June 2021

seeing eye dog

Why is God Hard to See?

“Daddy, if God loves us, why does He hide?” I asked my dad when I was young. I don’t remember Dad’s answer but, knowing him, he gave me a thorough, accurate, and theologically correct answer. But, sometimes, we don’t need an expansive answer articulated to us. Instead, we need something we can grab on and cling to for dear life.

Of course, the answer we receive must be theologically sound doctrine; that’s a given. But the words used, and their presentation can be vital when tossed as a life preserver to a brother or sister that feels their strength waning and satan’s imps pulling on our feet. To understand God’s Words, we must first hear them interpreted by the Holy Spirit.

I don’t remember Dad’s answer, but I knew I needed the correct answer to my question: “Why is God hard to see?”

By faith, not by sight

Why does God appear to be hiding? Oh, when I look at His creation, I see the handiwork of God. His work testifies to His existence. And when I see a newborn baby, and I’ve seen a lot of them, I am humbled by God’s gift of life. And when I sit at the bedside of a saint of God passing from this life of trials and turmoil and entering the presence of God, I see the unspeakable grace of God to His children. So, for years I was baffled by God’s propensity to remain in in the periphery of my sight.

Why, oh God, maker of heaven and earth, the establisher of kings and kingdoms, the Great I AM, why do You make it so difficult for us to see you?

God’s answer is simple. Jesus told His apostle Thomas the reason. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) God gives a special blessing to all of us that believed Christ’s Gospel without seeing God.

It’s a matter of trust

From Genesis all the way to the end of the book of Revelation, three things that God continually offers to people: repentance, saving faith, and the promise to never be abandoned.  Yet most people reject God and become hard hearted. Salvation is a matter of trust in the perfect work of Jesus. This is rejected by most, but God’s desire is that all would come unto repentance:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

So, why is God hard to see?  God can’t be seen. Our entrance into His kingdom is only available by grace, through faith, which is a work of God. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.(Matthew 7:14)

It is out of God’s love that He has made faith the device for us to not only see Him, but to be received by Him.

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

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camp site with a log fire

Where God Guides, He Provides

Now you may know this, but an obedient teacher brings out old and new treasures (Matthew 13:52), so hang with me on this post.

God’s provision

A nugget of truth that I’ve heard and experienced countless times is this: Where God guides, He provides. The history of the Church bears this out. Undoubtedly, the best example of this truth is found in the life of baby Jesus.

Before Jesus was two years old, God sent magi (wise men) from the east to worship Jesus and to shower Him in material blessings.

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. – Matthew 2:11-12

Why did Christ’s family need all this stuff? Later, during Christ’s ministry, He told a “would-be” disciple, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Did Jesus squander His wealth? No, of course not. So, what happened to the gold and frankincense and myrrh?

As you remember, king Herod was determined to kill Jesus. So, an angel of the Lord told Joseph to flee to Egypt.And he [Joseph] rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.” (Matthew 2:14)

So, God guided Jesus and His family to flee to Egypt and stay there until Herod died. How did they pay their travel expenses and extended stay in Egypt? Well, God had provided all they needed. They had gold and valuable perfumes. So, God provided for all their needs.

The apostles’ provision

This account in the book of Matthew is a fascinating example of “Where God guides, He provides,” but this certainly isn’t the only example. 

When Jesus sent His apostles on their inaugural mission trip, “He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts.” (Mark 6:8) The apostles were sent, in part, to learn that when you are doing God’s work, God provides for you.

From God, through faith

Certainly, there are times when God’s path leads us into hardships, into harsh conditions, and for some, into martyrdom, but these conditions are laid upon His children to share in Christ’s suffering: But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13)

For God’s children, as we live for Him in this world, we are learning to walk by faith, eat by faith, be sheltered by faith, and be in community with others by faith. Faith is what Jesus taught His apostles, and it was by faith in Christ Jesus that we were saved.

Be encouraged by this: God promised that He would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). So, have faith that where He guides, He provides!

