Tag Archives: trust

The End

The trips were long and not always easy – certainly not relaxing. It’s not that I had to take them – so why did I? It was my sophomore year of college. I had met the most wonderful woman during the previous summer. I didn’t want to go far without her, but because of her job she stayed behind in Kalamazoo, Michigan when I returned to college in Pella, Iowa. I knew there would be several trips back home to see her – and there were. And not one of them was smooth or easy.

If I rode with someone for the holiday weekends (I had no car), there were huge traffic jams getting out of Michigan (the interstate system was not yet complete). If I took the train, it was crammed with people, I had to wait in and pass through Chicago, and someone had to pick me up in a very small town in Iowa, not near Pella. If I flew, it was stand-by since I couldn’t afford full price and there was no Orbitz or Travelocity or Price Line. And stand-by was always risky and arriving with my luggage even riskier. Not once during that year was it a smooth, easy trip.

So why did I persist and keep making the trips? Because Barb was at the other end! I quickly learned that when the journey is difficult, remember who’s at the end. It’s the same lesson I’m learning from Jesus. He knows the faith journey is not an easy one, that it’s seldom smooth and trouble-free. Think about His disciples; as Jesus neared the time of the cross they were having a difficult time and would face even tougher times. So, on the night of His betrayal He addressed His disciples about their troubled hearts: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3)When the journey is difficult, remember who’s at the end.

Nothing has really changed. The faith journey is not easy; the road is rough. And often it’s long. At times we wonder if we’ll make it. We get tired, worn out, beaten down. The tragedies, the pain, the sorrow, the opposition overwhelm us. And sometimes we may even wonder if it’s worth it. Can we really be sure of how and where it will end? It seems so hopeless; it’s hard to rely on what we cannot see. Faith may well mean being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see – but sometimes we don’t feel so sure and certain. At such times it is important to remember that when the journey is difficult, remember who’s at the end.

In Randy Alcorn’s novel Edge of Eternity, Nick has been to the edge of heaven (Charis), but is being sent back to finish his life on earth (Skiathuros). God speaks to him: “Friday has passed,’ he said to me. ‘Tomorrow is Sunday. I send you back to the world’s Saturday. Know that the never-ending Sunday comes, and even until it does I am with you. I listen to you, and I weep with you that you may one day laugh with me.’ My eyes burned. ‘Listen carefully, Nick, for in a moment I send you back to the true Skiathuros. Before I do, I want you to look once more at Charis. I am preparing this world for you – and I’m also preparing you for it. Charis isn’t just a world I make for you, it is the world for which you were made. Every part of it resonates with who you are, who you really are, not the old Nick Seagrave, but the one I’ve made you to be. I have a new name for you. You’re not ready to hear it yet. But I will give it to you when we meet face to face in our home.” [i] When the journey is difficult, remember who’s at the end.

Whatever you’re facing right now, whatever you may face tomorrow, no matter what direction your life seems to be heading, you can make it to the end – because you know the way. Jesus continued speaking to His disciples: “And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:4-6) Set your compass on Jesus – He’s the due north. He will always guide you towards home. If necessary, in fact, He will send His angels to accompany you. Like the father of the prodigal son, Jesus is waiting for the day He can run to greet you, throw His arms around you and say, “Welcome home my child. Come, join the party – it’s for you!” When the journey is difficult, remember who’s at the end. Don’t let your heart be troubled – trust in Jesus.

[i] Edge of Eternity, Randy Alcorn, Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado, © 1998 by Eternal Perspective Ministries, p. 321


More Than a Pop Phrase

It’s amazing how certain phrases or expressions catch on and take a culture by storm. Consider, “At the end of the day…” If you haven’t heard it yet today, you will. And if you don’t, more than likely you’ll hear it several times tomorrow to make up for today’s lack! I hear “At the end of the day…” in discussions and debates between sportscasters and show hosts, during interviews with dignitaries, actors/actresses and politicians, and in casual conversations. I’ve heard it so much that, at the end of the day, I became convinced it must be the newest pop phrase. I feel like if, at the end of the day, I haven’t heard it I must not be listening and if I haven’t used it I must not be a Pop person! Which could be true – I mean, at the end of the day I’m not even totally clear as to what the phrase means!

I’ve deduced that “At the end of the day…” means something like “When it’s all said and done…”, “When we’ve examined this from all the various angles…”, “When we add it all up…” – all of which mean “What’ really matters is…” And that got me to thinking. Perhaps at the end of the day is more than a pop phrase. There is someone who knew all about the end of the day, and from Him we can learn what really matters. His name is Jesus. When He came to the end of His earthly days He was hanging on a cross, condemned to die as a criminal but chosen to die for the sin of the world. His final words, at the end of the day, were “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” What’s significant is that these words are from Psalm 31 – they were not new; they formed a familiar prayer for the Israelites. Beginning at an early age these words were uttered by the children at bedtime as they placed themselves in unshakeable trust in the hands of the Father. They are really very similar to the spirit of our “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If Jesus comes before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take” (or some variance thereof).

