Trusting Jesus (and GPS)

Trusting Jesus (and GPS)

Can I be honest for a minute? The last year of my life has been pretty difficult. I've had to look for ideas and concepts to keep my sanity.

One of the things I've focussed on comes from the famous Corinthian love passage: "Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love."

I'm not very in touch with my emotions, but I love God as best I can. 

Hope has become too painful in my life because I confuse it easily with creating my own expectations, so I'm trying to stop doing that. I call this the Shawshank protocol.

I equate faith with trust. Trust is essentially the last thread left that I'm holding onto. 

Why Did God Make Me? Finding (and Doubting) Your Purpose

Why Did God Make Me? Finding (and Doubting) Your Purpose

God has created each of us for a purpose, yet the very nature of God's engagement with this world - through mysterious and confusing uses of his power - often leads us wondering if we're totally out of step with what God is doing in us and through us.

I usually tell God that if I only knew what he was up to, I'd be good to go. But unless I think I'm a better person than people like John the Baptist and Esther, I'm probably just fooling myself. 

Let me explain...

How To Deal With Worry In Your Life

(Note: a version of this article originally appeared on worry_lgA couple weeks ago, I started having trouble sleeping. Normally, I don’t struggle with getting to sleep, but I’ve got a lot going on right now.

I have a big project deadline coming up at work, my daughter (who has special needs) is starting school again next week with a new aide, and I have a friend who was rushed to shock trauma the other day with a serious medical issue, These are just a few of the topics that weigh on me as I try unsuccessfully to drift into unconsciousness.

I just lay there with those pieces of uncertainty or unfinished business angrily glowing on the checklist of my mind.

Tape recorders of potential upcoming conversations keep playing and rewinding over and over and over again as I’m planning how to deal with existing problems; then trying to figure out what unforeseen problems are coming my way, waiting to burst all over me like a dam.

Somewhere in there, I remember Jesus saying not to worry about tomorrow.

But wasn’t Jesus worried in the Garden of Gethsemane as he literally sweat blood and asked the father to remove the cup of suffering from which Jesus was about to have to drink deeply?

So how is this whole ‘don’t worry’ thing supposed to look in my life?

Should I not be trying to foresee issues and how to resolve them?

What’s the line between ‘not worrying’ and ‘being naive and unprepared for life’?

Trusting in God’s Strength

In Philippians 4, Paul says that he has learned the secret of living whether he has plenty or is in need, and that secret was that he could do all things because of the strength that God gives.

So to Paul, not worrying means we live in confidence of God’s strength.

Worry therefore, is the opposite: it is when we live without confidence in God’s strength.

Because if I were to vocalize my worry, it would probably sound like this, “When I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t have much control over the outcome, and I’m not comfortable with that arrangement.”

That’s a lot different than Paul’s approach which didn’t depend on the situation, but in the unchanging nature and character of God.

Trust vs. Control

Trusting in God doesn’t mean we have to love the situations we find ourselves in. Jesus clearly didn’t love the day of agony and abandonment he was facing.

Paul wasn’t hoping to endure more shipwrecks and stonings.

I don’t want my car to break down, or for my daughter to have a hard time at school; but the question I ask is whether those things loom larger in my mind than God’s goodness and his sovereignty (that is, the fact that he is in control and that he cares about me).

Because if my issues and problems are bigger than God in my own eyes, they will have a bigger influence in my life than God does; and that is what noted and respected biblical scholars like to refer to as ‘a bad idea’.

There’s nothing wrong with making plans and preparations, but if we ignore the nature of God (all powerful, all knowing, all present), how much good can our plans really do?

This doesn’t mean we should run to the opposite approach, embodied by the ancient Stoics who believed that you could only find peace once you accepted that the universe was giving you the best possible outcomes and you obtained peace by accepting everything without question.

We serve a God that has invited us in to his plans of making all things new. He says we have a part to play in that process. Rather than accepting everything the way it is, we can push back against injustice and heartache in our world.

But in the midst of all this, how do we incorporate trust in God’s strength into our everyday lives?

I love to look for ways to make the scriptures practically applicable in my life. When I’m facing worry, I think Paul lobs us a softball in Philippians 4:6-7 (the same chapter where he talks about having the secret to contentment):

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

I like to boil this down to a pseudo mathematical formula:

Pray + Thank = Peace.

  • Pray

This is definitely not about telling God what you want him to do. This is about remembering his nature and character.

Look at Jesus praying in Gethsemane. His prayer wasn’t even about uncertainty. Most of us would probably agree that Jesus knew everything that was coming his way when he was praying in Gethsemane. His prayer was about asking God for strength.

Prayer may not result in God ‘fixing your situation’ the way you would demand from a genie, but he gives us promises that will strengthen us as we seek his will both in and through our lives.

  • Thank

If you’re following Jesus, I’m guessing you have a story or two about instances where things seemed pretty hopeless, but in the end they worked out.

Maybe that’s part of your salvation experience.

Hopefully you have another story or two of times you cried out to God and he responded. Remind yourself of those stories.

God is not a mean kid with a magnifying glass on an anthill. You are not foolish to trust him.

