Category Archives: Faith Journey and Providence

As In the Days of Noah

Noah lived in the midst of evil. We do too. Our modern world has plenty of idols. For some it is politics, for others it is entertainment. Acquiring wealth consumes the time and affections of many people, providing a false sense of security and self-sufficiency that excludes God. As in the days of Noah, violence fills our world. Individuals and nations employ violence as a means to secure wealth through war, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, and exploitation of others in the global marketplace. Violence against the unborn has reached abominable proportions. It’s not difficult for Christians to identify many other forms of corruption and to be appalled at their rapid increase.

A Unique Task

God gave Noah a unique task for a unique time. Noah, a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), was faithful even though God delayed for decades the judgment he declared to Noah. Though none of us have a task as unique as Noah’s nor live in as unique a time, we can learn from Noah’s persistent obedience. We can, in the words of the apostle Paul, see to it that we complete the ministry we have received in the Lord (Colossians 4:17).

It could be that you have been given a specific task, one that others have been given but that is by no means universal. Perhaps you have journeyed far and labored long in obedience to God’s clear instruction but do not yet see the fruit you expected. Be encouraged by this:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.—Galatians 6:9

Favor In the Eyes of the Lord

Noah, a righteous man and blameless among the people, found favor in the eyes of the Lord and he walked with God.

A careful look at scripture shows many of God’s promises to be conditional on our obedience. We either walk with God or we don’t, there is no third option. If we cling to idols we cannot simultaneously walk with God, if we serve money we cannot serve God, we will not gratify the flesh if we walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16); we cannot be partners with immoral, impure or greedy people and be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1-7).

The Bible is filled with exhortations to persevere in our faith. In times such as we now find ourselves in, God looks with favor upon those who, like Noah, walk with him and are obedient to the task they are given.

A Universal Task

God has given some tasks to every Christian. None of us are excluded from walking in the Spirit, being ambassadors for Christ, or making disciples. We cannot do what God has asked of us in our own strength, but God has made it possible for us to participate in the work that he is completing in us. We can, in the words of the New Testament, see to it that none of us has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12) and that no one falls short of the grace of God (Hebrews 12:15). We can “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”. We can “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Noah had to be prepared for the time of God’s judgment. Likewise, we must be prepared for the Lord’s return. God has promised to complete the work he began in us. We take comfort in this fact when we stumble while running our race, knowing that our perseverance, though there is no room for laxity on our part, ultimately depends upon God. Even the warnings against falling away found in the book of Hebrews serve as a means by which God ensures his elect do not leave the faith.

Noah warned about unseen things. As in the days of Noah, the unbelieving world is unaware of the wrath to come. We are called to go into the whole world and warn them, to make disciples who follow Jesus and escape God’s wrath.

Persevering In the Storm

Whether you believe the coronavirus pandemic is judgment from God on a rebellious world, a wake-up call for believers or merely evil resulting from a fallen world, the task in front of every Christian remains the same—to persevere in faith.

I can’t help but wonder what Noah thought while the flood waters prevailed on the earth for 150 days. How long would he have to live in the ark? When would he be back on familiar, solid ground?

The Lord knows how to rescue godly men and women from trials (2 Peter 2:9). If you are discouraged during this pandemic, recall that even as the floodwaters were still high, God remembered Noah and then made the waters subside. He will remember you too. Be faithful.

This Is the Day That the Lord Has Made! – Part 2

Gathering Manna Daily

Part 1 looked at how God provides for and leads Christians. Part 2 looks at the believer’s response to God’s faithful provision and guidance.

Rejoice In the Lord Daily

This is perhaps the one daily habit I need to develop most. There have been seasons when I have rejoiced in God’s presence and leading, but God wants every Christian to continually rejoice in him. Each day is a gift from God in which we have the privilege to enjoy, serve and worship him. If I wake up each day thankful and mindful that God has something for me to do, I will be better able to rejoice and be glad throughout the day.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. —Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

—Philippians 4:4

I find Paul’s exhortation in Philippians harder to obey when things don’t go as I would like. Those suffering during this pandemic might reasonably ask what they have to rejoice about. But Paul wasn’t exactly relaxing in a comfortable home when he spoke these words. From prison, unsure of his future, unsure whether he would live or die, he instructed the Philippians to turn away from anxiety and turn, in thanksgiving, toward God:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.—Philippians 4:5-8

One thing I know with certainty. Being close to God replaces anxiety with an unexplainable peace. To find this joy and peace during good times prepares me to find it when trials come.

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

Seek the Lord Daily

For me, a watershed moment, or, more accurately a watershed year was 2013. In January, my mother died. In April, my father died. In the middle of my grief, I found out we had to find a new place to live because the landlord of the house we were renting wanted to sell it in August. God was turning my world upside down. My wife and I set out to diligently seek God’s will. Our Bible study and prayer became more frequent and more focused. We journaled daily to record how God was answering prayer. Early on in this journey it became clear that God wanted me to take a major risk. We were amazed by the number of people God used to point me to the same conclusion: I trusted too much in my job for security. God wanted me to quit my job and write my book. It seemed nearly every sermon we heard (in church or on the radio), every devotional we read, and every quiet time we had proclaimed the same truths from the Bible.

Even with this flood of instruction, I managed over the summer to concoct two plans that would allow me to keep my job and try to write my book. But God would not budge. He wanted to break my trust in worldly security. His loving persistence won out. In September, I quit my job. We left Denver and moved to Texas where I started writing my book.

If I had not sought out God’s leading daily, I would have continued to look for my security in my job.

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.—Psalm 63:1

When we are in the desert, we seek water daily in order to live. David thirsts for God with his whole being. To him, God’s love is better than life itself.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.—Psalm 63:2-3

I wish I could say that I continually sought God’s leading daily from 2013 until now. I haven’t. That’s why this pandemic has been a wake-up call. It has rejuvenated my desire to commune with God daily, to dwell in the shelter of the Almighty.

Seek God’s Wisdom Daily

Blessed are those who listen to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.
For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the Lord.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.”—Proverbs 8:34-36

God’s wisdom is available in the Bible for our daily intake. Wisdom so gained brings blessing, favor and life from the Lord.

Surrender to God Daily

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.—Luke 9:23

This command deals a deathblow to any priorities that distance us from God. It should kill our procrastination and rationalization. It is a sobering reminder of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Taking up our cross daily only seems onerous when we value this life more than the next. It doesn’t preclude rejoicing in the Lord’s presence each day. It doesn’t preclude enjoying his many good gifts. But it does prioritize our desire.

Today’s Obedience

What has God placed on your heart today? What has God done in your past to demonstrate his faithfulness? Think on these things. I pray we all find contentment in our circumstances and trust God to supply all of our needs as he leads us each day.

This Is the Day That the Lord Has Made!

Gathering Manna Daily
Wake-Up Call

If you are like me, this coronavirus pandemic has been a wake-up call. Bible verses that used to sound pleasant and encouraging to my ears now sound life preserving. “Redeeming the time, for the days are evil” has a more urgent ring to it. Verse after verse tells me that today is the day to trust and obey God. This is the day to walk in the Holy Spirit, totally surrendered to God and enjoying his presence. Today is the day to abandon all worry and find comfort in the promises of God. This is the day to follow Jesus as his disciple, observing all that he has commanded me.

Here are a few examples of verses that have caught my attention:

God Provides Daily

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:22-23

The Bible teaches that God’s love sustains us on a daily basis. Jesus taught his disciples to pray for their daily bread (Matthew 6:11) and then commanded them not to trust in riches but to trust in God, not worrying about tomorrow (Matthew 6:19-34). God supplied miraculously bread from heaven on a daily basis, commanding the Israelites not to gather more manna than they needed each day in order to test them (Exodus 16:4-5; 17-20). Having more or less than our daily needs tests our trust in God and often reveals our true heart condition (Proverbs 30:8-9).

This truth, that God faithfully provides our daily needs, is the key to living each day as God has commanded, trusting in him.

One way that God impresses on our hearts that he is the one who provides all of our needs is to place us into situations that we cannot control. Some people live this reality constantly, but those who live in affluence rarely experience deprivation. Coronavirus may have taken away much of our entertainment and many of our amusements, but, at least for now, few in wealthy societies have a lack of the necessities of life to the point that they experience God’s daily provision in an obvious way as did the Israelites in the desert. Many of us still think we are the ultimate providers for our family:

He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.—Deuteronomy 8:16-18a

God Leads Daily

When we truly believe God will provide for us each day, we are freed from self-dependence and ready to follow Jesus’ leading wherever that may take us. Most of the time, we find that God leads us step by step, day by day. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).” Ancient lamps did not shine very far down the road.

As a new Christian, I wanted to know God’s “big picture” for my life. It didn’t occur to me that God would ask for daily obedience and that by my obedience he would lead me. I am sad to report that too often in my Christian life, I did not set out each day to accomplish the task in front of me, but instead, wasted time seeking some elusive future existence or worrying about the future. I’m not saying we don’t benefit from planning or having a vision, but that we won’t reach the goal God has for us if we don’t obey and follow him today.

We can be more certain about today. All of us have something we know God wants us to do today. We know of a relationship that needs mending, a neighbor who needs our compassion, a habit we need to form or break. We know these things because God has spoken to us through his Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We make plans for the future, even very good plans, but God may alter them— “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps (Proverbs 16:9).

