received yesterday was a check deposited into my checking account in the amount of what I earned in one week at that ill-fated job in Houston. One week. What I received yesterday was my first monthly Social Security check which I have been forced to take at the age of 62 because I can’t find a job in the most prosperous country in the entire world after 5-plus years. Did I mentioned I am a U.S. citizen, a veteran of the U.S. Army, a college grad with two degrees (B.A. and M.S., both from Iowa State University), and I was a dissertation away from receiving a doctorate (Ed.D.) in adult education at Nova Southeastern University back in the mid-late 90’s.

It’s been three years and two months since I have had any type of income since my 99 weeks of unemployment checks ran out at the end of May 2011. Once that money was gone I went through my savings in about eight months. At that time, fortunately, I hit the magic age of 59 1/2 which is the age required to access any “accessible” funds from a very small retirement fund without paying an additional 10% penalty for accessing it early–and only half of it was/is accessible at that/this time. And I have been living on those funds for the past two and a half years. To say that I have significantly hemorrhaged that retirement account is an understatement of major proportions.

This past January (2014) I knew that any attempts at finding work now that I was well into my fifth year of searching was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. In the back of my mind I knew by the end of 2014 I would be close to financial devastation if I couldn’t find some way to make an income. At that time I talked with a friend who is now 65 and was forced to take Social Security at the age of 62, and she told me that if I was considering taking Social Security at 62 (the age I turned at the end of May 2014) that I needed to apply three months before I turned 62. With a very heavy heart and knowing I would lose approximately $350/mo. by taking it at 62 instead of waiting until my normal retirement age of 66+, I applied for Social Security at the beginning of March 2014. Within ten days I had received a notice that my application had been accepted and even though my 62nd birthday was on May 31st, the notification said I would not receive my first Social Security check until July 23, 2014, two months after I turned 62. And yesterday, I received my first monthly check.

You have no idea how incredibly grateful I was to receive that check yesterday, even if it is in an amount that is 1/4th of what I was making on a monthly basis when I lost that job in Houston. In my wildest imagination I never dreamed that when I lost my job on April 21, 2009, that I would still be unemployed over five years later. FIVE YEARS!!! Only others who have worn (and are still wearing) these same shoes have a clue what it’s been like. I won’t go into any of the details of the rejection I have encounter over these past five years, and not just from potential employers but from the public at large. You’d think leprosy has become fashionable among the outcasts of society (e.g., the long-term unemployed and others and especially the homeless in our society that we shun so easily and on a regular basis).

I printed the email last night that stated the amount that was deposited into my checking account as a reminder of just how very long I have had to wait for any kind of income since my unemployment checks ($275/wk before taxes) ran out in May 2011. Ironically, the check came on my father’s 91st birthday (he was on the other side of the country visiting family as he does every summer). So I called and wished him a happy birthday and let him know I was now officially “old” as I had received my first Social Security check that same day. We laughed. My family in Oregon had celebrated his birthday this past weekend but I told my brother to make sure to let him blow out a candle on his actual birthday as it isn’t often anymore that someone lives to be 91 and is in as good of health as our father is still to this day. We’ve been blessed with his longevity. Our mother wasn’t so lucky in the health department and passed away 31 years ago, and my stepmother passed away at 86 in April 2011.

statue of liberty flagAs the day was ending yesterday, I felt a huge sense of relief–finally after all of this time–at having any amount of income again to slow down the severe hemorrhaging of my significantly depleted retirement account. I am enormously grateful that Social Security is still around to help me in my time of need, and while I have not been a huge fan of the current administration occupying The White House in Washington DC, I wanted to write an email to express my gratitude. I went to the official website of The White House (www.whitehouse.gov) to find an email address but I only found a contact page that had a form to fill out. There was an address where I could write and mail an actual letter but I didn’t want to do that as letters can get lost in the mail or lost in the shuffle once they arrive. There was a phone contact number, but I didn’t want to express my gratitude over the phone to a White House operator. I wanted to send an email but no email address was available that I could find except for the comment form. So I filled it out and left a comment that I wanted to express my gratitude for something that had happened to me today and would like an email address where to send it. I expect that it might take a while for me to hear from someone regarding my query since The White House is a very busy place.

