Following and Trusting God

Jeremiah spoke this prayer to God: “I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). And the apostle Paul wrote: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). These two men of God were given a unique, difficult, and dangerous assignment. They were called upon to speak the word of God to a world that did not want to hear from God. Their calling was not easy. Their calling was not glamorous. They would both suffer and go through many trials and attempts on their lives. Their calling from God was not one that many of us would ask for God to give us. Jeremiah’s fellow countrymen and even his own family would seek to take his life. Paul was beaten, left for dead and endured many hardships for the gospel. As difficult as it may have been, these two men believed that God directed their steps and would somehow work for the good of those who were called to carry out his purpose.

I have been struggling with what God is calling me to do lately. There are moments when God’s direction for my life seems clear but there are many times when I have no idea what God is up to. I often feel like David who prayed: “I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me” (Psalm 142:1-3). We so often focus on the uncertainty of life instead of trusting God, who is directing our very lives and the path that we are called to travel upon. God wants us to trust him and realize that he is directing our every step. God is firmly in control of our lives and we must trust him and follow him, even if following him leads us down a difficult and challenging path.

When I am struggling with the direction that God is sending me, I often look to David for inspiration, especially as he is on the run from King Saul who wants to take his life. David frequently calls out to God for help in overcoming those who want to do him harm. His struggle against the ways of this world and his cry to God for help always helps me to put things in perspective.

                “I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me” (Psalm 142:5-6).

I can relate when David talks about his spirit growing faint and weary. I can relate when David writes that his heart is dismayed as he is crying out for mercy and relief from those who relentlessly pursue him. I can relate to David when he is crying out for help, as he is in desperate need of God to answer him. When faced with the many trials and troubles of this world that we live in today, we also call upon God to come to our rescue and to save us from the sin and violence and uncertainty of this world that we live in.

But after David has finished crying out to God for mercy and understanding, he reflects upon how God has brought him through the many trials and challenges of life. He acknowledges God as his “refuge” and he “meditates” on all of God’s works and “considers” what God’s hand has done (Psalm 143:5). David never stops searching for God, and remembering God, in the midst of his trials and suffering. He knows that God has brought him through difficult times in his life and he trusts that God will continue to direct his steps and lead him in the way of righteousness.

Like Jeremiah, Paul, and David, I believe in a God who actively “directs” our steps, who “works for the good of those who love him”, and is our “refuge.” God calls you to follow him and the path that he calls you to follow will likely be difficult, painful, and challenging. But in the end, it will most certainly be rewarding. We all must go through times of testing and refinement in order to become what God has created us to be. Those moments define us and our life of faith. And one day, we will see how all the events of life come together in God’s glorious design for shaping us to be what he calls us to be.

                “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground” Psalm 143:10).

 

 

The Earth is Filled with His Glory!

Psalm 113:1-6

1 Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, you his servants;

    praise the name of the Lord.

2 Let the name of the Lord be praised,

    both now and forevermore.

3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,

    the name of the Lord is to be praised.

4 The Lord is exalted over all the nations,

    his glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like the Lord our God,

    the One who sits enthroned on high,

6 who stoops down to look

    on the heavens and the earth?

The news headlines are so depressing these days, as we are frequently exposed to news of senseless violence around the globe. Just yesterday, I read of a knife attack in Japan that left 19 dead and this morning we awake to news of a priest slain in his church in France. We are living in chaotic times unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime. Many people I talk with are afraid, they are worried about the future and what will take place. In times like these, believers must cling to the promise and certainty of the one and only God, who “sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth.”

In my last post, I wrote that Satan must sense that the end is near and he is so desperately trying to inflict suffering and terror upon the earth. Satan can’t touch those who believe and place their trust and faith in Christ because we have been “rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13).  Satan is busy working through those who do not believe in God, and in Christ as savior, and he is using unbelievers in his attempt to spread fear and terror through the world.

