Sunday, October 21, 2007

Disappointing Presumptions

Over the years we have all had to go back and reexamine events that have taken place in our lives. Perhaps they didn’t turn out the way we believed they would or even thought they should have. Thinking back on some personal disappointments makes me wonder about the line between hope and presumption. I believe if you recognize that line you will realize how you can better align your hopes, dreams and expectations with God’s will and direction for life.

Most of us hope bad things will not come our way in life. We hope our marriage will not fail. We hope good things will come our way…with no difficulties attached. We hope our children will grow up to love God and to serve Him. We hope that we will live a long time. We hope we will not have to bury a child. We hope our children will be born healthy. We hope that we will get the job we always wanted. Our list could go on and on.

However, many of us live beyond our hopes. We live in presumption.

The dictionary defines presumption as “overstepping due bonds”. We become presumptuous when we believe that life will indeed turn out just as we hope and the primary reason we believe this will be true is because we want it to be. We presume success, happiness, or prosperity; therefore, it should come our way. For Christians, then, when those things do not arrive with a gold bow around them we are left to doubt God and question our faith.

Where does that problem truly rest? With God? With us?

James 4:13-17 is the passage that deals with people planning their business ventures without consulting God. The IVP Bible Background Commentary says, “The sin here is arrogant presumption – feeling secure enough to leave God out of one’s calculations.” The last phrase really grips me. My disappointments usually come because I have failed to bring God into the equation. Over the years I have been shocked when I realize that most of my greatest disappointments come when I have not worked to align my plans or actions with God’s will.

I am learning to hold my own hopes and goals loosely. It is not wrong to try to make plans to be a good steward of what God has given us. In fact, we are given examples of faithful stewardship in Scripture (Matt. 25:14-30). Yet, we have been called to be ready to surrender our own will to that of God’s. And that should be viewed with joy because if we truly trust God we will realize that He is working for the good of His children (Rom. 8:28) and that His ways are truly higher and better than ours (Ps. 61:1-3).

It is certainly easier to write this or to read it than to actually do it, but I wonder how you are doing? Are you submitting that success or failure to God? If you are disappointed with the situation around you, I wonder if you are really quietly disappointed with God whether you will admit it or not? Christians don’t want to acknowledge that, but it is often true. Are you trusting God with your plans, hopes and dreams or have you kept Him out of the equation?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Considering Every Thought

Have you ever been guilty of "speaking before you think"? You know, those are the words that we wish we could pull out of the air and shove back into our mouths. When we say things that we quickly regret we are often left just waitung for the fallout. Paul takes a wiser approach as he calls the Corinthian Christians to take growing in their faith seriously.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, "...and take every thought captive to obey Christ..." In this he is calling these young Christians to grow in their faith and to consider impure thoughts an enemy. Further, in verse 6, he says they ought to punish every disobedience so that obedience (to Christ) will rule supreme.

That leads to a question -- what is the best way to punish a disobedient thought? I would say that it is to ignore it.

How do we learn to discern between obedient and disobedient thoughts? By taking them captive.

We are left, then, to find ways to take our thoughts captive. Let me offer some questions that I use as an example:

Will this honor God?
Will this encourage others?
Will this tear others down?
Am I doing this so I will look better?
Am I doing this so I will receive praise?
Am I really trying to serve other people?
If I follow this pattern of thought, will I be a good witness?
If I follow this pattern of thought, what will I say to God when I stand in front of him?
If I follow this pattern of thought, how will it affect others? (family, friends, church, workplace, etc.)
Will this fuel my pride?
Will this cause me to sin?

Those are just a few examples of how I try to hold each thought captive. As I typed that list, I can say that I certainly thought of times I have failed miserably. There are times that I knew the right answer but went ahead and did the wrong thing anyway. Thank God for forgiveness and the opportunity to make wrongs right.

Will you work today to take every thought captive?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Encouraging Outlook

A few days ago I took my two sons to one of the nicer golf courses in our area. Because the boys are five, I didn't start at this course but it where we ended up. Now, you must understand that these five year old boys already have their own golf clubs. These guys are pretty serious.

We played several holes and the sun was beginning to set so I began to struggle to see. On two holes I was in range of the green when I hit my approaching shot. Both times I lost the ball as my vision was confused by the contrast of the darkening horizon. After we drove all over the course to locate the balls the boys were hitting, we headed to the area around the green to see if we could find my ball. I had little hope as I am not a very good golfer, but I wanted to start looking somewhere around the green.