So this morning I decided to write this blog post since I had no other avenue online to express my gratitude. These past five plus years have been, without a doubt, the greatest challenge of my life, and to think it had to happen at an age when life should seem more secure has been a shock. Yet I am not alone in this struggle as there are millions of others, in all age and ethic groups, still encountering this same situation (e.g., long term unemployment). And even though the media spews forth the latest monthly “jobs creation” and “unemployment” stats supposedly showing a positive improvement in our economy, I’m still 100% unemployed, along with all of the others in my same boat (at this point an ark might be more appropriate).

Yet I realize as I look back on these past five plus years (which hasn’t been easy but I have survived them right on up through receiving my first Social Security check yesterday) that I have much more to be grateful for than receiving my first Social Security check from the current Administration occupying The White House. I am also enormously grateful for the 99 weeks of unemployment benefits that I received from 2009-2011 due to President Obama’s insistence that during the worst part of the recession those benefits should not be taken away from folks who are long term unemployed (many through no fault of their own) and who are genuinely searching for work on a regular basis and can’t find it. Had I not been able to receive all 99 weeks of unemployment benefits I have no idea where I’d be financially today.

Working folks have no idea what it’s like to go through long-term unemployment. The path I have been forced to take these past five plus years is not a path I ever would have chosen or wanted to take, yet I have learned so much that I would not have otherwise learned had I been employed all this time, and many times my blog posts reflect what I have been learning all along the way. However, I can’t begin to tell you how discouraging it can be to receive so many “disdaining” looks from others over the course of this time for whatever reasons those looks have been given, and I’m sure other long-term unemployed folks have experienced the same thing. And the lack of any kind of genuine empathy or support, even from the church crowd, has been disconcerting to say the least especially from the employed folks. And receiving feeble statements like “I’m sure you’ll find a job soon” or “I know someone who has been unemployed longer than you” or the classic one, “I’m praying for you,” while walking away are a slap in the face to folks who genuinely want and need to work not to mention to receive some genuine compassion from others.

We live in the greatest country on the face of the earth. The Declaration of Independence in the U.S. Constitution clearly states, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That is no longer the case for some of us who were born in the United States of America and are U.S. citizens. For the past five plus years “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” have been unreachable and unattainable to me no matter how hard I’ve been trying to attain them, and that has been the same situation for millions of other unemployed folks, too. We have managed to survive by the sheer grace of God while much of society has turned a blind eye and/or ignored the plight of those less fortunate. So much for all men being created equal in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Some of the bravest among us, besides, first and foremost, our military personnel, are the people who have weathered the worst of the economic crisis in our society and who oftentimes end up homeless and/or without much in the way of economic resources, and who would give anything to have a paying job again yet have survived despite the odds set against them.

It is with a fair amount of ambivalence that I end this post. I am enormously grateful for the financial resources I have received during these past five plus years that I have been unemployed that have been substantial in keeping me financially afloat–the 99 weeks of unemployment benefits that ended in May 2011 and now receiving my first Social Security check–and that thanks goes directly to President Barack Obama and the current administration. But there is still much to do in reviving this country to what it once was . . . a country founded on the principal that all men are created equal and should have equal opportunities again.

And we are far from that ideal at this present time . . . .

YouTube Video: “Made in America” by Toby Keith:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Fearless

Safe in the storm“To walk truly fearlessly in the face of life’s threatening storms, we must fully place our trust in God. He wants us to see if we really believe what He says in His Word. And it begins with our simply releasing our lives into His hands.” (Quote from reblogged post below by The Daily Way).