My wife and I recently had our hopes and plans for the future changed by God. Over the past couple of years, through Sunday sermons, personal study and mentoring by a pastor devoted to making disciples, we knew the Spirit was calling us to make disciples in obedience to the Great Commission. We knew that along with being a disciple of Jesus, making disciples was our main priority and we desired to minister in the Philippines. We knew that getting there might take a year or two, but we hoped to go sooner. So, during the waiting period, we continued to hold Bible studies in our home—the task we knew to do today.

We traveled to the Philippines to see how God was working there. We met with missionaries both in the US and in the Philippines who connected us with a church that reaches out successfully to plant churches that can go on to make more disciples.

But on our return from the Philippines, my health took a turn that would make it difficult, if not impossible, to move to the Philippines. God closed a door. Whether he will re-open it remains to be seen. But whether he does or doesn’t our present outreach remains. Our mentor, who uses technology to disciple people living around the world, told us early on that we can make disciples anywhere. We knew, before going to the Philippines, that our daily mission can be accomplished from any location God chooses for us. So, this closed door didn’t discourage us or change God’s mission for us to carry out. The fact that we can hold our Bible studies online during the coronavirus shelter-in-place order proves again the point that disciples can be made anywhere.

We should all remember how God has led us in the past. He is our Rock! During this coronavirus crisis, let’s not imitate the majority in Israel who didn’t trust God to lead them and care for them even though he had faithfully done so in the past:

Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. ”

In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.—Deuteronomy 1:29-33

Part 2 looks at the believer’s response to God’s faithful provision and guidance.


God Is Good

God is Good: A Mini Theodicy

Theodicy: An explanation of why a good, omniscient, omnipotent God permits evil.

The task of any theodicy is to show that the existence of evil is not contradictory to a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and morally good. This article does not attempt a full-orbed theodicy. Instead I assert that God permitting evil and God’s judgment of evil are not contradictory to the actions of a good and loving God.

A common explanation for the coronavirus is that it is a natural evil resulting from the Fall. The Scriptures show that goodness is the essence of God while evil is revolt against God (Psalms 25:7-8; 100:5; 118:1; Matthew 19:17). Scripture also affirms that God’s creation was good and later subjected to futility as the result of sin. God’s original creation contained no coronavirus. It contained neither disease nor infirmity. It contained no evil. It was good (Genesis 1:31).

But knowing the source of evil and why it exists doesn’t explain why God permits it. It doesn’t give any hint as to the purpose of suffering. We need the Bible to tell us that too.

Satan Did It

Some Christians, who believe correctly that “God is love,” can’t seem to imagine how God would in any way be involved in bringing calamity upon people even when faced with Scriptures that indicate that He is involved during times of judgment (Amos 3:6). For them, the “go-to” option that remains to explain something like coronavirus is that it comes from Satan. But to come to this conclusion without considering the possibility that a disaster might be judgment from God, one must ignore God’s other attributes such as justice, mercy and holiness. This is the “let God off the hook” argument I mentioned in my last article.1

This “Satan did it” line of reasoning aligns perfectly with the skeptic’s contention that God is either indifferent or unable to stop evil. If God is not Judge, he is not in control. Christians affirm that God is in control, so how can we acknowledge that Satan seeks to do harm to people without attributing to him more power than he actually possesses?

God Is Not the Author of Evil

God is not the author of evil. Scripture is clear on this matter (1 John 1:5b; James 1:13; 1 Peter 3:12). But Scripture also consistently asserts that God is sovereign over his creation (Job 38:8, 11; Psalm 89:8-9; Luke 8:24). Evil is on a leash, restrained by the hand of the Almighty. God is in control (Job 2:6).

In an article entitled “How to Contemplate Calamity,” John Piper notes that both the author of the book of Job and Job regard God as the decisive cause of Job’s misery (Job 1:21; 42:11; 2:10). Satan certainly was involved in Job’s misery (Job 1:12; 2:6) but he had not the decisive hand. Piper points out that Job’s misery was not punishment, but purifying (Job 42:6) but that the death of his children may have been judgment (but we simply don’t know for sure). His point is that suffering and death can be judgment and mercy at the same time (1 Peter 2:24).2

This dual application of judgment and mercy can be true for any calamity that is a result of the Fall, including the coronavirus.

Evil Brothers and an Evil King

Let’s look at two examples from Scripture, one familiar and one not so familiar, in which God permitted evil to accomplish his purpose. In the first God used evil to bring about good. In the second he used evil to punish evil.

The story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers is well known, as is his amazing declaration after he reunited with his brothers many years later, forgiving them:

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. —Genesis 50:19-20

Without the Fall, there would be no coronavirus. Without the Fall, Joseph’s brothers would not have acted wickedly and sold him into slavery. Without the Fall, Joseph would not have suffered so much at the hands of other men. But without God orchestrating events, there would have been no food in Egypt and many would have died of starvation.

In a perhaps less familiar example, the Assyrians, a particularly cruel people, were the instrument by which the Northern Kingdom of Israel’s destruction came about. God made clear through his prophets (Hosea, Amos, Isaiah) that this destruction was a judgment from God.

Without the Fall, there would have been no wicked King of Assyria who boasted of his military might:

When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. For he says:

“‘By the strength of my hand I have done this,
and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
I plundered their treasures;
like a mighty one I subdued their kings.
As one reaches into a nest,
so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations;
as people gather abandoned eggs,
so I gathered all the countries;
not one flapped a wing,
or opened its mouth to chirp.’” —Isaiah 10:12-14

God used this wicked nation to judge another wicked nation, Israel. Assyria was merely an axe in the hand of God. It was God who swung the axe:

Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up,
or a club brandish the one who is not wood!
Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors;
under his pomp a fire will be kindled
like a blazing flame.—Isaiah 10:15-16

God’s Judgments Are Righteous

It is not evil for God to judge his creatures (Romans 2:4-5). If it were, then there would be no hell for a good God of love. This idea that all humans will eventually be reconciled to God (so no need for an eternal hell), of course, is the conclusion that Universalists have come to, and it’s based upon a false conception of God. It can only come about when humans impose their idea of good upon God. We say God is good and then define good as something or someone who does not allow evil rather than using the biblical definition that says that good is God’s character and actions, which are both exclusive of evil.

Where Does God Draw the Line?

Why does God allow you or me to sin? When we think about evil, our minds go to unusually wicked actions of people like Hitler, child predators, human traffickers or to natural disasters, or to creatures like Satan who continually act in an evil and cruel manner.

If God did what so many of us would like him to (namely, not allow great evil), there would have been no Hitler or other despots. However, if God didn’t allow them into the world, we would then see those who did a little less evil than Hitler and Stalin as people God shouldn’t allow. We would still not be satisfied and we would eventually demand that God not allow whoever’s evil we detest into the world. Then surely God would draw the line between good and evil before he got to us.


This is where God draws the line:

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.—Luke 18:19

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! —Matthew 7:11

In short, ordinary people, indeed, all people, are evil and deserve death and hell. If only God is good, where does that leave us?

A Perfect Solution to the Problem of Evil

Creatures brought sin into the world. Our sin, no matter how insignificant it seems to us, separates us from God.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God—Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death—Romans 6:23a

A good, loving God provides a way out of the predicament that sinful humans find themselves in.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.—Romans 6:23

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.—John 3:16

What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? It means to trust in and depend on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross as penalty for your sin and acknowledge that you can do nothing to earn salvation.

If you are reading this and you have yet to believe that Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus, you need to know this—that those who trust in Jesus are imputed his righteousness and are no longer separated from God.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.—2 Corinthians 5:21

Those who have not believed in Jesus when they die will spend eternity in hell, but those who believed will have eternal life with God.

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”—Matthew 25:46

The Bible says we must decide now in this life because it is appointed to men to die once and then be judged (Hebrews 9:27). There is no second chance after you die.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near—Isaiah 55:6

If you trust in Jesus now, he will lead you into his Kingdom.

God’s Is Just and He Is Good

At the cross God brought the greatest good out of the greatest evil. Evil men murdered the perfect Son of God. He was crucified for our sins and paid the penalty for them on our behalf.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.—Isaiah 53:5

There will be a final judgment. At that time all who have believed in the name of Jesus will enter eternal bliss because their sins were judged at the cross. Those who reject Jesus will get what they want, an eternity without God telling them what to do. Those who rejected the Light of the World (John 8:12) will be in eternal darkness. They will be in eternal agony separated from everything good. They will be forever separated from God.



  1. God can’t actually be let off the hook, because that would imply he was “on the hook” for doing something wrong. God’s ways are perfect, so it is only our arrogance and misunderstanding of God’s character that demand that God act in a way that suits our definition of good.
  2. John Piper, “How to Contemplate Calamity,” Desiring God, December 26, 2012,

Is the Coronavirus Judgment from God?

Is the coronavirus judgment from God? Surely Christians everywhere are asking this question or one like it.

I have listened to a number of sermons from this past Sunday that addressed the believer’s response to the pandemic we now experience. All of the pastors exhorted their congregations not to fear. Believers were reminded that God is in control and that he is our fortress. People were encouraged to pray for courage, mercy and peace. These are all very good responses.

