All 7.5 Billion Of Us

7.5 billion people. According to the U.S. Census Bureau that is the current estimated world population. Do you feel small yet? Some people spend crazy amounts of time and effort to create social media videos that “go viral” (meaning they hit 5 million views). We think of these people as famous when, in reality, they are only known among .0006% of the world. That’s a crazy thought, isn’t it?

How many of us gauge our worth on how many people know us, how many people like us, how we stand out in a crowd, or how much better we are than the rest? We try to be valuable by being the prettiest, the smartest, the best athlete, the richest, the strongest, the funniest, the most popular. Fill in the blank. But isn’t that a vain pursuit when the field of competition is 7.5 billion people deep? When I look at the busy anthill in my back yard I can’t pick out the strongest, the bravest, or the best ant. There are so many of them, they all look the same to me. Is that what we are? Just insignificant, unnoticeable creatures on a worldwide anthill? Are we just tiny flashes of life in the vast canvas of humanity, fading out as quickly as our sparks began? Or is there more? Is there something that separates us from the ant? Does the individual human being have value despite being lost in an endless sea of faces?

The answer to that question can be found in Genesis 1:27:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

In scholarly circles this is referred to as the Imago Dei, the image of God. This verse has huge implications! I would like to share four of them as they relate to individual worth and value. Then I will wrap up with two points on the Imago Dei in redemptive history.

1. Created: God’s Authority Over

Every Life.

The verse is very clear. God created us. That means once we were nonexistent and then, by God’s design and action, we came into existence. That means You and I can only exist if God causes us to exist. His authority over us is absolute. Our very ability to breathe, have form, and have consciousness depends totally on Him.

In America, many of us have fallen into the trap of viewing God’s authority through the lens of our own nation’s system of governance. We vote for those who have authority over us. The president, congressman, senators, mayors, governors, even the county sheriff. Even in churches there is danger of confusing God’s authority with our systems. Most churches still vote for their pastors, deacons, elders, and/or board members. So most of the authorities we are used to, in both the secular and religious world, are there because we placed them there. They have authority because we gave it to them. So we believe we have the choice to either give God authority over us or not.

This is faulty and dangerous thinking. Whether you voted for it or not, God has all authority over your life. He created it. The only question for us is whether we will submit or rebel. And do we honestly think that we can get away with rebelling against the very one who brought us into being? We are not autonomous. God created us. He is our authority. We are accountable to Him. All 7.5 billion of us.

2. Created For Worship.

We were not just made. We were made for a purpose. We were made in His image. We are not, as Jesus is, “the image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15) He is the physical revelation of God to man. We are God’s image bearers. There are many different takes on what exactly this means because the Bible doesn’t go into detail about it. But I believe it is safe to say that it carries a certain reflective quality. In other words, we are created to reflect God’s image back to Him and to refract His image out to all creation. This is worship, reciprocating God’s glorious image back to Him and out to others.

We were made to be worshippers. All 7.5 billion of us.

3. Created With Meaning.

There is a lot of outcry in society these days. In the arena of the human rights movement, most of this outcry comes from an understanding of individual worth and dignity. Groups gather under different causes and slogans to protest, but they all are coming from a basic understanding. That is that an individual human life has worth and dignity, and somewhere along the line that worth and dignity has been denied.

This outcry gives us an important view into the assumed worldview of our society. We believe there has to be something that gives us worth as individuals. This raises an important question. Why? Why does an individual have worth and dignity?

The answer is the Imago Dei. We bear the image of God. We were carefully crafted by Him. Therefore, all of us have worth, value, and dignity.

If we were not created by God – if the evolutionary scientists are to be believed – then the human rights assertion of individual worth is quite confusing. We would have no worth or dignity. We would be universal accidents – a collection of atoms and molecules – no different than the spider you stepped on this morning or the mulch in your flower bed.

But the image of God present in each human means every individual has worth derived from God the creator. All 7.5 billion of us.

4. Created For Intimacy

Yes, we are created. And yes, we are created with worth. But even more incredible than that, we are created with worth that is most realized in the context of a relationship. Namely, our relationship with our Creator. The verse says God created man in His “own” image. Without this one word, it is possible to hear the Imago Dei in this verse as simply mechanical and nothing else. A design, intentional but unattached. But this word, His “own” image, makes it personal. It brings in a relational aspect. Man was created to bear the image of God not only as a reflection of Him, but also in relation to Him.