We place our trust in a lot of things but it’s not until the storms of life hit full force and the bottom falls out that we really find out just who or what we’ve been putting our trust in all along. And way too often, we’ve placed our trust in everything but God–we’ve placed it in other people (e.g., who we know, our family, our friends, etc.), our jobs, our possessions and/or our money, our status, our education, and our own abilities and skills. However, when the bottom falls out and we find ourselves walking in the dark, that is when we make the choice to let go of everything we’ve really been trusting in and truly trust in God and God alone, no matter how long that storm takes to navigate. In my case, that includes walking through five plus years now of long-term unemployment while living in the “Land of Plenty” (e.g., America).

So who or what is it that we really trust in? God has a way of showing each and every one of us who or what we are trusting in besides Him. And who or what we trust in is clearly shown by how we respond to any challenge that faces us. Do we trust in other people and/or everything we can grab hold of when the storm hits hard? Or do we trust in God alone who sees beyond all our circumstances and wants us to place our total trust (in fact, our very lives) in Him alone?

And that choice is always ours to make . . . .

Isaiah 41:10-13

So do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
All who rage against you
Will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
Those who oppose you
Will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
You will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
Will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
Who takes hold of your right hand
And says to you,
Do not fear;

I will help you.

Photo credit here

The Daily Way

Sometimes life can give us more than we can handle. There are moments when our burdens topple the smooth plans we have made for our lives. Our natural tendency is to hold on to what we have, clutching tighter than before. But God says we should do something different.

To walk truly fearlessly in the face of life’s threatening storms, we must fully place our trust in God. He wants us to see if we really believe what He says in His Word. And it begins with our simply releasing our lives into His hands.

When your life’s boat begins to rock upon the waves, God wants you to focus on Him more than ever. To walk fearlessly, upholding faith as your banner and shield, you must know who you are following.

God does not lead us down dark alleys only to abandon us. But He may take us through…

View original post 171 more words

Unfashionable

UnfashionableWhat comes to mind when I mention the word unfashionable? How about “antiquated,” “obsolete,” “dated,” “has-been,” “old fashioned,” “outmoded,” “old school,” “square,” “passé.” And how about “totally-not-cool,” or maybe even “Just. Plain. Weird.” “Crazy.” “Behind the Times.” And notice that it always applies to folks (known as “them” as in an us vs. them mentality) who just don’t always “go-with-the-flow” or conform to how we think they should “be,” “act,” and/or “dress” according to our own set of mostly unwritten rules that we have carved in stone. And we find those unwritten rules everywhere including in every age and ethic group; in churches, hospitals, businesses, government, and in the military; at colleges and universities, graduate schools and seminaries; and in all other types of workplaces and every social setting in-between. (See article on social identity theory available at this link.)

The problem with all of these unwritten rules is that it makes two distinct groups of people out of the entire population–there is the “in” group (which is always “us”), and the “out” group (which is always “them”). And throwing stones and/or pointing fingers at the “out” group or a specific individual who just doesn’t conform to what we think they should “look like” or “be like” or “act like” or “do” becomes a very popular game with the “in” crowd. And we end up judging strangers we don’t even know–and we don’t want to get to know–by how we have judged them without mercy.

And we all do this . . . all of us. It is one of the major flaws of being human.

Tullian Tchividjian, senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, has written a book titled, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different (2009), in which he tackles the subject of being “unfashionable” from a Christian perspective. Here’s a brief description of the book found on Amazon.com:

“Unfashionable” explains what it means to be out of style in culture and aligned with God’s thoughts on community, lifestyle, work, money, worship, and church. Only by being properly unfashionable can we once again become a powerful renovating force for God in the world. After all, Jesus made a difference by being…different. So go ahead. Buck the system. Discover the power and the freedom of being unfashionable for God.

“Jesus made a difference by being . . . different.” Too often today there is too much conformity to the culture around us found in many of our own lifestyles and churches across the nation. For the most part, when we are not in church on Sunday (or whatever day our weekly church service is held) or in a Christian setting where we are around other Christians, we no longer look or act any differently from the rest of the culture. And why do we do that? Because it is human nature to want to “fit in.” Nobody really wants to be in the “them” group described above. Nobody. But we put other people in that group all the time.