Make no mistake that God is still in control of what transpire upon this planet. God has given Satan certain boundaries in which to operate but God is sovereign and He is always in control. We simply can’t understand why evil continues to spread and prosper, but in the end, we know that good will prevail over evil. One day, God’s name will be proclaimed and praised throughout the entire earth, and we will live an eternity in peace and in worship of our creator God. There will be no more death, no more pain, and all evil, violence, destruction, and death will be wiped off the face of the earth. Until then, hold fast to the hope and the promise of our eternal God, who remains in control.

The following song, “I Adore You” as performed by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, is a beautiful song that so wonderfully expresses why we should adore God, who is our creator, redeemer and sustainer. I hope this song blesses you today as much as it has me.

 

 

Spiritual Battles in the Heavenly Realms

Ephesians 6:12: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

I don’t remember in my lifetime, a moment in history, where so much violence and terrorism have unfolded before our eyes in such a short span of time. You may call it a coincidence or you may have some other theory about the level of violence and lawlessness that is going on in our world. Most of us do not have any problem “seeing” what is unfolding in our country and around the globe. However, there is an even greater battle taking place in the heavenly realms at this very moment.

Paul, in writing to the church at Ephesus, refers to this spiritual battle that is ongoing between the forces of good and evil. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12 that the real battle is “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Satan is alive and well and he is busy unleashing his evil and destructive powers upon planet earth. He must sense that the time of Jesus’ return is soon because it seems that he is going all out to wreak havoc upon this world that we live in.

The good news for believers is through faith in Christ; we no longer belong to the dark world in which the forces of evil reside. Paul so eloquently describes this in Colossians 1:13-14: For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Paul wants believers to know that we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, through faith in Christ. 

Christ has already won the battle over Satan and the forces of evil. And we who confess Christ as Lord and Savior are already “seated” with him in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 2:6: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. There is an intense spiritual battle raging but our ultimate destiny is secure.

There is a fascinating story in 2 Kings that depicts the intense spiritual battle that we cannot see but we know exists. If God were to pull back the veil that separates our world from the spiritual world, we would witness just what Elisha prayed for his servant to see.

2 Kings 6:11-17: This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”

12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.”

14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Satan (“the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” Ephesians 2:2) is attempting furiously to destroy everything that is good and godly in this world. He is seeking to turn people against each other and he desires to instill fear and hopelessness in everyone. It helps me to stop for a moment and think of this passage from 2 Kings in which an intense spiritual battle was being waged. That same spiritual battle is being fought at this very moment as we speak. If we could only witness what God is doing in the spiritual realm to combat the forces of evil, we might say as Elisha did, “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Open our eyes Lord, that we may also see.

The Wide Road or the Narrow Road?

Matthew 7:13-14(NIV)

13 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

If you were to stop and look around you today, which gate appears to be more crowded, the narrow gate or the wide gate? And which road or path would you say is more traveled, the wide road or the narrow road? It seems to me that many people living in this world today are on the wide road, which is filled with signs encouraging its travelers to live by the new standards that are established by a society that is increasingly turning it’s back on God. And so many people believe this and they fall for the lie that the “spirit of the air” is spreading. Satan is working tirelessly to bring about the demise of people and to destroy their lives by leading them down that wide road.

  • As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV).

Those on the wide road see signs that tell its travelers to indulge in the many pleasures of the world. These travelers are constantly being bombarded with messages that encourage  them to put themselves and their pleasure first, above all other concerns. Many are deceived into thinking the way the world thinks – that times have changed and God’s message is no longer relevant. They are simply being deceived and the road on which they are traveling, leads only to destruction.

Sadly, we see many people in church leadership positions today that follow the ways of the world and indulge themselves in the pleasures of society. They walk away from the cross and they follow the inclinations and the desires of the world they live in. And in doing so, they lead others away from Christ and fail to carry out their obligation to care for the sheep. Yes, the “spirit of the air” is at work today, even in many of our churches.

