In the End, God Is Good

God Is GoodI have a dear friend who has been in missions work for years. Her last assignment, though, left her wounded and battle-scarred. The people she ended up serving under treated her, and others, with contempt. They cared little for anyone or anything except receiving personal approval from select, well-positioned people. Everyone else was pretty much inconsequential.

Certainly, the very notion of moving to another country—one with a completely different culture—is no cakewalk. It could, for any of us, be an intimidating proposition. But we would never expect opposition within the ranks of those we are there to serve with. Camaraderie with an occasional disagreement, maybe, but not outright contempt.

My friend told me the biggest lesson she learned was to trust the Lord in the midst of the situation. She said that she prayed, “Lord, whether I ever understand this or not doesn’t matter. You are still God, and I trust You.”

I asked her, “What would you tell someone who was in the midst of a situation where things haven’t gone as planned?”

Here’s what she said, “After I finished hugging them and crying with them, I’d tell them, ‘Hang on to the Lord with everything you’ve got.’ For me, clinging to the Lord for all I was worth is what got me through.” She continued, “As I went through that situation, I didn’t feel like I had anything left to give. I knew I should read my Bible and worship, but I just couldn’t even muster the strength to do that. But the Lord assured me that He was with me. I didn’t have to be able to do anything. He held on to me. That’s not a comfortable place. It’s a very vulnerable place. But in the end, He is good.”

Scripture says, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Things don’t always go the way we planned. Some situations we would prefer to avoid. But “in the end, He is good.” Yes, He is!

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Looking Down the Road

looking down the roadIt was more than 400 years from the time of Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet, until Jesus showed up, visibly, on earth. If you read Malachi’s book, it begins with a strong pronouncement—an emphatic reminder of God’s intense love for His people. Malachi goes on to rebuke the people for their “worship” that had become just an outward show. He continues by talking about the coming Messiah, a message that was sorely needed in Israel. All of those things, Malachi spoke to the people of his day.

Yet, nearly 500 years later, the Apostle Peter said, “It was revealed to [the Old Testament prophets] that they were serving not themselves but you…” (1 Peter 1:12) So, if that’s true, then Malachi must have had, at least in the back of his mind, a sense that he was speaking to people down through the ages. His words were ultimately meant not just for what would have been Malachi’s present-day Israel, but also to the present-day Israel of Peter’s time and to our present day. His words about God’s love, that worship isn’t to be an outward show, that the Messiah is real—those words are for us today, 2500 years after Malachi passed on. And, if it was revealed to him that he was serving “you,” then Malachi apparently recognized this fact.

And that would have been true for all the prophets, even those who lived hundreds of years before Malachi. Isaiah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk—every last one of them would have recognized that their words would resound through the centuries, and cause the people of God to be different as a result.

They weren’t looking at just their own situations and circumstances but those that were way down the road—to people like you and me.

And, think about it. Malachi and the others never got to see, this side of heaven, the result of their looking down the road. They didn’t witness, firsthand, the fruit of their labors. Yet, they did what they did anyway.

I find that idea amazing … and challenging. Maybe we—you and I—should be less me-focused, and more focused on the impact our words and lives will have on those who come after us.

Are you, by God’s grace, looking down the road?

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How Long?

how long?“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)

There have been more times than I care to remember when I could relate to this prayer of David. Yet, my perspective has changed a bit over the years, especially as I consider this issue from the Lord’s vantage point.

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)

Our sense of time – our perspective on how long things should take – is clearly very different than God’s perspective.

Think about this. How long did the original human inhabitants of earth live?

  • Adam lived 930 years. When he was 130, his son, Seth, was born.
  • Seth lived 912 years. When he was 105, his son, Enosh was born.
  • Enosh lived 905 years. When he was 90, his son, Kenan was born.

And it goes on and on. The fifth chapter of Genesis is amazing reading.

  • Did you know that Noah was 500 years old before he fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth?

For me, understanding that changes my perspective on how long things should take.

The 400 years of the Israelite’s captivity in Egypt, or the more than 400 years during what is often referred to as the “silent” period between the testaments, those were less than half of Adam’s lifetime here on earth.

Comparing Adam’s and Seth’s lifetime to ours, the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the desert was, comparatively, like three years for us. (And, yes, I recognize that it wasn’t Adam and Seth’s generation that wandered in the wilderness. But I’m trying to put the whole issue into a proper perspective. God isn’t being a meanie by making people wait a seemingly very long time for something. In the original design, such things were well within the lifetime of average people. It is merely the effects of living in a sinful world.)

And if that was, in some ways, the original design, then it changes my perspective of how long things should take.

  • Suddenly, the eleven years from my graduation from seminary until the time I began doing the ministry that God has me in currently seems less staggering than it did at the time.
  • The more than seven years that my wife and I waited and prayed and agonized for our first child to be conceived and born, seems pretty insignificant.

My perspective has changed dramatically as I look at this whole idea of time from God’s vantage point. Is there a chance your perspective should change, too?

