Category: Faith (Page 1 of 23)

Behind the Scenes

How did Naomi find out in Moab that the famine was over in Judah? The text says “she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them (Ruth 1:6). Who told her? The point in the story is not how she heard; the point is that she heard. The Lord made sure she knew.

The Bible tells us Naomi and Ruth arrive back in Bethlehem just as the harvest was beginning (Ruth 1:22). What a coincidence!

Ruth went to glean in a field and, wouldn’t you know it! “As it turned out,” the text says, “she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2:3). What a stroke of good luck!

“Just then,” it says in verse 4, “Boaz arrived!” Right at that very moment! Just then! What do you know? Boaz showed up! What are the odds?

It would take a couple of pages to explain the original Hebrew language here and the funny piling on of adjectives and adverbs at this part of the story. But the author is going out of his or her way to say, “This ain’t luck!” Somebody’s moving behind the scenes.

Four years ago, a young man named David proposed marriage to our middle daughter, Valerie. Several of Valerie and David’s friends were in on it for a couple of weeks before it happened. Family members were in on it. Valerie didn’t know. But that evening, somehow, Valerie just happened to be wearing a nice dress and David just coincidentally had the day off from work and incredibly they both wound up in the same friend’s backyard at the exact time and, wouldn’t you know, somebody was in the bushes taking pictures!

That didn’t just happen.

God is always moving the pieces into place and working out the timing and the details of his magnificent plans for your life. It’s a lot easier to see these things looking back than it is in the present. But the good things that happen to you are not by chance. They’re not the random events of a complex universe that sometimes produces an interesting coincidence. When you belong to God in Christ, what happens to you is by appointment, not accident.

It if were just up to us, we wouldn’t make it. None of us would. When Ruth walked into that field that day, she had no idea that she would marry the landowner and their great-great-grandson would be David, the King of Israel, and through him God would send his promised Savior of the World. She never could have asked or imagined any of that. She didn’t know. But the Lord did. He was working. Mostly behind the scenes. But he was, and is, always working.

Peace,

Allan

Assurance for the New Year

“In this world you will have trouble. But take courage! I have overcome the world!” ~Jesus

These ancient words of our Lord are not about what happens after we die. This is not supposed to increase our faith in Christ for everlasting life after death. These words are intended to move us to new levels of confidence for living right now. Jesus is pushing us to new heights of assurance in God’s faithfulness to us right now. We don’t have to sin! We never have to compromise! In the middle of the mess, we can live fully for our Lord and his coming Kingdom because his victory is ours!

Scripture doesn’t ignore the bad stuff. The Bible guarantees there will be bad stuff. Living in this world as a follower of Jesus means you’re going to experience some trial and tribulation. You’re going to encounter opposition. There is suffering in this world. There are people who hate Christians in this world. There are so-called Christians making things worse. There are the normal problems that come with living in a fallen world. And there is the devil himself. But Jesus reminds us that none of that opposition has a chance.

No one can successfully condemn you. No one can ultimately defeat you. Christ died for you. God raised him to life for you. And he is your divine intercessor. Nothing can ever separate you from his love and his victory. So you can be a full-speed, brakes-off, no-looking-back follower of Jesus. You can take risks for the Kingdom of God. You can be extravagant in your forgiveness and acceptance of others. You can be lavish in your love for everybody, including your enemies. You can be all in, all the time and never be swayed by the world.

Jesus overcomes the world for you. His victory is your victory when you are in him. It’s your victory when you embrace him in faith–his triumph becomes your triumph. His eternal life, his righteousness, his holiness, his redemption belongs to you! That’s why it’s called Gospel. It’s really good news!

Jesus says, “Take heart. Take courage! I have faced your enemy and I’ve conquered it. I have fought your battle and I’ve won. In fact, it’s a blowout, it’s a rout. It’s not even close. You can’t do it. Never. You don’t have a chance. But that’s okay. I’ve already done it for you. And I’m doing it right now for you and in you and through you.”

As you start 2024, listen to our Lord Jesus. It’s a promise. But it’s also a call. It’s a call to live for Christ and his Kingdom right now today.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take courage! I have overcome the world!”

Hook ‘Em.
Allan

The Triumph of Hope

“We all must experience some darkness, otherwise how can we appreciate the light? We all must experience the nearness of despair, otherwise how can we know when to celebrate the triumph of hope? We all must at some time or another face forthrightly the tragedy of love and death, so that one day the pain of separation might be replaced by the joy of reunion with the beloved one.”

~ Vigen Guroian, from Tending the Heart of Virtue

The Triumph of Faith

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior!”