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rock concert

Christians, the Atheists of the New Normal

Why are you and I atheists? Well, we are unbelievers in the things people of the New Normal put their faith in. For example, science is not our god. Science is magnificent at discovering what God created, but as a religion it lacks cohesion and astonishes in its instability.

We don’t worship humanity. We love people, but humanity cannot save itself. We are but dust. “For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (Psalm 103:14) We don’t believe in giving food to people that are unwilling to work. “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 NLT)

Christians are evil?

And then there the whole problem we have with the gods of this New Normal.

A few of the pantheon of gods that the New Normal expects everyone to worship are sex without boundaries, coercive power, and gaudy piety. If we don’t kneel at the alters of these gods, then we are atheists to the believers in the New Normal. As if being an atheist isn’t bad enough, we are also antisocial misfits. By our actions, we demonstrate dogmatic doctrines designed to damage the duties owed to the New Normal.

Now you may think I’m just using hyperbole to make a point, but I’m not. As believers in Jesus, we are just the latest in the long line of Christians that the world both hates and is perplexed by. For the New Normal, the gods of this world seem self-evident and providers of fun lives. The first-century Christians were also seen as atheists and social troublemakers. The Apostle Peter wrote:

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

1 Peter 2:12

Slander is the norm

The “when they speak against you” wasn’t a warning or a prophecy. It was a comment about the world in which Christians live. The Apostle goes on to write:

You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you.

1 Peter 4:3-4 (NLT)

Family, co-workers, friends, and the general public slander believers while crowds cheer them on Teaching abstinence before marriage, life at conception, and teaching temperance in all things, Christians aren’t just “no fun,” our message is a tangible threat to the New Normal. 

Good News

The good news is that some people will see the life of a believer and seek Jesus. So, let’s be like Paul and Silas when they were in prison (Acts 16:2530):  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them…Then he [the jailer] brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Youtube: Phil Keaggy, True Believers

Photo by Ryan on Unsplash

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picture of a dead flowers in a vase

Dead Plants

My wife is an exceptional gardener. She had a vision of how she wanted our yard to look and has worked diligently (often 3 or 4 hours a day) for three years to transform our yard into a beautiful place with several flower gardens, one with a stone path. 

When she first started, she rented a 1/2 ton dumpster because there were so many dead plants, weeds, and small trees that had to be removed. I told her that she had committed herbicide because she killed most of the wilderness that was our backyard. She still is a woman on a mission, and woe to any flora that stands in the way of her vision!

Jesus is a gardener

In a very real sense, Jesus is a gardener. He nurtures, He prunes, and He removes dead plants – vines to be specific. (Luke 13:6-9) A gardener must “come against” dead vines because they harm the fruitful vines. When it comes to Christ’s churches, dead churches harm His Church. Dead churches tell lies to lead people away from Truth.

From her founding, the Church has always been besieged by heresies, antichrists (1 John 2:17-19), and congregations that, with great zeal and reckless abandon, led people astray. So, what we see in our society is not new; it’s just more. Solomon told us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun. Deceptive churches are not a new thing. It’s just that there are more of them, and they have cast off all constraints they previously had from God’s Word.

A message to the church in Sardis

In the opening chapters of the book of Revelation, Jesus tells the apostle John seven messages to be written to seven specific churches. Each message is to the angel of each church. Christ’s intended audience for each message was to the pastor and his congregation. Here is the message to the church in Sardis, located in what is now Turkey.

Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

Revelation 3:3

During the early Church, Sardis was an important church. Jesus’ message to Sardis includes an analogy that the Sardinians would have immediately identified but is easy for us to miss.

There are mountains near where the city of Sardis was located. These mountains were the hiding places of organized robbers that would rush into the city to steal and then retreat to the mountains to hide. It’s quite likely that Jesus alluded to these thieves when He said, “I will come upon thee as a thief.

Good News

We should not allow these dead churches to steal our joy. Here’s some good news:

We should encourage each other and build each other up1 Thessalonians 5:11
We should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousnessMatthew 6:33
– We should make disciples in every nationMatthew 28:19

That will keep us busy until we reach heaven and meet Jesus, face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). 😀

Photo by me

woman's hands on a Bible

Bible Study, Today

We will once again be meeting in person and live on Facebook at 10:30 AM Eastern time. We are continuing our study of finding types and foreshadows of Jesus in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Join us if you can. Here’s the link: Bible Study Facebook Live stream

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

husband and wife reading the Bible

Today is Dad’s Day!

