Archive for March, 2023

Blind Faith

Christians are often accused of having blind faith. The implication is they have committed intellectual suicide. Not so, Jesus exhorted His followers to “know the truth.” The Christian experience is based on faith in facts. Though it goes beyond reason, it does not go against facts. It calls for one to put the entire mind into their preparation, their whole heart in their presentation, and the full life in their illustration.

The facts in which faith is based are often unknown. How then can that which is unknown be found? As in math to find the unknown start with the known. For example, if 6A equals 12B, what does A equal. 

Some feel the best way to find the unknown will of God they need to get alone and think. That is on occasion what we need to do. However, Scripture suggests a different approach. This is fleshed out in Proverbs 16: 3, “Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.”

The involvement in that which is known, your work, is often a stimulus to thought enabling the unknown to be conceived.

Faith is the rapier thought that foiled fear every time.

Often individuals make their plans and commit them to the Lord asking His blessings on them. Both are admirable, but they are in the wrong order. First, pray about what your plan should be, make the decision and then commit it to Him asking His blessing.

In relating to this passage keep in mind this is a proverb, not a promise. That is, it exposes a principle that is generally true, but to which there are exceptions. When studying a proverb check to see if the concept or principle is repeated in other Scripture as a promise.

Having made a plan, take the following principles into consideration.

First, pray. Prayer should precede and punctuate our every activity.

Second, trust God. Reliance on Him does not insure success, but it does guarantee He will be working in your work. For every hick-up you have God has an antidote. That is, He has backup plans for your back ups.

Next, expect a potential struggle. They are often actions intended to strengthen us for further activity.

Expect opposition. Even the best plans God ordains are opposed by the adversary. Plans designed by God are denigrated by the adversary. 

The principle in this passage is repeated in Psalms 37:4. The psalmist says, “Commit your way to the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Summarily that means if you want what God wants He will provide it in fulfillment of His will.

The Issue of Evil

“Why does God allow bad things to happen?”

If He didn’t He would have to take from us one of our most cherished blessings, the right of choice by making us His automatons. As long as there are choices there will be some bad ones, hence bad things happen. Even the bad things not having a direct human cause are the responsibility of some good thing having become mutant as a course of some direct or indirect human cause.

Bad things often rob us of everything except hope. Hope is often engendered by a chain of events. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)      

As we fumble for an answer we can be assured the answer is within the fact God is a holy, righteous, all powerful, all loving God. The issue is so comprehensive we cannot expect to find a definitive answer. That does not mean there is no answer to the issue, only that we are not presently able to fathom it. 

C.S. Lewis noted that if you argue against God you are arguing against the very source that made it possible for you to argue. To conclude there is no answer to the issue of suffering is like reading half of a novel and complaining the author does not develop the plot. By way of analogy there is still much of the book of reason yet to be read. We will finish it in eternity.

Suppose you make a product which is to be used in a certain way and put it on the market. Thereafter people don’t use it in the way intended. That incorrect use is not your will, but your will made it possible. So it is with God’s world. It was not His will for it to be used as it is being used, but His will made it possible for human beings to use it as it is used.

You can be absolutely certain God does not ordain evil, but it is because of evil that His grace abounds.

Bad things don’t happen to good people because there are no good people, only people who are better than others. “There is none righteous, no, not one…” (Romans 3: 10)

If God were unconcerned it could never have been said, “… the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1: 14) He subjected Himself to our limitations, yet without sin.

We would never have seen Him, “… despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief….Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53: 3 – 5)

The answer is not to be found in a script, but the Savior, not a philosophy, but a person, Jesus. If He did not love us and intend our ultimate good, He would not have chosen the cross. It is His way of saying “I forgive” your misuse of the perfect world I created.

When Troubles Come

We identify our true self by the way we respond to our problems… and we all have them. Think about it.

Before developing the problem consider this ultimate action. Don’t ask, “Why God, why did this happen to wonderful me?”

Instead ask, “How, God, can this make me more like you.” Look for an answer to that. With your hand still on the doorknob of the unknown you can enter it with boldness because of the infinite resources of your faithful God.

Now evaluate which of the following responses most closely typify you?  Are you a:

Ho-hummer, a person who is indifferent to the nature or potential consequence of the issue? Just shrug it off or deal with it later. No big deal!