In addition to loving you, God has invested a great deal into you - he’s not going to kick you to the curb.

Thank him for what he’s done, and choose to exercise faith by thanking him in advance for what he will do.

  • Peace

Usually, my worry is directly linked to my ability to comprehend the ‘master plan’. I say stuff like, “I’m willing to trust God, I just want to know what he’s up to.”

Jesus says that his peace goes beyond all understanding, so our ability to ‘stop worrying’ isn't linked to our ability to figure stuff out.

In fact, our uncertainty about the future is a chance to trust God.

God is faithful to us even (especially?) when we don’t deserve it.

So in the times when I don’t get why God is allowing something in my life - I didn’t get into the school of my choice, or I didn’t get hired into a place that I think would have been perfect - it’s an opportunity to reflect some of that faithfulness to God.

  • Remember who is in control

Dr. Henry Cloud, in the Boundaries books series, teaches us that we do not control other people. We may also not have very much control over situations that we have to face, but we are ridiculously in control of ourselves.

Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs in Love and Respect, says it this way: “Your response is your responsibility.”

You can’t decide whether your identity is going to be stolen, or if you will contract a disease, or if your computer suddenly stops working.

You can take steps to lower your risk, sure, but guarantee that they won’t happen? No chance.

But what you are 100% in charge of is how you will respond to the risk.

I think this is what Jesus is talking about in Luke 12 when he challenges us by asking, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?”

I take him to say, ‘Trust God in the stuff that you have no control over’.

Maybe this last thought will put you at ease - stop worrying whether bad things will happen, because they will. Jesus promised that in this world, we would have trouble. So instead of worrying about if or when or what, spend your time becoming the kind of person who responds in healthy ways to the challenges of this life.

Make plans, create strategies for life, but in the midst of it all, draw strength from your trust in God no matter what comes your way. Pray, give thanks, and be at peace.

What To Do When You're Angry At God

resentfulOne of the things that I love about Jesus is that he's a realist. Case in point: one of Jesus' disciples records him saying "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." (John 16:33)

He doesn't mince words by saying 'you may have trouble' or 'bad things could happen'. He gives us a guarantee. It's certainly not one of the promises we talk about claiming when we're in church.

But Jesus knew that sometimes life will suck.

Illness can strike, a loved one can die, we can lose a job or a house or our transportation.

So the question is not 'will something bad happen', or even 'what/when/how bad things will happen', for we cannot control those things, but rather 'how will we respond when bad things happen'?

The most important thing we can do in these situations is to respond by being honest with God.

When I am dealing with difficult emotions or frustration with God, I look to the Psalms.

The author of Psalm 44 writes "Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever."

David opens Psalm 55 with "Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles."

In Psalm 3, David prays "Arise, O LORD! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked!"

Imagine if I got up on stage at my church, asked everyone to bow their heads for prayer and then started saying any of those things. People would be shocked. Offended.

Yet nothing we say comes as a surprise to God. When we are honest with God about how we feel, it is something he already knows.

David was called a man after God's own heart despite his failings because he invited God into his emotions.

We read the prayer to destroy his enemies and it makes us uncomfortable, because the violent texts do not fit well with our concepts of the loving Father.

Yet in this case, we don't have to assume that God endorses David's prayer. He's simply allowing David to express his rage in the situation he faces. David trusts God with his real feelings, knowing that God loves him in the midst of his despair and fear and anger.

Anne Lamott in Help, Thanks, Wow says that “you might shout at the top of your lungs or whisper into your sleeve, "I hate you, God." That is a prayer...because it is real, it is truth, and maybe it is the first sincere thought you've had in months.”

When I realized that God isn't afraid of or upset by my anger or hurt or fear, but that instead he wanted to be invited into those places within me to bring healing, I began to open up more with my emotions to God.

I began to start my prays with 'God, I feel ________ today'.

Sometimes it was optimistic. Sometimes it was frustrated. Sometimes it was scared.

The next line was to welcome God into those emotions. Until I could be honest with God about those emotions, I couldn't be honest with myself about how I was feeling.

Telling God how you feel doesn't guarantee that he will 'fix' the situation immediately. But it does create space for him to provide healing and comfort that hits our soul like air in our lungs after being underwater for too long.

As William Nicholson wrote in Shadowlands, "[prayer] does not change God - it changes me"

When you are angry at God, follow the example he provides to us in the Psalms:

  1. Share those feelings with God.
  2. Invite God to meet you in those feelings.
  3. Allow God to work in you even while you are in the midst of your situation. It's not about what's happening to you, it's about what's happening in you.

God's not looking for men and women who can put on the nicest face on a Sunday at church. He's looking for the ones courageous enough to take off the mask and be themselves, trusting that God's love is bigger than our hurts and our concerns for appearance.

35@35 #23: Criticism

ask-for-criticismTC's guidelines and principles of life #23: "When you criticize, you may be getting in the way of the Holy Spirit working in that person." As a pastor, I am never critical of any human being on the planet. Ever.

...but I know a guy named "CT" who can totally be critical of people. All the time. He's a terrible person.

See, what CT does (the terrible guy, totally not me) is he thinks he has the right to tell people the right and wrong way to do stuff.

