Is It Possible to Trust God Too Much?

It used to be that you could say, “I’m walking by faith, not by sight. I’m trusting the Lord for each new day.”

It seems that today though, even in Christian circles, that’s not being smart enough. That statement today is a display of ignorance and recklessness. It seems that your trust in the Lord must now be put through a litmus test of the other person’s truths and sources of truth, the weights and measures of “is it blind (ignorant) trust, informed trust or common sense trust?” Now in addition to trusting a sovereign, omniscient God with your comings and goings, you must do your part to ensure the peace of mind of others who do not trust God in the same way or with the same measure…with the same “recklessness” with which you do.

If the apostle Paul’s faith were to match today’s litmus test, how might his letter to the Philippians have to be changed? What measures should he have taken to ensure that he not find himself rotting in a Roman prison? Was he unnecessarily risking the lives of Timothy and Epaphroditus to send them back to Philippi, knowing the church was under persecution?

Philippians 1:18-30 ESV
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, [19] for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, [20] as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. [21] For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [22] If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. [23] I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. [24] But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. [25] Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, [26] so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. [27] Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, [28] and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. [29] For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, [30] engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

To what extent will we put the mission on hold for the sake of something that we cannot control for ourselves or others? And for how long? At what point is it a waste of the most precious resource given to man (time) to stay bunkered in isolation from an unseen enemy to prevent ourselves and others from hypotheticals and “what if’s”?

These are questions that I wrestle with every day as I face decisions, not only for myself and my wife, but for the welfare of the church family that God has entrusted me to steward. In a sense, I am responsible for protecting life. If my church is a Biblical church, according to Psalm 23 they look to me for leadership, guidance and where to step when they can’t see where they’re going. On the other hand, I’m to teach them to be good stewards of time, energy and resources, to remind them that today is their only guarantee, that wasting today to protect the pretense of tomorrow is sinfully foolish, according to James.

Proverbs 27:1 ESV
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

James 4:13-17 ESV
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— [14] yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. [15] Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” [16] As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. [17] So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

I don’t have all the answers. I wish I did. Some days, I don’t even know if I’m asking the right questions. It’s often said “there’s a fine line between faith and foolishness”. For me, the line is not only fine…but fuzzy.

I just want to be found faithful…not fearful.

I want to be found working…not wasting or waiting.

I just want to be found faithful…not fearful. I want to be found working…not wasting or waiting.

Jesus is coming soon.

Like a bride waiting for her groom
We’ll be a Church ready for You
Every heart longing for our KingWe sing “even so come”
Lord Jesus, come
Even so come
Lord Jesus, come

Even So Come

You Only Have Two Jobs

I wrote this last night, in a fit of exhaustion and emptiness: 

“Today is one of those days that everyone has, but I don’t want to admit that it took me down, too.

The thoughts of frustration, disappointment and discouragement are overpowering my desire to stay focused and centered on Jesus plan for me.  I keep trying to crucify the flesh but that sucker just won’t die today. Just tired and worn down, frazzled, depleted and done.

Done trying to empathize and restore, understand and care, intercede and advocate, trying to believe and hope for the best, to show love in spite of total disagreement, self-righteous, beam-in-your-own-eye, seeing-the-worst-in-everybody-else, manipulative, controlling, fault-finding, virtue-signaling, divisive, I’m-the-only-one-that’s-right arrogance.

Into Your hands, Jesus. Into Your hands.  Your grace is sufficient…Your strength is perfect, when our strength is gone.  You WILL carry us when we can’t seem to carry on.”

I’m not proud…but it was just the vulnerable place I found myself last night.  It fit really well as a segue into something I wrote last week for my blog…but hadn’t posted it just yet.  God’s timing is perfect.  Be encouraged and exhorted.

For the follower of Jesus, until the day we are glorified in the resurrection, there will exist this dual persona in each of us to which we refer as “I, me, myself, etc”.  These personas are 1) our corruptible flesh  and 2) our regenerated Spirit.  The flesh is our sin nature…that which puts us in a place of needing God’s redemption in the first place.  The spirit is that which is given to us by God, corrupted by the sins of the flesh and DEAD in trespasses and sins.  This spirit remains dead until God’s Spirit brings us to conviction, we confess and repent of our sinfulness, place our faith is His substitutionary  death on the cross as punishment for our sins and surrender to the resurrected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.  At that moment, our spirit is made alive by union with His Holy Spirit, enabling us to walk in newness of life, having been redeemed and restored to our original purpose of glorifying Him.  But the flesh is not eliminated.  The two exist in this one body, this one persona that I refer to as “me”.

