Saturday, December 24, 2011

Trust without Understanding

Christmas morning. It's nearly 7am here in Greece, but I've been up since 4:30am due to my unwillingness to conform to the time difference here. While to many this may seem very inconvenient and oftentimes depressing, it is my favorite part about my day. Because I am not tired, reading is my first priority lately thanks in large part to my Kindle.

I've been on break for roughly one week and I've read 5 books in that span. One of those has become one of the most influential books I've ever read; it is Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges. To be honest, I had only bought this book because it was really cheap for the Kindle, but that must have been a GOD thing. 

This past semester was absolutely packed full of blessings and pains. All of which, looking back now, I am very thankful for. But what strikes me most is how I had allowed the easy times and the hard times define my emotions. It was a roller-coaster of a semester which I'm sure many people experienced as well. However, looking back again, the last thing I made of an importance was to trust GOD. 

It is all too easy to think that we can control what happens, that we must do things the right way, that we are "the captain of our fate." It was this mindset that led my semester. I thought that when things did not go my way that I was doing something wrong, when I was not happy that I must not have had enough faith, when I was anxious that I needed more control. I was not okay with the unknown. If there was a grey area in my life, I needed to solve it instantly.

All of this led to self-reliance and anxiety. I wanted to trust that GOD was in control, but I would never allow HIM to be. So here I was this Christmas break, still wrestling over my lack of control in my life when GOD slowed my life down and caused me to trust HIM.

Jerry Bridges does not try to solve life's pains, but what HE does is give Biblical reasons for why we can and should trust GOD no matter what is going on in our lives. HE defends this by referring to three attributes of GOD: HIS sovereignty, HIS wisdom, and HIS love. "GOD in HIS love always wills what is best for us. In HIS wisdom He always knows what is best, and in HIS sovereignty He has the power to bring it about" (19).

What had caused so much of my emotional pains this semester was not the events in my life, but my lack of trusting that GOD had things under control. I was worried. Worried that my plans would fail which would mean that GOD's is probably not going to be as good. "If we are to experience peace in our souls in times of adversity, we must come to the place where we truly believe that GOD's ways are simply beyond us and stop asking HIM why or even trying to determine it ourselves" (136). I was so caught up in trying to figure out why my life was going the direction it was instead of trusting that GOD had things under control the whole time.

Maybe GOD was disciplining me for sin in my life, maybe HE was protecting me from future sins, maybe HE knows that this is exactly what it would take for me to stop trusting myself and turn to HIM. I really don't know why this semester panned out the way it did, but "what I do know is that "when HE has tested me, I shall come out as gold" (Job 23:10). I don't have anymore answers than I did when I left school, but what I do know is what I need to do when adversity strikes again, because it will. "GOD's plan and HIS ways of working out HIS plan are frequently beyond our ability to fathom and understand. We must learn to trust when we don't understand" (21).

Too often my mind gets in the way of my trust. I have to figure out the answer. That's how GOD wired me. Since HE made me that way, HE knows how best I learn, and if that means I don't understand at the time so be it. "An unreserved trust of GOD, when we don't understand what is happening or why, is the only road to peace and comfort and joy" (142). It's okay if I don't know why things happen because that's what the Bible teaches. "We think so much about our responsibility to discover GOD's will in a situation or to make wise decisions in life's choices, but the biblical emphasis seems to be on GOD's guiding us...I am where I am today, not because I have always made wise decisions or correctly discovered the will of GOD at particular points along the way, but because GOD has faithfully led me and guided me along the path of HIS will for me" (183-184).

I hope this comforts you as it did to me. GOD is in control and HE is working things out for your good and my good even when we don't understand why. Peace is only found in trust, not in good situations.

"Again, let me emphasize that trusting GOD does not mean we do not experience pain. It means we believe that GOD is at work through the occasion of our pain for our ultimate good. It means we work back through the Scriptures regarding HIS sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness and ask HIM to use those Scriptures to bring peace and comfort to our hearts. It means, above all, that we do not sin against GOD by allowing distrustful and hard thoughts about HIM to hold sway in our minds. It will often mean that we may have to say, 'GOD I don't understand, but I trust YOU'" (214).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Cheer for FREE!

In support of the Christmas season beginning, the floor below mine in Culby has produced an excellent Christmas Album. Support Culby X and the rest of Moody by downloading this album from Noisetrade here.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Many times, others have said exactly what I try to say in much better ways. Here is but one example:

my every sense, member, faculty, affection, is a snare to me,
   I can scarce open my eyes but I envy those above me,
                                                             or despise those below.
I covet the honor and riches of the mighty,
   and am proud and unmerciful to the rags of others;
If I behold beauty it is a bait to lust,
                    or deformity, it stirs up loathing and disdain;
How soon do slanders, vain jests, and wanton speeches creep into my heart!
Am I comely? What fuel for pride!
Am I deformed? What an occasion for repining!
Am I gifted? I lust after applause!
Am I unlearned? How I despise what I have not!
Am I in authority? How prone to abuse my trust, 
                                                             make will my law,
                                                             exclude others' enjoyments,
                                                             serve my interests and policy!
Am I inferior? How much I grudge others' pre-eminence!
Am I rich? How exalted I become!

