What is trust?

3 May

How is it that after many years of having put my trust in God, I still find myself needing to learn to trust him? In scripture, the answer is very simple: “whatever is not from faith is sin,” (Romans 14:23b NKJV). In daily life, many arguments and what-ifs fog the clear path set before us. Each difficult situation we face has its own battery of objections, fears, and save-face actions to deal with. The simplest response to tough situations (trust in the Lord) becomes the hardest in the face of how our peers and family interpret our action or inaction.

Things trust is not or at least not intended to be:

1. Fatalistic. Trusting is not as passive as it may appear to be to others. My resume must be one of the top ones for bizarre. In fact, I remember telling the Lord that very thing once. I was amazed at the job I had. It seemed like a perfect fit for me, but I looked back and wondered how I got there. The day I gave Jesus the say over where I worked (that meant sometimes prayerfully waiting things out with no effort to find work on my part), my employment record showed no natural progression. Contacts simply littered the page. During those years, I was called lazy, unrealistic, among other things. People gave me the “duh” look when they asked if I expected God to just drop a job in my lap. At one point, I was ready to give up and give in to flight. Thankfully God stopped me (and did drop a job in my lap). Oh, in answer to my question to God, he showed me how a little bit of each job I had filled in the past taught me something that caused me to excel in the one I had when I asked.

Sometimes it may feel or look like waiting for God’s answer is waiting for fate to show up. It’s not. In fact, such an attitude can delay God’s hand. Trust is being active in knowing who it is you are leaning on.

2. Pollyanna. For those too old to remember the Disney movie or the story it was based on, Pollyanna is a term for an attitude or person who always sees good no matter the circumstances. It would be the bride who fell into stagnant water and announces her bouquet still smells fresh and sweet…who wants to catch it? Trust in God maintains a quiet confidence in the face of tragedy that he is still in control. A conviction that he still has you in the palm of his hand. It is what enabled David to turn from travail to praise in Psalm 6:6-10 “I am weary with my groaning. All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. 7 My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows old because of all my enemies. 8 Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; for the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping. 9 The LORD has heard my supplication; The LORD will receive my prayer. 10 Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled; Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly,” (NKJV). David was not afraid nor ashamed to be honest with God. His servants and family observed his struggles. But his trust in God kept him. He knew the deepest pits with God was better than the highest peaks without him.

3. Karma. The literal definition is: “the force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.” Its more common use refers to a force that retributes a person’s action or their attitudes, as in they have bad karma. I hear people state that they will let karma (or hope karma will) give back to someone the bad they dump on someone else. It’s funny, but usually those who trust in karma are the same ones to doubt God’s existence or at least his involvement in individual lives and circumstances. Some may even say they’ve tried God and it didn’t work. But trust in God includes good things happening to bad perpetrators. Oh, did you think praying for your enemies meant praying that God would humble them with destruction? His perfect knowledge can accomplish far greater results than our limited view. It’s time to trust him…again.

The hard part about trusting is that we don’t get to determine the outcome. That is one of the things we surrender when we put our lives in his hands. Rather, it’s supposed to be, but it’s difficult. Our minds are always thinking of possible alternative actions and outcomes. Always wanting to lend God a hand. To that God says, “Be still and know I am God,” (Psalm 46:10). On my best days, I’ve got it. Unfortunately, my best days are too far and few between. But I thank God that he hasn’t given up on me. He continues to set before me opportunities to be broken (poor in spirit) and to die daily as Paul wrote. He reminds me that only when I am weak can he be made strong in me. And I have his promise he will complete in me what he has started. So, for right now, I will trust him for that.

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If at first you don’t succeed, read the instructions.

27 Apr

“Who reads the rules anymore?” My wife and I were not sure what to do with that question at first. She had just commented on how our grandchildren spend more time watching other people play a game on YouTube than actually playing the game themselves. Instead of more head shaking and tongue clucking, the young parents around us laughed and asked that question.

 Defending our position, my wife threw me under the ridicule bus. “Charley does.”

 All eyes turned to me. “Really? You read every rule?”

 I admit. I am a read-and-follow-the-rules kind of guy. The first thing I look for when opening a box labeled “Some assembly required” is the sheet of instructions. And the furniture in the box? Find and follow the instructions. However, I confess I have used videos from the internet when I’ve encountered a repair project I clueless on how to proceed. For much of life’s challenges, reading the rules works.

