Are You Sure?

Life is full of unknowns.

Some of our questions are big.  What if the worst happens?  When will I die?  Will my loved ones stay healthy?  In comparison, some of our other questions seem small.  Will I get a raise?  What does she think of me?  Why is this relationship difficult?

The more we ponder the unknown, the more questions we end up asking.  Question marks are like litter in our minds, an obtrusive reminder of our greatest concerns.  We feel uneasy and on edge.  Our confidence wanes as the world becomes an increasingly scary place to live.

I don’t believe this is what God wants for us.  We can’t escape the brokenness of this world, but we can live with assurance in the midst of it.

Instead of letting our lives be dominated by uncertainty, they can be stabilized by absolutes – declarations of fact – periods, if you will, as opposed to question marks.

An example of this comes from Romans 8, a chapter in which some of life’s most pressing questions are put to rest.

“What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39).

There may not be a whole lot we can know for sure in this world.  But thank God that He has made abundantly clear all that we need to know for certain (see Deuteronomy 29:29).  Because of His Word, we can live with confidence, freedom, joy, and sanity.

Nothing and no one will keep us from His love – no matter what.  Of this we can be sure.

This One Is for the Ladies

Identity_final1This past weekend I was privileged to enjoy Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live Simulcast from the comfort of my own living room.  She taught from Fort Wayne, Indiana, but the event was broadcasted live to approximately 190,000 viewers.

In a series of three messages geared specifically toward women, she educated her audience on “being female well.”  She highlighted several of the struggles common to women of all age ranges, including the bent toward competition and comparison, both of which have their roots in insecurity.  (These issues can affect men too, of course, but that wasn’t the day’s focus.)

I took an inordinate amount of notes and will be processing it all for quite a while, but I want to share what stood out most.  Out of all the great things Beth said, the single most significant part of the day was hearing and reciting the truth of God’s Word as summarized by the “Identity Declaration” (pictured).

As I mentioned, women tend to struggle with competition and comparison, both of which are birthed from insecurity.  Going a step further, though, insecurity is rooted in unbelief.  By not believing that what God says about me is the truth, I allow my mind to be flooded with other, less-reliable voices.  Instead of believing God’s Word, I believe magazines, T.V. shows, popular culture, and other people.  I am more inclined to listen to what another person says about me than what God says about me.

Maybe you can relate.  God doesn’t intend for us to live in fear and insecurity.  He has said so much about us in the Bible, and He wants us to believe Him.  When I start to hear other voices tell me I’m not good enough, not attractive enough, not worthy enough, or not spiritual enough, I want to start responding with what I know is true.

I may feel lonely, but the truth is I am loved, pursued, and chosen.

I may feel inadequate, but the truth is I am gifted by the Spirit.

I may feel like a failure, but the truth is I am forgiven and unbound.

Tell yourself the truth enough times, and by God’s grace, you’ll start to believe it.

Image Rights: Living Proof Ministries.

Not One Word

photoIf you’ve ever been through premarital counseling or taken a class on relationships, it’s likely you learned some rules for successful communication.  A subset of these instructions is a handful of principles to keep in mind during conflict.  One of the guidelines for resolving conflict in a healthy manner is to avoid overgeneralizing.

Why is it crucial to refrain from making sweeping generalizations?  Well, it’s not likely your husband never pays attention to you or that your wife always interrupts you.  We are cautioned against using these kinds of words because they inaccurately portray the situation and unfairly caricaturize the other party.

Sweeping generalizations aren’t always incorrect, though.  In fact, some of the most encouraging generalizations are found in the Bible and reference the nature and character of God.  One such statement is found in Joshua 21:45 which says, “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”

Not one word.  We often use similar expressions to criticize or attack, putting our own personal spin on the truth.  In this case, though, the statement is unequivocally correct.  The author thought long and hard about it and came to the accurate conclusion that God had indeed fulfilled His promises to Israel – every last word.

The God who was in the business of faithfulness in Joshua’s lifetime is the same God we trust in today.  Because He kept His promises then, we can trust Him to keep them now.

Contemplating God’s pattern of past faithfulness should bolster our faith in the present and quiet our concerns for the future.  In other words, because of His established character, we can confidently declare, “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord has made to His people will fail; all will come to pass.”

There won’t be a single word of a single one of God’s promise that He will ever leave unfulfilled.

And that’s not an overstatement.

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PS – This was blog post #50!  Thanks for reading!

We Need Each Other

RocknessLeRoyWhere there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. –Proverbs 11:14

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. –Proverbs 12:15

I’ve been reading through Proverbs lately and have taken note of the many, many exhortations to heed wise counsel.

One of the greatest blessings of David’s job at our church is the “inside access” we have to the rest of the staff.  Of course, the church leadership is in place to serve the congregation as a whole, but because David works closely with his fellow staff members, there is a natural connection over shared experiences which creates the opportunity to solicit their insight.

As we have sought counsel from trusted, godly people, we’ve found the Proverbs to be overwhelmingly true.  By inviting wise people to speak into our lives, our perception of our circumstances is more accurate and well-rounded.  Wise counsel safeguards us from personal blindness, and it perpetuates wisdom – it takes wisdom to listen to wisdom.

Living in isolation was never God’s design, as evidenced by the way He places us in families and gives us the gift of marriage.  Further, He intends the Church to be a spiritual family, as we anticipate the day when He, our Father, welcomes us, His adopted children, into the Home He’s prepared.

As we reflect on the truth of God’s Word, let’s believe it!  Let’s believe in the importance of wise counsel – both giving it and receiving it.  And let’s consider who God might be wanting to use to speak into our lives, and how God might be wanting to use us to speaking into others’ lives.

Most importantly, let’s remember the Source of all true wisdom, and seek Him before we search for it – “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

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Above: Here we are pictured with some incredibly wise people, our pastor and his wife.

Are We There Yet?

One of my friends recently went through a pretty devastating experience.  As she shared the details with me, I sat in stunned silence, unable to formulate an appropriate response.  I felt sick to my stomach as I listened, struggling to comprehend that kind of pain.  Finally, the words came.  I didn’t say much, but I meant every word.

“We weren’t made for stuff like this.”

Today, having had two weeks to process the situation, I’d still say the same thing.  Brokenness wasn’t part of God’s original design.  Cancer, suicide, infertility, and car accidents…none of them were the plan.

When bad things happen, some people blame God, insisting that it’s all His fault.  For them, suffering is all the evidence they need to disregard the notion of a loving God.  Others, though, believe that while God did not cause evil, He isn’t chained by it either.  They know that suffering doesn’t keep God from accomplishing His purposes.  These people experience God’s love and see His redeeming hand even in their pain.

My pastor is in the second category.  He recently said, “God, in His sovereignty, allows us to experience pain and suffering, in part, to keep us from falling in love with the world.”  Deep down something tells us we weren’t made for a world where babies die and people go hungry, but we are in constant danger of falling in love with it anyway.

“Pain,” wrote C.S. Lewis, “insists upon being attended to.  God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

There is a gift to be found in the deepest pits and in the darkest places.  It’s when we are at our lowest that we hear God say through His megaphone most clearly, “You weren’t made for stuff like this.”  And we grow a little less attached to this world, and a little more expectant of Home.