Both times, as soon as the cart stopped, the boys bounced off and ran as fast as they could to the pin because they were convinced that my ball must have landed in the hole since we didn't see it sitting on the green. Unfortunately, they didn't find my ball in the hole either time.

Yet, they certainly encouraged their Dad. It was rather humbling to know that they expected perfection from me. And, that they believed I can attain it.

I wish I was innocent like that. I wish that I assumed the best every time I saw something in life. I pray that God will give me a heart that "believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7) because it was the love that these boys have for me that caused them believe the best about their Dad's efforts.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Renewed Mind

Okay, I am sitting in Tegucigalpa, Honduras where I am supposed to speak over the next few days on Biblical Manhood. Now, one challenge that I have before me at this moment is that everything, except what I am typing, is in Spanish on this page. Hopefully, when I upload this page shortly all of my English-speaking friends will be able to read it. We'll see.

I am working on a passage right now that continually holds me prisoner. It is Ephesians 4:17-32. This might be my favorite passage in all of the Bible. In it Paul talks about how the life of Christian should be changed because of what Christ does for us. He says that if we are in Christ our minds should be renewed and we should replace the old way of life with the new way of life. Several things grip me.

First, I am held by the goodness of God. He knows the evil of my heart, yet desires to forgive, restore and work through me. Amazing. He is indeed gracious and kind.

Second, I am struck by the change of life He brings and desires. In this world if we stop doing a bad deed, we are deemed successful. As long as you stop lying. As long as you stop the extra-marital affair. As long as you stop stealing. You get the point. God desires more though. He desires and makes a way for the bad action to be replaced with one that is pleasing to Him. So, instead of stealing we should work and be generous. Instead of lying we should speak the truth in love. Instead of being in the adulterous relationship, we should serve our spouse in every aspect of the relationship and be faithful and pure.

Not only does God call us to live this way...He empowers us to live this way through the clear teaching of His Word and the strong power of the Holy Spirit.

If you are a Christian, what are some ways that you are living in the "old way" of life. Think about them. Ask God to renew your thinking toward. Then, join Him in practically putting on a new way of life when it comes to these actions and attitudes.

For those that are not followers of Jesus Christ. Want a fulfilled life? Turn away from the half-truth of simply stopping the bad deed. Turn to Christ where you can, through His power, live a new life that pleases Him, helps the world around you and brings joy to your heart.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Let’s take a look at a passage of Scripture that tells us of the realities of the new creation that is to come. Listen to 1 Peter 3:11-13, “11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Our first reaction may be one of fear and dread when we hear phrases such as, “these things are thus to be dissolved,” but we ought not think that way. There is a perspective in this verse that really speaks to the expectations of Christians. What is our opinion of the here and now? Is truly wrong to be attached to things of this world? Well, the answer is yes and no. If you are so attached to this life and the things it…things like jobs, possessions, hobbies that you would be crying and screaming if someone took them away from you…then, yes, your perspective needs to change. However, if your perspective of those things is that they are ways to enjoy your relationship with God and other people…then you can be even more encouraged.

You see, now we are in a world that is filled with sin. There is sin, evil and rebellion against God all around us. In fact, sin, evil and rebellion against is inside of us. But, God has sent a Savior into the world so that our hearts can be changed now…and that we can join Him in a world that is free from sin, evil and rebellion one day. That world…that place…is what Peter is referring to as the new heavens and the new earth.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Building Trust

Today we celebrated the 5th birthday of our sons, Maddox and Isaac. I spent some time thinking over the last five years of their life and reflecting on all that has happened. We have been an active part of four and a half of their five years as we adopted them when they were six months old.

We began our adoption process in February 2002, the boys were born in April 2002, we first saw a picture of them in July 2002 and we traveled to get them in October 2002. It was a busy year. My thoughts, though, were how God was preparing something for us that we were not expecting. You see, in April 2002 we had no idea that we would adopt two. In fact, we were only expecting to adopt one. We didn't know if we would be adopting a baby boy or girl. Yet, in God's plan these two little boys were being prepared just for us. Now, long-legged, smiling boys we are so thankful for the plans God had for us that we never expected.