 Does not apply to every situation.

A problem arises when we approach Christianity the same way. I know. I’ve struggled between by-the-Spirit and by-the-book Christianity most of my life. For me, life can be so much easier when rules and precedents are clearly spelled out. It’s easier to meet expectations at the workplace when goals and objectives are clear. But life and, more specifically, living the Christian life doesn’t work that way.

The call to obedience makes it sound like it should. The Old Testament laws set the stage for that misunderstanding. But I see that mistaken tendency at work, taking us down the wrong path all the time. Simple age-old examples in the church include: sprinkling or immersion for valid baptism, drums and guitars versus piano or organs (or any instruments at all) for worship, and grape juice or real wine in communion. The established pattern for dealing with handling differing opinions in church matters is to assemble verses and arguments why one way is the right way (happens on both sides of the issue), followed by dogmatism, finger-pointing, and division. It gets passed on to others through discipleship training and raising a family.

Be right (in heart), not do right (in performance)

If you have been following my blogs (especially the grouping on God’s blueprint for the Church), you know I believe obedience doesn’t mean we are to do the right things. At least, not in the follow-the-rules determination we slip into. Obedience that God wants is something we subject ourselves to—in and by faith. It’s an act of worship. We are not to press others into the mold we’ve created.

With each social battle announced in headlines, I have the opportunity to learn this lesson and practice obedience to the Spirit. As much as these skirmishes have major impact on lives and the laws governing us, I remember we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. Our weapons are much greater. I struggle against my first impulses to push the rules. In its place, I turn to fight God’s way by the Spirit. I ask him to help me see the real enemy and to teach me how to pray against lies, bitterness, and revenge. I ask him to show me how I can display his love—the same conquering love that drew my heart away from the destructive path I was on. And I pray for more of his people to catch this same vision.

What needs to be seen

No other generation in America has had a greater need to see a genuine image of Jesus and not our own painted version of him. We can’t rest any longer on the comforting word that when God looks on a believer, he sees Jesus, while the world sees only people following a set of rules. They need to see Jesus. Can we not dig deeper into, move closer to, become more like Jesus?

I am purposing to press more toward that mark of the prize in Christ Jesus. Who is with me?

The Message of Hope in America’s Fall

17 Apr

I’m convinced America’s fall is soon, but I have no idea when. Some Biblical prophesies seem to indicate it could happen very soon. Other Biblical prophesies state certain things must happen first. The collapse could be generations away.

In today’s post I want to share my understanding of a verse people cling to for hope. It’s is a verse of hope. A great verse. But at some point in time that the Father has set, even it will not prevent God from fulfilling his final will. A day will come when he will bring an end to sin’s temptation, an end to his creation trying to rule itself without him, an end to even one more soul being lost forever.

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (NKJV)

What this verse isn’t:
1. This verse will not delay the completed salvation of God’s creation. He has a timetable set that only he knows. All things will come to that climax.
2. Geographic and political entities don’t have souls. They can’t be saved. The verse is often used to hint, if not actually intend, that a nation can be the subject of the challenge and salvation. God seeks souls of individuals.
3. The verse cannot be used to finger point at the sins of others around us.

What this verse is:
It’s addressed to those—individually and corporately—who claim to be his, who are called by his name. Christians must turn away from a watered-down gospel. Stop seeking to be liked by or to please the world. We are sent to change it. We need to repent from presenting a wrong image of Jesus. Of course, that means we must hotly pursue him and his righteousness in us and expressed through us.

Think how different the Church will appear when we walk in Christ’s meekness and authority. The verse speaks to me that we (his people called by his name) must first become broken. In the church’s present state, we acknowledge with our lips that there is nothing in us warranting his mercy and grace to us, but yet we try to do his work in our own strength. We go about our daily lives as if we by ourselves can handle our own trials and destinies. Instead, we must submit to him in everything. Second, we must mourn. Again, God’s heart is than none should die an eternal death, forever separated from him in torment. Know his heart for the lost because we were once numbered among them. Feel his desire to be known and loved by them.

What must happen before the end:
Think about the first Church. Remember its burning passion for others to believe on the name of Jesus. Consider their immovable convictions in the face of persecution and their complete commitment to make it happen. I believe the last Church will see all these things restored. Paul puts it this way in Romans 8:18-22 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” (NASB)

In Ephesians 4:13 he wrote, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (NKJV). It will happen sometime. The Church will minister on earth with the full authority of Jesus. It will walk in kingdom life, be a clear and accurate expression of him on earth, and be prepared as a bride for the wedding feast to come.

