A matter of trust

During the 1960’s there began a shift away from innocence in our country. Young people were urged to “trust no one over thirty” and told that our government was irredeemably corrupt. As many of our elected representatives failed to keep campaign promises or were exposed as immoral or corrupt, our confidence diminished further.

The exaggerations, media spin, and outright lies promoted during our last election, the pandemic, and since have led to a deep skepticism of our formerly trusted institutions.

It seems that trust has been another victim of the pandemic.

When there is nothing to trust, the world becomes a frightening place. People may panic and react irrationally in their attempts to find something to cling to.

However, we can take heart that through all of this turmoil there is One in whom we can place our trust without fear of being disappointed.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

While experience shows us that even the most well meaning among us are prone to bad choices and mistakes which let us down, Our Lord never will.

It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in man.

Psalm 118:8
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Just do what you can

Even if trying to ignore the news and follow the teaching in Philippians 4:8 (whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things), it is impossible to be unaware of the overwhelming turmoil and chaos in our culture and in our world.

Even while trying to remain focused on God’s many blessings, we can become discouraged and feel helpless in the face of so much evil.

This morning while working out with my online trainer, I noticed how often he repeats the advice to, “Just do what you can.” That is good advice for avoiding injury while exercising, but it’s also valuable for the cultural and spiritual battles we are facing.

When we stop focusing on all the world’s troubles and instead look for the opportunities to follow Christ’s teachings that come into our lives, we may see where we could make a difference by simply doing what we can. Many small acts of faithfulness have a ripple effect even beyond our own small sphere.

We may have felt frustrated and helpless in the past, but today is a new day, a new chance to do what we can; to do the next right thing in our walk of faith.

13 … but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:13-14

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When did we lose our way?

The recent egregious Supreme Court “leak” has thrust the Roe v. Wade controversy surrounding abortion-on-demand back into the spotlight.

For some, abortion-on-demand has become their most important issue.

As a mother who has lost four little ones to miscarriage, I simply cannot understand the viewpoint of those willing to kill a baby in the name of convenience or expediency. 

ultrasound-baby

When we can witness these precious ones in the womb with beating hearts and watch them developing into unique individuals at each step of their journey from conception to birth, how can anyone try to deny their humanity?

There are few sane people who would condone killing a child for any reason whatsoever. How can it be controversial to outlaw killing them while in the womb?

Seeing the violent hostility many on the pro-abortion side show toward those who disagree, I scratch my head.

Admittedly, when I was a teenager, around the time of the Roe decision, I accepted the popular feminist view that these “products of conception” were merely clumps of cells. “My body, my choice” sounded bold and empowering. After losing a child to miscarriage, my mind and my heart began to change. The advent of the ultrasound confirmed what I had begun to realize; these are our children being ripped apart and thrown away.

We now have incontrovertible proof that children in the womb grow, move, and feel pain. They hear their mother’s voice and even recognize music. There can be no controversy about that. The only question remaining is whether anyone has the right to kill them “on demand”.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13 (NLT)

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How can we find peace in the chaos?

Every day we are bombarded with news of some person or group expressing outrage. Each social media post is fair game for attack and vitriol. Everyone seems to be on the lookout for a reason to be offended. There are chips on enough shoulders to build the border wall.

The most minor slip of the tongue or keystroke is blown into a major incident, a weapon to use against an opposing view.

While there are all too many really serious incidents deserving of moral outrage, when we over-react to every petty offense, we are left with no appropriate, proportional response to actual crime, corruption, or catastrophe.

Today’s constant diet of crisis being fed to us by the media has resulted in an epidemic of emotional indigestion.

Rx

So, what is the correct reaction to all the turmoil? How do we find peace of mind and heart amid the cries of outrage and dire warnings of doom? As always, the antidote to our toxic culture is found in God’s word:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. – Philippians 4:6-8 New King James Version (NKJV)

You may take this prescription daily, as needed. There are no known unhealthy side-effects.

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Easter: the Main Event

I read that in the most recent census there were more people than ever before giving their religious affiliation as “none.”  It doesn’t necessarily follow that all these people are non-believers, but it does mean they have no on-going relationship with a church and a great many of these people have never read the Bible.

easter bunny

To these folks, Easter is probably a celebration of Spring, acknowledging the end of winter and the time of Nature’s renewal with symbols of the season such as bunnies, flowers, and candy eggs. They may have no understanding of the meaning these signs of rebirth have for Christians. The Easter Bunny is the star of their show.

How sad for those who don’t understand and don’t share in the true meaning and promise of the Resurrection.

For those of us who do believe and have claimed Christ as our Lord and Savior, Easter is the Main Event; the pinnacle of the Holy calendar and a time to celebrate the most miraculous happening in history.

I don’t worry too much about the commercialization of the Christmas season, but it grieves my heart to see so many unaware of the blaze of victory which followed that humble beginning.

The babe in the manger is a precious image… but, the man on the cross, bleeding and dying; defeating death for me… that is something else… that is something to celebrate… that is the main event… that is love.

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

John 3:16-18 (MSG)
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Mourn the loss but celebrate the victory

At the time, Good Friday was not considered good. The mood of Christ’s followers was one of loss. Even his close disciples who had been told what was to happen must have held out some hope that Jesus would somehow use his power to avoid death. They must have been deeply shocked when he sighed, “It is finished,” and breathed his last. Their mourning would have been overwhelming.