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Is He Here or Not?

congregational singingMany of the songs we sing congregationally seem to ignore the fact that the Lord is truly present in our service. When we sing about God—as opposed to singing to Him—it is as though we’re declaring, or at least implying, that He is somewhere else.

Think about it this way. What if you and I were to have a conversation about our friend Jeremy? It might go like this.

“I really like Jeremy. He’s a great friend.”

“I agree. That guy is always ready to help anyone who needs help. Plus, he’s just a lot of fun to be around.”

“No doubt about it. Jeremy is one of my favorite people to hang with.”

Don’t those statements imply that Jeremy is not present? They may express how we really feel, but if we had that conversation while Jeremy was standing in between us, wouldn’t that seem at least a little bit strange?

Yet, we often do that very thing with our songs in church. We sing songs about the Lord’s kindness and compassion, His love and holiness, all the while ignoring that He is present. Acknowledging that He is actually there by singing to Him can change our perspective. The risen Christ really is here!

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All the Rules Change

air force oneI’ve been told that the President of the United States has two Boeing 747s at his disposal. Both have a private office for the Commander-in-Chief. Both have special guidance systems, beyond the norm. Both are identical aircraft. Neither, though, is technically Air Force One. They’re both just known by their individual call signs… until the President steps on board. Then, everything changes. Oh, nothing on the outside looks any different. The physical characteristics of that jet are still the same. But that aircraft suddenly becomes Air Force One. Why? Because of the presence of the President.

In like manner, when we gather in Jesus’ Name, everything changes. It is no longer business as usual. The risen Christ is there in our midst. All the rules are altered. The ordinary becomes extraordinary; the natural becomes supernatural. Of course it does, because Jesus is there in a way that somehow transcends everyday life.

A.W. Tozer said this: “There is grief in my spirit when I go into the average church, for we have become a generation rapidly losing all sense of divine sacredness in our worship. Many whom we have raised in our churches no longer think in terms of reverence—which seems to indicate they doubt that God’s presence is there.” If we truly believe that the Lord is in our midst—and we doggone well better believe it!—then how we act, what we say, and what we do are all of great importance.

(excerpted from Worship in Heaven … and Why On Earth It Matters, by Tom Kraeuter ©2013 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri)
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Just Ordinary People

hobbitHonestly, I don’t know why the Lord chose to work through certain people in the Bible in profound and even miraculous ways. However, I do know this. Most of those people were just like you and me. They were just everyday human beings like us. They weren’t super-wealthy. They were not elected by popular vote. They were not generally the most intellectually astute nor the ones with the highest levels of education. They had good days and bad days. They trusted and they doubted. They believed and they wondered. They struggled with fears and heartaches and disappointments, just like we do. Yet in the midst of their everydayness, God worked in and through their lives, just as He wants to do with us. Although they were flesh-and-blood human beings like you and me, the Lord did miraculous works at their hands. Actually, I think God does some of His best work through humble, ordinary folks.

Have you ever noticed that this type of person is the kind that God prefers? He doesn’t generally go after the ones who are full of themselves. And even when He does choose the proud person, He generally humbles them before He uses them. (Think of Peter, for example.)

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

Maybe God will do something extraordinary through a regular person like you today.

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In God’s Presence

worshipersAn acquaintance of mine told me he recently visited a church on Sunday morning. He said that during their twelve and a half minutes of “worship” many people went to the back to eat donuts and drink coffee. I couldn’t help but be appalled. My reaction was immediate. What sort of leadership would allow—or, perhaps, even encourage—such a thing to occur? What does condoning such behavior say about our beliefs? They call this worship? I don’t think so!

One of the distinctive characteristics of Christianity is that God is with us. Of course, we know that God is everywhere. The theological term is that He is omnipresent. Yet, the Lord has promised to always be with us and never to leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Psalm 118:6-7). He dwells with His people. You won’t find a promise like that from Allah in the Qur’an. Only the God of the Judeo-Christian heritage has made such an audacious promise.

In the New Testament, though, Jesus took that concept to an entirely new level. He promised that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). Something special happens when we gather in His name. The risen Christ comes into our midst. Exactly what that means and how it happens, I can’t answer. Honestly, no one on Earth can, with any degree of accuracy. It’s part of the mystery of God. All we know is that He’s there. Jesus didn’t give us the details, but we know He is trustworthy. So if He promised that He would be in our midst when we gather in His Name, then, truthfully, He is there. His presence is just as real as when Isaiah saw the Lord “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1). Of course, we likely cannot actually see Him like Isaiah did, but He’s there just the same. He is every bit as real as we gather to worship Him. And whether we “feel it” or not is a moot point. Just like any other aspect of what we believe, it must be taken by faith. He promised, so we trust Him. He’s there.

What do you suppose would happen if we actually acted like He was there?

(excerpted from Worship in Heaven … and Why On Earth It Matters, by Tom Kraeuter ©2013 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri)
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