Some pastors said the coronavirus is just one of many calamities (though admittedly larger in scope) that God allows in a fallen world. Others, similarly, proclaim it to be just another natural disaster, all of which can be traced to sin. No need to panic, nothing new under the sun here. This is not the beginning of the tribulation. Just hunker down and trust God.

The Elephant In the Room

What was missing from all but one of the messages I listened to (admittedly a small sample) was any notion that the coronavirus might be judgment from God. In fact, one well-known pastor said it would be dangerously presumptuous to say that the coronavirus was judgment on America for wicked behavior (such as abortion) if God did not say it, citing Deuteronomy 18:20. I agree. Why would God send corona virus upon the whole earth as judgment for the sins of the United States?

But how can something that, on a world-wide basis, brings economies to nearly a standstill and upends life as we knew it with no end date in sight just be a run-of–the-mill natural disaster?

I fear that when we omit judgment as a possible explanation for this pandemic, it might be perceived by unbeliever and believer alike as “letting God off the hook” for the suffering, fear and death this pandemic will cause.

The result of not mentioning judgment is predictable. Doing so brings comfort to the people of the world, especially Christians steeped in it, who might otherwise examine their troubled hearts, by telling them that everything will be ok, just play video games or whatever else distracts you from reality. Carry on as usual except that now, perhaps, would be a good time to start reading your Bible.

Conditional Comfort?

I am one of many who take comfort in Psalm 91. Three times in this Psalm, protection from pestilence and plague and the fear they produce is promised to the one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High. The psalmist also gives this promise:

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent. (ESV)

Charles Spurgeon says this about Psalm 91:

The blessings here promised are not for all believers, but for those who live in close fellowship with God. Every child of God looks towards the inner sanctuary and the mercy-seat, yet all do not dwell in the most holy place; they run to it at times, and enjoy occasional approaches, but they do not habitually reside in the mysterious presence.

If this be true, then carrying on as usual is the last thing that we want to do, unless our normal day consists of walking in the Spirit, ever communing with God and surrendering each day to him.

An absence of prayer and Bible reading indicates we are not dwelling in the shelter of the Most High (Psalm 91:1). In this time of pandemic, exhortations to draw close to God should be bold and forceful, not merely suggestions. Abiding under the shadow of the Almighty does not happen when God is an afterthought or the last Person to gain our attention on a daily basis.

Disease and Judgment In the Bible

Jesus could stop this virus in an instant. Why hasn’t he? Maybe God brought the corona virus for a particular purpose.

“Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heals.”

—Habakkuk 3:5

Throughout the Bible God used disease as judgment.

God brought pestilence as judgment on Egypt and he will bring it as judgment at the end of days to judge the world system of Babylon (Revelation 18:8). Our God protects and blesses, but he also brings pestilence to accomplish his righteous purpose on earth (See Isaiah 45:7; Ezekiel 5:16-17; Amos 4:10).

When Moses finished writing the Torah he warned God’s people that they would rebel against the Lord, do evil in the sight of the Lord provoking him to anger through the work of their hands. So, as judgment for their idolatry; evil would come upon them. (See Deuteronomy 31:24-32:47) Disease was part of the judgment (Deuteronomy 32:24).

Other examples where disease is used for judgment can be found in Jeremiah 42:22 and Numbers 25:9.

Awake O Sleeper

If the coronavirus is not judgment, then surely believers can see it as a wakeup call:

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. —Ephesians 5:14-16 (ESV)


Wouldn’t the best use of our time during this pandemic be to examine our walk with God? We can use this time to address the sins we have clung to (Psalm 66:18) and expunge them from our lives. We can ask God to show us sins we aren’t aware of (Psalm 139:23-24).

The law of God reveals our sin to us (Romans 7:7-8). The blessed man delights in it and meditates on it day and night (Psalm 1:2). The one who turns away his ear from it utters abominable prayers (Proverbs 28:9). 

What if we aren’t close to God? What if we have strayed?

Take the first step.

In James, chapter 4, the author attributes division in the church to worldliness. James beckons us to draw near to God so that he will draw near to us. He exhorts us not to be double-minded, to repent and purify our hearts.

Do we not find ourselves in a situation that is an opportunity to seriously examine our hearts, repent and humble ourselves to receive the promise that the Lord will exalt those who do?

When we walk each day submitted to the Holy Spirit will we not then be under the shadow of the Almighty?

Be Ready to Witness

We know that earthquakes, floods, pandemics and all natural disasters affect everyone in their path, both Christian and non-Christian. Our response should correspond to our relationship with God:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” —Luke 13:1-5

Jesus focuses here on what is a main reason for suffering—to lead people to repentance.

Regarding coronavirus, unbelievers should fear more than a disease that could kill their body. They should fear God who can cast both body and soul into hell (Matthew 10:28).

But God has not given Christians a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). When we are burdened beyond our own strength we develop reliance upon God (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). In the midst of this crisis and thereafter we have a mission.

These two workings of God in human hearts can come together magnificently in this crisis.

Christian, is not Jesus telling us now–“Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest!” (John 4:35-38)

Let’s use our time well during this crisis and be ready to share the Gospel!

Do you know someone you can call or chat with online who needs to hear the Gospel?


Photo from CDC.

How Do We Love God?


Would your spouse say you loved them if you never demonstrated that love? If you always put your interests above theirs would your professions of love be believed?

Surely no healthy, discerning person would.

So, how do we demonstrate our love for God? We can’t meet God’s needs—he doesn’t have any. But, we can put his interests above our natural inclinations. We can show by our actions that we believe God’s plan is more important than our desires when they conflict with each other.

The Two Greatest Commandments

Jesus left no doubt as to the importance of loving God when he responded to a scribe who asked, “Which commandment is the most important of all (Mark 12:30).” Jesus, expanding on Deuteronomy 6:5, commanded us to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength (Mark 12:30). No part of our being is excluded.

The scribe only asked for one commandment, but Jesus followed this greatest commandment with another like it, declaring the second greatest commandment to be “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” By doing so, Jesus indicated the primary way we demonstrate our love for God—by loving others.

These two commandments are necessarily connected. We cannot love God and hate our brother (1 John 4:20). To hate our brother disobeys the second greatest commandment and we know that if we love Jesus we will keep his commandments (John 14:15).

Walk By the Spirit

Galatians 5 explains that it is through love that our faith works (v6). Our freedom in Christ is not an opportunity for the flesh, but an opportunity through love to serve one another (v 13). “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself (v 14).”

Therefore, loving God consists of more than obeying commands not to commit certain sins. Loving God requires our positive action. So, obeying biblical commands to love one another, instruct one another, serve one another, pray for one another, encourage one another and forgive each other demonstrates our love for God. Obeying Jesus’ command to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” demonstrates our love for God.

But we cannot do it on our own. We cannot love God in the power of the flesh. We must walk by the Spirit. Then we will not carry out the desire of the flesh (v 16).

When we look at Galatians 5:19-21, we see that the deeds of the flesh are the opposite of loving our neighbor and therefore the opposite of loving God. But, when we walk by the Spirit, our actions are good for everyone around us. And good for us.

Seek Life and Peace

Romans 8:6 gives more incentive to walk in the Spirit. When we set our minds on the things of the Spirit rather than on the things of the flesh, we go from death to life and peace. When we walk in the Spirit every encounter with people can be viewed through the lens of the God’s will and purpose. Every encounter can be one in which we seek to be in peace (Romans 12:18) and one in which we show God’s love. When we walk in the Spirit we won’t see interruptions the same way. We won’t be inclined to become angry at the person who delays our plans for the day. Instead, recognizing God’s sovereignty we consider how this “divine appointment” might be an opportunity to advance God’s kingdom or grow us in our faith.

Romans 8:6 echoes Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount-that the easy road leads to death and destruction but that the hard road leads to life (Matthew 7:13, ESV & RSV). It’s easy for me to tell someone without food or daily bread to “go in peace, be warmed and be filled (James 2:16).” It’s hard to put aside my plans and help them. It’s easy to tell my neighbor to “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow (Proverbs 3:27)”– when I have it with me to give. It’s easy for me to act in this manner when I walk in the flesh. When I walk in the Spirit, I will hear him nudging me– “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him (1 John 3:17)?”

Love’s Implications

Jesus’ commandments to love God and neighbor come with responsibility. His disciples are ambassadors for Christ through whom God makes his appeal for reconciliation to a lost world (2 Corinthians 5:20). Unbelievers know we are Jesus’ disciples, his ambassadors, by our love for one another (John 13:35). Ambassadors in both the ancient and modern world present credentials from their sovereign leader to prove their office. Christian’s love for one another act as credentials from our sovereign God.

Jesus’ commandments to love God and neighbor come with sacrifice. We cannot live out our Christian lives in isolation or indifference.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. — 1 John 3:16-18

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. — John 15:12-13

Jesus’ commandments to love God and neighbor come with a job description. We are disciples who make disciples.

As disciples, we learn and grow in grace and the knowledge of God’s word (2 Peter 3:18). God works in his disciple’s lives to accomplish his will (Philippians 2:13). We can be confident in the promise that God will complete that work which he has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).

As disciple makers, we not only share the gospel but we teach and care for Jesus’ sheep. We do so because we love Jesus (John 21:15-17).

