Trust His Heart

I read a statement recently that intrigued me. It said, When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.

There will be times in life when you don’t see the hand of God, either because you’re not looking in the right place or because God has hidden His hand from you (that’s another blog!). And because you can’t see His hand you don’t understand His plan.

What do you do then?

If you are like many Christians your reaction can range from panic to doubt to complaining. Because you haven’t yet learned to trust. Trusting God when you can’t see what’s going on is not easy.

We want answers. We want full disclosure.

What we really want is to control our lives – to call the shots.

The reality is that we simply don’t trust God to do what’s best for our life. That’s a natural human reaction.

But it’s not the right reaction.

Have you ever had a friend that you were so close to that you trusted them explicitly? It didn’t matter what they did or even what they said about you, you knew that they had your best interest at heart?

They might even publicly disagree with you, perhaps causing you some degree of embarrassment but you knew that they loved you. So you gave them the benefit of the doubt. You accepted their criticism.

You trusted their heart.

That’s all God wants. He wants you to trust His heart even when you don’t understand His plan for your life.

I think that’s the essence of Proverbs 3:5, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t trust in your own understanding, perspective, wisdom (my translation/ commentary).

Trust HIS heart, not your heart. Trust HIS wisdom, not your wisdom. Trust HIS way not your way.

As Christians we are to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith refers to the things that we can’t see. You can’t walk by faith if everything in life is clear and plain.

Walking by faith demands hiddenness.

Walking by faith demands trust.

Trust in the Heart of God.

Trust that His heart is Good. That His heart is Pure. That His heart is Loving. That His heart will never take you where His Grace cannot take care of you.

So when you can’t see the Hand of God – you can’t tell what God is doing in your life, Trust His Heart.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

P.S. You might enjoy the song Trust His Heart. You can listen to it here.

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The Hobby Lobby Case: Victory for Religion or Harbinger of Defeat?

Today the Supreme Court of the United States handed down what many believe will be one of its most significant decisions of this term. In summary the court decided by the narrowest of margins (5-4) that a privately owned company cannot be forced by the government to pay for health care which violates the religious convictions of the owners. Those who sided with the plaintiffs, which in this case were Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, will claim a great victory for our first amendment rights, specifically the protection of religion. The comments posted online by the Pennsylvania Family Institute reflect the sentiments of many evangelicals. Liberty in America was affirmed and protected today as the United States Supreme Court sided with advocates for First Amendment freedoms, and rejected government overreach into the lives of those who own and operate businesses. You can read their complete statement here.

There is, however, cause for great concern in this apparent victory. Our government was established to function with three equal but separate powers; the executive (president), the legislative (congress) and the judicial (courts). Each has their role to play in concert with the others. One of the geniuses of our founders was that our laws were to be established by the officials who were elected by the people. Those who were closest to the people and answerable to the people made the laws.

However, recent history has demonstrated the inability of the executive and legislative branches of our government to function together for the good of our nation. For some time our nation has been at a political impasse. While many on both the right and the left of the political spectrum see their primary responsibility as impeding the agenda of their opponents there is a dark side to this impasse. We have effectively become a nation ruled by the courts. No longer is the will of the people or their elected representatives the key factor in determining our laws. Instead a few unelected judges who do not need to answer to the people determine the laws that govern us.

In the case of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Christians approve the court’s decision. But what happens when the makeup of the court shifts to the left? When decisions begin to come down in opposition to our religious beliefs? It will only take one more strategic appointment for the votes to become 5-4 against religious freedom. And another to be 6-3. Before we rejoice too loudly we need to understand what is at stake. We need to realistically evaluate the course on which we are headed. A country that is ruled by its judiciary can more easily be led down a different path than a country in which the laws are established by the representatives of the people. Do we really want to be a nation ruled by judges? Even if they occasionally rule in our favor?

While I am grateful for the ruling in the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Woods case, I believe that it is a dangerous harbinger of things to come. That we will increasingly become a nation ruled, not by laws passed by the people or their representatives, but by judges. And if recent history is any indicator, the decisions will not reflect a biblically based wisdom, but a humanistic view of life. There is danger in the path that we are on even if we see occasional victories.

Which brings me to this: our confidence is not in man but in God. The Psalmist reminds us that it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man (Psalm 118:8) and the writer of Hebrews that the Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6).

Ultimately our hope is not in the laws that are passed or the judicial decisions that are rendered but in a righteous God who never changes (Hebrews 13:8). That is where we need to rejoice!

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

The Problem With Faith

Every year at our church we choose a theme – something that will guide our thoughts and lives during the year in a Biblical direction. Several times throughout the year we come back and review the theme to see how we’re doing. This year our theme is Everything by Faith. The idea is that faith for the Christian is not just expressed at the point of salvation but it is one of the ruling characteristic of our lives. Everything we do in life is to be guided by faith. Hebrews 11:6 says without faith it is impossible to please [God]. The emphasis of the entire 11th chapter is on how followers of God lived out their faith on a day-by-day basis.

But there’s a problem with faith – or more specifically, there’s a problem with how we as Christians often attempt to exercise faith. I received an email after yesterday’s sermon from one of our members. The issue that they raised illustrates the problem that many Christians have in understanding faith. Here’s a brief quote: Where does living by faith come in when you had faith that a loved one would be safe but they were killed? . . . do human reactions and responses like this [IE being upset if our prayer isn’t answered] diminish our faith or somehow indicate to us that our faith wasn’t strong enough? We’ve all been there. We’ve all had these same thoughts and struggles.

