How To Trust God

How To Trust God

God has a habit of not doing what I want, when I want, how I want.

That's probably a good thing seeing as how God is way smarter than I am and way more loving than I am.

Seriously. God loves me, my family, and the whole world; and he promises that he'll make everything come together for a good result.

If I really believe that last sentence, I'm never going to worry about a thing. Turns out sometimes I have a hard time believing that last sentence, because I wrestle with worry pretty often.

Are People Going To Spend Eternity In Hell?

Are People Going To Spend Eternity In Hell?

I seem to have two choices: get on board with the reality of a place of eternal torment or ignore the whole thing as best I can.

I'm not the kind to ignore stuff, and I can't get happy about the first option, so here are some perspectives I apply to the concept of hell as I try to put it into proper perspective in my life of faith:

Why You Need To Be An Artist

Why You Need To Be An Artist

You have a story to tell.

I know that because every person has a story, and it is my belief that every person should share their story.

The arts are an eloquent way of telling that story, and I believe God wants you to use them to share your perspective on life with others.

How Much Money Should Christians Have?

How Much Money Should Christians Have?

Well, I didn't win the $1.5 billion Powerball.

You can tell because I'm not writing this from my new gold plated space shuttle.

I know some people will have a problem with this, but I bought a ticket. I never for a minute thought I would actually win. The reason I bought it was so that my family could enjoy the entertainment of the 'what would we do with it' conversations.

I’m not too disappointed that I did not win, because the thing is - that much money would probably ruin my life.

How To Deal with Imperfect People

How To Deal with Imperfect People

"You're scum"

That's what religious leaders in Jesus' day called the people who were at a party with him one evening.

It was hard for me to realize that I was more like those religious leaders than I was like Jesus, and I knew I needed a big change in my life.

Why Was God So Mad In The Old Testament?

Around the New Year, many of us probably jump in on a Bible reading plan. Reading through the Bible in one year is a great goal. Challenging, but not impossible, builds a positive habit, and seems like it will have some good results associate with it. But once the exciting days of Genesis and Exodus are behind you, you find yourself moving into Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and oh man I don't know if this was such a good idea.

From animal sacrifices to genocide to prophets warning of doom and gloom, you start to wonder if there's any value in reading this content.

How To Let Go Of The Past

I used to have this problem.

I would remember something selfish or stupid I did when I was younger and the memory would hurt. Literally. I don’t know if it was actual physical pain or just pain in my mind, but it would hurt.

I would be eating dinner or taking a shower and I would feel the memory approaching like a tidal wave. There was no way I could stop it. All I could do was brace myself and wait until the memory would go away.

When is violence the answer?

In the aftermath of the Parisian attacks last month, French President Francois Hollande vowed a "merciless" responseagainst ISIS.Within days, France had bombed an ISIS target in Syria and performed numerous raids within France itself, killing and capturing several terror suspects.

We can all understand this response. Terrorist attacks against civilians are horrifying. In an effort to seek justice for the slaughtered and to prevent future attacks, we turn to violence in our response.

As a Christian, should I have a problem with this?

How Relevant Should Christians Be?

On December 9th, a new reality TV show is premiering on Oprah's TV network, Oxygen.The reality show is about a pastoral couple named Rich and DawnCheré Wilkerson called Rich in Faith. The show has gotten some attention because these are the pastors of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

I got a chance to hear Rich speak at the Catalyst Next conference in DC recently and it sparked discussion among our own church staff regarding whether what they are doing is appropriate. While he doesn't necessarily have a presentation style that I prefer, Rich and DawnCheré preached boldly about the greatness of Jesus and how much we are loved by our saviour.

One of the things that Rich discussed in an interview after he preached is the fact that God is giving him influence in circles that most of us would never be able to access.

I loved that.

You need access to gain influence, and that's a good thing because you can't influence people who aren't paying attention to you.

Why I Don't Hate Muslims

In the past week, there have been several notable comments about Muslims. Donald Trump made a statement that he believes all Muslims should be blocked from entering the United States.