Jesus’ commandments to love God and neighbor come with an assignment. We have heard it many times:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. —Matthew 28:18-20

Our efforts to share the gospel will take us out of our comfort zone. We will have to sacrifice our spare time to love others enough to tell them about Jesus. We may suffer for it. We may even become ambassadors in chains (Ephesians 6:20).

God has given us the privilege of proclaiming to the world the good news of the kingdom of God. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let’s resolve never to leave that privilege to others.

Forgiven, Honored and Empowered Christians

Symbols for no guilt, no shame, no fear

I find it interesting that the gospel message presented in the Western world emphasizes the forgiveness salvation brings to guilty sinners yet in biblical times, people in Israel and surrounding lands lived in cultures that seemed just as concerned about alleviating shame with honor and fear with power (Psalm 44:13–15; Isaiah 54:4).

Consider these three verses of Scripture that address guilt, shame and fear:

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

—Colossians 2:13b–14

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

—Revelation 3:21

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

—Ephesians 6:10–11

Having grown up in Western culture, the first of these three Scriptures (and ones like it) had the most impact on me when I first heard the gospel and started reading the Bible. We live in an individualistic culture where lawbreakers are guilty and wrongs are rectified either by administration of justice or forgiveness.

In my fallen nature, my first instinct is to seek justice for others and mercy for myself. I’m probably not alone. We can relate to a God who judges sin. Once we understand our guilt before God, we desire what we perceive we need most—forgiveness. That may be why the major focus in our gospel presentations is the forgiveness of sins.

My initial exposure to the gospel of grace came in the form of antinomianism. This belief system, meaning “against the law”, placed so much emphasis on grace that its teachers did not expect Christians to necessarily change once they believed in Christ. In contrast, A. W. Tozer wrote that salvation from the consequences of sin without salvation from sin and evil conduct does not satisfy.

He was right. The gospel offers much more.

Guilt, Shame and Fear

After The Fall, Adam and Eve experienced more than guilt. They felt shame so they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. They felt fear so they hid from God. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us that our redemption through Jesus Christ addresses our shame and fear as well as our guilt.

Because our individualistic culture operates within a guilt/innocence construct in which our actions comprise our core problem, we see our greatest need as forgiveness. In honor/shame cultures, honor is associated with belonging to a group in right relationship. Sinful actions may result in expulsion of that person from the group to remove the shame. Thus, the sinner’s greatest felt need is restoration. In fear/power cultures the greatest felt need is power to protect them from evil spirits.

Take a look at these verses that invite belief in Jesus while appealing to three different felt needs resulting from sin:

He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

—Acts 10:42–43

For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe…

—1 Peter 2:6–7a

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

—John 14:1

This last verse is in the context of Jesus telling his disciples he would soon leave them (John 13:33). Jesus comforted them, promising them power to do even greater miracles (John 14:12–14). They would be given the Holy Spirit (John 14:16); they would not be left as orphans, vulnerable to spiritual powers (John 14:18); they would be given peace and told not to be afraid (John 14:27). They would need to remember all of Jesus’ comforting words as the events of the crucifixion unfolded and it seemed Satan had gained the upper hand.

Though our culture may influence how we first perceive our need of a savior, Jesus redeems every Christian fully from all of sin’s effects.

Forgiveness, Honor and Power

Many of the stories in the Bible appeal to our desire for forgiveness, honor or power.

Joseph forgave his brothers who sold him into slavery even though they intended to harm him. Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who crucified him for they did not know what they were doing.

The Prodigal Son was restored from shame to a position of honor.

Jesus restored honor to the outcasts of society, be they lepers, the blind or Gentiles. His miraculous healing and release for the demon-possessed demonstrated his power over demonic forces.

These stories shout to all of humanity—there is hope for you!

Sometimes the solution to guilt, shame and fear (forgiveness, a place of honor, and the power of God) are all addressed in a single verse:

I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

—Acts 26:17b–18

Tozer was right. Only the richness and fullness of our redemption truly satisfies our soul. When we embrace the shame aspect of the gospel, we acknowledge our lost relationship with God and recognize that not only do our actions need forgiveness, but that our brokenness needs restoration to wholeness. Thus the need for sanctification. When we embrace the fear aspect of the gospel, we acknowledge our vulnerability, leading us to a dependence on God’s power.

We are a new creation—declared not guilty with our debt paid; unashamed and given a place of honor in God’s family; empowered to please God instead of appeasing the gods of this world that we fear.

Suggested Reading

This article just skims the surface of these wonderful truths. For an in-depth treatment of the subject, I recommend The 3D Gospel by Jason Georges.













Why Christians Care About Immigration

Letter from US Immigration and two passports

People are on the move. In 2017, approximately 258 million people, or 3.4% of the world’s population, live outside their country of origin. Migrants include legal and illegal immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, guest workers, missionaries, international students and expatriate businessmen.

According to the United Nations 49.8 million migrants reside in the United States. Saudi Arabia, Germany and Russia host around 12 million each while the U.K. hosts about 9 million. In 2017 India had 17 million native born persons living abroad followed by Mexico with 13 million. Other countries with substantial migrant populations living abroad include Russia (11 million), China (10 million), Bangladesh (7 million), Syria (7 million), Pakistan (6 million) and Ukraine (6 million).

Despite the small percentage of people involved worldwide, immigration is a contentious topic. Citizens in wealthy nations, where 2/3 of migrants end up, sometimes feel threatened by an influx of people who bring different values and customs to their land. Some fear immigrants will take their jobs. Resentment that tax dollars go to support immigrants heightens when stories of lawlessness on the part of immigrants surface.

Most of us have heard arguments for and against current U.S. immigration policy. But how closely have we examined migration from a biblical perspective? Do we have confidence that our words about immigration and that our actions toward immigrants conform to God’s will?

Two Christian Views on Immigration

Within the past two weeks I have heard on Christian radio two disparate views on migration.

One program1 featured a talk given by a former U. S. congresswoman in which she portrayed migration as a threat to the survival of Western civilization. She cited as evidence numerous accounts of attacks on western women by immigrant Muslim men. She asserted that many Muslim refugees do not intend to assimilate into Western society, preferring to live in enclaves where sharia law supersedes the law of their host nation. The goal of Muslim immigrants, she claimed, is to establish an Islamic state in their host nation. Furthermore, she says demographics will make such a takeover possible because the Western world has decided to stop having children.

The congresswoman quoted Deuteronomy 32:8 to support her position that moving one nation into another goes against Scripture. She said that God called Abraham out of mankind’s rebellion at Babel to bless the nations by forming a blessed nation (Israel) that other nations must bless rather than curse (Genesis 12:3). She pointed to Matthew 25:31-38 and Joel 3:1-2; 12-14 as evidence that the nations will be judged on how they treat the nation of Israel.

The other radio program2 featured a seminary professor who described migration as part of the human DNA, saying that every country has been built on migration starting with God’s command to go and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). God was the catalyst for worldwide migration in Genesis 11. (Of course, problems arise when people migrate to a place where other people already live.)

He said, “migration is a metaphor for the Christian life” citing 1 Peter 2:11. He made the point that not only should we be a blessing to migrants, but also that migrants bring blessing with them. Migrants can actively bless their new community (Jeremiah 29:4-7). Also, he reminded the audience that immigrants are made in the image of God and that Jesus died for them. They too can rule the earth and they can bring something to their host country.

The professor noted that the Great Commission is a call to migration.

Migration and the Spread of the Gospel

This last observation reminded me of one of the lessons in a course called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. (For those who aren’t familiar with Perspectives, it is a class to help Christians gain biblical, historical, cultural and strategic perspective on Christian mission and become more involved. Some mission organizations require the course.) The lesson shows that historically, the gospel spread both by voluntary and involuntary migration and by migration of Christians and non-Christians.

For example, missionaries, in obedience to the Great Commission, voluntarily migrate to lands where Jesus is not known. Ruth voluntarily migrated to Israel to follow their God. Daniel involuntarily migrated to Babylon where he had significant impact. The Celts and Goths voluntarily migrated to the Roman Empire for spoil and were evangelized. The Vikings took Christian monks as slaves and Christian girls as wives back to their homeland (involuntary migration) where their captives, over time, evangelized them. African slaves involuntarily migrated to North America where many became Christians.

As the above examples demonstrate, man’s wickedness cannot thwart God’s purpose. Christians need not remain passive in sharing the gospel with migrants while we debate whether or not they should migrate.

As you can see, Christians care about immigration for different reasons. This post is an invitation to start a discussion about immigration. I hope readers will share their perspective and experiences so that we, as Christians, can better understand and better formulate our personal response to the migration phenomenon encompassing the globe.

To start the discussion, I have shared some of my thoughts and experiences in a comment on this post. Please share yours.

Why do you care about immigration?


  1. What is God Saying to the Nations?
  2. Christians at the Border,













Have You Experienced the Miraculous?

What have you done for me lately?

This is not a question we should be asking God, but it seems we do. What better explains an inconsistent prayer life? We get excited and thankful when God answers our prayers, certain we will remain connected to our Creator. Then we drift. This comes up, then that. We become too busy, too self-sufficient, too satisfied with life without Him.

We’ve gotten what we want. We don’t have the time or inclination to want what God wants. So we don’t ask. We quit praying.

But, then we need God. Not to accomplish his will, but ours. So we pray.

When I read in Exodus 32 the account of the Israelites worshipping the golden calf they had made, I am astonished at how quickly they forgot all that God had done for them and commanded of them, and how quickly they forgot their promises to obey him. But I shouldn’t be. I sometimes act just like they did.

Now, I haven’t experienced deliverance from slavery because God sent plagues on my enemies. Neither has he led me by a pillar of cloud or fire.

I haven’t witnessed tangible, miraculous events like the Israelites did. Or have I?

Miracles or Providence

Not long ago, I heard a new Christian describe events of her life as miraculous. They didn’t sound miraculous to me, at least not in the sense we normally think of miraculous. Instead they seemed to be instances of Providence. They were improbable circumstances that could not be explained by chance but only by God’s intervention.

But is there really that much difference? The miracles performed in Egypt were obvious. The providential hand of God in the life of Esther was evident only to those aware enough to recognize it.

However, I think the main difference between miracles and providence is frequency, not power. What we usually describe as miracles are events rarely seen that require supernatural intervention and power. Miracles are highly improbable and extraordinary. Providential events, also extraordinary, are often less dramatic and more common. However, they require no less supernatural power.

What could be more powerful than God working together the events and free will choices of us and the people around us (many of which oppose God’s plan) to accomplish His purposes? The Bible, is filled with stories that defy logic, disprove the idea of coincidence and prove God’s providential care of his creation. Yet, when we examine our own lives we discover that God has exhibited this same power.

If we want to avoid idolatry we must do more than recognize God’s demonstrations of power in our lives. We must remember them, rejecting fear and worry. We must pray, believing God will always do what he has promised.

As Christians we have witnessed the miraculous working of God in our lives. If we pray “Thy Will Be Done” and serve God’s interests over our own, we will witness even more.


How Important Is Christian Stewardship?

offering box for stewardship

Most Christians would probably agree that stewardship of our money is an important aspect of our faith. But if we merely nod our head in agreement without taking demonstrable action, we may be in grave danger.

John Wesley proposed four questions about how to spend money. These questions are as pertinent today as in Wesley’s time (1703-1791).

The four questions are:

  1. In spending this money, am I acting like I owned it, or am I acting like the Lord’s trustee?
  2. What Scripture requires me to spend this money in this way?
  3. Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord?
  4. Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the just?

Wired from birth to think of things as belonging to us, we instinctively want to protect “our things” from others. A young child will cry out “That’s mine!”  if he discovers a sibling playing with his toys. As adults we speak of how we earn what we have. With this perception of ownership, spending money becomes a right instead of a privilege and giving money becomes a burden rather than a joy. The Bible gives us the proper perspective – “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1)

Ownership and stewardship differ in one important aspect. Ownership entitles a person to decide how he uses his wealth; he answers to no one. A steward acts on behalf of the owner and at his direction. In either case property must be protected from theft.

In regard to Wesley’s first question, when we act as if we own our money we don’t protect it from theft so that we can use it for God’s purposes. Instead we protect it from being used for God’s purposes so that we can use it for our purposes. But the Bible proclaims that in doing so we become the thief. We rob God (Malachi 3:8) and place ourselves in danger of losing our life because we are not rich toward God (Luke 12:20). In contrast, when we act as his steward we store our treasure in heaven where the thief cannot steal it (Matthew 6:20). We are able to live life unshackled from worry (Matthew 6:31-34).

Wesley’s second question addresses God’s right, as owner, to direct how we spend our money. For example, he expects us to provide food, clothing and shelter for ourselves and for those depending on us. He also expects us to help the widow and orphan. He expects us to use our resources to spread the gospel. We can find many other commands in the Bible to guide us in our stewardship.

Wesley’s third question helps us prioritize our spending. When we act like we own our money, God gets our leftovers. We sacrifice not at all having already purchased what we wanted. When we act like a steward of God’s money, we give him the first fruits trusting him to provide our needs. If we don’t give this serious thought we will, by default, spend money on luxuries that God intended us to spend on furthering his kingdom. God gives his children good gifts to enjoy, but not everything he gives us is for our personal use.

The fourth question, emphasizes why, from an eternal perspective, it is important that we be good stewards. Having an “owner” mentality, unwilling to use money as God directs, results in eternal judgment (Matthew 25:30). Stewards get rewarded in eternity. When we faithfully steward God’s resources wisely, we share our master’s happiness forever (Matthew 25:23).

It is important to emphasize we are not saved by our stewardship. But how we spend our time and money is evidence at the last judgment that proves or disproves the genuineness of our professed faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We spend our money on what we value. Good stewardship directs resources to advance the kingdom of God, thus showing faith in and love for the King (Matthew 25:31-40).

Wesley set a high standard consistent with the Bible. To seek God’s will so that every expenditure accomplishes his purpose is a concept foreign to Christians enchanted with Western individualism. Conforming to a society that opposes freedom to do God’s will in favor of a freedom designed to shield us from God’s will, results in our harm. Those who give nothing of their time and money to further God’s kingdom can expect to be among the goats, assigned to eternal punishment at the last judgment (Matthew 25:30; 25:41-46).




When the Task Seems Too Hard

street in coloocan

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, 
 too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; 
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, 
your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:5-10


When God Hems You In – Rejoice In His Presence

Have you taken note of God’s presence and his leading wherever you go? Can you echo the thoughts David expressed in Psalm 139?

When I am on vacation I don’t usually seek out a local church to attend, but instead read my Bible. I probably have missed out on a lot because, as essential as reading the Bible is, God seems to delight in speaking to me through other Christians. When I have gone on short-term missions trips or have spent extended time away from home and do attend church, I have discovered that God doesn’t miss a beat. Either the sermon picks up where my home church pastor’s last sermon left off or the sermon is extremely timely and relevant for my life in a different way.

Such was the case last November while visiting my wife’s family in Coloocan, Philippines. We walked with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law to a service at their local church situated among houses in a residential neighborhood. The church, with a flat metal roof, would probably escape your notice should you drive by it on a weekday morning. Open on three sides, with numerous fans to keep churchgoers reasonably comfortable in the tropical heat, contemporary Christian songs rang out into the neighborhood to be heard by believer and unbeliever alike. Here, thousands of miles from home, a message prepared for the benefit of others encouraged and strengthened me just when I needed it most.

A Little Background

Have you read testimonies of people who were content with success as the world defines it only to be compelled by God to quit their job and embark on a different path? Perhaps you have experienced such a dramatic life change yourself. As I sat down in church that Sunday, it had been over two years since I quit my job in obedience to God’s calling yet I had not finished the work God had placed before me. I was beginning to think I would never finish. Sometimes I even entertained the thought that I had misunderstood God and had taken a wrong turn. In this context, God met me on the far side of the sea and spoke to me through one of his servants.

The Message

The sermon that Sunday was a forward look into 2016, acknowledging the evil times we are in while encouraging the congregation to exhibit the kind of obedience and perseverance that Noah did. In the sermon, the pastor made some observations about Noah that were apropos to our times and to my situation. (I have placed quotation marks around his comments below).

“Noah lived in the midst of evil.” Noah was 600 years old when the floodwaters came making him 480 years old when God declared his drop-dead date for humanity (Genesis 6:3; 7:6). Imagine how long Noah must have lived in a world full of violence (Genesis 6:11). Noah lived blamelessly among wicked people for possibly hundreds of years before God spoke to him and then Noah obediently built an ark over a span of decades believing God would bring about an event that defied probability. By comparison, my task and the obstacles I faced were miniscule. Why should I be discouraged?

“Noah warned his neighbors about things not yet seen.” I felt God’s hand hemming me in as the pastor spoke these words. Though not the primary reason for quitting my job, a call to warn others about things not yet seen provided the impetus to write my book. In this moment, God’s guiding hand did not feel heavy or burdensome – it felt exciting, as if the only misstep I could take would be to remain silent.

“Noah was obedient to a hard task appointed to him.” Now, as I listened, I felt convicted. I wanted to give up when the going got really tough. Or, take the easiest path forward. Writing the book was not easy, but getting it published was more daunting as it meant developing skills I didn’t care to learn or utilize. “A man of faith is a man of action.” Ouch! Inaction, procrastination and complaining had to stop. I had to press on.

“God remembered Noah and he will remember you.” I love promises, especially when combined with the conviction that God is ever-present and guiding me. He will remember to provide what I need and he will enable me to complete the task he has given me.

“God is always on time.” God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and his ways are not my ways. I must trust him.

Held Fast In God’s Hand

Even now as I recall this message, in the midst of the temptation to once again shrink back from the task ahead, God’s call compels me to persevere in obedience.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. Hebrews 11:7

God still gives his people hard tasks. Some are unique; some are common. In some cases our obedience will benefit many people; sometimes it only affects one person. In either case, when God guides us, when he hems us in – it is wondrous. Proceed in awe and with a holy fear for you are in the hand of Almighty God!

The Saddest Words of All

In John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem Maud Muller, a poor maiden and a rich judge, upon a happenstance meeting, imagine how different and better their lives would be if they left their own situations and lived like the other.  But their chance meeting was soon over, with neither having voiced their imaginations, as the judge closed his heart knowing his family would oppose him accepting a lower station in life.