We bear the mark of God. Everywhere we go, we carry His image with us. A father carries a certain pride and satisfaction when he catches his son resembling him. A young boy is pleased when he notices his resemblance to his father. There is an intimate relationship between the two, expressed in their image. The father sees his “own” image in his son. God fashioned every single person in His “own” image, for relationship with Him. God wants that intimate relationship with every person. All 7.5 billion.

Twisted By The Fall

So what happened? Why is it humanity is such a mess? Why do we constantly feel inadequate, unworthy, and meaningless? We are constantly chasing after meaning and value, but never finding it. Why? If we bear the image of God, why so much emptiness, loneliness, and strife? Why does anyone ever have to protest a human rights violation?

Simple. We have rejected the very image that gave us our meaning. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, everything was turned upside down.

  • We rejected God’s authority and sought to live by our own. But how can we continue breathing without the one who gave us breath?
  • We stopped reflecting God’s image in worship and started living for ourselves. But in a world of 7.5 billion people selfishness can only lead to loneliness and despair.
  • As we started living for ourselves we stopped seeing the value of others (See: Cain and Abel). In the post-fall reality, other people only have value to us if they can benefit us in some way. Otherwise, they are totally dispensable.
  • We rejected and lost the intimacy we were intended to have with God. Now we seek to gain value and meaning in connections and relationships with others. Once again, only if they are beneficial to us. Of course, when everyone’s nature is self-benefit, everyone loses in relationship.

Do you see what happened? We left the one thing that gave us value and worth, and we started building the proverbial anthill. We stopped being individual image bearers of the Creator, and we started fading into the flashes of humanity’s canvas.

Redeemed By Jesus

Protesting is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we must. But protesting will never solve the problem. The problem is not politics, governments, systems, or institutions. The problem lies within every human heart.

The way back to real value and worth cannot come from political and social action. It must come from Jesus Christ. As we said earlier, He is THE image of the invisible God. He is God’s image. Only He can restore us to our true image-bearing state. He stepped into this world and received God’s wrath for our rebellion so He could restore God’s image in us. Now those that are in Him are being daily conformed in His image (Romans 8:29).

Are you tired of the anthill? Turn to Jesus and find your worth and value in Him. Return to worshipping your Creator and living in relationship with Him. You will find God has enough value to give to every single person. All 7.5 billion of us.

The Tears That Wet the Soil: A Short Poem From Luke 19:41-44

The tears that wet the soil

Beneath the Master’s feet

Hushed the roaring praises of the crowd.

And calmed the pious anger

Of the prideful Pharisees

Even they refused to make a sound.

They’d cried, “the king has come!”

“The promised one of old!”

“Hosanna, He has come to bring us peace!”

Such joyous praise and song

And triumph in the air

But how is it that Jesus now can weep?

As if he mourned a friend

As if he’d lost someone

He wept like someone kneeling at the tomb.

Jerusalem below his gaze

He cried like he was at her grave

As he began to speak of coming doom.

“If you had only known,” he said

“What makes for peace,” he shook his head

“But now your eyes are blind to what is true.”

“All these days you’ve looked for me

For rescue from captivity

But missed the day I came to visit you.”

Where Is Your Trust? Part 6: A Promise

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“And He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Up until now our verses have dealt with our call and responsibility to trust God. Now, from the last line of this famous passage, there is a promise that “He will make your paths straight.” God is a God of order, not disorder. He has set everything where it should be. Everything has a time and place. He organized the entire cosmos. God is a God of clarity, not confusion. He has plainly laid out the Gospel and revealed Himself in His Word and creation (Romans 1:20). Those who miss Him do not miss Him because He is not clearly revealed, but because they do not clearly see. Being a God of order and clarity, God will not set a path before His people that is too confusing to follow. He will make it clear and straight. So what does it mean that God will make your paths straight? I will give four things I have taken from this promise and what it means for you and me.