THOU knowest that all those are snares by my corruptions, 
   and that my greatest snare is myself.
I bewail that my apprehensions are dull,
                         my thoughts mean,
                         my expressions low,
                         my life beseeming;
Yet what canst THOU expect of dust by levity,
                                                      of corruption but defilement?
Keep me ever mindful of my natural state,
   but let me not forget my heavenly title,
   or the grace that can deal with every sin.

-Valley of Vision.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Having Opinions.

I don't know if you are this way, but I tend to have my own opinions, but right when I hear a counter argument for something I
had believed I start to doubt myself. I'm not talking about objective truths, but the subjective: Did you enjoy the speaker? Do you like this band? Is this a good movie? Did you enjoy reading this book?

You see all these questions are subjective to the person answering them, and most every one has an opinion for all of them. There are people who are not afraid to voice their answers unashamedly and are not afraid of someone disagreeing with him, then there are people like me who have opinions, but are afraid to say them for fear of offending someone or losing respect.

This is not a bad thing until I'm afraid to give my opinion because I'm afraid of being wrong. How can I be wrong about whether I enjoyed listening to Jon Foreman or watching Gladiator, yet when I talk to people who don't like Jon Foreman, suddenly I'm less fond of his music. Suddenly, his creativity is less inspiring because I'm talking to someone who doesn't enjoy it. It can also work the opposite way; I don't enjoy heavy metal music, but when talking about it, I'll typically seem to enjoy it, at least a little bit.

Now, it is ok for me to seemingly enjoy conversing about something I don't really enjoy, but it's a whole other issue for me to not to give my honest opinion when someone asks for it. If I start compromising my opinions on small issues, that mentality will creep into some of the bigger issues over time. I will begin to not be offended when someone disrespects someone or something I care about because I'm afraid of disrespecting others. It becomes a circle of lies.

So yes, there are some things that aren't worth fighting for, but there are things we must get defensive of. If someone doesn't like Jon Foreman's music, that shouldn't offend me, but if someone attacks the character of someone I care about, then I should fight for them. There are obviously a lot of gray areas and we need to be careful about how much we argue for things that we think need to be defended, but if someone wants our opinion, then we need to give it without fear of being liked more or less because of it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Thank GOD for struggles.

I'm in my third year at Moody Bible Institute. I wake up before 7 most days to either attend class or go to work. I'm developing irreplaceable friendships, learning a plethora of theology, and am a part of the #1 Men's soccer team in the nation for the NCCAA DII. Life here could not be better. This is the Moody experience. This is how I grow.

While I could structure out all of these great things out into a diagram of how I want others to experience Moody, but what I've learned is that though all these good things are at Moody, it's the struggles that I wouldn't trade for anything.

It has been through my struggles that I've seen GOD brighter and more radiant. It's been through my struggles that I've opened myself up to criticisms and tough conversations. It's been through my struggles that GOD has given me peace and joy. My struggles demote pride. My struggles cause me to surrender all: all my will, my plans, my emotions to the ONE who gave them to me.

I have the atrocious tendency to become anxious just about everyday of my life. If things are not according to me plan, or if I cannot foresee something happening, I begin to worry. I begin to doubt myself and sometimes GOD. So I'll write down how confused and frustrated I am with HIM. Mainly asking HIM, "Why? Why not do my plan? Why delay such a good thing?"

GOD always answers, "Because my plan is better. Because I know what is best for you. Because I love you. You are going through disappointment because until you learn to trust ME in disappointments, you will never trust me in success. You would marry the girl of your dreams because you think you won her heart with your charm. You would think you have good friends because you are such a great person. You would think that I love you because you deserve it. That is why I cannot allow you to trust yourself. Because I know the minute you start to lean on your own understanding is the minute that you think you can do this by yourself. I love you, and I'd rather be holding your hand when you trip, then watch you scar your face on the asphalt."

So I trust HIM... for a couple of days, sometimes hours. But HE never gives up on me. It's only through my struggles that I can see this. Struggles mature us. Struggles teach us. Struggles cause us to love HIM more.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
(Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)
May this bless you, as it has for me. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

All Creatures.

