Tagged ‘Heart‘

God Is Completely In Control

In July, I wrote we are freed from anxiety when we understand God owns everything, and we are merely the stewards of what he gives us to manage. As you know, the day after posting the article, my sailboat went aground in Lake Okeechobee. The rudder was severely damaged, and the vessel currently sits in long-term storage at a marina waiting for the repair. I am excited to see how God is at work in the situation. A few weeks ago I was asked to do a kitchen remodel for friends of mine. Another friend asked if I would help with their guest house remodel. Yet another friend asked if I would remodel their guest bathroom. Suddenly I had weeks of work lined up! God moved quickly to provide the work. This is the type of work I have done in the past to supplement my ministry income. Through the years, I’ve gutted two different personal properties and rebuilt them, so I have a lot of experience from which to draw. I am grateful God seems to be providing for the rudder by providing this work for me.

Understanding God’s ownership is the first step to overcoming anxiety. The next step is to understand God is fully in control. Not only does he own everything, he also controls everything. Nothing takes him by surprise. He is always in control of our circumstances. In theological terms, we call this the sovereignty of God. This one thought has saturated my mind in the past two months. God is sovereign. He is in control. I am not. And this is fine with me.

Let’s let God speak for himself in regards to this important truth. This is what he says through the prophet Isaiah:

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:8-11, ESV)

Pause for a moment, and let those words saturate your soul. God declares of himself, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” He is above all and over all. There is no one like him. He is supreme above all.

When we understand his sovereignty, we get a better picture of ourselves. We are not God. Our ways are not like his. We are created in the image of God, but we are not at all like him. We do not think like God, but we like to think we can understand him and his ways. Herein is where we struggle. We want to understand why trials fall upon us. We want to understand God’s purposes. We want to understand God. But is this even possible? I think not.

It is better to love God than to try to understand him. Perhaps this is where we fall short. We spend our days trying to understand him instead of just crawling up on his lap and enjoying him, loving him, pressing into him. Far better to enjoy his presence than to weary ourselves trying to understand what cannot be understood. In the end, he is God and there is no other. His ways are higher than ours.

God also declares his ways and purposes cannot be thwarted. He will do what he has set out to do. Nothing and no one can change this. He proclaims, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose… I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11, ESV).

Ultimately, God’s purpose for my life is for me to love him with all my heart. This is his greatest desire for me. How God brings this about in my life may vary from one moment to the next. Sometimes there are seasons of favor when all is well. We celebrate these moments of the excess of God’s kindness in our lives. In the blessings, we are drawn closer to him. Other times he brings great trials, and in our brokenness we turn to him for comfort. God can use both seasons to draw us closer to himself. Whether he chooses to bless or to burden is not for us to know. It is only for us to know he waits with open arms to draw us to himself in either circumstance.

When God provided the sailboat for me, many remarked that it was the favor of God. What happened to God’s favor when the sailboat went aground? Was not this a moment of his favor as well? We recognize God’s favor when times are good, but when trials come, we are quick to forget he is always in control. What if God shows us the highest favor by allowing great trials into our lives, knowing they may draw us closer to himself?

Our trials bring great pause, because they contain the greatest choice we have to make. Will we choose to let the trial push us away from God and our relationship with him, or will we choose to crawl unto his lap instead?

I choose his lap. I am a child of the sovereign God. When I’ve skinned my knees, I just want to be held by him. And so I run to him. He pulls me up onto his lap, and holds me close to himself. This is enough for me. In that moment, I am loved, and I love him for it. I don’t even care if he tells me the greater purpose he is working out. I rest in the knowledge that he is sovereign. He is fully in control. I do not have to understand him and his ways in order to love him and feel loved by him.

My friend, are you in a season of favor, and all is well? Draw closer to God. Are you in a season of trial, and struggling to get through the day? Draw closer to God. Stop trying to understand what cannot be understood. Just love him. Let this be enough. God is sovereign, and he is also good. His purposes will not be thwarted, and neither will his love for you.

God is completely in control.

As I sit at my desk and write this, I am aware there is a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean grinding its way toward my home. It will be interesting to see where God directs it. After all, he is sovereign.

I enjoy reading your thoughts. Please write your comments below.

That Sinking Feeling

A few weeks ago I shared my experience when I grounded my sailboat while navigating Lake Okeechobee. It is currently in long-term storage at a marina while I wait for God to provide the resources needed to repair the rudder. It excites me to see God at work in my life and relationship with him through this experience. I shared on social media the work God has done in my life in my understanding of stewardship versus ownership. It is truly a place of rest when I keep my focus where it should stay.