A classic example of the way we tend to view our own Christianity is found on page 86 in Chapter 8 titled, “Where in the World are Christians?”, in the above mentioned book. Let’s read it:

Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” as if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist?

Luther asked him, “What do you do now?”

“I’m a shoemaker.”

Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe and sell it at a fair price.”

I love that answer. Three paragraphs down from this statement (on pp. 86-87), Tchividjian writes the following:

I once heard Os Guinness speak about what such reform will require [e.g., regarding our motives and not specifically our vocations]. He said the main reason Christians aren’t making more of a difference in our world is not that they aren’t where they should be. There are, in other words, plenty of artists, lawyers, doctors, and business owners who are Christians. Rather, the main reason is that Christians aren’t who they should be right where they are.

Bingo . . . . In an earlier chapter (Chapter 3) titled, “Seduced by Cool,” Tchividjian opens it with a quote by Charles Spurgeon: “He who marries today’s fashion is tomorrow’s widow.” He goes on to state the following in the opening paragraphs of the chapter (p. 19):

According to Jesus, Christianity is not cool. There, I said it.

I’ll even go a step further: if you are infatuated with what’s fashionable in our society, then you will deem true Christianity irrelevant. That’s how idolatry works.

Think about it. Jesus said some pretty unfashionable stuff. “If you want to live, you must die. If you want to find your life, you must lose it.” He talked about self-sacrifice and bearing crosses and suffering and death and the dangers of riches. He talked about the need to lay down our lives for those who hate us and hurt us. He talked about serving instead of being served, about seeking last place and not first. He talked of gouging out our eyes and cutting off our hands if they cause us to sin.

He was making the profound point that daily Christian living means daily Christian dying–dying to our fascination with the sizzle of this world and living for something bigger, something thicker, something eternal. Jesus calls his people to live for what is timeless and not trendy, to take up the cross and follow him, even when it means going against social norms.

Of course, all of this is flat-out uncool in a world that idolizes whatever cultural craze is in style, whatever is fashionable.

“Daily Christian living means daily Christian dying.” We don’t do that well most of the time. We want the same stuff everybody else has out there plus the benefits that come from being Christian, and Jesus clearly said that it doesn’t work that way. But we try to make it work that way most of the time. Often, we want to be “rock star” Christians in a cool society and not servants who are willing to “count the cost” of following after Jesus. We just want to be cool like everybody else. And we don’t want to be one of “them.” However, Jesus was in the “them” group. Let’s read Philipians 2:1-17 written by the Apostle Paul regarding how we are to imitate Jesus Christ’s humility:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his
    own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

We are called to a life of love, a life of sacrifice, and a life of being servants, and not a life of being served and demanding our oun way or demeaning folks who “aren’t like us.” And that means all of those folks we put into the “them” category are the very folks we need to be relating to, praying for, and serving. After all, we are of the “them” group, too–just like all those folks we think don’t “fashionably” fit within their own cultures (and watch out for many “church” cultures, too). Jesus Christ is our example to follow. After all, he went to the cross on our behalf.

What are we willing to do for others (besides judge them)? And that means “all” others. That means the neighbor we don’t like, the folks we judge harshly that we usually don’t even know (except through gossip), and what about our enemies?

What about our enemies?

“For God so loved the world”–not the things in the world but the people of the world“that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16-18). That includes those we gossip about, those we judge, and our enemies, too.

Are we more concerned with being “fashionable” or being real–with following a crowd or following Jesus? We make that choice every single day, whether we realize it or not.

We should be living our lives . . .

As if the whole world is watching . . .

Because it is . . . .