Additionally, the president of Liberty University - Jerry Falwell Jr. - said that Christians should arm themselves so they can 'end those Muslims'.

I can understand why such comments and dispositions would be taken. Fear makes us want to put big, strong walls around the things we care about.

Is God Mad At Me When I Doubt?

So there’s this story in the bible I like a lot. It’s recorded in the book of Mark if you want to read it for yourself, but here’s the gist:

Jesus has been up on a mountain praying, away from the crowds that follow him everywhere. He comes down the mountain to find a chaotic scene.

A father who has a son with some serious issues has been asking Jesus’ disciples to heal the kid. The disciples have tried and failed.

The father brings the kid over to Jesus and I’m going to let what Mark wrote tell the next couple parts here:

(The Dad says to Jesus)  “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Jesus then punched him in the gut and said, ‘Come back when you don’t have any more unbelief, chump.” Then he rolled out with his posse.

In case you aren’t sure, I made that last part up. What actually happens is that Jesus heals the kid who suffered by major seizures and gave him back to his dad.

The father in that story is one of my heroes and I don’t even know his name.

How To Respond to Terrorism

We've seen an increasing number of mass shootings in the United States recently (353 in 2015, so far), not to mention attacks in places like Paris, Nigeria and Mali. When we find out about the latest violence, it can be tempting to shake our heads and long for the day when believers in Jesus get to escape this world and live for all eternity in heaven where there is no pain or tears.

The problem is, that viewpoint is completely antithetical to what the Christian scriptures teach.

The Bible teaches that Christ followers are supposed to engage in the world, not escape from it.

Making Faith Practical eBook Now Available!

Beatitudes v3 I have released a new eBook about making faith practical!

You can purchase and download it on Amazon.

In it, I take what Jesus says in Matthew 5:3-10, commonly called The Beatitudes, and explore ways we can incorporate these truths into our daily lives.

I mean, who really prays to be poor or persecuted? So how do we incorporate these ideas into our lives to receive the blessing which Jesus promises will accompany them?

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful in your everyday journey of following Jesus!

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,

   for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

God blesses those who mourn,

   for they will be comforted.

God blesses those who are humble,

   for they will inherit the whole earth.

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,

   for they will be satisfied.

God blesses those who are merciful,

   for they will be shown mercy.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure,

   for they will see God.

God blesses those who work for peace,

   for they will be called the children of God.

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,

for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:3-10)

How To Figure Out God's Plan For Your Life

SunsetTracksCrop"God has a plan for you" You've probably heard that (or some variation of it) dozens of times, if not hundreds.

Maybe you've heard it when everything is going wrong, and somebody was trying to encourage you. To give you hope.

Perhaps in a time of frustration or devastation, somebody quoted Jeremiah 29:11to you where the prophet records God as saying "For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

Or maybe it's not even out of crisis or loss that somebody talked to you about God's plan for your life, but simply because you're dealing with the mundane mediocrity of everyday life. Working at a job that doesn't feel like its advancing God's kingdom in this world.

It's encouraging to believe that God not only has a plan for us, but that it's a good plan. A plan that will be fulfilling and meaningful.

The problem we run into is in trying to figure out what that plan is. We're okay with "trusting" God when we know what's going to happen (or at least we think we know) - but when we don't have the full picture, when we have no idea what God is up to, that's when it's difficult.

The word for that is 'faith', and it's really tough. It's much harder than you would expect with how much people talk about faith.

In an effort to help us as we seek to incorporate this faith into our daily lives, I have included some practical steps for engaging your faith in the area of figuring out God's plan for your life.

Now, I need to clarify that prayer throughout this process is critical. To quote Martin Luther King Jr., "Prayer is a marvelous and necessary supplement of our feeble efforts, but it is a dangerous substitute."

With that in mind, here are three things you can do to find God's plan for your life.

  • Try different things.