If you read only those blogs, you might think I always respond the way I should. Nothing is further from the truth. In the following days I found myself struggling to keep my focus on God and not on my circumstances. Most of the time I kept my focus on him. But there were quiet moments when I was alone, far from the spotlight of ministry, and I wrestled with my lack of faith.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 103:14, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” This deeply ministers to me in the moments when I feel all too human. God created me from dust, and to dust someday I will return. In the moments between, I am dusty. I am of this world. I am human. My heart does not always respond the way my head knows it should. It is okay. God knows how he made me. He remembers I am dust.

Throughout Scripture we meet many interesting characters who carried the dust of the world on their journey. Peter is one of my favorites. He is bold, outspoken, quick to action, and undeniably human.

Following the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, Jesus sent the disciples on ahead of him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stayed behind to dismiss the crowds, and when all had departed, he found a place where he could pray in solitude. In the coolness of the evening he was alone. By this time the disciples were far from shore. A storm had risen, and they labored against the wind and the waves.

After many hours, the disciples had only managed to traverse two-thirds of the way across the lake. Darkness consumed the vessel. The tempest beat upon them. They were weary. Their arms ached from rowing. In the waning darkness, the disciples saw the figure of a man walking on the sea. Terror gripped their hearts. “It is a ghost!” they cried.

But it was Jesus! He came to them in the midst of their trial, walking on the water. “Take heart,” he shouted above the wind, “it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Here is where my brash friend Peter makes me smile. He blurted out, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Be careful what you ask!  For Jesus says to him, “Come.” And, in one of the most understated moments in Scripture, it says, “So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus” (Matthew 14:28, ESV).

Now we could stop our story right here, and Peter’s actions would impress all of us. Just as you might think more highly of me than you ought after reading the blog of my response to the grounding of the vessel. But let us continue our tale, for this is where it gets interesting.

Peter leapt from the vessel and strutted across the water. He was almost to Jesus. For a second, a flash of lighting illuminated the boiling sea. He glanced to his left and saw the frothy waves kicked up by the fierce wind. In a terrifying moment, he realized he was in the middle of the lake, and the boat was far behind. Fear pierced his heart. He was no longer walking on water. His feet sank beneath the surface, and he felt the cold water engulfing his legs. In a panic he cried, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus reached for him, lifting him above the waves, and with compassion said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Peter and Jesus walked back to the boat and joined the other disciples. The wind and waves ceased their roiling. The trial was ended. (Read Matthew 14:22-33 for the full account of this story.)

I relate to Peter. I want to step out of the boat in the midst of the storm to walk closer to Jesus. I want to focus on him so deeply that logic dissolves, and I find the water firm beneath my feet as I step toward him. But I also know what it means to take my eyes off of Jesus and to focus instead on the wind and the waves. I know that sinking feeling. I know the sensation of cold water engulfing my feet. I know the moments of fear in the midst of trying to trust him fully. I know how the hands of Jesus feel when he reaches down to lift me up. I know his voice when he says to me, “Tim, oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Yet his voice is not condemning. In my mind, I see his eyes looking down at my dusty clothes. Then he looks back to my eyes, smiles and with a wink says, “Yep, you’re dusty. You’re still human. And I’m still God.”

My friend, we are all human. We are dusty. We do not always respond the way we know we should. Sometimes the wind and waves overwhelm us. In those moments, even though we fail to trust him fully, God understands. He still rescues. He still leads us to a place of rest. He still loves.

When Peter and Jesus return to the other disciples in the boat, the seas stopped churning. The wind died down. Rest settled upon the weary. And everyone in the boat, including Peter, worshiped Jesus saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Their focus returned to Jesus. They worshiped. They understood a little more who he was. Our trials illuminate our need of Jesus. In the process we find he truly is the Son of God.

Our God is a God of grace. May we use each trial to trust him more fully. May God increase our faith. May we grow in our relationship with him. May the moments of doubt and confusion decrease, and our moments of trust increase.

Sometimes we walk on water. Sometimes we sink beneath it. May each moment draw us closer to him.

I enjoy reading your thoughts. Please write your comments below.

What Lies Beneath

The other day I couldn’t find my wallet. I searched everywhere. I wandered from room to room looking for it. Then I went back through every room in the house looking for it again. I looked in my car. Finally I moved to the sofa to see if somehow it had fallen between the seat cushions. I pulled up the cushion where I normally sit. I was taken aback by what I found.