Today we’re celebrating Dad’s Day. I’m thankful that our nation annually recognizes mothers and fathers. That’s a good thing. This time, I’d like to widen our scope to consider all husbands. To get us started, let’s review a familiar passage of Scripture

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

Ephesians 5:25-26

Husbands and wives

In the apostle Paul’s discourse on wives and husbands, he tells wives to “respect” (Ephesians 5:33) their husbands, and he tells husbands to “love” their wives. Of course, husbands and wives both need love and respect, but more than “plumbing” separates men from women.

As husbands, we have a fundamental need to be respected. Respect is different from being honored or appreciated. Respect says to a husband that he carries his burden well. Jesus promises us a “light burden” (Matthew 11:30) not the absence of a burden.

To carry our burden well, we can be like Israel’s “iron dome” and shield satan’s “fiery darts” (Ephesians 6:16) from reaching our wives and kids. For dads, carrying our burden well means that we know our kids as well as their moms know them. And carrying our burden well means that we are self-aware husbands; we adapt our lives to meet our family’s spiritual, emotional, and financial needs. For our wives, we carry our burden well when we are like fertile soil, providing them with an environment where they can grow and flourish.

Say “I love you”

Until recently, I never fully appreciated how important it is for a woman to be told that she is loved. But then, my wife and I talked with a woman who said her father never told her that he loved her until she was fifty-seven years old. She remembers when she first heard these words from her dad.

Today’s Scripture tells husbands to love your wives. But, of course, saying “I love you” rapidly loses its value if our actions don’t demonstrate love. Jealousy, anger, and selfishness are not acts of love. To love our wives “As Christ loved the church,” we must demonstrate sacrificial love, ministering to them from our time, treasures, and talents, in the same way as Jesus does for His Church. If we do this, then we will earn the respect we crave.

Dad’s Day

So, happy Dad’s Day to all the fathers reading this, and happy husband’s day, too. I pray:

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5-6

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Visualization of the Bible

My wife just found this link for me. You may have seen the infographic, but the story behind the picture provides more information about how amazing the Bible is.

A stunning visualization of the Bible’s 63,779 cross-references | QuaerentiaOLD (wordpress.com)

picture of a crown

King of kings

1 Why do the nations rage
     and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
     and the rulers take counsel together,
     against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
     and cast away their cords from us.”

Psalms 2:1-3

The power behind the nations

From warfare in Israel to violent protests in India to the roiling of our fractured nation, it’s fair to ask the question, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” We learn in the book of Daniel those emissaries of the enemy are the power behind countries and geographical regions. (Daniel 10:13)

I can personally attest to this truth. My family and I were missionaries in Romania, shortly after the fall of communism in that country. Each month we had to take a lengthy trip from Romania to Hungary to renew are visas. The moment we passed from Romania to Hungary it was like a weight that was lifted off us. During that time, Romania suffered from a high suicide rate as well as peasant witchcraft – I was “cursed” one time but Jesus is stronger, so it had no effect on me.

I know this may seem odd but remember that salvation is a supernatural event. We were dead (Ephesians 2:1) and now we are reborn into the kingdom of God. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)” And God’s Word says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

We see Jesus as King

The 2nd Psalm is a fascinating Messianic Psalm, showing both Jesus as the Son of God and in His Messianic role as King of kings and Lord of lords. Verse twelve declares to the nations:

“Kiss the Son,
 lest he be angry,
and you perish in the way, 
for his wrath is quickly kindled. 

This Psalm doesn’t cast Jesus in His earthly ministry as the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)” Instead, we see Jesus who is in His glory, as King of kings, and in comparison, we see how weak are the “greatest” nations, how useless are their plots.