Hand-wringer, a person who automatically shifts into anxiety mode. There is no situation so small you can’t worry about it. Fret first and frequently.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”                      

Hum-dinger, a person who approaches the situation resolutely on giving it your best effort, and dealing with it constructively, one who prayerfully and analytically deals with the situation.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3: 5)            

Whatever challenges hum-dingers face, they focus on the future rather than on the past. Their mind, thoughts and mental images are in the future. 

They focus on the solution rather than on the problem. Solutions are positive, whereas problems are negative.

Hum-dingers believe every situation that comes can enable them to become a better person. “By their fruit you shall know them…” (Matthew 7: 16)

They believe that something good is hidden within each difficulty or challenge. Norman Vincent Peale, a major proponent of positive thinking, once said, “Whenever God wants to give us a gift, he wraps it up in a problem.” 

Therefore, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1: 2 – 4)

You can change. If identified by either of the first two above classifications, you can become identified as being a newcomer to the third. How do your friends know you? How would you like for them to know you?

Avoid the Tar Pits of Trouble

“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” is an aphorism which appears in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 6:34)

“The Message Bible” fleshes out the meaning in modern English: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Simply distilled the expression means – “Don’t pull tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine.”

Worry does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It simply takes away today’s peace.

Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things. Therefore, “Trust in him at all times; people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8) Pray for guidance in resolving simple and complex issues. However, if you only pray when you have trouble, you are in trouble.

When toxic things happen you have choices. You can either let them define you, or you can let God use them to refine you.

Let it refine you like an oyster does when irritated. When irritated an oyster makes a pearl out of the intruder by surrounding it with a mantle, making it a beautiful iridescent pearl. 

Troubles are often the tools used by God to fashion us for better things. 

Remember nothing is permanent in this complex world, not even trouble. Be like the person who when asked what was his favorite Bible verse said, “I like the one that says, ‘It came to pass,’ I know it hasn’t come to stay.”

Accept as true and applicable the words of the Psalmist who said, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:17-18)

Claim that as you deal with your troubles. Don’t try to wish away your trouble, deal with it. Clearly analyze it and relate to each aspect.

Satan has tar pits along the way wanting us to think that our problems are unsolvable. When successful he keeps us trapped in a sense of anger, anxiety, worry, stress and a victim mentality. 

God wants to help us resolve our problems. Therefore, you can confidently say:  “…we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

I Hear the Train a Comin’

Living inside each of us is the little boy or girl we were growing up. Memory lets that child still come out and play at times. Fortunately he grew up before social media and lots of tech stuff came along. There were no toys or teams. A child had to learn to entertain himself.

Recently my past little boy came out and played for a short time like he did as a child. Now as then he hung out at the train depot a lot.  Lessons were learned there. One was the empty box cars rumbled along making lots of noise. The loaded cars ran quietly. Even as a child I got the analogy. Empty headed people make the most noise.

Without technology a clever method to send and deliver mail was devised. Not all trains stopped in our little town. Maybe they were down at Petticoat Junction. The man in the mail car threw off a heavy canvas bag with the incoming mail. To send a letter an ingenious device was used. An inverted “L” shaped device has a rope strung in a triangular shape with the mail bag attached. The mail man in the mail car would hang out and hook the triangular rope and thereby pick-up the mail. The messages had to be exchanged. 

There was another more meaningful analogy learned at the depot. We lived near the track. The newest, fastest, and most luxurious of trains, the City of New Orleans” ran through town. Folks came out to see it. Let me set the scene in order to make the parallel easier to comprehend. 

North of town was a duck pond with a train bridge across it. We lived in a big old two story house. My room was upstairs. When the City of New Orleans crossed the duck pond it was still too far away to be seen or heard. However, there must have been a geological fault that caused it, but when the train crossed over the duck pond a rocking chair in my room would vibrate. When the chair vibrated there was just enough time to get to the track and see that modern marvel. We knew about what time the train was coming so we made sure someone was sitting in that rocking chair and could feel the vibration and give us a warning.

Conservative Christians have a message that needs to be gotten out. It is now easier to do than in those creative days. Diligence and consistency are needed to get it out.

Now the City of New Orleans. It provided signs it was coming by virtue of the vibrating chair. There are even more accurate signs of another coming, the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Bible scholars in considering the signs of His coming say all essential signs that are to precede His coming have been fulfilled. There is just enough time to prepare. Live with that expectation and be motivated by it to be and do your best in all things in order to be ready.

Well, that’s all from my little boy self. He must go back in the memory depot.

A line from a Johnny Cash song says it all: “I hear the train a comin’, It’s rolling round the bend….”