1. A Straight Path Is A Sure Path

If you haven’t already noticed, when I’m reading the Scriptures I really like to break things apart. I can’t help it. This is the reason why I struggle with the “read the Bible in a year” programs. It is not because I have a hard time reading the Bible. It is because I have a hard time reading enough of it in one sitting to make it through in a year. I have this urge to stop and analyze every word and phrase. To be honest, I wouldn’t change that for the world. The Bible says man lives on EVERY word that comes from the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matt. 4:4). I hunger to know EVERY word and I hope that all of you will catch that same hunger with me. Though not every translation uses this same exact wording, I believe the idea is the same. There is a combination of words here that stood out to me: “He will make your paths straight.” When thinking through these words I couldn’t help getting the image of a wanderer who does not know where he is going. He is neither here nor there. He is following many paths based on whatever seems right and enjoyable to him at the time. He places his trust in the Lord and begins walking in faith. Then God works in his life and gives him one clear path, direction, and purpose.

A straight path is a sure path because those who trust wholly in the Lord will always know what is being asked of them. We don’t know what all lays ahead on the path, but we know what path we are on. We have identity, purpose, and direction. No longer are we wandering through life, but we are following a clear path.

2. A Straight Path Is Not Always An Easy Path

Some people will make misleading claims from this Scripture. One is to say that God will reward you with an easy and unchallenged life. We know that is not true from the very testimony of Scripture. Paul trusted in the Lord, yet no one can deny he had a very hard and challenging road. James tells believers, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when (not if) you encounter various trials (James 1:2, parenthesis mine).” Hardship in life is a given. Hardship in life as a follower of Jesus Christ is a promise (John 15:20). “Straight” and “easy” are not the same. God has given me a very straight path, but easy is not a word I would ever think of to describe it. Sometimes the path is downright agonizing. Sometimes the path leaves us wondering if we can even go another step. The promise is not an easy path, but a clear path.

3. A Straight Path Means God Is In Control

This one might be harder to swallow than the fact of suffering. Because, if you’re like me, it’s a lot easier to accept your suffering if you chose it than if it was chosen for you. The verse says God will make your paths straight. That means God is the one moving the path, not you. That means that during your journey of walking in trust and obedience, when you cross through suffering, in the wonderfully complex thing we call the sovereignty of God, it is His plan that you are there. This hits home for me. Yesterday was one of the hardest days my wife and I have ever experienced. Our adopted son experienced one of his all day rage episodes, the worst one he has had. Raising children is hard enough. When one of those children had almost every drug imaginable in his system while he was in the womb, it is indescribably overwhelming. How do we deal with that? And how is it suppose to encourage us that this is actually God’s will? It should encourage because it is God’s will. The times of suffering and joy that we pass through in this life are not just random, meaningless products of chance. All the pain we walk through. All the happiness we experience. It is all a part of God’s mysterious plan. That means it is all heading somewhere. I don’t know all the answers or all the reasons why, but I know the same God who has planned for my family to walk through these trying times also has planned the end of my life’s story, and somehow all of the joy and pain I go through in this life is taking me there (2 Corinthians 4:16). That leads me to the last thing.

4. A Straight Path Has A Clear Destination

“we have no fixed residence but in heaven. Whenever, therefore, we are driven from place to place, or whenever any change happens to us, let us think of what the Apostle teaches us here, that we have no certain abode on earth, for heaven is our inheritance; and when more and more tried, let us ever prepare ourselves for our last end; for they who enjoy a very quiet life commonly imagine that they have a rest in this world: it is hence profitable for us, who are prone to this kind of sloth, to be often tossed here and there, that we who are too much inclined to look on things below, may learn to turn our eyes up to heaven.”
– John Calvin (on Hebrews 13:14)

If there is one thing that I can say my experience with my son has done, beyond the shadow of a doubt, it is that I think often about heaven, about my true home, and with a kind of longing that I cannot explain to you. I cannot imagine the kind of hopelessness I would feel if all the situations in my life are to just end with me dying and ceasing to be. Or if it was all to end with me dying and being separated from God, the source of all hope and joy. But I know how this thing ends. I don’t know what all is going to happen on the way there, but I know where it ends. I know there is coming a day, already set in heaven, when I will depart this broken reality, when my work here is through, and I will finally be home in the presence of my God, living peacefully in the midst of His eternal glory. That is the end game. So because I have a sure path that God is in control of, even though it is not always easy, I have concrete assurance of where it all leads no matter what I walk through on the way there. And this is exactly why I can take each step along the path. This promise is given to all of us if we would simply place our faith and trust in Jesus. So, in conclusion to this series, I would like to urge you to:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

My Day of Desperation (A Story From Jonah 1)

Desperation has a way of quickening the spirit of a man. The fleeting last moments of your life bring alot of focus and clarity. I can personally attest to that. My day of desperation came recently and unexpectedly. It was very chaotic. Everybody was panicking. That day we all thought we were going to die.