Good News

So, you may ask, “Where’s the good news?” At the macro-level, our Lord is greater than all the nations of Earth combined. And on a personal level, we find at the end of verse twelve, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Jesus doesn’t just protect us; He blesses us. We are His servants (1 Corinthians 6:20) that He has called friends (John 15:15). From the message in the 2nd Psalm, it is clear that we are on the winning side!

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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Awesome stencil on a book cart outside of Green Apple Books in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond district.

Without Preconceptions

Prejudices and Preconceptions

So often, we approach the Bible with suitcases full of prejudices and preconceptions. Maybe we don’t think Jews should possess Israel. Perhaps we cringe at the Scriptures that evangelists have shouted. We refuse to accept any Scripture penned by the apostle Paul because we adamantly oppose some verse that he wrote.

Most people approach the Bible with prejudices, whether they are aware of them or not. The same is true with preconceptions. God is love, so everything He does, He does from His heart of love. Furthermore, God extends mercy, so every passage of Scripture must demonstrate God’s mercy, as we define it.

We pack these heavy loads of prejudices and preconceptions into baggage we carry with us on all our journeys. We bring it into small group church meetings, Sunday School, Wednesday Bible studies, and especially into any Biblical discussion with family, friends, or co-workers.

I marvel at the size of some of our pre-judgments (prejudices). Packed into our over-stuffed bags, we add secular things that we value, such as science, psychology, sociology, and family history. Then, somehow, we shoehorn them into our biases of the Word of God.

Reading God’s Word

When we enter the Word of God, we should leave our baggage at the door. God’s Word is meant to be read and studied with reverence, with surrendered souls, with our hearts bowed from humbleness and humility.

When we read the Bible, we need to let God’s Word define its boundaries, such as to whom it applies, any distinct groups, or possessing universal meaning. Always, when we approach the Word of God, it is His Word that must define our doctrines, not the other way around.

Who are we to tell God how He should act and to whom He should extend His Mercy? God’s Word states, “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (Romans 9:18)” Hmmm. That may be counter to who you expect God to be.

As for the love of God, we also should remember, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalms 11:5)” And, as for the land of Israel belonging to God, and Israel:

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion;
    he has desired it for his dwelling place:
14 “This is my resting place forever;
    here I will dwell, for I have desired it.

Psalm 132:13-14

40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time. 

Deuteronomy 4:40

Be bold, release your baggage

Of course, these are just a few examples. Whatever prejudices or preconceptions we have toward God and His Word, we need to release them. They are burdens that provide no value to our souls.

Instead of being burdened with baggage, we can embrace God’s Word and interpret His Word from other passages of His Word. So let’s not go running after famous teachers that say what people want them to say. Instead, trust God, trust His Word, and whatever is difficult for you, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into the proper understanding of what God has said (John 15:26).

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

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young boy on a rope maze

Learning the Ropes

Hang with me on this devotional. We will ground this with Scripture. Today’s feature picture is a snapshot of one of my grandsons climbing a rope maze. According to Google, learning the ropes means “to understand how to do something. To be acquainted with all the methods required.” I think that learning the ropes means more.

Learning the Ropes

Please take a second look at my grandson. He needs more than methods; he needed the skill to perform the methods for finding one’s way through that rope maze. Each day we wake up, facing a new rope maze. The day may be small variations to previous mazes which we’ve conquered or, like 2020, each day we faced dramatically new mazes, unprecedented in our lifetime.

We may want to shout, “Enough, already!” but enough is not within our control, neither is already. Our emotions must be subjugated to what we know. Yet, if we haven’t tried to grasp the facts, then we enslave our feelings to inferior knowledge. Those are the actions of a fool. Do we want to play the fool?

Valuing Our Talents

Now you may say, “I have no talent, except failure.” Many times, we are unable to discern our talents. Why? Because they come easily to us. We think, “Anyone can do that.” It disheartens me when I think of the people I’ve known who wasted their gifts, for they perceived no value in them.