Then, incredibly, on the following Sunday, they saw with their own eyes that Jesus had not avoided death, but had conquered it, not only for himself, but for all believers, for all time. What a victory.

As a child I often saw a road sign proclaiming gloomily in large print, “The wages of sin is death.” It wasn’t until I was older that I noticed the smaller words on the sign, “but the gift of God is eternal life.”

 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (NKJV)

The large, bold words of warning on that sign seeped into my consciousness and colored my feelings about death, even the deaths of believers, for many years. I could only see the sorrow.

While mourning the loss of loved ones this year, the promise in the rest of the verse came into sharper focus. I realized that while grieving for those whom I would miss, I could celebrate that they were now in the presence of the Lord they loved. My pain was greatly eased by focusing on their present joy and the certain knowledge that I will be with them again one day.

There is a reason that dying, for a believer, is sometimes referred to as going to their reward.

When we ponder Christ’s pain and suffering on the cross today, let us look ahead to the great victory of Resurrection Morning, knowing that for those who believe, because of His sacrifice, there is a resurrection morning for us to celebrate, as well.

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Put your trust in God alone

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.”

After the events of this week, I felt in need of comfort and encouragement for the struggles to come. The words of the hymn Nothing Is Impossible keep running through my head:

Put your trust in God alone and Rest upon His Word, and everything, yes everything, Oh, everything is possible with God.

Difficult days are ahead for Christians. We will be tested and refined. It is important to remember our trust belongs in the One who never disappoints.

“…in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11)

Bombarded with shocking revelations and accusations, misinformation and half-truths, targeted by scammers and schemers, it is hard to know who we can trust. When the people in leadership positions are revealed to have committed misdeeds, how do we know who we can rely on?

As always, the Scriptures provide guidance in such a time as this.

When it comes to those we should follow in positions of leadership, the Bible tells us this in Exodus 18:21: But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain…

We can judge the character of leaders by looking at the results of their choices, as we are told in Matthew 7:20: You can tell who the false prophets are by their deeds. We can read “false prophets” to be anyone who would choose to advise us, whether friends or leaders. A person whose own life is in a shambles would be the last one we should trust to tell us how to live.

The best advice in today’s confusing times bears repeating:

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

Psalm 40:4 (NIV)
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Don’t go into this battle unarmed

While observing the chaos in the world today, it is understandable to feel a sense of helplessness.

When a person feels helpless, it is common to succumb to apathy, or to misdirect frustration onto whatever target is closest, but a more productive response might be to change things one small step at a time within one’s own sphere of influence:

Do the next right thing.

Make a difference where you can make a difference; be kind to people you encounter, offer praise freely when it’s deserved, forgive slights, real or imagined, and most of all, pray for one another and trust God.

We are in a spiritual battle where faith, prayer, and righteous acts are powerful weapons.

In order to be most effective we must be equipped with the full armor of God.10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the]wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— – Ephesians 6:10-18 (NKJV)

We are in a real battle, one where each believer must enter the struggle girded with truth. As much as we might like to jump into bed and pull the covers over our head while the conflict rages, we have been called to participate.

God has provided us with all the weapons and ammunition we need.

Don’t go into battle unarmed.

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Grace: it’s amazing!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)

“Amazing Grace” the hymn written in 1772 by poet/clergyman John Newton may be the most recognized Christian hymn of all time. The moving words are often heard at funeral services, both Christian and secular. Perhaps because we have come to associate the tune with the mournful tones of the bagpipes, this hymn of praise and joy is too often sung at a dirge-like tempo.

When my congregation sang it recently, I was struck by how the doleful tempo of the music jarred with the words.

How incongruous to sing:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

This hymn begins and ends with joy at God’s amazing, incredible, mind-blowing, astonishing, remarkable, unbelievable, astounding, breathtaking, exciting, fascinating and marvelous grace to His children. Why would we choose to sing it as though we are sad and mournful?

The tunes and tempos of worship music play on our emotions and, when paired with inspirational lyrics, can move us in deep and meaningful ways. However, it is important to sing with the heart and the mind; with emotions and also with understanding of what we are singing.

Music has always been a vital component of worship, and how much greater can be our worship experience when we pay attention to the words and sing them from the heart.

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The hardest commandment

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:43-45 (NKJV)

There was a time when I thought the only way someone might be my enemy was in the unlikely event that I were to be involved in a war. Anyone fighting on the other side would become my enemy. But I thought in my day to day life, while I might have disagreements with people, that would never make them an enemy.

In our current divisive climate, however, it sometimes seems that anyone who expresses an opinion we don’t agree with becomes the enemy. Although this is distressing, it is also an opportunity for us, as Christians, to mature in our faith by obedience to this most difficult commandment of Christ.

When we encounter those with differing views of the current turmoil in our country and our world, we can choose to respond in a mature, kind, respectful manner while praying for God’s power and discernment in their lives and in our own.

The Message translation of the verse above puts Jesus’ command in words we can’t fail to understand:

43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

Matthew 5:43-45 (MSG)

We are engaged in spiritual warfare, make no mistake, but our Enemy in this battle is found in the spiritual realm.

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