He married rich; she married poor.  Years later, each recalled their youthful dream in an effort to escape the reality of their lives – the judge to escape the chains of responsibility and riches, the maiden to escape the drudgery of ordinariness and poverty.  The poem’s narrator concludes:

God pity them both! And pity us all,

Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.


For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Salvation Is Not Accomplished Via a Do Over

It’s no wonder that stories of time travel are so popular.  They represent a universal desire to be able to fix the past thereby erasing both the consequences of our decisions and the resulting regret.  In these stories, missed opportunities need no longer cause us sorrow as a second chance is offered. In them, the consequences of sin and evil are removed or altered via a sort of cosmic “do over.”

Time travel stories are appealing because in our imaginations we identify with a protagonist armed with knowledge of the future, pursuing a noble cause and having sufficient power to accomplish his purpose.  But these stories are vastly inferior to the real story unfolding throughout history.  They are vastly inferior to God’s story in which sinful people are redeemed and not merely rescued from the consequences of past actions.

Feelings of Regret Are a Poor Substitute for Thankfulness for Providence

And this is why words of regret are so sad. Regret searches for relief from our circumstances by dreaming of an alternate reality, one that might have been but cannot be. They are sad because they reveal a lack of understanding of God’s plan and his Providence. Surely we grieve and regret our sins against God that harm others and ourselves, but the Christian has the healing balm of forgiveness in his arsenal. Regret extended far beyond repentance and forgiveness paralyses us, preventing us from moving forward and assuring us of further failure.

Words of regret are sad because they don’t recognize and appreciate what God has given us.  They blind us to God’s redemptive and sanctifying work. Words of regret reveal a lack of contentment and they block our path to resting in Jesus.

We are tempted to kick ourselves over lost opportunity, but that only perpetuates the problem. Fretting over lost opportunities clouds our vision of God’s providence in the past and for the future. God is sovereign over our missed opportunities as surely as he is sovereign over those we capitalize on. He is in the business of making everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He is a God of second chances, but not of the sort imagined in time travel tales. God is in the business of making things new (Revelation 21:5).

There Is No Greater Contrast Than That Between Regret and Salvation

One should not presume there will always be a second chance or a better opportunity when it comes to faith in Christ.  Today is the day of salvation.  Dying having missed the opportunity to believe in Christ results in the greatest regret of all, one that lasts for eternity.

For Christians, our sorrow over sin brings repentance that leads to a salvation without regret (2 Corinthians 7:10).  Let’s encourage one another to forget what lies behind and press on toward our heavenly calling (Philippians 3:13).


When Fragile Hearts Break

The human heart is fragile. It can be broken and crushed (Psalm 147:3). This same fragile heart is the one with which we are to love God passionately along with our mind and soul and strength (Luke 10:27). The fact that God “inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal (Job 5:18)” makes this conundrum even more baffling.

This is the dilemma that Naomi faced as she journeyed from Moab back to Judah. It didn’t get any worse in Israel than to be a childless widow past the age of childbearing in that male-dominated society. Her hope in God was tempered by the reality she faced. Her heart had been broken and her spirit crushed. Unable to protect and provide for Orpah and Ruth, she bid them return to Moab where God might show kindness to them. But Ruth remained with Naomi.

Naomi left Bethlehem with a husband and two sons but returned without them. She left Bethlehem full but returned empty. She left Bethlehem with a pleasant heart consistent with her name Naomi, but returned with an embittered heart and a desire to be called Mara. Naomi was sure that God’s hand had gone out against her; He had afflicted her and brought misfortune upon her. (See Ruth Chapter 1)

She knew this was God’s doing.

Isn’t God’s Providence Supposed to Be a Good Thing?

Intellectually we may know that God causes all things to work for our good, but our hearts struggle to see God’s goodness in the midst of suffering. Unable to see the end from the beginning, we focus on the loss and the pain we experience and perhaps, like Naomi, become embittered.

When God withdraws his mercies, it is a reminder that they are his mercies. The bad times are in his hands as well as the good. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10) Our fiery trials are not unusual; God has a good purpose in them (1 Peter 4:12,13).

What Naomi didn’t know was what lay ahead. Was it more trouble or God’s mercy1? Did she hold a glimmer of hope that God would extend his mercy he was showing to Israel to her (Ruth 1:6)?

When Do We Move and When Should We Stand Still?

God did not despise Naomi’s broken heart and he doesn’t despise yours or mine (Psalm 51:17). But sometimes, just when it seems we are in the midst of deliverance; God gives us another trial. What are we to do when this happens?

Recall the Israelite’s Exodus from Egypt. God hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he would pursue them. Suddenly, as the Israelites camped by the sea, they became fearful as Pharaoh’s army approached. They forgot about God’s Providence, the miracles he had performed and the promises he had made. What were they to do? Moses told them to stand still. The Lord would fight for them and deliver them and bring glory to himself.

In his providence, God does expect his people to act, but there comes a point when we must be still and let him deliver us. He expected the Israelites to slaughter a lamb and place blood on the door frames of their houses but it was the Lord who passed over their houses (Exodus 12:27). He expected them to ask for gold, silver and clothing from the Egyptians but it was the Lord who made them favorably disposed to give it to them (Exodus 12:36).   God expected the Israelites to leave Egypt and camp by the sea but it was there that God would bring final deliverance from the Egyptians (Exodus 14:13-14).

It wasn’t yet time for Naomi to stand still before God; she had a journey to make. She chose to act on the news that the Lord had come to the aid of his people and return to Bethlehem.  “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).  What would God do with Naomi’s broken heart?


  1. Of course, trials and suffering could be considered a form of mercy if they protect us from straying from God. However, the Psalmists typically view mercy as an alleviation of suffering, even if the suffering is the result of one’s own sin.

Rejoicing, Not Boasting, Is the Key to Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself


(Introductory note – This post is an adaptation of the “theological reflection” section of a paper I wrote years ago for a seminary class.  Since it represents my personal interaction with Scripture, it is written almost entirely in first person form.)

Saving faith changes the way I think and act. It has to. I am not the same person I was before I was born again. Romans 5-7 clearly delineates for me the difference in my spiritual condition before and after salvation. As an unbeliever, I was an enemy of God, under condemnation of death, a slave to sin, and powerless to escape from this predicament. As a believer, because of the work of Jesus Christ, I am reconciled to God, stand in a state of grace, have been justified, have eternal life, and am now a slave to righteousness. Though I will never be free from sin in this mortal body, God is working in my life, empowering me by the Holy Spirit to act as one dead to sin.

There is a oneness to humanity that I haven’t always understood or fully appreciated.  This is partly because American Christianity focuses on individuality. While it is true that each individual is accountable for his or her response to “what think ye of Christ?”, realizing my connectedness to Adam and the whole of humanity can change how I perceive my fellow humans. My attitude toward certain unbelievers sometimes reveals a disdain that is undeserved, at least when it comes from me. Despite knowing that my salvation is from God and is not by my own efforts, I sometimes, in uncaring fashion, expect an unbeliever who has never been liberated by a new birth in Christ to somehow, on his own, think like I do.

Unbelievers are not in a state from which I escaped, they are in a state from which God has rescued me. Similarly, oneness in Christ is often viewed among Christians only as our “personal relationship with Christ” without giving due consideration to our unity as a body of believers saved by grace, being changed by God.

How can identifying with both lost and saved humanity produce joy in the midst of the suffering I encounter at the hands of others? How can I love God and my neighbor?

It’s not wrong to long for a world without sin – it will come in the eschaton (2 Corinthians 5:1-5), but when I expect the present world to be a certain way rather than how it actually is, I am questioning God’s timing and his ways. He will make things right. He is the only one who can make things as they “ought to be.”  The unbeliever’s need for God is the same as my need for him even though he hasn’t acknowledged it. Other Christians’ struggles, though not identical, are basically the same as my own. I must accept the plight of humanity of which I am a part, and I must look to God as my hope and theirs.

Joy comes in the midst of suffering for doing good precisely because God is testing me and purifying me and by these means is accomplishing what I so long for – to be rid of my sin and to be able to rejoice at the revelation of Christ’s glory (see 1 Peter 4:12-19; Philippians 1:6). Trials are a sort of “stamp of approval” by God who is declaring through them – you are mine, I am preparing you for my kingdom (Hebrews 12:6,7,10).

The fact that “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see” should bring joy to my heart, not disdain for the unbeliever. I have a different standing before God and a different destiny than the unbeliever, not a different origin. Empathizing with the lost reminds me from where God has redeemed me and motivates me to reach out to them with the gospel. Identifying with his elect reminds me of where he is leading me and what he is accomplishing in me. I have no reason to boast or complain and every reason to rejoice.

My wishing for a better world won’t change it, my wanting professing Christians to behave at a higher standard than non-Christians won’t change the fact that they often don’t, and my desire to be free from being “the wretched man that I am” won’t cause it to happen.  Only God is able to open my eyes to the truth and change me and my view of life – and, thanks be to God, he is.



Christian Journaling: Seeing God’s Providence In Your Own Words

Are you ever surprised by how quickly you forget what God has done for you or what he expects of you? I am not just referring to something you heard in a sermon you thought was interesting. It could be something that touched you so deeply that, at the time, you would never believe you would forget it or fail to act on it. But you did.