I once knew a young man that was an amazing guitarist. I played “at” guitar but for him, a guitar was a natural extension of his soul. He and I met once so he could give me some pointers. I was like a child at the feet of Michelangelo. He created art while I tried to imitate his work with playdough. Yet, the last time I saw him he was a cook at a restaurant. Now being a cook might be a person’s calling, so that’s where he or she should be. Yet, for this guitarist, he squandered his talent, for he did not see his talent as something worth investing in.

You may be the same as my guitarist friend. Don’t be. Build friendships built on honesty, and ask them what they see as your talents, do the same for them. Make acquaintances with people that have grown their talent into skill. Learn their journeys. Whatever you do, don’t be complacent. That’s how the frog was boiled in a pot of water.

Transforming Talents into Skills

So how is it that some people know the ropes while others continually trip over them? Great question! Humans possess highly diverse talents. But aptitude only takes us so far. Education and exercise of our capabilities help to transform our talents into skills.

“If you want something you’ve never had
You must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”

Thomas Jefferson

To know the ropes for any venture, be it vocational or avocational, we must purposely build our knowledge and ability for the ropes of that venture. That word ability can be exchanged with skill.

Advancing Our Skills

Our talents may not be the ticket to wealth, so we should consider the social or spiritual values of our talents.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?

Martin Luther King, Jr

There seems to be sound science behind the idea that it takes thousands of hours of practice (learning and exercise) before a person becomes a master in a skill built upon their talent. Creating skills takes time. Nearly all trade unions require extensive classroom and on-the-job training before a novice qualifies as a tradesperson. And it takes many more years of work and testing before a tradesperson qualifies as a master of their craft. It takes sacrifice to achieve those qualifications. The unwillingness to commit to delayed gratification is probably the most potent killer of skills.

I didn’t even start playing the piano until I was about 13 or 14. I guess I must have had a little talent or whatever-you-call-it, but I practiced regularly, and that’s what counts.

George Gershwin

We will learn the ropes when we discover our talents and invest in them. We should invest as if they are of great value, for they are. Still, we must remind ourselves that they are a gift from God.

I know a man that has an astonishing ability in art. He possessed an exceptional talent for drawing and painting. He painted a mural for his high school, and often, when he went to a restaurant, he would take a napkin and draw a picture of the server. He’d give it to them, and they nearly always, instantly, cherished it because it was so good. Yet, he, too, has spent his life working in a factory without ever using his talent for anything more than amusement. Factory work is a blessing, but you can also cultivate and use your gift for God.

A Balanced Life is not the Enemy of Skill

A balanced life is crucial for our health, but balance rarely includes flipping channels on a TV, endlessly playing games on the Internet, or surf-shopping on Amazon. Reading the Bible and classic books, developing a circle of friends and acquaintances that encourage us to stretch our skills and strengthen our character, and building our inter-personal skills is valuable, regardless of the talents which we are honing.

We must not hone our skills only upon the high-profile and overtly successful people, for many of God’s greatest masters of their crafts live in corners of society, tucked away from the bright lights and crowds. We need these masters, too, yes even more so, to transform our talent into skill.

Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.

Billy Graham

The Responsibility is on us

No doubt, many of us are familiar with Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” We know that where God guides, He provides. Many of us know the testimonies of Andraé Crouch, who God instantly gave the ability to play piano for his dad’s church and that God also, instantly, gave the gift for playing the piano to Annie Herring (2nd Chapter of Acts).

Still, God usually puts the onus on us to develop the qualifications to which He calls us. That’s the reason for Christian universities, seminaries, medical schools, and such. We also see skills recognized in Christ’s parable of the talents.

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

Matthew 25:14-15 (ESV)

The servants didn’t get the same opportunity or responsibility but were given “according to his ability.” Referring to a previous statement, “That word ability can be exchanged with skill.” And, as we’ve learned, talent is honed into skill over a period of time. As God’s Word states:

Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 (CSB)

Making it Personal

Learning our talents, investing our energy into our talents, learning from others that have the skills we strive for, those are the keys to learning the ropes, but there is no substitute for spending time with God. Praying to the Father in the name of Jesus under the unction of the Holy Spirit is the only way to gain the skill that God has called you to. Don’t believe anyone that tells you that there is a shortcut.

Photo by me 🙂

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