I am thankful however, for the many churches that direct their followers to the narrow road. These are places of worship where you immediately encounter the Holy Spirit when you walk into their building. These are churches that preach a message that runs counter to the way society thinks and acts. They encourage their followers to take up their cross daily and to follow Christ, even if that path is a narrow and difficult one. It is in these churches that you see people being led to Christ and begin developing a trusting relationship with their Risen Savior. You will not find perfect people in these type of churches – because we are all sinners. What you will find is sorrowful repentance for their sins and a willingness to confess those sins to God and to accept the grace and forgiveness needed to continue to spread the message of salvation to those living in a lost and dying world.

I encourage you to say no to the things of this world and to continue your journey on the narrow road that Christ commanded us to follow. This road does not lead to popularity by this world’s standards. You will not be seen as cool and hip if you travel this road. And the narrow road will not lead to worldly possessions and riches. Those things are found on the wide road that so many people today are blindly following.

Jesus tells us that the wide road leads to destruction; it leads to an eternal separation from God in hell. The narrow road leads to eternal life with God in heaven, where we will live forever basking in the presence and radiance of God’s eternal glory.

Loving God’s Creatures

Psalm 104:24-25: How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Job 12:10: In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

There are moments in my daily walk with God, when I am truly amazed at God’s revelation about the simplest moments in life, and how they connect to God in a powerful way. Two weeks ago, I found a four week old kitten on the side of the road in our neighborhood. Knowing that I just couldn’t leave her there to die, I picked her up and brought her to our back deck. When I sat her down, her entire body was trembling and shaking. My youngest daughter and I began to pet her to let her know that she was safe and was being loved and cared for. It took a while but the little kitten finally stopped shaking and even began to purr. Another of my daughters finally decided on a name and we began to call her Charlotte.

For the next two weeks, we bottle fed, litter trained, and completely cared for this little kitten. She was so tiny and helpless and all of us did everything we could to take care of her. We had her for a little over two weeks when one day she began to throw up after we fed her. Concerned for her, my wife and daughters, took her to the vet where they were told she was in critical condition and likely would not live through the night.

I think that we all said our goodbyes to Charlotte that night because we knew that she was sick and weak and would probably not make it through the night. We put her in her little bed in the bathroom and then we went to sleep praying for her comfort. During the night, I woke up four times and each time I prayed for God to heal her, or if not, to just not let her be in any pain. When I woke up the next morning, I was hesitant to look in on her. Usually, when Charlotte could hear someone up she would begin to meow but I didn’t hear anything that morning. After a short time, I went into the bathroom to check on her and found that she had passed away during the night. I went into our bedroom to tell my wife and we both cried and cried over the loss of this precious little kitten that had brought us so much joy over the past two weeks.

All of God’s creation is important and each of us should take care of what God has given us dominion over. It is our responsibility to take care of and enjoy God’s creation because all living creatures are created and cared for by God.

How did God care for this little kitten who we found lost and alone in the world? I believe that God led me to find her so that she could live the last two weeks of her life knowing that she was loved and cared for and safe. She was one of God’s tiny creatures and God knew that she needed a special family that would love her and care for her, for the short time she had here on earth.

We buried Charlotte that afternoon in our back yard next to another beloved family pet that we lost last fall. I cried as I dug the grave and my wife and daughter cried as we put the box into the ground and covered her up. My wife told me to say a prayer over her and as I did I began to thank God for the joy that Charlotte brought us in such a short time and how it was our God given responsibility to care for one of the smallest of God’s creatures. I thanked God that we were able to give Charlotte so much love in the last two weeks of her life. I didn’t know that I could feel so close to God over the burial of a little baby kitten. I am so amazed at how God can still surprise me with his revelations and his closeness. I felt the presence of God with our family in our backyard that afternoon as we laid little sweet Charlotte to rest.