You are not alone.

I keep a journal because it helps me remember. When I am hurting it helps me remember God’s tender mercies in times past. When I seek God’s leading, journaling helps me see step by step the path he has guided me on to get to the place I am now.  Or it shows me where I took a wrong turn. It helps me recognize all the providential care through the years so that I don’t doubt his providence in the present moment. When I am discouraged, it reminds me of God’s consistent instruction and grace. My complaining is stopped dead in its tracks by reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

If only I was more consistent. Just this morning I opened my 2016 journal to discover that I hadn’t entered anything for nearly a month. It showed  For the past week I have been discouraged, complaining, anxious, impatient, not wanting to follow through with God’s clear leading. I have been somewhat apathetic about listening to Jesus. Of course, the reason is not because I didn’t journal, but because I didn’t remember to obey. I didn’t remember what God had told me through reading the Bible, reading devotionals, listening to sermons or any of the other means he uses. But there they were in my recent journal entries, staring me in the face – rebukes and encouragements addressing each of these attitudes. I couldn’t help but be simultaneously ashamed of my forgetfulness and amazed and encouraged by God’s love, mercy and providence.

Characteristics of a Christian Journal

What makes Christians’ journals different?  I believe that our journals should say more about God than they say about ourselves. A journal can stand as a witness to God’s faithfulness, his leading, his love, his presence, and his redemptive power in our life. And you and I need such a witness because we are prone to forget.

I keep a journal because, when God speaks to me, I really don’t want to forget what he says. I don’t want to forget what he has done. My journal helps me remember answers to prayer. It helps me remember with concrete examples that God does what he promises. It helps me remember God amid distraction or turmoil.

Seeing God in the Details of Our Lives

God never leaves us or forsakes us. But sometimes we don’t recognize his providential hand until we look back and see a sequence of events that can only be explained by divine intervention. The book of Esther shouts God’s name without mentioning it because the story could only be the result of God’s working. Your story and mine can only be explained by God’s providence. Nothing happens by chance.

That is where journaling comes in. Journaling is not a replacement for reading the Bible. It does not replace meditating on God’s Word, prayer, fasting, or memorizing Scripture. But it sure is a great way to recognize and remember God’s providence. Journaling helps us see God in the details of our lives.

I am not encouraging anyone to journal so they can make decisions based on their circumstances but, instead, to journal to help them recognize and follow God’s consistent leading. Opportunity is not synonymous with God’s will. I once had an opportunity to continue down a path of secure and comfortable prosperity but God clearly wanted me to trust him instead of money. Had my focus been on circumstances and opportunity instead of listening to God I would have made the wrong choice.

You may be surrounded by great winds of political upheaval, by economic earthquakes or by the fires of war yet God does not speak to you through them (see 1 Kings 19:11-13). But there may be a gentle whisper in a sermon here, a devotional there, the rebuke or encouragement of a friend or an answered prayer that all contain the same message for you from God. Write them down so you don’t forget. Write them down so you can see that these events cannot be explained by coincidence but only by God’s providence. Then act on God’s leading. Do what you know to do.

Journaling Tips

Journaling may not be for everyone. But, if you don’t journal and are prone to forget what you would otherwise remember had you written it down, maybe you should give it a go. As you journal, pay particular attention to answers to prayer. How often you write in your journal is a matter of personal preference.  However, avoid writing just to be writing or failing to record something you know God wants you to remember. Having too much in your journal will make it hard to profitably review. Having too little defeats the journal’s purpose.

If you already journal, please share with a comment how it has influenced your walk with Jesus.


Five Mistakes to Avoid When Seeking God’s Will for Your Life

Fork in the road which way is God calling you

Christians naturally want to know what God’s will is for them. However, when the focus of this question is on vocation rather than following Jesus, we are liable to get sidetracked.

Here are five common mistakes that Christians make when trying to discern and pursue God’s will for their life:

1) Looking in all the wrong places.

I believe this is far and away the biggest mistake we can make. We attend conferences, workshops or even pay an exorbitant fee for testing so that a “life planner” can lead us to the Promised Land of vocational fulfillment. (I have done this.)  We get off course because we haven’t seriously considered the most obvious way God communicates his will to us – through reading the Bible.

God expects us to discern his will (Romans 12:1,2; Ephesians 5:15-17). Furthermore, he tells us where to look (2 Timothy 3:16,17; Psalm 119:105). The Bible is filled with commands telling us what we should be doing and not doing. And the thing is, most Christians know what these are, but are looking instead for something with more pizzazz, something that relates to the “9 to 5 world” rather than to one’s entire life.

The best advice I ever heard on the subject of God’s leading is not complicated. It is short, sweet and to the point – Do what you know to do.

2) Ruling out our present situation as a calling.

We are sure we are missing our true calling. There could be a number of reasons we feel this way, but one reason might be that we don’t think becoming more like Jesus is a calling. It is.

Do what you know to do. Obey God. Act on the convictions of the Holy Spirit. As far as vocation goes, yours may not be anything out of the ordinary. But if it is what God wants you to do, then don’t waste time looking for something else. As the saying goes, bloom where you are planted.

3) Being too content with the status quo.

The flip side of mistake # 2 is to waste your time because you know God wants you to do something different, yet you resist. You feel comfortable and secure in your present situation. But it may be that you are just comfortable and secure in your sin. It is likely that one reason God has called you to something different is to move you into a place where you will trust him, a place out of your comfort zone, away from your idols to a place where you will become more like Jesus.

4) Pursuing a calling of your own making.

This happens whenever you don’t consult God at all (James 4:4). This goes one step beyond mistake #2. Perhaps because you have underestimated how important sanctification is, you have moved on to a place God has not asked you to go. And you still aren’t growing in your faith in the new endeavor.

5) Losing confidence in a clear calling from God.

This is a situation very unlike the others. Here you have obeyed God’s call for a specific task but what he asked you to do has not yet been accomplished even though years may have passed. The mistake is to doubt the calling instead of looking for confirmation of it. Remember where God has brought you, trusting his faithfulness. Stay the course. God will provide what you need.

Let’s be honest. Most of us are aware of a sin of commission or a sin of omission that God wants us to remove from our life, but sadly, for many of us, eliminating it is not high on our list of priorities. Following Jesus requires us to change our priorities to match God’s (Matthew 16:23). However you phrase it – to be holy because Jesus is holy (1 Peter 1:15,16), to be presented perfect in Christ (Colossians 1:28), to crucify the sinful nature (Galatians 5:24), to attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13), or sanctification, – your unique calling as a Christian is to be conformed to the image of Christ with ever-increasing glory and it is God’s plan and priority for your life (2 Cor. 3:18).

God sometimes asks people to do something out of the ordinary. But, most of us will live quiet lives out of public view. It doesn’t mean your calling isn’t important to God or leads to any less glory.

A Watch In the Night

watch in the night, Garapan

A thousand years in your sight
 are like a day that has just gone by,
 or like a watch in the night. Ps. 90:4

I remember my concept of time when I was a child. It went by slowly. On my seventh birthday my present was a fishing rod and tackle box ordered from the Sears catalog. (Remember those?) Every day I watched for the mailman hoping he would bring my package. It took six weeks to arrive. To me, it seemed like an eternity.

As a young child, I liked to think that it would be a long time before I would die. My grandparents and other “old” relatives were in their’ sixties and still very much alive and well. Sixty years seemed like a very long time to a boy still in his first decade of life.

Does time still seem to go by slowly for me now that nearly six decades have passed?

Not so much.

It’s going by at warp speed. Sometimes when there is a remembrance on television of an event that happened twenty years ago, I am stunned because it seems like the event happened only a few years ago. I once reminisced with a younger co-worker only to have him kindly remind me that he couldn’t relate because he hadn’t been born yet. It just didn’t seem that long ago to me.

I am beginning to understand what the Bible means when it says life is but a vapor.

However, coming to the realization that life is short doesn’t mean that time always goes by quickly. Our circumstances may be so unpleasant that time seems to stand still. We may cry out “How Long O Lord” when he is slow to bring justice1 or when it feels like God, distant and deaf to our cries, has forgotten us.2

It is especially during times of suffering and despair that we need perspective. We need to think about the fleeting nature of our lives. We need to be reminded to look forward to a glorious future with Jesus that is really not that far away when compared to eternity.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.    2 Corinthians 4:17

Viewed from the perspective of our temporal lives, our suffering is oftentimes anything but light and momentary. Our suffering is in the here-and-now. Eternal realities may seem dim, unable to be grasped. When we suffer a significant loss, especially for the first time, we wonder if the grief and sorrow will ever abate.  Yet we know that our Redeemer lives.  We have hope.

How should we live knowing that our present life is like a watch in the night compared to eternity?
All of us will one day enter eternity. One should not presume when that will be, like I did as a child.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15 NKJV3

Making presumptions, apart from God’s will, about how long we will live or what we will be doing is childish.   Worse still, it is foolish and prideful. When we go our own way and choose friendship with the world we demonstrate hatred toward God. God wants us to forsake our double-mindedness. He wants us to humble ourselves and submit to him; then he will give us grace and lift us up. (See James 4:4-10)

For the unbeliever, denying life’s brevity or adopting a “you only live once” mentality leaves them in a precarious position.  Their suffering won’t be relieved in eternity.  The here-and-now is as good as it gets for them and completing their bucket list won’t come close to offsetting an eternity filled with torment.  We must warn them.  We must warn them that this life is not all there is; eternity awaits.  We must warn them they will be punished with everlasting destruction for not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus.4 We must warn them now and not be deceived into thinking that there will always be another day to tell them.