Here’s the problem as it relates to faith. What that individual was describing was faith in faith, not faith in God. And that’s often how we exercise our faith. We equate faith with how strongly we believe or how hard we pray. If we pray but our prayer isn’t answered in the way we prayed – in this case the prayer was for safety but the individual was killed, we immediately assume that the problem was with our faith. In fact the outcome may have had nothing to do with our faith.

The measure of our faith is not in the quality of our beliefs or prayers, it is in the quality of the One in whom we believe. In other words it is the object of our faith that is the critical issue. The object of our faith as Christians is not in a strong faith (although that is certainly something we should desire). The object of our faith is the Eternal God who never changes; who is always faithful; who always does what is right; who always does what is best for His kingdom and for our good; and who loves us with an eternal, undying, unequaled love.

Faith in faith is simply faith in ourselves; in our ability to believe harder. That’s dangerous and weak territory in which to live. With a loving, all-powerful God as the object of our faith we can pray for someone’s safety knowing that if they run into danger God had something better in His eternal plan. That’s living by faith.

Will there be times of doubt, tears and disappointment? Sure – that’s part of our humanness and God understands (Psalm 103:14) but we keep on trusting, not because we have such strong faith but because we have such a powerful God.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

It’s (Not) the Economy

With the presidential election less than sixty days away a greater emphasis is being placed on the state of the economy by both major political parties. Reminiscent of President Clinton’s infamous slogan that propelled him to victory in the 1994 campaign, It’s the Economy, stupid, we’re being told by both candidates that everything will rise and fall on the strength or weakness of our economy. Even when they address the issues of immigration reform, the war in Afghanistan, Medicare, and health care it’s ultimately about the economy. And at its core the economy is about one thing – money.

But is the economy really the most important issue in this election (or any election)? It may be if you ask the candidates but it’s not if you ask God. The New Testament teaching on money is instructive. We are to keep money in the right place in our priorities (Matthew 6:19); our treasures are to be of the eternal, spiritual kind not the earthly, temporary kind (Matthew 6:19); our hearts (loyalties) are not to be swayed by money (Matthew 6:21); money can easily lead us away from God (Matthew 6:24).

Christ made two interesting observations about money when He told the parable of the Unjust Servant in Luke 16. Instead of simply using the term money, He chose to describe it as unrighteous money. The cheating servant in the story had just been referred to as unjust or unrighteous, using the same adjective. There is a definite and deliberate association that we are to make between the unrighteous servant and unrighteous money.

Perhaps even more to the point is verse ten: He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. In the context of the parable the least refers to money or wealth. God doesn’t put the same import on money that we do. It’s one thing for a candidate to make money the centerpiece of his campaign knowing it resonates with so many people. It’s another for us to buy into their philosophy. There are far more important things in life than money, your wealth or even the economy. The sad thing is that so many Christians have bought into the lie that It’s the Economy, Stupid when in reality it’s so much more.

Don’t get caught up in the hype and the sound bites and allow a worldly, ungodly philosophy to sway you this election cycle. There are so many issues that are more important to God than the economy. Those are the issues that should resonate with Christians.

And don’t forget, God is able to take care of your personal economy no matter who is elected president of this great country.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

How Do You Commmit Yourself to God?

Several weeks ago I concluded our Sunday service by challenging our people, that no matter what the circumstances of their life might be, they needed to commit themselves to God. The text that Sunday was from 1 Peter 2:21-25:

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who  judges righteously.

In the darkest hour of His suffering Christ committed Himself to the Father. That’s our example. That is what we have been called to do as Christ-followers. To commit our lives to God, the righteous judge, even in our darkest hour.

Sometime later I was asked the question: What does that look like?  What does it look like in practical terms to commit your life to God in your hour of trial? Good question. The only words that can answer the question are the words absolute trust. That’s what Christ did. He put His absolute trust in God. When He faced verbal and physical abuse, He trusted God. When all of His earthly friends abandoned Him, he trusted God. When He faced certain death, He trusted God.

That’s a good answer but it is only part of the answer. There is still the question: What does it look like to trust God? The answer is that trusting God is not that different from human trust. While it’s not a perfect analogy (we fail – God doesn’t), it is instructive to examine trust expressed in human relationships to learn what it means in our relationship with God.

Trust between two people is the trust of a little boy whose father says, Jump, I’ll catch you.  It’s the trust of a teenage daughter whose heart has been broken when her mother tells her that this is not the end of life. It’s the trust of a friend who tells you that he/she will always be there for you no matter what you go through in life. It’s the trust of a wife who knows that her husband will always provide for her and protect her.

To trust God is to accept His word without doubt. It’s to believe that He is and always will be there for you. It’s to accept the reality that He is concerned about you and will always have your back. It’s to recognize that He knows the end of the path and that He can use even the dark times to bring about good in your life for His glory.

Committing yourself to God is to place your absolute trust in Him in all areas of your life, in all circumstances of your life. It’s what Proverbs 3:5-6 means. I like the Amplified Version of this passage; Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.

It goes against our natural inclination and everything our minds and others tell us, but that is how you commit the day-to-day events of your life to God.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve