Crossroads

FAITH (strong, confident belief in God)

What does faith look like? Over the years I have found that faith is built at the crossroads of doubt and fear.

My wife and I spent three and a half years as missionaries in South Africa. During the first six months we were part of a Mission Development Team located on a primitive base. We left sunny southern California at the onset of warm summer and the next day arrived in Pretoria, greeted by the southern hemisphere’s starting of cold winter. The base amenities’ consisted of cold showers, poorly prepared food, cockroaches and no heat in any rooms. Everyday everyone got up when it is dark and we sat collectively in a freezing room wrapped in blankets while one of us led devotions. Then we each went back to our rooms to spend another hour in personal devotions; all before having coffee. Two months after arriving, I was standing early one bitterly cold morning with a hot bowl of oatmeal. Icy blasts of wind were blowing through the room like a sieve. My hands were wrapped around the bowl and I had my head over it to catch the hot steam. There just was not enough heat. I remember distinctly questioning myself “What on earth I was doing here?” This was not my picture of serving the Lord. This is not what I had in mind coming to South Africa. “Lord, did I make a mistake?” That was the first time I really started to examine my faith.

On any day in the year, somewhere in the world there is tragedy. The most common question asked is “Where is God?” People from assorted faiths were asking this question last year when 200,000 lives were extinguished in several minutes from a tidal wave and when an entire village of men, women and children were wiped off the face of the earth in less than a minute by a mudslide. My wife and I struggled with the same question two years ago when within seven months of being diagnosed with cancer, our oldest daughter who was an ardent Christ-follower, was dead. Where was God?

It is easy to say that I am going to step out in faith and trust God. It is not so easy to have my faith stretched. Walking in faith means that maybe I am going to be asked to do things outside of my comfort zone. Living in another culture means that I may have to worship with other Christians in ways that may be uncomfortable, or work with other nationalities who do not share my ways work should be accomplished or eating graciously food that is very different from what I like or expect, or doing ministry that seems meaningless in order to reach a people who show no appreciation.

I learned quickly the “knots” of faith: faith does not just drop out of the sky; faith does not just happen like magic; faith is not a result of my effort to believe.

It took more time to learn the “mean’s” of faith: faith means experiencing God under difficult times; faith means learning to go where you have never been before; faith means trusting God for the things that you cannot see, much less understand; faith means trusting God’s intentions [Is He always for me or is He out to get something from me?] and finally faith means that I believe that God is capable of producing results from things I cannot see.

It is easy to say “I trust You God” when things look good. But when I get into heart-racing situations those words can melt like butter. I think that faith may be one of the greatest human achievements possible. The test of my faith comes when I have lost control of the situation and am powerless to do anything.

The test of your faith will be when you encounter something beyond your ability to control. Will you suddenly have “spiritual forgetfulness”? Will you lose sight of what God has done for you in the past? Faith is really nothing more than a practice of choosing to trust God at the crossroads of doubt and fear.

Little things DO count …

For a lot of guys, living out the basics of the Christian faith just does not sound too exciting. Too insignificant. Not enough guts and glory. But it is the little things that usually stumble us. It happens in the spiritual world. It certainly happens in the natural world. Consider this:

In 1962, the Mariner 1space probe was launched to travel to Venus and provide information to NASA scientists. It never got there. It plunged into the Atlantic Ocean four minutes after takeoff. An investigation was initiated into the cause for the crash. What did these top minds find? They traced the fatal problem to the computer program directing the spacecraft. In the program, a single minus sign had been left out.

American Football 2

The way a follower of Jesus handles small things, both in attitude and execution. How we handle the football determines how we will handle larger game in ‘doing life.’ Reality check: Do I have the same attitude as Naaman?

11-12 Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, “I thought he’d personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean.” He stomped off, mad as a hornet.

13 But his servants caught up with him and said, “Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?”

[2 Kings 5:12-13 The Message (MSG)]

I would recommend reading the whole chapter. Really insightful.