When we left Joppa the weather seemed fair. The route to Tarshish was one we had taken many times. I worked on the boat, usually doing the inspections and making sure everything was in working order. I gave the boat a thorough inspection before we shipped off and everything checked out just fine. The only thing that I found strange before we left was one of the passengers. His name was Jonah. He looked nervous and he had a heaviness about him. He couldn’t get down into the bottom of the boat fast enough. It was like he was trying to find the darkest corner possible. I could tell he was running. At the time, I didn’t know why or from whom. It wouldn’t be long until I found out.

I don’t remember exactly how far from Joppa we traveled before the storm came, but we were far enough out to be at the mercy of the sea. It came suddenly and behaved strangely, not like any storm I had ever been through. The clouds were different. They had a peculiar and glorious kind of darkness. The waves began to overpower the ship and we were going to be thrown into the sea.

We all worshipped different gods and we put them all to the test that day, crying out for salvation. All of us, that is, except Jonah. I suppose he was testing his god too, just in a very different way. We were all running around in frantic madness, praying prayers, and trying to throw off unnecessary weight to keep the boat from sinking. Jonah was asleep in the bottom of the boat. Looking back on everything, maybe Jonah wasn’t bothered by the storm because he was afraid of something bigger. The captain was beside himself when he found Jonah down there. He woke him up in a hurry and begged him to cry out to his god because no one else’s god was answering.

The ship couldn’t take another hit and we were at the peak of our desperation. We are a superstitious bunch and we knew this was more than just a natural storm. If no one’s god would save us then one of them must be angry. The other sailors and I decided to cast lots to see who was to blame for all this. That is how we determine things around here. The lot fell on Jonah. I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, he was the one acting a little strange. We all started bombarding him with questions. His answer drove us even deeper into our desperation and fear. He said, “I am a Hebrew and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and dry land.”

That was bad news. Some of us knew more than others. But we all had heard enough to know that you don’t want to be around when the God of the Hebrews gets angry. Jonah told us he was running from his god. He was supposed to go to Nineveh and warn the people of the Lord’s judgment against their wickedness. Instead, he is on our boat fleeing to Tarshish. He told us the only way to stop the storm was to throw him overboard.

What could we do? I, for one, did not want to be responsible for the loss of a man’s life, but the God of the Hebrews is relentless! He does not stop! As deep as our desperation was, the most desperate thing we did that day was to try to save Jonah’s life. At that point the boat could have been blown apart by the waves at any moment and every second we wasted was an opportunity to lose our own lives, but we were not killers. We grabbed our oars and rowed as hard as we could to escape the storm, but Jonah’s God had already proven He cannot be outrun. We failed and there was no more time to waste. We were all going to die trying to save a guilty man’s life.

We cried out to Jonah’s God the best we knew how. It was His intention to toss Jonah into the sea and there was nothing we could do about it so we begged Him not to judge us for our actions. There at the peak of our desperation, with the rage of the Hebrew God thundering down on us, we had to act. We dropped our oars, grabbed Jonah, and tossed him to the sea. He left our hands as we gave him over to the God he rejected. Before Jonah’s body even touched the water’s surface the clouds dispersed, the sea ceased from its raging, and the winds calmed to a gentle breeze.

I can’t explain the feeling I had in the aftermath. Of course, there was fear. But there was also an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder. Since that day I have worshipped the God of the Hebrews. He was the only god who answered. I don’t know what happened to Jonah. Perhaps the Lord saved him. Maybe He didn’t. But today I’ve been hearing talk of some kind of revival in Nineveh. Those wicked people are turning to the Lord.

I will always remember what I have learned through it all. The God of the Hebrews, now my God too, is faithful. He is faithful in wrath and judgment, but also in grace and mercy.

As I said, desperation has a way of quickening the spirit of a man. That day’s desperation quickened my spirit to the God of the Hebrews.