What he keeps forgetting a couple things.

Here's what he forgets:

1. We can only keep people accountable to the level of relationship with them.

If I don't know you, I can't care about you more than just a general 'I love you as a person' or 'I love you as a fellow believer in Christ' kind of way. Until you know that I care about you as a person, you have no idea whether I have your best interest at heart when I start doling out 'advice'.

And CT has no idea what would help you grow closer to Jesus without having a relationship with you. Trying to keep people accountable cannot outstrip your personal relationship, because that's just being controlling, in a blind and ignorant way.

2. We can't keep somebody accountable without knowing their story.

What right do I...I mean does CT have to tell somebody what they should do if he doesn't even know their story? C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, talks about how foolish it is to judge people on the same set of rules. He talks about the principle that for me not to get high on heroin is not overly commendable, because I don't any kind of addiction or attraction toward that drug. But for somebody who spent years of their life getting high off it, not getting high is a huge deal, and God must be incredibly proud of them for their willingness to fight such a huge battle. Or if they got high once this week instead of 4 times, that would be awesome. Yet CT, in his foolishness, may think he has a right to say 'tsk, tsk' to the person who got high once instead of four times.

So when I start telling somebody what they should and shouldn't do without knowing their life story, I'm doing it out of a place of ignorance and uncaring. God interacts with us out of full knowledge and full love.

I want to be crazy enough to love people, and believe that the Holy Spirit can show people what God wants for them.

Jesus didn't generally around scolding or threatening people whose lives were a mess. He basically showed them what they were missing out on and invited them to stop missing out on it.

Do you know how many times Peter screwed up? And yet, at the end, Jesus is calling Peter to spread God's good news and care for his followers.

If Jesus is more interested in restoring and giving grace to Peter, maybe I should look for opportunities to do the same.

Even Paul, who can have a hard edge to his leadership at times says in Galatians 6:1 "if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path."

If we're to be gentle and humble with believers, who should know better, how loving should we be for those who have not even committed to following Jesus yet?

At no point should we fail to speak the truth in love, but speaking the truth without love (which is what criticism is) is perhaps worse still that just staying quiet.

So I'm going to go back to CT and gently and humbly suggest that we point people to Jesus without presuming to know what everybody else should do in every situation.

I hope he listens, but I guess I'll just have to trust that the Holy Spirit can work in his 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.


Remember the blind guy that Jesus heals, then the disciples ask whether he was blind from his own sin or his parents sin?  Then Jesus says it was neither of those things, but rather that “this happened so the power of God could be seen in him”? Then Jesus heals him. (John 9) And remember Job? How God allows the devil to do anything short of killing him to see whether Job will stay faithful to God in adversity? But instead Job insists that God is righteous and just, despite all that happens to him. Then God blesses Job with twice as much as he had before.

What if the challenges you face are in fact an opportunity for you to give God glory by having faith and trust in him even when there’s no evidence to support your actions? And God wants people to see you trusting in him when it seems stupid to do so, so that when he blesses you, everyone will say that God did it.

Maybe the challenges and trials in your life aren’t about you, but they’re about God. They’re about an opportunity for you to show that God is greater than the troubles we encounter on this earth.

The two men I talked about up top showed faith and trust in God and God honored them. Those events became scripture and have encouraged every believer who ever read them. Maybe God wants to make your life a living testimony to those around you. They may not read the bible, but in your life perhaps they can see it in action.

God deserves our devotion because of who he is. Period. Not because of what he does, but simply by being the God who made the universe and everything in it.  Worship God when logic says not to and see God respond and glorify his name in your life.

God's Timing

“During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. The LORD said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”” (2 Samuel 21:1 ) I found this story to be fascinating. First, because it gives some insight to God’s frequently unusual timing (at least from our perspective).

God deals with things when he wants to. Sometimes it’s immediate (as with Joshua and the Israelites at Ai). But sometimes it’s later, even much later.

So God wanted to deal with this thing Saul did. But it’s long after Saul is dead and buried that God brings it up.

We don’t know when in David’s reign this famine occured. It seems quite possible that it was a decade or more after David was first crowned King of Judah.

I don’t have a clue why God waiting so long before dealing with this issue that he clearly found to be of critical importance. And perhaps that’s the point of this story. There is no way we can know why God does what he does, when he does it.

He brings things up when he chooses to, and we must simply be ready to deal with what he sends our way. We make our plans, but he directs our steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

The second thing I wonder about this situation is this: Did David only ask God’s input after 3 years had gone by? Or did he ask sooner and have to wait for years for an answer?

From the text, it seems that David delayed asking God until 3 years had gone by.

It makes me wonder if there are situations in my life that God wants to bring about healing or deliverance, but I’m busy trying to endure them.

I had some minor health problem that I had been living with, but recently realized I didn’t have to. So I prayed for healing and God did it. I had some of those situations going on for years.

All the while God was just waiting for me to ask.

In the end, God’s timing is going to remain a mystery to me. My job is to ask and trust. And perhaps most importantly, to listen. Because if I can’t know God’s timing, at least perhaps I can know his purpose