When Things are Unclear–Trust God

My devotional reading this morning included this verse from Psalm 56:

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;  I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”  Psalm 56:4

The superscription tells us that it was written by David when the Philistines seized him in Gath– most assuredly a scary and uncomfortable situation!  Although Samuel had anointed him as king, his future looked uncertain at best.

Most of us will never be captured by enemy soldiers but we still go through tough and confusing times.  Friends disappoint us;  our dream job becomes stressful;  the kids act up;  our financial situation deteriorates;  our health fails.  It’s hard to remember that God is at work in those difficult things, as well as the good ones.  Like David, we may not understand, but we can trust.  We can refuse to fear, because God is with us.


Anthony W. Thorold, an Anglican bishop during the Victorian period sums it up well in this quote:

“Do not fear circumstances.  They cannot hurt us if we hold fast to God and use them as the voices and ministries of His will.  Trust Him about everyone and everything, for all times and all needs, earth and heaven, friends and children, the conquest of sin, the growth of holiness, the cross that chafes, the grace that stirs.”

The bottom line — when things aren’t clear, trust the One who knows and controls all things.  You are in His hands. If things look like they’re falling apart, He’s still holding them together.  Your future is clear to Him.

For more on trusting God, see these posts:

Trusting Your Leader

“Even unto death”

I Will Give You Rest


When God Says Wait by Elizabeth Laing Thompson–Book Review

When we pray there are times we quickly get a clear “yes” or “no.” THE THING we are asking for appears, or the door definitely closes.  Yes, THE GUY proposed — or no,  THE JOB went to another candidate.  However, sometimes the answer is murky:  the desired thing doesn’t happen right away, but there’s still a possibility for the future.  That puts us in a “waiting” mode.

Ms. Thompson uses biblical stories to illustrate different kinds of waiting and how they might be handled. You’ll get a closer look at the lives of Miriam, Naomi, Ruth, Sarah, Hannah, Jacob, David and more. Along the way, you’ll hear Elizabeth’s own story which includes her “babywait” and her wait to become a published author.  Waiting usually isn’t pleasant (at least not for us anxious types) but during these times we can learn to trust God and grow in Christian maturity.  As the author points out, there are only two things we can control about waiting:  how we wait and who we become along the way.  We can also wait with others because guess what?  Everyone is waiting for something!

Each chapter closes with some “waiting room” activities which include journal and prayer prompts and suggested Bible reading for further study.

I did have pretty big theological issues with some Ms. Thompson’s interpretation of Biblical events.  For example, I don’t believe that God changes His mind.  God is omniscient — he knows what we’ll say and what He’ll do already.  Although God may “seem” to change His mind (and yes, you can point to Scriptural examples), He is doing this to make a point or teach us something.

In spite of this, I found the book to be an easy, thoughtful and helpful read.  It would be a good choice to read and discuss with a small group of friends.  If you’re seeking CLARITY (our monthly theme) you might check it out.

VERDICT: FOUR STARS.  It would be 5 except for the theological issues.

For more about this book, go to this post:

Trying to Read God’s Mind


Lets Be Clear

Lots of people have all kinds of ideas and opinions lately. Everyone is talking and not too many people are stopping to look, or stopping to listen. Even those who say they’re Christian. Now I don’t expect someone with absolutely no church upbringing, or relationship with Jesus Christ to understand a Christian point of view. However, I do expect Christians to know and understand BIBLICAL views. And I expect them to look to the one and ONLY reliable source for guidance and comfort. So since so many have an opinion (including Christians) what does God say? Lets start with the topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind. Equality. (In every sense of the term.)

Deuteronomy 10:17  “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”

 Malachi 2:10  “Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?

 Job 32:21-22    Let me now be partial to no one, Nor flatter any man. For I do not know how to flatter, Else my maker would soon take me away.”

 Galatians 3:26-29  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Now how about authority? What does God say about that?

1Peter 2:13-14  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority; whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to the governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to command those who do right.”

 Romans 13:1-2  Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.

 Ok, but what about social responsibilities? What? In fact, does God have to say about that? This one brothers and sisters, carries a warning (and instruction) for those within our own ranks.

 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15  “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘That one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.”

 This is strong language. And it’s strong language intended for the first Christians so that repentance might occur. (And because the first Christians, much like today’s Christians, didn’t behave like they should.) Keep in mind too, this is after Jesus came to earth for forgiveness of our sins. Yes, Jesus is patient. But these words in Paul’s letters are not just Paul’s words. They’re inspired by the Holy Spirit. In other words, this is Jesus saying these things. It’s easy to get comfortable in God’s great grace and mercy that He freely offers His children. However, be alert. God will not allow arrogant disobedience to reign and poison the flock. There will be a judgement day. For that reason, warnings are necessary. As some will fall away due to false teachings. So,(I’m gonna say it again) what does God have to say about false teachers, and blinded and hard hearts?

2 Thessalonians 2:2-17  “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us-whether by a prophesy or by a word of mouth or by letter-asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be god.