Where Is Your Trust? Part 5: Trust Leads To Action

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I believe in gravity. I just wanted to put that out there. In fact, it is so real to me that it informs the way I live. When I walk down a set of stairs, without even thinking about it, I move my foot forward, knowing gravity will bring it down to the next step. When I pour my coffee, I place the cup underneath because I know gravity will pull the coffee down. I don’t have to think about it. It is automatic. One could say that in all my ways I acknowledge gravity. When the Bible tells us to acknowledge God in all our ways, this is the mindset in view.

​”In all your ways acknowledge Him…” (Proverbs 3:6)

 

Faithful Activity Is The Overflow Of Mentality

 

It is interesting to me that verse 5 starts with the mind and heart, but when we get to verse 6 it shifts to action. It makes perfect sense. What you truly believe will eventually come out through your actions. Your worldview will always determine how you operate in the world.

“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” – James 2:17

So what we are finding as Proverbs 3:5-6 is unfolding is that trusting in the Lord is an intentional, informed decision based on God’s Word and that trusting in Him will actually alter the way we live our lives. If we take God’s Word to heart our lives will be walking testimonies of Him in whom we trust. But, if we walk in a way that denies Him we do not actually trust in Him. This brings me to my next point.

 

Faithful Activity Is The Testimony Of A Transformed Heart

 

If someone lives life as if God’s testimonies are true it is obvious to others that they believe them. If someone lives life as if God’s testimonies are not true it is obvious to others they don’t believe them. Our lifestyles can be a rejection of God! It is like the analogy I began with. I do not hesitate at all to put the cup under the coffee pot. I believe gravity pulls down so much that it reflects in my natural life, even in the things I do without thinking about it. But what if the coffee floats up this time? Not a chance. I know gravity is a guarantee. When we are transformed by placing our faith and trust in Christ our lives begin looking more and more like this verse. As we grow in Him acting out His Word becomes more natural and instinctive. If we are not acting out what we say we believe we then have to ask the question, “Do I really believe it?”

 

Faithful Activity Is A Testimony To A Lost World

 

The world is watching. That is an uncomfortable truth. “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” We are talking about activity here, which means, at least most of the time, what is done publicly. You can try to hide under a rock. You can try to lock your front door and never come out of your house. But, no matter what, you will act and behave around other people. It is a fact of life, especially in this present world of social media and easy access. And what you do – how you behave – will testify to those around you what you believe and in whom/what you trust. Often we say we want to reach the world for Christ, but then we do not want to submit our own lifestyles to Him. The world notices. The lost notice. And they reason that it must not be that big of a deal for them since it is not that big of a deal for us.

The bottom line is this. Trust goes beyond a mental and emotional state of knowing. True trust in God will embed itself in your worldview and cause you to behave as if what you know and believe is true.

Where Is Your Trust? Part 4: Do You Really Understand?

“…do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

The first part of our Scripture addressed who we are to trust and the role of the heart. For the next part we shift into the role of the mind, specifically as it pertains to our perception of reality. What you believe about reality, your worldview, is fundamental to the way you live your life. Every decision you make will flow out of your worldview on some level. So why does Proverbs tell us not to lean on our understanding? Proverbs is not telling us to reject understanding, but to be wary of placing too much stock on our own perception. The verse does not read, “Do not lean on understanding,” but, “Do not lean on your own understanding.”

Life in the Fish Bowl

During my high school years we had a fish named Oscar. He wasn’t the brightest bulb in the fish tank. He would randomly leap out of the water, slamming straight into the lid of the fish tank. Oscar had scars all over his face from the impact. This activity would lead to his end. We found him one morning on the floor behind the tank. He was finally able to leap through the feeding door. Whatever Oscar thought he knew about the outside world proved to be his demise.

We are limited in our understanding like Oscar. In fact, we have a sort of fish tank of our own. Like Oscar, for everything we understand there are a million things we don’t. Think about it. Oscar’s world consisted of the inside of his tank and the room it was in. He knew nothing of the other rooms in the house much less the big world outside. When we were at the store buying his food, he was in the tank. When we were outside playing, he was in the tank. When we were 1,000 miles away visiting my grandparents on Christmas, he was in the tank. Now imagine this in light of your relationship with God. He is outside of time and space. He created the entire cosmos with a word. You are bound to this one planet and, specifically, to your immediate location and circumstance. Your “fish bowl” view is incredibly limited in comparison to God’s infinite perspective.