YouTube Video: “Lead Me to the Cross” sung by Northland Church Worship Team:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

For The Greater Good

Faith“Just as it was in the days of Noah . . .” (see Luke 17:26, Matthew 24:37-39). We human beings really haven’t changed much over the centuries, even with all of our technological and scientific advances. We may think we are more sophisticated and civilized then our ancestors, and knowledge has certainly increased over time, but basic human nature hasn’t changed since Adam and Eve walked around in the Garden of Eden (see Adam and Eve, Fact or Fiction?), or apes if you prefer (see the Evolutionary Theory of Charles Darwin) depending on which “theory” you choose to believe in as to the origin of the human race. I personally prefer the former to the latter, and that takes faith in God (see 2 Cor. 5:7, Romans 10:17, Hebrews 11), and not the type of “faith in the inferiority of having faith” as stated by the New Atheists, like Richard Dawkins (see source quote here).

It takes faith to believe in God and in His Word (the Bible). And all the arguments in the world don’t hold a candle to faith in God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). It’s not about trying to win any argument, but believing that God is who He says He is, and that the whole of human creation and existence is wrapped up in several key verses stated by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John (John 3:16-21):

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

The reference to Noah in the opening line to this post is a statement about just how much we human beings haven’t really improved or changed since his day and time in history. To give you some perspective on how far back we are going in time, Noah was the tenth generation from Adam, and Jesus Christ was the 66th generation from Adam. And regarding the fact that nothing much has changed from generation to generation, King Solomon, who was the son of King David, and was the 33rd generation from Adam, made the following statement in Ecclesiastes 1:4-11:

Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

So what exactly were the folks in Noah’s day doing way back then? Well, in his end times discourse in Matthew 24, Jesus describes what was occurring in Noah’s day that was, is, and will continue to be going on until the end of time as we know it in Matthew 24:37-39:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man [referring to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ].

Faith Without ActionsThe folks in Noah’s day were doing the same things we do today–they were eating, drinking, marrying, and generally living life right up until the day of the great flood (see an excellent discussion on the flood and it’s meaning then and now at Bible.org at this link). In fact, it was “business as usual,” much like our days are filled with today. And just like in the days of Noah, the issue at hand was that many folks (except the few who were on the ark with Noah) lived life as if God did not exist and that what they did was inconsequential in the total scheme of life. Much like today, many did whatever they wanted to do without any thought for God. And they were given 120 years while Noah was building the ark to consider their ways, but instead, they mocked and make jokes about Noah, right up until the rain started falling, the door to the ark was closed, and nobody else could get in.

The issue at hand, both then and now, is that we want to live life on our own terms and God gets pushed aside, either out of unbelief that He even exists, or in a pseudo-belief in a variety of ways to try to appease God while still having our own way. Even demons believe that God and Jesus Christ exist, so belief at that level is not enough for believing faith (see James 2:19). In fact, let’s look at that passage in James 2:14-26:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Believing faith isn’t just showing up for church on Sunday morning and singing a few songs and listening to a half hour sermon and then going back home and living anyway we want for the rest of the week. Believing faith is proved out on a daily, moment-by-moment basis in how we live our lives, how we interact with others (and yes, even the sales clerk who was nasty to us), how we talk to and treat others (and not gossiping about them or rolling our eyes when they walk by or giving them that self-righteous look that says we think we are better then they are if we disapprove of them in any way). It’s about our availability to help someone with no ulterior motive of our own attached to that assistance (as in the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” mentality). And it’s about not going along with the crowd (Christian or otherwise) even if we are the only one not going along with them, especially if what they are doing is dead wrong (and even if they think it’s right).

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post titled, Risky Business,” regarding group mentality or “groupthink” (click here for post). As stated in the first paragraph of that post, Groupthink–a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972)–occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of ‘mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.’ Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups. A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making” (source: www.psysr.org). Any church, organization, business or other group setting is vulnerable to “groupthink,” especially when it comes to shunning individuals or other groups whom they perceive to be “outside their box.”

On the same topic, in a post titled Top 10 Instances of Mob Mentality (July 28, 2013), the author, S. Grant, states the following:

While we all like to believe we have the fortitude to stand by our own convictions during any situation, most of us tend to follow the behaviors of others. But what’s particularly strange is that when enough of us get together, we end up doing some really bizarre, nonsensical, and downright violent things that we’d never consider on our own. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as herd or mob mentality, and when you consider the past and present, you realize it’s led to some major “What were they thinking?!” moments. (Quote source here which also includes 10 instances of this type of abuse.)