If we are truly in the last days, this must happen. It’s been stated prophetically by Jesus and the early apostles. The process begins with “If my people…”

Therefore, if we are in the last days, and if the Church reaching that full stature of Christ must happen first, then we must conclude the full restoration could happen with the current generations on earth. Our prayers, our focus, must not be on saving America, but on the condition of individual hearts and souls of the people in America. What eternity lies before them?

For additional reading, click on the categories button and find Baptism of Fire and Blueprint for the Church. The blogs are listed most recent first so to catch the flow, start at the bottom of each group.

Is America in the Bible?

10 Apr

My thinking on finding the United States in the Bible went something like this:
• If (I say if, not from doubt, but from logical argument structure) God sees the end from the beginning; and
• If God had a strong hand in forming this nation as we Christians claim; and
• If we can truly read today’s headlines in the Bible; then
• The United States should be able to be found in scripture.

Knowledge as we need it.
Now, I know God has not revealed everything. However, he has revealed through several writers what the end of days would be like. Jesus said he revealed such things for us to be able to recognize it when it begins to happen and be encouraged. Therefore, I still want to know how will this hemisphere, and the United States in particular, be a part of His story in the last days?

First logical place.
Over the years when reading the book of Revelations, I’ve kept an eye out for us. It made sense to me this great end-times prophecy would have something in there about us. The closest I found was the description of the fall of Babylon the Great. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon no longer exists as a city-state—hasn’t for thousands of years. It must be symbolic. The description in Revelation makes it out to be a world power. (see Revelation 18) The leader of all trade. Other nations relied on her and by her they enjoyed a measure of her great wealth. Sounds like the United States. But that is as far as it goes with me. It sounds like it could, possibly, maybe be speaking of the United States. A part of me says it doesn’t fit the rest of the passage and end times details.

Not where I expected to find it.
More recently I was reading the book of Daniel. The passage I’m focusing on is chapter 2 verses 31-45. In them, Daniel reveals King Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling dream and its meaning. He explained that the huge statue spoke of kingdoms—Nebuchadnezzar’s first and those that would follow. Biblical scholars since then have named three of them: Medes and Persians, Greek, and Roman.

The Roman empire is described as the legs of the statue, which are made of iron. And, of course, a fourth kingdom, the last one, is the Lord’s. It is depicted as a stone carved out of a mountain and cast down onto the feet of the statue, crushing and grinding the other kingdoms to dust. This new kingdom will reign forever.

The defining clue for me.
I noticed for the first time that there is a shift in pronouns. Authority in each kingdom referenced is singular. The authority is vested in one head in each of the first four kingdoms. But after the Roman empire, the authority is referred to as they. The feet and toes of the statue seem to speak of another form of ruling. It has the strength of iron, but it is mixed with the weakness of clay (verses 41-43). Drawing on God’s statement in Genesis that we are dust and to dust we will return, I see the clay speaks of humanity. (We the people.)

For over two hundred years our Constitution has been the authority and strength of our nation. It has survived many attacks including a Civil War and two world wars. Any proposed or passed law that contradicts it, gets thrown out as unconstitutional. Somehow—whether you want to give credit to God in the effort or not—a few men gathered in 1785 and wrote out an ironclad document that created a government (authority) of, by and for the people.

However, 1973 introduced a crack in its system. Many adopted the argument that the Constitution is a piece of paper, outdated in its thinking. The framers could not have foreseen the huge advances of science and industry. It is archaic and only a guide. Authority shifted from iron to majority whims. Instead of being the document created to give strength and protection, it is now being used against the values and guiding light that once led us.

The fit.
Daniel explains how the strength of the authority that follows the Roman empire is weakened by the clay which doesn’t bond with the iron. It forms the feet and toes with the iron, but in the end it doesn’t stay true to the purpose. It breaks away from the iron.

Several other nations followed our example and formed constitutional governments. They are facing the same kinds of struggles. Perhaps, the toes speak of the all nations who have aligned with us and formed the battle lines of the 1950s and 1960s in the Cold War between freedom versus communism. Maybe. But this I am sure of: we the people created a nation with ironclad authority, but we the people are grasping at controlling that authority now. The clay is separating from the iron.