Each day is a two-fold process of 1) crucifying the flesh and 2) abiding in His Spirit.  I cannot abide in His Spirit unless I first crucify the flesh.  This is why so many people try to work their way to God.   “What do I need to do next?”  “How do I find/know the will of God?”  “How long do I need to…pray, read, etc.?“  “How much do I need to serve?”  “I want to make sure I’m DOING the right things.”  We often try to outdo the works of our flesh (ego, pride, self-centeredness, etc) by doing more works of the Spirit (spiritual disciplines, good actions and wholesome behavior).  In reality, these “works” are often just more things that satisfy our flesh and strangle our Spirit, the Spirit of God that resides in us.  They glorify me…not Jesus.

The life IN Christ is not so difficult as most make it — IF we first crucify the flesh.  If we don’t start there, it’s excruciating, discouraging, disappointing, exhausting and never “enough”.  Once the flesh is crucified (our persona that is focused on “What about me?”, “Am I happy and content?”, “Is God seeing me do this?” “Are others noticing how impressive I am for God?”), the WORK of my Spirit is all then done by the power of God’s Spirit.  

Now, that’s not to say that life IN Christ is a life of luxury and no problems.  Jesus told us just the opposite – “In this world, you will have trouble.”  But if I’ve crucified the flesh, then every trial, trouble, tribulation, and persecution that comes my way is dealt with by the Spirit of God that is in me, the One in whom I abide.  The shock of tragedy is absorbed in my Spirit by the Spirit of God who has equipped us to handle EVERYTHING that comes our way.  When I struggle or am overpowered by my feelings, as I did yesterday, it’s a clear indication that I’ve got to go back and crucify the flesh again.

Another fallacy of abiding in God is that once you’ve crucified the flesh, then you just sit around and ruminate on spiritual things – talk, pray, read books and your Bible and whatever God wants done, He’ll do it Himself.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “Well, we just need to pray about it and if it’s what God wants, it’ll happen.”  Though there is some truth in this statement, many use it as a copout to excuse their own laziness and lack of initiative.  This is actually evidence that I’ve not died to the flesh.   I would have to ignore a HUGE portion of Scripture in order to be passive and sit around waiting for God to do the work that He’s called and gifted and commanded me to do.  The Bible teaches us that God does the work, but he does it THROUGH me.

I once read the quote, “work as if everything depends on you; pray as if everything depends on God.”  That’s got some meat to it.  I think “work” involves way more than “doing it all yourself”.  It involves conversations, collaboration, decision-making, effort and labor.  Conversely, “pray” is more than just announcing your dilemma to God.  It involves personal surrender of our flesh, along with wisdom and power from above.  

Let’s take a look at what God says about this:

Mark 14:38 ESV Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Galatians 5:16-26 ESV But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. [17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [18] But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. [24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. [26] Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Romans 6:6,11-14 ESV We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. [11] So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. [12] Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. [13] Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. [14] For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 7:15-20,23-25 ESV For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. [16] Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. [17] So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. [18] For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. [20] Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. [23] but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. [24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Mark 8:34 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Romans 8:13 ESV For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Colossians 3:5 ESV Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

It’s not about me…it’s ALL about HIM!

It Hides the Dirt Well

I’m a bit of a clean-freak.  I’m not necessarily a germaphobe, but I do like things to be clean, simple and organized.   I didn’t used to be, but I’ve also grown into being a comfortable minimalist.  We just have soooooo much stuff and clutter.  We have a tendency to replace that which doesn’t need to be replaced just because “we need a change”…wardrobes, furnishings, decor, cars, houses, etc.  Now I’m not talking about things that become obsolete, dysfunctional, broken or “dated”.   Sometimes, you just need a faster, lighter, more efficient whatchamacallit.  I once knew a lady who shopped at antique stores and craft fairs, carefully selecting the most beautiful decor in her home that matched her country taste and then she’d replace it all every 4 or 5 years just because she was tired of it…and she had invested a lot of time and money in collecting those things.  I’d just shake my head…I don’t get it.  But many of us do it with something in our lives…we replace perfectly good appliances simply because we want a stainless steel finish instead of our white, black or almond appliances.   Remember the pea green and mustard yellow appliances?  Who still has one of those?

Speaking of appliances…have you noticed our culture’s obsession with things that don’t show dirt?  When we’re replacing things in our homes, one of the most marketable features is “it hides dirt well” — whether it’s flooring, woodwork, paint, furniture, bedding, countertops, cabinets, appliances, etc.  Again, I scratch my head…I don’t get it.  Why do you want to HIDE dirt?  I’d rather see it so I can clean it…get rid of it.  I don’t want a countertop that hides dirt; I want a CLEAN countertop.  If there’s dirt there, there’s also germs.  Same with my refrigerator – I don’t want to hide all the little fingerprints.  With all those little fingerprints comes a lot of little germs.  Why would I not want the dirt, the grime, the germs to be seen so they can be removed?  I don’t want my belongings to “look clean” – I want them to BE CLEAN.  So goes my life.