There's a verse in the book of Psalms that says, "Be still and know that I am God." (46:10)

There's value in knowing that sometimes we need to be careful not to replace devotion to God with doing stuff for God. But on the same hand, sitting around and waiting for your ship to come in isn't very biblical, either.

Being obedient to Jesus means you need to know what obedience looks like. By trying different things -trying different groupon events, volunteering on a team at church, going on an outreach, etc; you can figure out things which you are passionate about. Art? Music? Social Justice? Education? Kids?

Because God isn't going to automatically call you to do stuff that you hate. Sometimes we have this idea that God wants us to continually suffer and we can't enjoy ministry or serving God, but that's not God - that's a bully.

God is a loving Father who wants us the best for us. Sometimes that means facing challenges, but it also means learning to use our gifts.

If you find the intersection of what you're good at and what you care about, you will have found your calling.

Make a list of things you're good at. Now make a list of things you care about. Circle places where the two can collaborate.

Love kids and are good at music? Get involved in the kids ministry at church using music.

Love people and are great at leading discussion? Get involved in a small group at your church.

In order to do this, you need to know what you're good at and what you care about, so try anything and everything you can until you have these answers.

If your church doesn't have a class about finding these things out about yourself, I'd encourage you to read the book S.H.A.P.E. by Eric Rees to help you figure some of these things out. In order to know what God is calling you to do, you have to understand who he has made you to be.

  • What makes you mad?

Martin Luther King Jr also said "If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live."  In other words, figure out what you are willing to die for, and live for that purpose.

God doesn't need men and women to make a difference in this world. He's God. He could blink and change everything, but God has chosen to work through people like you and men to make a difference in the world.

I don't know why God has chosen to work through us, imperfect and broken as we are, but he is very clear about it. What areas of brokenness in this world are you simply not willing to ignore? Throw yourself into bringing the restoration and redemption of Jesus into those areas.

Does social injustice make you mad? Is it kids not having a support network? Domestic violence? Refugee camps? Sex Trafficking?

You have one life. If you can use it to make a difference on one issue, what would it be? Bill Hybels calls this 'Holy Discontent'. You find something that makes you so upset that you simply won't allow it to go on without doing something about it.

Our natural reaction is to look away from places of pain and hurt. Instead of looking away, start to research and explore places of pain to see which of them where you simply have to make a difference.

  • Do what makes sense

King Solomon, in the book of Proverbs, tell us that we make our plans, but the Lord directs our steps. (16:9)

In other words, get moving, and God will get you where he wants you to be.

If you go through the first two steps and feel like you have several options, and don't feel that God is clearly telling you to choose one of them, then start with the one that seems to make the most sense to you.

We can become paralyzed by indecision, worrying that 'I might find myself doing something completely different than what God wanted me to do.

Again, let's remember that we're dealing with loving Father here, not jerk boss.

Thomas Merton once wrote a prayer that included the following line: "The fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you."

Let's assume that if we are seeking to please God, he loves it. and if he wants us to go a completely different direction, he'll make it happen.

In the book of Revelation, God defines himself with this phrase: "What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open." (3:7)

If God wants to get you somewhere specific, he can simply open and close certain opportunities and possibilities to get you there. He's not worried about whether he can guide you.

If you simply seek in obedience to fulfill the purposes God has put in your heart, he will make sure you end up in the right place.


I hope that these steps encourage you. You will not stand before God one day and be berated because he was calling you to move to Lichtenstein and become a goat herder and you totally missed what he was saying.

God made you for a purpose, and while you may not see how you fit into the overall picture for this world, God sees it; and if you seek to honor God in all you do, he will accept that as worship, and he is not cruel to anyone, let alone those who worship God.

Continue to seek to please our Father, and you will certainly accomplish your purpose.

Retelling Christmas: A Story of Joy

balloonsThis past Sunday, I got to speak about the joy we find in the Christmas narrative. Pretty much everybody who discovered what God's plan is - and that they get to be involved in it - are filled with joy. You know what? I don't like ending a sentence with the word 'joy' and a period.

Joy needs to have an exclamation point after it.