America will fall. It’s inevitable. I don’t know when or how. Cracks have already formed. Mankind’s attempt to prove no need for God will be ground to bits by the stone—already carved from the mountain—when it crashes down. A new kingdom—a heavenly one that will reign forever—will rise. And as Paul wrote, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord.

But there is hope.
If the end of Daniel’s interpretation is not hope enough for you, if you want America to continue to be the land of opportunity and not the dust at the bottom of the fallen statue, there may be time left for that. Unfortunately, this blog has already gone too long. Will you stay with me one more blog as I wrap this up?

America Will Fall: The Evidence

3 Apr

My eighth-grade teacher made an announcement—prediction, really—that angered me and made me a bit suspicious of him. That was hard for me because I thought he was a great teacher, and a friend to his students. But I wondered where his loyalties lay when he said the United States had only another 50 to 75 years. The basis he gave was reasonable, but everything within me still refused to accept it. He talked about the world powers throughout history and showed how their years at the top has been growing shorter down through the centuries. Historical realities didn’t sway my bruised patriotism. Just because it has been so in the past, didn’t mean it has to be so in the present. I mean, aren’t we supposed to learn from the past? Can’t we avoid their errors?

My teacher went on to show how every world power went through a cycle of geographic and economic growth, excelling in science and industry, reaching level of dominance, resting on their laurels, focusing on entertainment, collapse.

So, apart from the Bible, an argument can be made that America will fall based on the life cycle of nations. And, given Americans’ obsession with entertainment and sports, we could be quickly approaching the precipice.

The Bible also has a lot to say about the Lord establishing or destroying a nation’s rule. Here are a few references to his judgment humbling nations:

Psalm 9:17 “The wicked will return to Sheol, Even all the nations who forget God” (NASB).

After Israel was taken captive, 2 Kings 17:7-8 gives the reason, “Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced” (NASB).
Amos 9:8a “Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom,
And I will destroy it from the face of the earth;” (NASB).

The Apostle Paul wrote a warning in his letter to the Roman Christians who felt they had replaced Israel as God’s favorite people. He told them to beware of such thinking

Romans 11:17-21 “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the [h]rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.”

I feel this principle applies especially to nations who exalt themselves.

I share these things as witnesses to the inevitable fall of America. I gave up a long time ago on the thought America will beat the odds. I believe history and the Bible indicate it will happen. Why? For what sin will God bring judgment on our land? Some Christians will say it’s because the millions of children aborted cry for justice. Others believe sexual immorality is to blame. And still others have a long list. I say it’s far more basic. It’s for rejecting him. For the idolatry of viewing ourselves (the U.S.A.) as the one who brings peace to the world. For the arrogance in believing we are his chosen. For believing we need only to elect the right person to solve our problems.

The fact is: we are the problem. In my next blog, I will explain where I see us in biblical prophecy.

I Can Only Imagine and it’s impact on me

26 Mar

I have always been empathetic toward veterans who experience PTSD after seeing a realistic war movie such as Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers. But I just got a small taste of it myself. My wife and I went to see the movie I Can Only Imagine. (Inserting short plug for it: very well done, compelling story, emotionally charged, well-acted.)

At different times in the movie, I had to choke back the tears. Bart’s experience was too similar to my own to be able to distance myself and only watch it. I found myself living it on the big screen. The most poignant scene for me occurred when the camera showed what Bart had written in his journal. “I finally get the father I’ve wanted and now he’s leaving. How fair is that?”

My father was a mean alcoholic. Many times, I asked God to change my dad. The best I got was he stopped beating me. Feeling rejection remained. But that was far better than the fear I lived with after he loaded his shotgun one night in a failed attempt to kill Mom and me. Years later Jesus became very real to me. He led me and enabled me to forgive Dad. A healing in our relationship began. I didn’t reap a harvest from the years of nurturing until two weeks before he died of cancer. He had received the much-needed revelation and forgiveness through the testimony of a plumber who came in to fix his water heater. The last words I remember Dad saying to me were, “I only wish I knew the Bible as good as you.”

After forty-five years of talking together, my wife knows my history quite well. Nevertheless, she asked me how the many parallels between the movie and my life affected me. Several times I had to choke back more tears before I could answer. About that time, I realized the irony of the coincidences surrounding our viewing. My wife treated me to the movie on my birthday. The movie transported me back to my childhood memories. I remembered that Mom and Dad were married in 1939, and exactly thirty-nine years ago—on my birthday—we buried my dad. At church on the Sunday following my dad’s funeral, I told the Lord it wasn’t fair that I never got to worship with him. I felt the Lord say to me that we were worshiping together, me here and Dad with him in glory.