I don’t want my belongings to “look clean” – I want them to BE CLEAN.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”   1 John 1:9 says, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Psalm 24 says, “And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. …”

How often do I try to hide the dirt in my life? I try to behave and talk in a way that distracts from the sinful motives and actions in my heart and mind.  I busy myself with “christian” activity and conversation to portray an external demeanor that would deflect any deeper view into my motives, my behaviors or my conversations.

And when a brother or sister in Christ dares to lovingly point out that my behaviors and attitudes conflict with the Scriptures that I cherish or that my self-centric motives or that my lack of loving response toward others is contrary to the ways of Jesus and His Spirit who lives in me, how do I respond?  Do I look for a more camouflaged surface that better conceals the unholy, unrighteous, selfish and evil or do I thank the one who loved me enough to shine the light on it?  Do I say that I desire covenant and accountability in relationships and then accuse the same of being judgmental?  Do I defend, deflect and blame by pointing out their own offenses and say “who are you to judge me?”

You see…as a follower of Jesus who has been clothed in HIS righteousness, I should want God’s Spirit to change me, to refine me, to make me holy.  That requires a surface that exposes the dirt, not one that conceals it.  It requires Light.  “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’.”  (John 8:12)  Those who walk in fellowship with Him long for the Light that exposes the things that break our fellowship with Him, the things that offend the character of God.   Followers of Jesus long for the Light of Jesus through His Spirit and through other brothers and sisters who walk in the Light with us.  One who has been transformed by God’s Holy Spirit longs for a lifestyle, conversations, relationships that bring Light and exposure to all of the filth from which we’ve been redeemed so that it can be removed and doesn’t create a dark contamination between us and The Light.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5-10

Sooooo…if a follower of Jesus longs for relationships that shed light on darkness and dirt, what is the difference between being accountable and being judgmental?

We’ll unpack that one next time.

–so others may hear…AND live!
Padre

Stop The Crazy Cycle

Someone recently said to me, “We’ve needed something to stop the craziness of our lives. We were exhausted and going in so many directions as a family. We’re just so busy and this ‘Stay At Home Order’ is just what we needed to rest and get our lives together…and when it’s all over we’ll be ready to get back at it!”

If this is you or anything close to a description of your life…take a second and ponder on that statement. You needed something to intervene in the craziness to slow you down to gain perspective.  There’s not a crime in that.  We all get distracted.  We all get overwhelmed.  We all get caught up in the moment, chasing the dreams that everyone else chases.

Here’s the crime: it’s one thing to admit “I need help” and it’s another thing to say “I needed help and I’m going to use it for a temporary benefit and then discard it, learning nothing from it.”  I’m willing to admit that some folks might say “and when it’s all over we’ll be ready to get back at it”…and do so with a change of perspective and values.  But that wasn’t the case in this conversation…it was a matter of “we needed someone to pull us out of the game in order to rest…because we couldn’t control ourselves and make that decision on our own.  Once we’ve rested and caught up, we’ll re-enter the crazy cycle.”

In 1 Corinthians 14, the Bible tells us that God our Creator is not the author of confusion. Now, that was written in the context of a very chaotic assembly of believers that was meeting in the ancient city of Corinth.  When they were coming together to worship and adhere to the Word of God, it was just a mess.  But…the truth is there, none the less.  God is not the author of confusion.

When our personal lives, our occupations, our families, our churches and our communities resemble a three-ring circus, and a chaotic one at that, God is not the author of that.  Take a look at some of the things that the Bible says about chaos.

1 Corinthians 14:33  For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Proverbs 25:28  A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

1 Corinthians 14:40  But all things should be done decently and in order.

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

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 32:17-18  And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Isaiah 41:10  Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

John 16:33   I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16  Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

2 Timothy 1:7  For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Colossians 3:1-25  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. …

Galatians 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Colossians 1:16-17  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Ephesians 2:14  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

Galatians 6:7  Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

Galatians 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Psalm 1:1-6  Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; …

Philippians 4:8-9  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Isaiah 5:20  Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

1 Peter 5:6-2 Peter 1:4  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you…

Sooooo, during the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic…

What is God – the author and Creator of life itself – teaching you about yourself today?

What is God teaching you about the things into which you invest your time, talents, personality, resources, money, etc.?

How valuable are those things?

Which things can you do without?

Which ones can you not do without?

Which have become idols to you?

What gifts of God have you neglected?

What is God teaching you about your faith in what He can accomplish with the time that He created and gifted to you if you’ll let Him take the lead?