So when the Bible says, “Do not lean on your own understanding,” it is essentially saying, “Don’t be Oscar.” Don’t act on your limited worldview. Instead, let God’s Word be the authority upon which you act. Of course, this takes trust.

The world you see right in front of you is only a small picture of the world God knows and sees. So doesn’t it make logical sense to lean on His perspective instead of your own? After all, in God’s own words,

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

Where Is Your Trust? Part 3: The Heart In Our Trust

“…with all your heart.” Proverbs 3:5

Is it the heart of the matter, a matter of the heart, or does the heart even matter at all? The heart is a perplexing thing. I, for one, often wonder how the Bible can tell us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart” when it says elsewhere “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9 HCSB)?” When considering the unbeliever, the total depravity of the human heart flows naturally from this verse. Hence, the word “incurable.” But what about the Christian? Have our “hearts of stone” not been replaced with “hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26, and 2 Cor. 3:3)? As new creatures with new hearts, we are no longer slaves to our utter depravity, but are being sanctified and transformed into Christlikeness. So where does the heart of the believer fit when it comes to trusting God?

I see one word in our verse that clues me in to the answer, especially considering where it lies in context. It is that seemingly meaningless word “with”, coupled with the fact that the trusting is given as an imperative. This is what tells me that the heart is to follow our trust as opposed to our trust following our heart. First of all, if we are to follow our hearts to trust God, then it does not make sense that we would have to be commanded to trust Him. Would our hearts not naturally go in that direction? And if we are following our hearts, what good will an external commandment do? The imperative to trust is first an engaging of the mind. The mind understands that kind of language. It all starts with a cognitive decision to trust in the Lord based on what we know and believe to be true of Him.
Second, the flow of this verse presents the heart more as a powerful tool than as the determining factor. We are to trust (intentional, mental decision) with our heart. The heart becomes something we take hold of as a powerful tool in our trusting much like the builder takes hold of his tools when constructing a house. The tools didn’t build it. They had to be guided and directed. But they were instrumental and powerful.

As it concerns trusting in the Lord with all your heart, I would like to lay three challenges before you.

Let Your Heart Be Driven, But Not The Driver

The heart makes for a wonderful vehicle, but it is a lousy driver. Imagine cranking up a corvette, laying a brick on the gas pedal, taking your hands off the wheel, and letting the corvette take you for a ride. It will probably be your last ride. No doubt, you will travel with power. But you will also end up powerfully crashing. Now put that corvette in the hands of a skilled driver and you have a thing of beauty. The driver knows when to tap the breaks and when to put it to the floor. He knows when to keep the wheel straight and when to cut it hard. The heart in the hands of a good driver is able to point its powerful zeal in all the right directions.

Let the driver of your heart be truth. There will be times your heart tugs and pulls in various directions, but with God’s truth at the wheel you will always stay heading on the right path. The way you “trust in the Lord with all your heart” is by allowing God’s truth to grip the steering wheel and take control. Sometimes your heart will naturally overflow with feelings of trust in God. Other times your heart will drag with feelings of doubt. But we must operate on what we believe about God instead of what we feel about God in any given moment. In this way we allow truth to drive our hearts.

Let Your Heart Be Focused

Pull up a map and take a look at the borderline of Arkansas and Tennessee. It’s chaotic and crazy, lacking any coherent direction. It would make sense if it followed the Mississippi River. But it doesn’t. The way it has been explained to me, that is where the river used to be. The Mississippi is so violent and powerful in places that it actually changes the landscape, even to the point of uprooting trees. It is constantly changing shape.

I think this is a good illustration for the heart. You will notice that those who act primarily on their feelings often appear chaotic. They are constantly changing course. They lack clear direction. Feelings come instantaneously. But truth and conviction are developed over time. It is hard to separate feelings from moments in time. But truth plays the long game.

Imagine if you could take all the power of the Mississippi and intentionally focus it in one direction. Such is the beauty of the human heart. It is powerful and reckless. But when harnessed and directed by a firm understanding of God’s Word, there is no end to what it can accomplish.

Let Your Heart Be Instructed

In Psalm 42:5-6, the writer does an odd thing. He preaches to himself. More specifically, he preaches to his soul. He is addressing his heart and his emotional state. He describes his emotional condition as “cast down” and “in turmoil.” This would be one of those times when the heart would be a terrible driver. He is very specific in the way he allows truth to drive and focus his heart. He proclaims truth to his own heart, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” He is also intentional about remembering things that God has done.