~ Habakkuk 3:17-18

Habakkuk’s Complaint

We’re studying Habakkuk together on Sunday mornings here at GCR and we’ve started at the very beginning — a very good place to start. Except that the first chapter of Habakkuk is tough reading. It’s the prophet’s prayer to the Lord and it’s not very nice. It questions God. It complains to God. The prayer argues with God and even accuses God of wrongdoing. Habakkuk details the violence and injustice in the land. How can you just stand there, God, and not do anything? The prophet explains to God that because of all the wickedness and strife, the law is paralyzed and justice is perverted. Get off your throne, Lord, and do something!

The Lord answers Habakkuk by telling him things are about to go from bad to worse. The Lord is about to raise up the worst, most evil people on the planet to ride in and punish the Israelites. He paints an awful picture.

Habakkuk’s complaint continues. But listen to the faith in his lament in 1:12.

“O, Lord. are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One…” You are the eternal God, Habakkuk says. You are my God and I have no other.

“We will not die.” Despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite even what God himself is telling the prophet, Habakkuk is hanging on with a white-knuckle-death-grip to God’s promises that his people will never die.

“O, Rock.” I don’t understand any of this, Habakkuk prays. I don’t agree with what you’re doing. It seems unfair, it seems wrong. I can’t see it. I don’t get it. But, Lord, Rock, my trust is in you. My faith is in you.

God tells Habakkuk things are about to get really bad. But the prophet makes it clear he will go nowhere else for his answers. He will seek no one else to protect him or save him. This is a total and complete dependence on God and God alone to do what’s best. Total dependence. Complete faith. A faith that goes well beyond any evidence or proof for it. Facing exile, starvation, and slavery, Habakkuk continues to trust our God.

God’s reply to Habakkuk’s complaints affirms that the Lord is still very much in control. All of it, no matter how evil and wrong and unfair and chaotic it seems, all of it is being controlled by our God.

1:5 – “I am going to do something.” God says, there’s a plan.

1:6 – “I am raising up the Babylonians.” This is going somewhere. And I’m the one doing it.

1:5 – “…in your days.” There is a time frame. God says, it’s all on my schedule.

2:3 – “The revelation awaits an appointed time.” It’s happening exactly when I want it to happen.

Everything that is happening in our world, everything that is happening in your world right now, is subject to and bound up with the Kingdom of God. Things happen for a reason — God’s reason. And we don’t always have to understand what God is doing. We don’t always see it. And we don’t need to.

Ask the questions. Wrestle with the Lord. Accuse him. Argue with him. Bring to him all your fears and uncertainties and pains. But never doubt his supreme love for you and his divine justice. He is trustworthy. And he is faithful.

Peace,

Allan

Gospel Adventure Expanded

Weather disasters and wildfires. Economic uncertainties. Divorce. Gay rights and abortion. Immigration and race. Division and war. Rumors of wars. These are not settled times in this country. Not at all. But they are — they should be — exciting and adventurous times.

Women’s roles. Leadership structures. Instrumental music. Shrinking attendance and nominal commitment. Ecumenical movements¬† and interdenominational partnerships. “Accepting” versus “Affirming.” These are not settled times in the Churches of Christ. Not at all. But they are — they should be — exciting and adventurous times.

I’ve decided I’m going to use that Hauerwas quote I posted yesterday in this Sunday’s sermon.

“God has not promised us safety, but participation in an adventure called the Kingdom. That seems to me to be great news in a world that is literally dying of boredom.”

And I’m thinking about saying something like this:

It’s all out there in front of us. Adventure. Thrills. Daring missions. Risky change. Challenging discussions. Exciting encounters. What are we waiting for? To get all our ducks in a row? To find and settle on all the answers first? To make sure everybody in our boat is on board with the exact same theology and uniform practices? No! What’s exciting about that?!?

What’s going to save more people? What’s going to redeem my part of the world for Christ? What’s going to make you and me more like Jesus?

Not worrying or complaining about national politics or this world’s culture. No, ma’am. And not arguing or debating church structures or faith culture.

Getting out there in the middle of it, with other Christians, sacrificing and serving, saving and learning, throwing our entire selves into the mission of God with full knowledge and trust that he is going to do something incredibly wonderful with it if we’ll just submit to him and his calling. That’s going to save people! That’s going to reconcile God’s world! That’s going to make us more like our Risen Lord!

But what about this post-modern, post-Christian society? Nobody wants to listen to anything about Jesus. No, stop it. Everybody you know at work and in your neighborhood and at the grocery store is desperately looking to belong to something that’s hugely significant and bigger than themselves.

But what about our Church of Christ identity? How is the world going to know we’re different from other churches? No, stop it. Jesus died on the cross so we would all be one in him, so I’m sure he’d be thrilled if we worked according to his plan for a change.

These are exciting and adventurous times in the Kingdom of God. Of course, as long as your faith is in yourself and your particular church brand or congregation instead of in the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, you won’t see them as anything but unsettling and dangerous. The Gospel tells us we’re surrounded by divine potential. Holy mystery. Heavenly adventure. Eternal excitement. It’s high time we abandon ourselves and jump in with everything we’ve got.

Peace,

Allan

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