“Let me see THY love everywhere,
not only in the cross,
but in the fellowship of believers
and in the world around me.
When I feel the warmth of the sun
may I praise THEE who art the Sun of righteousness
with healing power.
When I feel the tender rain
may I think of the gospel showers that water my soul.
When I walk by the river side
may I praise THEE for that stream that makes
the eternal city glad, and washes white my robes
that I may have the right to the tree of life.
THY infinite love is a mystery of mysteries,
and my eternal rest lies
in the eternal enjoyment of it.”
-Valley of Vision.

Too often I do not understand just how much GOD really loves me. Sure, it is an unfathomable love, but that is not what I mean. I continually take for granted the unsurpassing love of JESUS as something that I deserve or have earned rather than the free gift of which it is.

I often forget the love of GOD for me. I get caught up with the desire to be loved by others that I lose sight of the Unchanging Love. This love is all around me: the “warmth of the sun,” “the tender rain,” “the river side.” They all proclaim GOD’s love and goodness to me, and yet I take them for granted.

Often times I not only neglect these instances of love, but feel they are due me. “I deserve the warm sun because I have suffered cold. I deserve rain because it has been barren. I deserve this beautiful river because I had not.” It’s when I realize how unworthy I am of all GOD’s blessings that I truly realize how magnificent HIS love is.

All creation not only proclaims GOD’s love, but it recognizes this love and returns with praise. GOD loves us in every way so that we might respond in praise and thanksgiving.

Sun, you give warmth to bring glory to GOD. Rain, you bring growth to bring glory to GOD. River, you give life to bring glory to GOD. Sam, you sing praises to bring glory to GOD. Sam, you laugh to bring glory to GOD. Sam, you love others to bring glory to GOD. Sam, you live to bring glory to GOD.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

-St. Francis of Assisi

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Four Loves.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket---safe, dark, motionless, airless--- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.                                              C.S. Lewis.
I just finished reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. I can't say that I've been more blessed by a book (other than the Bible) than I was by this one. Lewis is able to dissect the human heart in such a careful and intimate manner that I feel like he actually knows me and my tendencies. 

The Four Loves mainly describes the different types of love that humans have: Affection, Friendship, and Eros. Yes. The name of the book is The Four Loves, and I only mentioned three. I know. You see after reading his arguments and definitions of these different types of human loves, he has convinced me that the final type of love is actually the Love that the other three must flow from. This love he calls Charity, but he means the supernatural love that GOD gives us and what GOD is.

Affection is the most natural of all the loves in that we see it instinctively more often than the other loves. It is the natural desire that parents have for their offspring or even the appreciation that one has for a certain acquaintance or friend. Lewis puts it this way:
In my experience it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate the people who "happen to be there." Made for us? Thank GOD, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.
Friendship love actually is the most unnatural. We think having a close knit friend is natural, but many times it is easy to remember that this whole idea runs contrary to our human depravity. We are always looking out for ourselves, and when we choose to stick with a friend through "thick and thin" it takes a lot of guts to stay on that course.

Eros, the love between a man and a woman. This love does not mean sex, but it is that desire or attraction which brings a man and a woman together. Lewis sees the passion and joy to constantly make the other happy as an example of our relationship with JESUS and our brothers in HIM:
 It is as if CHRIST said to us thru Eros, "Thus---just like this---with this prodigality---not counting the cost---you are to love me and the rest of my brethren... The real danger seems to me not that lovers will idolise each other but that they will idolise Eros himself.
This all leads to Charity. Charity that love which comes straight from GOD HIMSELF. I'm going to let a string of Lewis quotes summarize this up:
The loves prove that they are unworthy to take the place of GOD by the fact that they cannot even remain themselves and do what they promise to do without GOD's help.
All humans beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you many lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only BELOVED who will never pass away.
We shall draw nearer to GOD, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent of all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to HIM; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if HE chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.
They are biased in favour of those goods they can themselves bestow, or those which they would like best themselves, or those which fit in with a pre-conceived picture of the life they want the object to lead. But Divine Gift-Love --- LOVE HIMSELF working in a man--- is wholly disinterested and desires what is simply best for the beloved.

No sooner do we believe that GOD loves us than there is an impulse to believe that HE does so, not because HE is LOVE, but because we are intrinsically loveable... Far be it from us to think that we have virtues for which GOD could love us.
It is not that we have loved [any earthly Beloved] too much, but that we did not quite understand what we were loving. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dearly familiar, to a Stranger. When we see the face of GOD we shall know that we have always known it... By loving HIM more than them we shall love them more than we do now. 
I realize that were a lot of quotes there, but I believe they capture WHO true LOVE is. If we are to learn to love each other, we must first learn the Love of GOD.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.               (1 John 4:7-12 ESV)
GOD, YOU are truly love. Without YOU all of my love is worthless and dust. Teach me to love you more because it is only through YOU that my love has meaning. YOU are love, and for me to love others, I must have more of YOU. Amen.