We have heard the common phrase, “you get what you give.” What you give to your heart you get out of your heart. If you starve your heart of God’s Word your heart will act accordingly. The heart must be instructed. Preach to your heart. Constantly place God’s Word before it. In doing so, you will place truth firmly in the drivers seat of your heart. You will focus that raging river. You will be able to “trust in the Lord with all your heart.”

Where Is Your Trust? Part 2: The Object Of Our Trust

“Trust in the Lord…” Proverbs 3:5

As I said in the last post, when it comes to trust, God wants us to take Him at His Word. But He doesn’t only say, “Because I said so.” He has given us concrete reason to trust what He says, even over trusting our own perceptions and feelings. Focus on that one, tiny, critical word, “in.” Trust in the Lord.

As technical as this might sound, there is a difference between trusting God and trusting in God. Trusting God means trusting what He says. Trusting in God means trusting who He is. We are called in Proverbs to this deep and intimate level of trust. We are called to a kind of trust that believes who God is, giving us a natural trust in what He says. In other words, we trust what God says because we know who God is.

Entire books have been written about who God is (the attributes of God). As we turn our attention to the object of our trust, I only have a blog post. I’m going to pick out just a few of those characteristics and I find them in the Lord’s prayer. Prayer is an act of trust and Jesus begins His example of prayer with a recognition of who God is.

God Is Your Father

We heard the cry coming from down the hall. We were at the hospital for one of our boys to have a scope done. He had already been through alot, but we knew it had to be done in order to see if there were internal medical reasons for his issues. When we heard the cry, our hearts sank. The scope was done and the nurses were wheeling him back to us, but he woke up on the way. He was scared and there was no good way to explain to his little mind why he had to go through this. But as his parents we knew it was necessary and it was for his good. In those moments of fatherhood God gives me glimpses of His Father-son relationship with me.

The very first words in the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father,” lead is to approach God as a child would approach their dad. We can trust in God because He is our Father. Not only that, but He is our perfect, eternal, heavenly Father, and He perfectly loves His children. As earthly fathers, we allow our children to go through things they don’t understand because we know what is best for them in this temporary world. Yet, we are often bewildered when our perfect Father allows us to endure things we don’t understand because He knows what is best for eternity. Oh, that we would give Him the trust we wish our children would give us.

God Is In Heaven

Not only is God our Father, but He is our Father in heaven. My sons aren’t even three years old yet and they already know not to worry if something breaks. In their words, “Daddy fix it.” Of course, when they get older and their stuff gets more complicated I don’t know if “Daddy fix it” or not. But, for now, they think I’m awesome simply because I’m Dad.

Now take that childhood confidence that Dad can do anything and realize that it is true of your heavenly Father. He is enthroned above all that is. His perspective is eternal and His power is unstoppable. He knows all the little details – past, present, and future – that you don’t know. When you feel confused, He is sure. When you can’t handle it, He is already handling it. You can trust your Father, who has eternal perspective.

God Is Holy

Simply put, God’s holiness means there is none like Him. No person or being can compare to Him. This is why He can refer to Himself as “I AM.” Any other person would have to use a descriptive term or name to set themselves apart from others (i.e. I am Brad). God needs no descriptive term. He is the being from which all things receive their being. He is the source. He needs no other thing. He is self-sustaining. So He needs only to say, “I AM.”

Because of this we can trust Him. After all, if God can sustain God how much more do you think He can and will sustain His people. If every molecule in the universe finds its source in God, can He not supply all that His people need? There is none like Him and, therefore, no better anchor for our trust than Him.

God’s Kingdom And Will Do Not Fail

God does not fail. Period. He commands the sea to part and it parts. He commands the demons and they must obey. With a simple statement from His mouth entire galaxies are formed. He breathes life and the dead live. He cries out, “It is finished,” and it is finished. Listen to what He said in Isaiah,

“As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it standFor the Lord of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back? – Isaiah 14:24, 27 (ESV)

Basic translation: Your Father cannot be stopped. It’s the Olympics of eternity and it’s not even a fair competition. Team God is going home with the gold. At times it seems the other teams (Satan, the world, the flesh) are pulling ahead and gaining ground, but perception is not always reality. Team God always wins. And if you are a believer in Christ you are wearing His jersey. If that does not envoke a sense of trust and confidence then nothing will.