My healing continued for years as Jesus revealed more of my dad’s heart and inner struggles to me. So, like Bart I went from hating Dad to wanting to be like him in ways I had never imagined.

Not everyone will watch this movie and experience the emotional rush I did, but I can’t think anyone would watch it without being touched in their innermost being. This movie is entertaining and so much more.

If you’ve seen it, I welcome you to comment on the movie, too. How did it impact you?

America in Bible Prophesy

20 Mar

About ten years ago, the Lord spoke three things to me that shook my world view.

1. A baptism of fire is coming. I’ve just finished a series of blogs on that topic. Know this, if your eyes are fixed on Jesus, you will not suffer loss of true riches.
2. Jesus laid out his blueprint for his ministry and for the ministry his Church will continue in his first sermon. Familiarity with the verses has caused us to miss the deeper meaning and application in our lives.
3. America must fall. What is happening now on our streets, in our schools, even in our highest levels of government are the beginning tremors. I can’t say if this is the time for the collapse or if it can be turned around through a change in the Church, but I see America’s imploding prophesied in the Scripture.

I have already blogged on the first two points. For your convenience, I have provided links to those blogs below. This blog begins my next project. In it, I will explain where I see the U.S. in bible prophesy and why.

But before I get started, we still have this promise: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV). The word was written to Israel—God’s chosen people. By prophetic shadows, the verse applies to The Church—capital C indicating the church universal, not any one denomination or country, his chosen people.

This promise is conditional (If my people). Some of his chosen people will do what the Lord asks, some or many will not. It brings to mind the image described in the Spirit’s letter to the church in Laodicea (see Revelation 3). The church is pictured as meeting behind a closed door, and the reason for their gathering is outside knocking to be let in. It’s a sad commentary that something like that would not only happen, but also happens in our own hearts as we are distracted by things around us.

The prescription is for us to humble ourselves—in the same way we did when we realized we needed a savior. This is not the blushing acceptance-of-praise humility. It is the I-am-undone-my-sins-have-been-declared type of humility.

It in turn steers us to pray and seek his face. In that bankrupt humility, say, “Here I am, Lord, standing naked before you.” Can you imagine coming to this place and looking into the face of him whom John describes as having eyes as coals of fire?

The last step sometimes seems the hardest. “Turn from their wicked ways.” I said sometimes because when a call to repentance sounds from the pulpit, I struggle to recall any action I would call wicked in the last week or month. Ever feel that way? Naturally, an immediate response to that attitude is I better repent from pride. Surely it is hiding things from me. I try to dig a little deeper. I pick through the week spent navigating with my own natural wisdom and cunning, exalting self above God.

Meeting the conditions in that promise may only delay America’s fall. The political rhetoric lauds what we have done as a nation. It declares what we will do to overcome adversity. Even Christians in America join the rallying calls, lifting the flag and our Constitution as a thing for the world to worship. When things seem to be deteriorating in our society, we remind ourselves of our Christian foundation and a call to patriotism. If for no other reason, America will be brought low for such idolatry.

As people who desire to be like Jesus, let’s examine what we say, what we think, what we do, and how we react. Are we in line with his heart and his mission? Healing is promised when we do. God may extend his blessings on our land and bring a healing to all the divisions and hurts, but remember this. God’s salvation does not apply to nations. Political or geological entities don’t have souls; they can’t be saved. Only the people within the nation have that opportunity.

Connected blogs:
Baptism of Fire blogs: Fire in the Church; What did Jesus wish?; A kindled fire, but not burning up; Fire in God’s hands; Fire destroys the bad is a good thing, right?; Baptism of Fire Type 2; Purification adds by taking away; When is a fiery trial not one?; Protected by fire; Burning fire on the altar of worship; The seventh glorious fire.
Jesus’s blueprint blogs: Salt and light: if not us, who?; Broken People: God’s most treasured ones; Christ’s demand for a church that mourns; Happiness in meekness; Happy Hot pursuit; Have Mercy!; Purify your heart for better vision; Special recognition; Jesus, our example—Part 1; Jesus, Our example—Part 2; Wax on/wax off.

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