Don’t you remember when I was with you, I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendor of His coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ we have some choices ahead of us. Believe in God, or believe in the lie. How many of us go to church and yet, neglect the word of God in our daily lives? In America where Bibles are plentiful; yet, even Christians don’t read it. And if we do, we only read what makes us feel better. I beg of you, if you want to make sense of the world we live in and keep from incurring judgement; READ your Bible. Systematically, daily . . . and with purpose. I know this was a long blog, but I also know people don’t tend to look up verse references. Therefore, the whole verse is there for the reading. And if anyone does not like the words in this blog; it’s not my words they aren’t liking. It’s God’s words. Which is also why no one should dare to ask (or suggest) that their pastor sugar coat the message. Or take it easy on the wording. That’s just another way of nit-picking God’s word. It’s the job and duty of Pastors everywhere to tell the truth, harsh as it may be. It is not their job to tell us what we want to hear but what we NEED to hear. Love warns those in danger, love does not keep silent while watching victims head into danger. Who among us wouldn’t stop our children from running into a street? This is no different.

Be Charitable

We often think the word “charitable” means generous in financial giving. While this is true, there is another definition:  apt to judge others leniently or favorably.  Because of the sin that is part of our DNA, we seldom do this.  Instead we think the worst of others.  This seems particularly true in the world of social media.  Those with whom we disagree are demonized.  They’re not just wrong, they’re downright evil.  Rather than trying to understand and dialog, we attack and belittle.  This doesn’t just happens in politics, it divides families and churches.  As Christians, we’re called to avoid this kind of behavior.  In the book of Romans, Paul says:

1Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  Romans 12:10

Other Christians are to be treated as our siblings;  other people as God’s beloved creations.  EVEN WHEN WE DISAGREE.

Here’s a quote from my devotional written by Arthur P. Stanley ((1815-1881), an English churchman and academic:

“Love one another in spite of your differences, in spite of your faults.  Love one another and make the best of one another, as He loved us, who, for the sake of saving what was good in the human soul, forgot, forgave, put out of sight what was bad–who saw and loved what was good even in the publican Zacheus, even in the penitent Magdalen, even in the expiring malefactor, even in the heretical Samaritan, even in the Pharisee Nicodemus, even in the heathen soldier, even in the outcast Canaanite.  It is very easy to fix our attention only on the weak points of those around us, to magnify them, to irritate them, to aggravate them; and by so doing, we can make the burden of life unendurable, and can destroy our own and others’ happiness and usefulness wherever we go.  But this was not the love wherewith Christ loved us;  this is not the new love wherewith we are to love one another.”

Be charitable.  Love like Jesus.

Clearer and Clearer

Isaac Penington (1616–1679) was an early member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in England.  He wrote about the movement extensively and defended its’ principles.  I’ve mentioned before that the Quakers are serious about achieving clarity in God’s will when making decisions.  In this quote, Penington describes how continually seeking clarity leads us into greater spiritual maturity.

“Hast thou a sense of the way to the Father?  Then be careful that thy spirit daily bow before Him, that He would continue His mercy to thee;  making thy way more and more clear before thee every day;–yea, and bearing thee up in all the exercises and trials which may befall thee, in every kind;  that, by His secret working in thy spirit, and helping thee with a little help from time to time, thou mayest still be advancing nearer and nearer towards the kingdom;  until thou find the Lord God administer an entrance unto thee thereinto, and give thee an inheritance of life, joy, righteousness and peace therein;  which is strength unto the soul against sin and death.

For more Quaker quotes, see these posts:

What Damages our Spiritual Life? (according to Hannah Whitall Smith)

How to Recognize a Christian


Love Or Charity?

I came across this quote I wrote down in my journal a while back.  It’s from The 9 Best Practices of Youth Ministry:

“Spiritual growth is a lifelong process of loving God more and loving people more.”

I think sometimes we forget that spiritual growth, like everything in the Christian life, is not all about us.  It’s about us and others.  Here’s where the charity part comes in.  In various versions of the Bible, the Greek word agape is translated sometimes as “love” and others as “charity.”  I think charity is actually a better choice.  For most of us today, love is a feeling.  It changes.  We may love something or someone one day, and take an aversion to it later.  Love is focused on us.  Charity, on the other hand is defined as kindness and tolerance in dealing with others.  Even if we don’t have that warm, fuzzy, “love”  feeling, we can behave charitably toward those around us.  That means trying to understand them, seeing their point of view, controlling our tongue, thinking the best of them.

The famous “love” verses in 1 Corinthians 13 have a lot to say about attitudes and actions, rather than feelings.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

So, test your spiritual growth.  Are you behaving more and more like this?  Are you loving and charitable to others? Are your decisions and actions leading you into a better relationship with God and with those around you? Do you understand the true meaning of agape? Or are you following momentary feelings?

True agape love expresses itself through charity.  This is the love that will remain and will enable us to see through the eyes of Christ — clearly!