God has given us enough time. We should use it wisely.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Ephesians 5:15-17

Our life may be a vapor when compared to eternity, but God gives us enough time to find out what pleases the Lord and then he gives us enough time to do it, provided we make the most of every opportunity. It is possible to waste our life satisfying foolish desires.

The apostle Peter offers some ways we can use our time wisely:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:7-10

If we are not spending time with other Christians, praying for them, loving them and serving them, then we are not using our time wisely. It is not God’s will that we live isolated from those he calls us to serve. To not use our spiritual gifts is more than a tragedy of disobedience; it is a denial of the truth that God has prepared, in advance, good works for us to do.5

We should trust God in the midst of our troubled world because he will fulfill his promises. His timing is perfect.

God is not slow in keeping his promises;6 it just seems that way to us. God’s plans are perfect. Our understanding of them is not.  God will keep his promises to you and me.  He will keep them through good times and bad.  Some we will see fulfilled in this life, others in the next.  Should we live long enough to see the end of days with all of its tribulation we must remember that God sent his Son in the fullness of time7 and that Jesus will return at the perfect time.

We should fix our eyes on what is unseen and not lose heart.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Let us throw off the temporal perspective that hinders us from running the race God has marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.8

Our lives are but a watch in the night. In the morning that follows we will behold the beauty of the Lord. Forever! Let’s live like we believe it.



  1. See Psalm 35:10-18; Revelation 6:10
  2. See Habakkuk 1:2; Psalm 13:1
  3. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
  4. See 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9
  5. See Ephesians 2:10
  6. See 2 Peter 3:9
  7. See Galatians 4:4
  8. See Hebrews 12:1,3


A Comfort Beyond Measure

My times are in God’s hand.  I find great comfort in this fact particularly because of three things that are true about God – he is good, he is omniscient and he is omnipotent.  If he is not good, I have every reason to fear his sovereign power.  If he is not omniscient, then his plans might be misguided or have unintended consequences.  If he is not omnipotent, then he is unable to do all that he has promised and my times are not really in his hands.

Evil and God’s Will

This is especially important when confronted with trials or threatened by evil.  God’s providential care is a rock that believers have anchored their faith to for centuries.  However, God’s providential care is in jeopardy if sinful creatures’ actions are outside of his will.

But this is exactly what I have heard some Christians say.  Attempting to defend God’s goodness and armed with the knowledge that God is not the author of sin, they say that it is not God’s will when evil befalls us.  Not only does this contradict Scripture, but I don’t see how it is comforting to diminish the power of the One we are counting on to deliver us from evil.

In fairness to those who make such a statement, most are probably not trying to imply that our freedom to choose is on a par with God’s sovereignty, but it might sound that way to the seeker or to a new believer.  If human freedom holds such power, then all that goes on around us in this fallen world is a threat to us.  On the contrary, according to the Bible, God’s sovereign control of his creation is not threatened by the free will choices of his creatures.

I think the problem arises when we try to define a good God as one who does not allow evil that he has the power to prevent.  This is not the definition used in the Bible which proclaims repeatedly that God is good despite the fact that he allows evil as part of his will.  We need look no farther than the book of Job or Jesus’ crucifixion to see that God’s plan and his will include suffering and evil that he could prevent if he wanted to.  How else could Jesus say of his impending crucifixion – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”?

God is not the Author of Evil

Certainly God is not the author of evil.  Just as certainly, though, God is not wringing his hands wondering what to do when it occurs.  An inclination to defend God’s goodness may stem from a misconception of all that omnipotence entails.  Consider this from Millard Erickson:

We must recognize here the amazing nature of divine omnipotence.  If God were great and powerful, but not all-powerful, he would have to originate everything directly, or he would lose control of the situation and be unable to accomplish his ultimate purposes.  But our omnipotent God is able to allow evil men to do their very worst, and still he accomplishes his purposes. (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, Copyright 1983, 1984, 1985, Baker Book House Company, p 400)

So, when we claim anything is not part of God’s will, especially evil, we are actually making the point we are trying to avoid – that we cannot know with certainty that God can protect us (should he so choose) from the evil free will choices of his creatures.  We have placed a limit on his omnipotence, one that is not warranted by Scripture.

Our Comfort Requires God’s Total Sovereignty

But you might protest and say that God is able to turn the evil intent of sinners into something good as he did with Joseph (Genesis 50:20) and certainly with Jesus (Acts 2:36).  There is a problem with this idea that God’s sovereignty as it relates to evil is reactive rather than proactive:

“… some will simply say that all Romans 8:28 means is that God will turn this evil thing, a thing that he could not help from happening, into some sort of good for us.  They present a God suddenly sovereign enough to reverse the situation, a situation he wasn’t sovereign enough to stop in the first place.” (Dave Zuleger, Desiring God, Can a Good God Bring Pain)

I don’t find much comfort in the providential care of a God who is a part-time, semi-sovereign deity.  There is no guarantee that the creation will not spin out of control with evil getting the upper hand creating a situation too dire for God to fix.

God’s plan is not an afterthought or a work in progress.  When I am in the midst of a trial I don’t find comfort in the fact that God is smart enough to come up with a plan B that just might work.  I find comfort in the fact that God has been working all things together for good – from the beginning of time.

Everlasting arms that do not grow weary of holding me, hands from which no one can snatch me, a love that endures forever, goodness that leads me to repentance and a mind that knows the end from the beginning are good enough for me. They all come together in a wondrous providence that is a comfort beyond measure.

The Love of Many Will Grow Cold

cold winter scene

I feel it sometimes. Cold, heartless evil.  It’s all around. It’s dark and ugly. It’s chill penetrates to the bone.  I felt the cold when I heard of the murder of twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I feel it when I read about ISIS beheading and crucifying Christians. The darkness draws close with countless other events reported on the nightly news.

We all feel the cold.  Most of us will never experience it like the parents of those twenty children killed at Sandy Hook. Nor will we feel it like young children caught in the nefarious web of sex trafficking.  But it is palpable nonetheless.

If we aren’t careful, this cold will penetrate our own hearts and disable our love.  Perhaps it already has.  I am not suggesting we will commit some horrible, evil act.  But, as lawlessness increases, we can easily let fear reduce our compassion and acts of kindness to a level that is almost undetectable.

It is prudent to avoid dangerous situations, but our fear might cause us to choose our ministry based on risk level rather than on what God is prompting us to do.  We choose something safe. When we do, it may be that our love has already started to grow cold.

When the aids crisis was at its peak, many of us, myself included, were afraid to minister to those afflicted.  The thought of being a part of an inner city or prison ministry is terrifying to many Christians.  Now, with muslim refugees among us, many will be afraid to reach out to them.

Years ago I sat in the Latin American Missions guest house in San Jose, Costa Rica with ten career missionaries listening to stories and discussing various topics.  One man asked this question – who has been robbed at gunpoint in San Jose?  I (the sole member of the group who wasn’t a career missionary) and a young missionary who had been in San Jose for just a few months were the only ones in the room who hadn’t.  What if these missionaries and thousands like them had let fear of real danger cause their love to grow cold?

What if the apostle Paul, for whom seemingly nowhere was safe (2 Cor. 11:23-33), had let his love grow cold?

I have noticed a recurring theme whenever I feel afraid of the evil that is around me.  I have usually forgotten God, his promises and his providential care.

It’s not that evil will never harm us if we are God’s children; the Bible affirms that God allows suffering in our lives.  But God and Satan have different goals in suffering.  God wants to strengthen our faith.  Satan wants to destroy it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:7-11

Fear and love are incompatible.  Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:15) So what gives?  How is it that we are fearless one moment, resting in God’s love, and in the next full of dread and worry?  Perhaps it is because somehow we equate suffering with a failure of God to keep his part of a bargain we imagine he has made with us.

What is the proper response of the Christian to the evil around us?  Yes, we must protect ourselves and loved ones from evil as best we can.  Among the wolves we must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  (Mt. 10:16) But we should not succumb to fearing what evil men do.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:28-33

What if we simply took Jesus at his word and chose to obey him?  What if we stopped worrying about the evil in the world and instead found God’s peace through prayer and by thinking about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable (Philippians 4) resisting the devil’s attempts to convince us to do otherwise?

We would lessen the risk of our love growing cold.  We would be freer to store up treasure in heaven instead of treasure on earth.  We would be freer to love our fellow Christians, spread the gospel, love our enemies, go the extra mile and help the man beaten and robbed lying on the side of the road.

In times of tribulation, there are two kinds of people.  There are those whose love grows cold and those who stand firm in their faith.  Those who persevere in their faith will be eternally saved. (Mt. 24:12-13) God intends for his elect to persevere. He who began a good work in you will complete it. (Phil. 1:6)  Be encouraged by this truth.

As lawlessness and persecution increase and as we see the Day approaching, let us hold fast to our faith and spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  (Hebrews 10:23-25)