Too often I think we believe we must know everything God is doing in our lives. But we seldom do. There are things that God is planning and preparing us for that we have no idea will be in the days and weeks ahead. Most of all, He is at work trying to develop our trust in Him because our trust in Him is a direct reflection of our love for Him. Do we really trust God with our lives?

This is a big year for our family. Monica and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage in a little over a month, the boys turned five today, Eliza turned three a few months ago and in just a few days it will be one year since Baby Benjamin went to be with Jesus. As I think about all of those special events we can clearly see that God has been working to build our trust in Him. He has not failed us yet. We don't think He will in the future. The real test will be whether or not we will live as if we trust Him completely. I pray that we will.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Filled with Hope

There was controversy brewing in Thessalonica. Word was traveling that the teaching in the young church was wrong. Paul, the traveling preacher, had spread the word that the recently deceased Christians would be raised from the grave one day. Now, some of the established leaders of the Jewish faith were trying to put down this teaching. They said there would not be a resurrection of the dead. You got this life and no more. No wonder they called on the people to live their best life now.

It didn’t take long, though, for word to spread to Paul. So, to help reestablish the power of Jesus Christ and, to clarify his teaching, he wrote to the church in Thessalonica what we read in 1 Thessalonians 4,

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

In a matter of a few lines, the Apostle clears up the misconception that was being stirred up. He does so in a way that causes these young Christians to look at more than just life and death, but to gaze deeply at the very power of Christ. There is much more in these sentences than just a statement of fact or an equation for resurrection…there is hope. The last verse tells followers of Jesus what they should do with this hope of resurrection. They are to use it for encouragement. It is not a doctrine that should be debated in academic circles only. It is not the fourth part of a sermon outline that finishes a sermon and then is then tucked into a Bible. Paul offers us this hope so that we may put it into practice and draw hope from it.

Recently, we were moving through the line that passes beside the casket as folks speak to family members at the conclusion of a funeral service. I am always intimidated as I try to think something to say in those moments. That day I decided that I would use this verse in what I was going to say to the family. The man that had passed away was a strong Christian and we had a great assurance that he was now with Christ. When I approached his mother and father, I looked them square in the eyes and said, “Remember, we do not grieve as those without hope.”

This broken-hearted mother just looked at me.

For a moment I thought I had made a serious mistake.

Then she asked, “What did you say?”

So I repeated my bold sentence. “Remember, we do not grieve as those without hope.”

In an instant, her whole face changed and as tears filled her eyes she offered what seemed to be a heart-felt thanks.

Since Benjamin passed last year I have often clung to this hope. When I think about the sadness and pain of his death, my heart and mind are immediately filled with the hope offered by an empty tomb and a resurrected Savior.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pain and Its Memory

I haven’t written much in the last few months. My routine has been up and down because of changes that have happened in our life, and I have found it difficult to find time to sit down and think through a blog article. However, I remember that a year ago this journaling really helped me get through the loss of our son, Benjamin. He was still-born on Saturday, April 22, 2006. It’s hard to believe that it has almost a year has past. I can honestly say there is some fresh pain now just because the calendar says April. It seems that for 30 days I am going to be reminded of the pain in an “in your face” kind of way because everyday I will have to write April _____, 2007 on something.

I’m not sure how to deal with the present pain and with the memory of pain. Just a few days ago I was in a daze and Monica asked me what I was thinking about. I was thinking about Benjamin. My sadness is not so much about his actual death, but it is about what we are missing with him. He has been with Christ for a year now. What does he look like? What is he doing? What has he experience apart from his Mom and Dad over this past year? Who, in addition to Christ, has been caring for him? Does he know that he has brothers and a sister that ask about him often? Does he think about his Mom and Dad as often as we think of him? However, it was an odd time of the day and there was a lot going and because I didn’t want to cause her to crash in the middle of the day I didn’t let on as to what I considering. I’m not sure if that was a good thing, but I didn’t want to ruin her day (or anyone else’s for that matter) if she is having a good one.

So, I have decided to try to come back to this blog. It helped a year ago, maybe it will help now. Here’s my two-fold task: First, there are some unfinished articles on suffering that I need to write and publish here. Second, how does that Bible tells us to deal with the memories of those we love who have already died? And, what does Scripture say about us dealing with our memories? I hope to think through those questions.