Clarity about Communion

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the LORD in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the LORD. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves”. 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29

Most Lutherans are familiar with this verse which tells us that we should “examine ourselves” before partaking of Holy Communion.  However, are we clear on what that means?  Some find it a bit scary.  Does it mean we must track down and confess every sin we’ve committed? Does it mean we should abstain if we’re not sure our heart is entirely in the right place?  It’s actually fairly simple.  In our congregation the Pastor reads this exhortation before the words of institution which clarifies the issue.

“Dear friends in Christ!  In order that you may receive this holy sacrament in a worthy manner it is necessary that you carefully consider what you must now believe and do.  From the words of Christ, ‘This is My body which is given for you’, ‘This is My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’, you should believe that Jesus Christ is Himself present with His Body and Blood, and the words declare.  From Christ’s words, ‘For the forgiveness of sins’, you should in the next place believe that Jesus Christ bestows upon you His Body and Blood to confirm to you the forgiveness of all your sins.  And finally, you should do as Christ commands you when He says:  ‘Take, eat’, ‘Drink of it all of you’, and ‘This do in remembrance of me.’

If you believe these words of Christ, and do as He has commanded, then you have properly examined yourselves and may rightly eat Christ’s Body and drink His Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.”

In other words, to examine ourselves, we must understand that we are sinners and that Christ has given Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  We must understand that He is truly present in the Sacrament and that it is meant to be a reminder of the great gift we have received.  We should accept it thankfully and live accordingly.  Are we clear?


Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger –Book Review

This is another book I’ve had for a while, and am just getting around to reading.  As usual Thom Rainer does not disappoint, and not only that, Simple Church has a lot to do with our monthly theme, clarity.  Don’t tell me God doesn’t guide my reading!

What Rainer and Geiger describe is not a new church model — it’s about designing a process for discipleship.  That process should be simple, and involves four key steps and words:

  • Design a simple process that has clarity — it should be easy to communicate and for people to understand
  • Place your key programs along the process so that they encourage movement toward the goal of spiritual maturity
  • Align and unite all church ministries around the process
  • Develop focus by eliminating things (even good ones) that fall outside of the process

The authors make the point that many church leaders and members are involved in so many programs that they have little time for real ministry.  The programs often compete with one another, and lack an intentional process for spiritual growth.  Becoming a “simple” church may actually involve eliminating activities that do little to further true growth in discipleship.

There are examples from real churches and quite a bit of statistical jargon and information (the authors admit to being research “nerds”).  I found their arguments logical and compelling.  It is an interesting perspective and one I had never considered.  As a member of a small congregation where many are scrambling to get things done, the idea that less is more is certainly appealing!

The point is made that the process is not necessarily easy.  When congregations have become “complex” it is difficult to eliminate programs because of their history and the attachments people have to them.  It requires prayer and movement that is fast enough, but not too fast.  In other words, handle with prayer!

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  Well worth considering for pastors and leaders.

For more books by Thom Rainer see these posts:

Anatomy of a Revived Church by Thom S. Rainer–Book Review

Scrappy Church – Book Review

Scrappy Church by Thom Rainer–Book Review #2


When There is No Clarity Exercise Charity

Let’s face it friends, there are times when there is no clarity.  This pandemic is an example.  We just don’t have enough information to be confident that the right decisions are being made.  We know contagion is spread by close, personal contact … but how close?  It may live on surfaces for a time …. but how long?  Masks might protect us, or at least others… do we wear them all the time?…. only inside?…. only when social distancing isn’t possible?  Gloves are helpful … but only if you change them every time you touch something different.  Infections seem to be declining …. but will there be another wave?  A vaccine is in the offing …. but how long until it can be tested and produced safely?  Certain drugs could help …. or on the other hand, maybe they’re dangerous. We should probably stay home alone …. or only with our families …. or in groups of ten or less …. or gather only outside …  or who knows?

Understandably this is causing a lot of anxiety and disagreement, even in churches.  Can we resume services?  Can we sing?  How do we offer communion?  Do we have to wear masks?  Is it okay to touch doorknobs?  Should overhead fans be turned off?  How far do we sit from one another?  Well, you get the idea.  There are a million questions, and almost as many opinions.  Some want to keep things 100% safe (not possible);  others want to behave as if everything is the same as it was a few months ago (also not possible).

So what should we do? As always pray.  Be considerate of others, regardless of their viewpoint (this is charity, or love).  Be kind, gentle and respectful in expressing our feelings (this is self-control). Put others first — do what you can to allay fear (this is self-sacrifice). Wait before judging because things will become clearer in time (patience).  In other words, practice the fruit of the Spirit (described in Galatians).  This is our calling as followers of Christ.  The crisis can tear us apart, or set us apart.  Let the world see how we love one another.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”  Ephesians 4:3

For more posts on the coronavirus see:

New Month – June 2020 Clearer Vision Because of the Coronavirus

Positive Thinking

The Snare is Broken part 1

For more on the fruit of the Spirit:

Let the Fruit of the Spirit Flow

The Story Isn’t Over ….

Charity In All Things

Wouldn’t the world be a kinder place if we all followed the advice in this quote?

“If we keep in necessary things Unity, in unnecessary things Freedom and in both charity, our affairs would be in the best condition.”

Peter Meiderlin, German Lutheran theologian 1626