That's better. Okay, back to the blog post:

But it's not just at Christmas that people discover JOY! regarding God's plans:

Matthew records a story on Easter Sunday (I know, I know, now talking about Easter at Christmas. I shouldn’t do that...)

Anyways, Matthew tells us about some women heading to Jesus’ tomb on what would become known as Easter Sunday. When they arrive, they find an angel has rolled away the stone and the angel shares with them the news that Jesus has risen.

Here's what happens next:

Matt 28:8 “The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great JOY!, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message.” (emphasis mine)

These women discovered something God was doing, and it filled them with JOY! These women got to be the first people to share the Gospel.

(Just quick side note here. If you're a woman and you feel that God is calling you to ministry, what more authority do you need than the fact that God chose women to be the very first messengers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? God's gifts are not separated by gender. That's my riff on that.)

The bottom line is that if you want JOY! in your life, find out what God is up to and get involved.

This doesn't mean you won't have difficult time and circumstances arise. But if we remember that God is all about renewing and restoring all of creation and we get to be a part of that, there's a JOY! at the core of that which no circumstance or situation can ever fully smother.

So share the message of JOY! that the God who made us and knows all about us loves us and wants to have a relationship with us, because this is not something we're supposed to hold onto and hoard. God was pleased to share this JOY! with us, now we should go forth and share it with others.

Put other people first by volunteering.

Do something randomly nice like paying for the check of a family at a restaurant without them knowing

Give a Christmas present to somebody totally not expecting one from you (and tell them not to go get you one, but give something to charity if they feel a need to reciprocate).

Tell stories of JOY! in your life this Christmas in honor of the God who shouted it to us through his own son Jesus!


A Weird Way to Save the World

thornsAnd this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith. ― Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

That the opposite of sin isn't doing good or being good; rather it’s trusting Jesus.

That’s a weird idea.

That when I screw up and do something that’s selfish and hurtful, it doesn’t mean that I need to make myself into a better person; but that I am a person who is in need of a Saviour.

Jesus saves us from all our selfish, destructive ways not by glaring at us and threatening us with what will happen if we don’t start to get our stuff together.

Instead, it seems like he’s always trying to lead us on paths that lead to life rather than paths that end up in us getting the same, normal results everybody else gets in life.

Instead of saying “stop doing that or else”, it seems like Jesus says “stop doing that, because I’ve got a better way”.

Jesus shows us this narrow path by the way he lived his own life. He was the Son of God, yet he didn’t show up demanding to be treated like a king.

There’s a great story in the book written by one of Jesus’ closest followers, John that highlights this:

“Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.” (John 13:3-5)

Jesus knew he had been given authority over everything, and yet here he is, washing the dirty feet of a group of men, one of which was going to betray Jesus.

He didn’t use that authority to dominate or control or bully. He knew he had it, and he chose to serve. That’s definitely weird.

At the end of that story, Jesus tells his disciples “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” (v. 15)

Jesus saved me.

From my sin.

From a life of anger and hopelessness

And ultimately, from death itself.

He saved me by serving and sacrificing. That’s a weird way to save the world, and I’ll never be able to adequately express my gratitude for it.

But I want my life to be a response to his great love.

So I will worship God with my heart as I sing of his great love.

I will worship God with my mind as I think of the things he has done.

I will worship God with my soul as I invite God into the center of all that I am.

And I will worship God with my strength as I go out into my community and my world and share his great love through my actions.

Because if Jesus can bring salvation through serving and sacrifice, then I know I can point to that salvation through doing the same things.

35@35 #19: Crockpots and Microwaves

crockpotTC’s Principles and Guidelines for Life #19: “God works more like a crockpot than a microwave.” I actually wrote a blog post on this one several years ago, and it became one of my own personal proverbs out of that process.

The bottom line is that we live in a day, age and society that often wants all of the rewards and none of the hard work.

If you want proof, just watch commercials on late night or mid-day TV.

We want to lose weight, so we want to buy a pill that will make it happen automatically, because dieting sucks.