Trials

‘Consider it all joy…when you encounter various trials.’ James 1:2

Trials are one of the common denominators for being human. However, my trials and yours are going to look and feel different because we are different. We all react differently to physical, financial, and relational trials. The operative word here is “when” not “if” we meet various trials. Trials can come about when we refuse to listen to counsel. Trials might result of someone we are connected with making a mistake [a spouse gossips] and we are caught up in the it. Trials can build over time [such as a disease] or crash in on us suddenly [like the unexpected death of a loved one]. Some trials will be public while others will be private. With a certainty all trials will test our faith. And all trials will bring us to a crossroads. The crossroad is the decision to resist the trial or to embrace this as an opportunity to grow more Christ-like. The most common response we start with is “Why is this happening to me?” Peter answers this age-old issue by telling us that  ‘…don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.’ (1 Peter 4:12 NLT). It is a matter of application. It is one thing to say that I believe in the sovereignty of God and quite another allowing God to be sovereign while we are experiencing a trial. Listen to the counsel of James under the inspirations of the Holy Spirit: ‘Consider it all joy…when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…that you may be perfect and complete.’ (vv. 2-4 NAS). Trials have a way of clearing out the religious baggage we accumulate over time if we are willing to go back to the basics of our faith. Am I willing to stop whining about the trial and get quiet before God? Am I willing to cease my activity and spend some time listening to the One who wants me to mature?

Love via Truth

We live in treacherous times. Truth has become relevant. The principles that we thought to be sacred are being eaten away. Our Constitution is currently being interpreted by events and “modern times.” The things that we held dear 100 years ago out of date by our society. Sticking to the things that the Founding Fathers thought important for freedom are now considered inappropriate and anachronistic. We no longer need to do things by the ‘old code.’ We live and act according to relevant beliefs. Since we have no standard outside of ourselves we behave according to the dictates of the circumstance. How sad. It looks like freedom but it is stressful. We need fences. As we reject the norms set by Judeo-Christian principles, we act more god-like. We seek wisdom and find folly. We talk and sing songs about love. But love without boundaries is chaos. Without a guiding principle love becomes greedy and self-serving. Jer 31:3 “…the LORD appeared to him [me] from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” I as a husband need to reflect and act on this continually.

Not My Opinion

This is my name forever…” Exodus 3:15
At some point in the future there will be one final word from a Name that will end all controversy for all time. We live in an apartment building where some apartments face inward to a courtyard with a fountain. For several nights now there have been loud collections of words being spoken till the wee hours in the morning. Loud obnoxious words without meaning. Words trying to drown out other words with their own noise. Words quoting resources. Words of anger. Words of surprise. Words rolling off alcohol saturated tongues. Words from many languages. Piercing words disturbing us in our sleep. Annoyed words thrown from quiet balconies to shut down the irritating words. Words, words and more words tossed into the night from voices in the dark. As I lay there trying to sleep, often I have asked the question: “In the multitude of words where is the wisdom? There is one Word that points us to the One Name that has the Ancient Wisdom. I AM. “This is my name forever…” Exodus 3:15 Many words try to explain or explain away I AM. Look into the past; examine the present; peer into the future … the Word forever accurately represents the Name. The Word did not grasp the Name on his own. “…he became so far better than the angels as he has inherited a name superior to theirs.” Hebrews 1:4 “…God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name…” Philippians 2:9 So the next time that you hear words flowing around you, remember that this Name provides the final “say so” – the final word of I AM. “…keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus…” Hebrews 12:2 One Word. One Name. One Source. Amen!

‘Who am I’ Moments

“…Who am I that I should go…” [Exodus 2:11]

Are you in the dark about the direction God seems to be leading you? Too often I have heard people tell me that they could not do His will because they did not know the specifics. It is at this point where a battle of wills takes place. We want God to reveal His plan first. But my experience is that God does not work that way. God wants me to decide in advance to trust Him. He wants me to decide that His will is best for my life. Sometime I hesitate simply because I do not want to risk it; I might look like a fool.  So He waits patiently for me to be willing to be made willing. The Israelites were in slavery, so God’ sent Moses, an unlikely wanted fugitive, to lead them to the Promised Land.

One reason God doesn’t give me the full picture [learned this from considering Job’s dilemma] is simply that I would be overwhelmed. I would say “The task appears impossible.” Or I would say “I do not have the skills or tools.”

God would say “Bingo. That’s the point! You are a very smart fellow! You cannot do this thing without Me.”

The danger with hesitation in obedience to God is that He may want us to be on a mission very much like Joseph. Here is a young man who did not know what God was doing during his time as a slave or during his long imprisonment. But when Joseph was reunited with his brothers in Egypt, he told them: “Do not fear … you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” [Genesis 50:19-20] Joseph’s brothers incited by jealousy sold him into slavery, but God used it to preserve the Jewish race.

So here you are at a cross-roads. Stop. Look. Listen. You will see and hear some “Who am I?” moments of your own where you’d reached the end of your rope and He came through for you.

Remember.

Now go.

Living Simply…

Worship God.” That is the final command in the Bible.  [Rev 22:9]  The wisest man in the Bible said that the only duty of man was to “…fear God…” as that was the conclusion to the matter of our living life.  This does not require brains, money, political power or education.  All it requires is my heart…to love God with all my heart and mind.