Conclusion

It is as I said. Books have been written about who God is. But even if these four things were all God revealed about Himself, that would be more than enough to elicit deep trust in Him. Thanks be to God that He has shown us who He is so we can be confident as we trust in Him.

Where Is Your Trust? Part 1: Trust

It’s Not A Feeling

For many of my years as a believer, I saw Christianity through a purely emotional lens. If I didn’t feel Christian, I wasn’t. If I didn’t feel close to God, I was far from Him. If I didn’t feel happy, I was a defective follower of Christ. After all, the choir director told us to make sure we smile real big when we are singing at church. So if you don’t feel a smile, paste one on there anyway. This was also true of trust. I thought trusting God was something that you primarily feel. I have often found myself discouraged in times when trust is not my default emotion toward God. And if the truth is to be told, I have found myself judging Christian brothers and sisters who are not overflowing with emotional trust for God.

Sometimes we know where we should end up, but have the wrong idea of where to start and how to get there. Good, lasting, and unshakeable trust starts in the mind, not the heart. It is a daily decision based on what you know to be true. The mind does not depend on the heart to tell it who or what to trust. The heart depends on the mind to direct that trust. It is not much different than the concept of love in a lasting marriage. The marriage lasts because the spouses constantly make the decision to love one another when they feel it and when they don’t.

We will get to the role of the heart later in the study, but I think this deserves mentioning. The heart is a powerful tool in trusting God. But as a tool, it has to be directed and controlled by something else in order to be effective. Like many other things in the Christian life, the heart is a powerful conduit in our trust for God, but it is not the driving factor.

It’s a Decision

The primary question determining our trust in God is, “Am I going to take God at His Word?” We have read all of God’s incredible promises in Scripture. Do we believe them to be true? To say that our hearts guide our trust for the Lord is the same as saying feelings can dictate truth. If we want to be the kind of people with unwavering trust in the Lord we must regularly decide to trust God because we believe His Word, not because we feel like it.

I see this in Proverbs 3:5. The very first word is “Trust.” It is abrupt and seems very much like a command. The trust seems to come before the heart. There is first the decision to trust, then the heart is brought into subjection to that trust and used to amplify it (“with all your heart”).

An Eye Opening Moment

It was a hot day at work. I was listening to the radio in the trailer and a worship song came on. I can’t explain it, but I suddenly became overwhelmed by the presence of God. I literally felt like He was standing right beside me. It was the sweetest moment of worship I have ever experienced (on the shipping dock of all places). Shortly after the song faded away, that sense of God’s presence went with it. I pleaded with God to not let me lose that feeling and that is when I heard the voice of God. It wasn’t an audible voice or a burning bush, but somehow I heard the words. “I want you to take My word for it. If you always feel My presence then you will be trusting in your feelings and not in Me. You need to trust Me.” I will never forget that moment. It was the moment I realized that true trust in God comes from believing His Word despite my feelings, not from believing God’s Word because of my feelings.

I will wrap it up by giving us all this challenge. May we trust God’s promises and in who He has revealed Himself to be when we feel it and, especially, when we don’t feel it. May we decide today to trust God’s Word simply because it is His Word and encourage our hearts to come along with us.

Where Is Your Trust? Introduction

A Six Part Series On Proverbs 3:5-6

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase, “Trust no one?” It sounds like a really cool spy movie tagline. It may also be the life motto of an independent (and very lonely) person. But it is really not possible. Everything we do is based on trust in someone or something. The defining question is not if you will trust, but who you will trust. This question is the basis of our study of Proverbs 3:5-6. I have broken these verses down in six parts:

  1. Trust
  2. in the Lord
  3. with all your heart
  4. and do not lean on your own understanding.
  5. In all your ways acknowledge Him
  6. and He will make your paths straight.

I will write a post for each one. Many times we spit out popular passages like this without taking the time to take a deep look into them. C.H. Spurgeon once said, “visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” I am going to “live in” these two verses for a little while. I hope you will join me and be encouraged and strengthened. Go ahead and read Proverbs 3:5-6 and keep an eye out for part 1: Trust.