Under the cushion I found lots of crusty bits of undetermined origin. There was a water bottle cap, three pretzels, and a kernel of popcorn. There was also a potato chip – a whole, unbroken potato chip. It boggles my mind how a potato chip managed to sneak into the crack between the cushions and then navigate under the cushion without being broken. If it had been in the shape of the Virgin Mary, I would have said it was a miracle. Then I would have sold it on eBay. But I digress. The point is, it was a mess under that cushion. I couldn’t believe how bad it was. But still there was no wallet.

Next, I got down on my knees to look under the sofa to see if perchance the wallet had fallen on the floor. Perhaps it was under the couch. I scanned beneath the sofa. There was no wallet. There was, however, enough dust under there to start a community garden. I don’t know if I have ever vacuumed under there. It was a pile of dust. The wood floor was completely coated in a dull grey mat. Something lumpy near the end of the sofa caught my eye, and I scooted down to that end to see what it was. I’m pretty sure it was the mummified carcass of a gecko. Poor guy!

All this got me to thinking about what lies beneath. I normally keep a pretty clean house. I don’t like clutter. I spend a few moments each evening before I go to bed picking up the house. In the morning I have a fresh start. On the surface, my house looks pretty good. But when you look a little deeper, say beneath the sofa, it gets filthy fast.

As I considered this, I thought about my own life as well. It is natural to want to present a good appearance. I brush my teeth, comb my hair, and put on some deodorant before I leave the house. I want to look good and smell good. However, if we are not careful, we can focus on keeping everything in order on the outside, but miss what matters to God. The heart is what matters to him. What matters to God is what lies beneath. Consider this verse:

“The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, ESV).

God doesn’t look at things the way we do. He’s looking at what lies beneath.

David is the most famous king Israel has ever had. His kingdom is still the benchmark in Israel’s history. In his old age, David turned the kingdom over to his son, Solomon. As he addressed Solomon and the people, he said this:

“Know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought” (1 Chronicles 28:9, ESV).

David’s kingdom was renowned for its wealth and splendor. Solomon’s kingdom eventually looked even more impressive. On the outside, his wealth was jaw-dropping. People came from all over the world to see the buildings he constructed. How exciting it must have been. But issues behind the scenes eventually caused the kingdom to fall.

It can happen in ministries and churches. God is not impressed by large ministries or beautiful buildings. It can also happen with individuals. He’s not impressed by nice looking clothes and hair combed just right. Often what we think is important has little interest to him. He’s looking beneath the surface. Sometimes what he sees is alarming. Sometimes he sees pride. Sometimes he sees greed. Sometimes he sees lust and pornography. Sometimes he sees envy. Sometimes he sees selfish ambition. He searches our hearts. He understands every plan and thought we have.

The problem is we tend to focus on the externals far more than what is inside. We do it when we look at our own lives, and we do it when we look at the lives of others. We tend to focus on how things look. But God is interested in the areas that are not seen by the human eye. He is interested in areas of the heart and the mind.

When I am focused on keeping the externals in order, I can become a caricature of a true follower of Jesus. It is just an outline with nothing inside. It looks kind of like a follower of Jesus, but at its heart it is completely empty.

Instead, I intentionally focus on what is inside, my personal relationship with God. This is what David was referring to in his words to his son Solomon. “Know the God of your father…” Get to know him. Foster a tight relationship with him. Spend time with him. In the Hebrew language the word he uses for “know” is the same word used to describe an intimate relationship between a husband and a wife. For example, Genesis 4:1 says, “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” This is an intimate relationship we are talking about here! Be one with God!

If we are not careful, we can spend so much time and effort trying to keep up appearances. How sad! I can focus on making sure the externals are right, while my heart is still a mess. Instead, when I focus on making sure the heart is right, the externals take care of themselves. Take care of the parts no one sees, and God will transform the parts that everyone does see.

I eventually found my wallet. It was on top of an end table, right where I had left it. I shook my head when I realized it was hiding in plain sight. But I was grateful I had taken the time to search for it. In the process of searching, I found an area that needed addressing. I hope you will do the same. Today, take time to look a little deeper. What areas of your life do you need to bring into the light? What area of your life do you need to clean today? Perhaps you should get on your knees, look underneath the surface, and address anything you find.

Remember, what matters to God is what lies beneath.

This article was originally published in the May 2016 Newsletter.