One doesn’t have to look very far to find examples of group/mob mentality as it occurs in every area of society and in all age ranges and ethnic groups and is not limited to any specific group of people or organizations–religious or otherwise. However, whether it is on a group/mob level or done on an individual basis, God doesn’t miss anything, and He sees through to the condition of our own individual heart attitude. Remember what James 2:19 says–even demons believe in God. We can say we “believe” but if our actions don’t bear it out in our interactions with others including those we don’t like, we really don’t believe at all.

“Just as it was in the days of Noah . . .” and it is still that same way today. While no man knows the day or the hour of Jesus Christ’s return (see Matthew 24:36-51), if we’re living rightly with other folks in this world of ours (and that includes those folks we don’t like on either a group level or individual basis), and looking out for them and not just looking out for ourselves, then we should have no fear of when that day or hour might show up.

We can’t just say we believe . . .

We have to prove it . . .

As faith without works is dead . . . .

YouTube Video: “We Believe” by the Newsboys:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

God of Wonders

Sometimes a few pics
and a great song
are enough.

Enjoy the pics
and the song at the end.

GodofWonders

Nebula N44C @ hubblesite.org

galaxy2

Ocean powerful waves

Autumn mountain scene

Canada

God of Wonders Isaiah 40

~Read Isaiah 40 at this link~

YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” by Third Day:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here
Photo #4 credit here
Photo #5 credit here
Photo #6 credit here
Photo #7 credit here

Free Indeed

For those of us who live in America, we bask in a freedom unparalleled in other parts of the world. While we may not often think about our freedom because it is so much a part of our existence, as we all know our freedom isn’t free. It has come at a great cost of innumerable American lives over the past two plus centuries that America has existed to keep us a free nation, and for that we owe our military personnel–living and dead–a huge debt of gratitude.

Huge . . .

As Christians, there is another type of freedom even more precious than the freedom we enjoy living here in America, and that freedom is found in a living, breathing, and vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus stated in John 8:36, “So if the Son [Jesus Christ] sets you free, you will be free indeed.” And that freedom knows no geographical or political or any other type of physical boundaries. It is also a freedom accessible to every human being on the planet who chooses to believe in Jesus Christ as the one and only true Son of God (see I John 5) who offers salvation to all who believe in Him. As Jesus stated in John 3:16-20 states:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

As I was sitting in the balcony of the church I attend this past Sunday morning singing along with the worship team who was singing on the stage below, there was (and usually is during worship singing) a “Presence” unlike in any other setting that is so inspiring, so magnificent, yet so humbling that it fills the auditorium and often I find tears rolling down my cheeks. For some reason, I find that to be a bit awkward (the tears, I mean) in a public setting, yet the power of the words and the music while worshiping the only true God there is can be overwhelming (in a very good sense). God is Holy, holy, holy and so often during the week we don’t give Him much thought as we rush around with our busy schedules checking items off of our “to do” list.

Holy, holy, holy . . .

God’s holiness, much like our freedom here in America, often goes unnoticed as we live out our days and weeks and months and years, except in seemingly appropriate settings, like church for example (e.g., worshiping God’s holiness) or holiday settings like Memorial Day and the 4th of July (e.g., celebrating our freedom as Americans). Yet both are an intricate part of who we are–all the time–as Christians here in America (of course, for those who consider themselves to be Christian as we do live in a pluralistic society). And, our ultimate freedom–freedom in Jesus Christ–goes far beyond any physical boundaries.