We want money, so we need to hire a lawyer and take somebody else's money.

We want a more organized closet so instead of cleaning it out, we should buy vacuum sealing bags so we can fit more stuff in. Seriously.

I decided recently that I needed to eat a bit healthier. Eating healthier always seems like a good idea until the moment I have to put carrots into my shopping cart instead of potato chips.

Because it isn't easy. It takes work. I want to be healthy, but still eat all the junk food I want.

I think we can often treat our journey of faith, or just life in general this way.

We want all the benefits, and none of the hard work.

Maybe Jesus totally understands this, and that's why he said "If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine." (Luke 10:38)

God isn't fairy dust or magic potion or a get rich quick scheme.

A life of following Jesus is going to be an always developing journey. He won't 'fix' us when we open our heart to him. Instead, he will come in and live with us.

We don't become a ventriloquist puppet for God. We open ourselves to the maker of the universe who makes us spiritually alive, then he helps us to spread that life through the rest of who we are.

But he doesn't force it to happen. And he won't snap his fingers and remove the selfish urges and desires that live within us.

Over time, he'll work with us and in us to create a masterpiece. Adding spices here, stirring the pot there, putting in new ingredients when the time is right, letting heat and time do their work.

If we want to be fully and masterfully prepared, we must keep in mind that he is a patient chef. He uses ways that create richness, not salty, overheated garbage. God loves us too much to treat us that way.

But will we allow him to finish his work? That's the question we all have to face, especially when the process seems to be stretching out for an eternity.

Just because the chef doesn't seem to be constantly working on the dish in the crockpot doesn't mean he's making any mistakes.

Our job is simply to cooperate as much as possible, and not to give up.

Patience, after all, is one of the things he wants to instill in us.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23, emphasis mine)


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #12: Being Wounded

Broken_glassTC's Principles and Guidelines for Life #12: "Imperfect situations do not have perfect solutions." Sometimes, I wish I had magic prayer words. Or fairy dust. Or silver bullets.

I run into people on a fairly regular basis who find themselves in tough circumstances.

They have a loved one who is struggling with addiction; or their finances are a mess due to un/under employment; or they are struggling with serious illness.

And in those moments, I want to fix what's wrong.

I hate looking them in the eye and knowing that when our conversation ends and they walk away, that problem is still going to exist.

I offer genuine words of encouragement, I pray with them, I give advice if it's asked for, and I truly empathize.

But I can't fix it.

They are in pain, and I can't make them better.

Instead, I point to the one who is healer.

See stuff gets broken: cell phone screens, cars, furniture, etc.

But people don't get broken. They get wounded.

So we don't need a fixer. We need a healer.

That's one of the aspects of God - He is a healer.

Wounds will normally heal on their own. But if it's a big injury, it needs help to heal. A bone may need to be set. Stitches may be needed. Infection may need to be cut out.

Broken things stay broken if they aren't fixed. Wounded things may not heal properly if not treated.

So I spend most of my time in these conversations pointing to the healer. Offering scriptures and prayer that remind us to trust in God.

But it's the same thing as telling somebody to go to the doctor: I can't force them to go. They may decide not to.

And if they do go, there's no guarantee they will follow the prescription.

If a doctor tells you to take medicine, if you fail to go to the pharmacy, or fail to take the pills as instructed, you're not going to get the benefit.

Healing takes time. We have to follow the instructions of the healer in order to see the process occur, and we have to be patient.

Engage with the cure and give it time to work.

This is the formula for healing.

And if the first approach doesn't complete the process (not that God is wrong, but sometimes there may be more than one issue), we must be willing to return and submit to further instructions.

And cure is often painful. Have you ever read the side effects of medicine? It's nuts! For a temporary period of time, you're going to hurt yourself in order to get healthy.

This is why I say imperfect situations do not have perfect solutions. Because healing will involve pain.

Setting a broken bone is not fun, but it's incredibly important.

It's not a perfect solution, but it's the best one we've got.

Trusting ourselves to the care of a capable healer is essential to life.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.