Since the 4th of July holiday here in America just passed a few days ago, now is a good time to be reminded about our freedom in Jesus Christ. One of the key passages in the New Testament regarding our freedom in Christ is Galatians 5. The Apostle Paul reminds us that our freedom in Christ is not a thing we should take for granted. Let’s read what he had to say to the believers in his time (and for our time, too):

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

(Note: A previous blog post, “Freedom in Christ,” on the same topic hits on what Paul was getting at when he addresses the issue of circumcision at the beginning of this passage. Legalism still had a crippling hold on them and it was alienating them from Jesus Christ.)

Just as the freedom we enjoy living in America comes at a great price as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, so our freedom in Jesus Christ comes at a great price, too. It was the price Jesus Christ paid when He died to set us free–free from the shackles that bind sin to us (as noted in the above passage in Galatians). Often it’s our misunderstanding of that freedom that keeps us chained to those very sins as we don’t want to let them go.

free-indeedJesus Christ didn’t set us free to keep on living the way we did before we knew Him. Not at all . . . . And that freedom noted in the passage above isn’t about making sure we cross every “T” and dot every “i” while walking a religious tightrope, either. I sometimes feel that way when I’m at church–like I have to look, dress, and talk a certain way to be accepted by many of the “others.” And that is just as confining as the “sin that so easily entangles us” (see Hebrews 12:1-2). It’s not about pleasing others, no matter who those “others” might be. It’s about pleasing Jesus, and that’s the bottom line. Let’s read that passage in Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [see previous chapter in Hebrews 11], 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus” . . . and not the crowd!!! And that’s not easy to do at times, either, as we all want to be accepted. However, as Galatians 5:1 reminds us:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

And that includes any “yoke of slavery” put on us by others to conform us to their ways. While our freedom in Christ is not a license to keep on sinning (as Galatians 5 clearly points out), it is the key to the freedom that we crave and that Jesus is so willing to give us if we turn to Him and “fix our eyes” on Him. Period. Just ask Him for His help and His wisdom, and He will give it to you. And that’s a promise, too (see James 1:2-8).

And remember that our freedom . . .

Is not found in the approval of others . . .

It is only found in Jesus Christ . . . .

~~And don’t ever forget that fact!~~

YouTube Video: “Shackles (I Just Want to Praise You)” by Mary Mary:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit
here

Divine Perspective

Plane View New York CitySometimes when a trial (like long-term unemployment) never seems to end, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there is a “bigger picture” going on “out there” in God’s economy beyond our own little world. James 1 does tell us that our trials come to test our faith (and there’s no set time limit on any particular trial) which–if we allow it to–produces perseverance. And verse 4 states: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” However, there is a much larger picture going on in this world and our own personal trials do not just have an effect on us, although many times it may seem like it. In the broader picture, everything in God’s economy is wrapped up in this one verse, 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” And that promise encompasses the entire world.

Four years ago this month I created this blog as an attempt to put into words what it’s like to be long-term unemployed. Of course, at that time I had been unemployed for one year and three months which seemed to me to be Way. Too. Long. In fact, after nine months of sporadic blogging accompanied by a whole lot of frustration at still being unemployed, I gave up on blogging and just wanted to FIND. A. JOB. . . .

Three months later (and now three years ago) I fired this blog back up in July 2011 at which point I had been unemployed for two years and three months. And it just took off from that point . . . and I mean like the wind. This month (July 2014) I’m celebrating four years of blogging on WordPress.com even though those first nine months are lost forever in cyberspace and there was a three-month cooling off period before I started again. Oh, and did I mention that the length of unemployment has now (to date) skyrocketed to five years and three months . . . Sigh . . . .

Who knew? I sure didn’t. However, over the course of these past five plus years living in the land of the unemployed, my view on life has considerably widened. There is something about the daily routine of work and other responsibilities that gets in the way of really “seeing” our world and it stunts our reality. Albert Einstein once stated, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” (quote source here), and that may be somewhat true in our own small world on how we perceive our own set of circumstances. However, on a broader scale, it simply isn’t true. For example, 9/11 wasn’t “merely an illusion.” Neither were the Nazi Germany death camps that killed more than six million Jewish people and many others during World War II.

This evening I ran across a short devotional in Our Daily Bread that doesn’t actually show up until later in the month (sometimes I have a tendency to peek ahead). It’s titled, Divine Perspective,” written by Poh Fang Chia, and she mentions a devotional passage found in Habakkuk 2:2-14. Here’s what she wrote:

Divine Perspective

For the revelation awaits
an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.

Though it linger, wait for it,
i
t will certainly come
and will not delay.
~Habakkuk 2:3

Jason took a trip to New York during spring break. One afternoon he and some friends piled into a cab and headed for the Empire State Building. To Jason, the ride on the ground seemed chaotic and dangerous. But when he got to the observation deck of the skyscraper and looked down on the city streets, to his amazement he saw order and design. What a difference a change in perspective made!

Habakkuk learned a similar lesson. When he looked at life from his earthly vantage point, it seemed that God was indifferent to the evil permeating society (Hab. 1:2-4). But God gave him a divine perspective and showed him that life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God (Hab. 2:3).

Those who don’t show any regard for God may seem to prosper at the moment, but God will ultimately right all wrong. God acts sovereignly in all that comes to pass so that everything works toward His good purpose. God’s plan will surely take place and be on schedule (v. 3).

We can’t sort out the whole picture from where we are in life; only God can. So let us continue to live by faith and not by sight. From His perspective, all things are working together for the believer’s good and for His honor.

Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise,
All my times are in Your hand,
All events at Your command. ~Ryland

Our times are in God’s hands;
our souls are in His keeping.

Live by Faith - HabakkukNow I don’t know about you, but “the ride on the ground” over these past five plus years of mine are much as Jason described above–chaotic and sometimes even dangerous. And I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see my total situation from a bird’s eye view looking down on it as an outsider might view it (e.g., the broader picture that is really taking place). However, in Jason’s situation, he was able to get out of the chaos and onto the observation deck high above it where he could look down and see that there was actually order and design to what he had just experienced. In other words, he saw a much larger picture and the chaos he personally experienced was just a tiny part of it.

As the author stated above, “Habakkuk learned a similar lesson. When he looked at life from his earthly vantage point, it seemed that God was indifferent to the evil permeating society (Hab. 1:2-4). But God gave him a divine perspective and showed him that life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God” (Hab. 2:3).

A year ago in June I wrote a blog post on Habakkuk that included all three chapters in the Old Testament book named after him. The blog post is titled, The Problem of Evil–Habakkuk Revisited (available at this link). Habakkuk could see the evil all around him and wondered, just like the rest of us do today, where God was in the midst of all that evil and asking God when justice would finally show up. And God responded by telling him there was something much bigger going on and that it was “awaiting an appointed time” (Hab. 2:3).

As stated in my previous post, in the rest of Chapter 2 God describes the enemy and the end that will come to that enemy. However, what the Lord had revealed to Habakkuk about the enemy was still to take place in the future, and even though he knew what was coming was going to be awful (see Chapter 2 for details), he also knew the ultimate end of that enemy. And Chapter 3 opens up with Habakkuk praising and worshiping the Lord with these words (Hab. 3:2):

“Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.”

This brings us back to the subject of our own personal trials. We can’t see the overall picture as we are too close to it, yet God has a much bigger picture in mind that goes way beyond what we are experiencing. Of course, sometimes, just like Habakkuk experienced after God explained to him what was going to happen “at an appointed time,” the answer is disconcerting but ends with the demise of the enemy. We, as believers, are told in Hab. 2:4, See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” There’s that word again–faith–which brings us back to the reason trials enter our lives in the first place–to test that faith and produce perseverance (see James 1).

The same theme is found in Hebrews 10:36-39:

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”

And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

We are to live by faith, and trust God for the outcome. And in living by faith we, like Habakkuk at the beginning of Chapter 3, end up praising and worshiping God for who he is, because He is ultimately in control all the time.

While we may only see the chaos . . .

That’s not the whole picture . . . .

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay. ~Habakkuk 2:3

YouTube Video: “Let God Be God” (2009) by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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