So Jesus was uttering His familiar day-end prayer. At the end of the day Jesus died as He lived – with total trust in the Father. In other words, the moment of death saw no change in Jesus. These words are significant precisely because they are not new – they are but the expression of His whole life. The truth is if, at the end of the day we can lie down to sleep with peace, we can lie down at the final day’s end to die in peace. As Paul put it, “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s!” (Romans14:8 Revised Standard Version)

So, at the end of the day the message is that how we live is the key to how we will die. I invite you to live in trust so you can, at the end of the day, die in trust. Believe that no matter what, your Father will bring you safely home. It is this belief which leads me, as I climb into bed at the end of each day, to pray what I think is a more adult version of my early life’s prayer. “Good, good Father — now I lay me down to sleep, Thankful that my soul you keep. Now guide and guard me through the night, and wake me when and where it’s right.” At the end of the day that’s all that really matters.

Safe and Secure

We have a security system at our house. I know it works because we’ve accidentally tripped the alarm on more than one occasion. But there is also a code we can punch in at the control box which, we’ve been told, would immediately bring emergency assistance without setting off the alarm. But how do we really know? Sometimes I would like to punch in the code just to see if anyone comes quickly. But unless I want to get into deep trouble, I need to trust and believe.

I feel much the same way when I read Psalm 91. The Psalmist is eloquent and picturesque as he speaks about four provisions of security. The first provision is in verse 3: “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.” God gives SAFETY from the traps and snares the devil sets for us.

God also provides SHELTER. (4a) “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge…” When a predator or something dangerous approaches, the bird instinctively spreads its wings and the younger birds scurry underneath for shelter. So God provides shelter for His people.

God’s third provision is that He is our SHIELD. (4b) “…his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” The Psalmist knew that God is faithful to all He created (Psalm 36:5): “Your love , Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” He also knew that God’s faithfulness would pass through the generations. (Psalm 119:89-91 NLT): “Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.”

The fourth provision God provides is SACRED GUARDIANS. (11-12) “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Hebrews 1:14 teaches that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. God sends His angels to keep His people safe and on track in all their ways. In essence, God has provided us with designated drivers to escort us home.

These provisions give us at least three freedoms, the first of which is FREEDOM FROM FEAR (5-6) “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” Since God provides security, what is there to fear? The Psalmist also says that we gain FREEDOM FROM EVIL. (7-8) “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.” Evil will not take over our lives and control us. Thirdly, we gain FREEDOM FROM HARM AND DISASTER. (10) “…no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.”

God gives safety, shelter, a shield, and sacred guardians so we are free from fear, evil, and harm and disaster. The Psalmist concludes by restating God’s covenant with His people: (14-16) “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Notice the promises – God will rescue us, protect us, answer our prayers, be with us, deliver us, honor us, satisfy us with long life, and show us salvation. It’s wonderful!

It all hinges on TRUSTING GOD. Security in God is not an insurance policy against misfortune or trials. The glorious, seemingly unconditional provisions and promises of Psalm 91 are, at core, not a call to understand but a call to trust. (1-2) “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” To ‘dwell’ is to trust God – to put all your weight on Him. Think of climbing a rock wall. Once you put your weight in the harness and trust the person holding the rope, you feel safer and therefore can climb easier and higher.
Are you willing, in the midst of the tough times of life, to put your weight on and trust in God?

Consider the following conversation. (2)

“God, can I ask you something?” “Sure.”
“Promise you won’t get mad?“ “I Promise.”
“Why did you let so much stuff happen to me today?” “What do you mean?”
“Well I woke up late.” “Yes.”
“My car took forever to start.” “Okay…”
“At lunch, they made my sandwich wrong and I had to wait.” “Hmmm…”
“On the way home, my phone went dead, just as I picked up a call.” “All right.”
“And to top it all off, when I got home, I just wanted to soak my feet in my foot massager and relax, but it wouldn’t work. Nothing went right today! Why did you do that?”

“Well, let me see…the death angel was at your bed this morning and I had to send one of the other angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that.” “Oh…”
“I didn’t let your car start because there was a drunk driver on our route that might have hit you if you were on the road.” “Oh…”
“The first person who made your sandwich today was sick and I didn’t want you to catch what they have; I knew you couldn’t afford to miss work.” “Oh…”
“Your phone went dead because the person that was calling was going to give a false witness about what you said on that call, so I didn’t even let you talk to them so you would be covered.” “I see God.”
“Oh, and that foot massager, it had a short that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn’t think you wanted to be in the dark.” “I’m sorry God.”
“Don’t be sorry, just learn to trust me…in all things, the good and the bad.” “I will trust you God.”
“And don’t doubt that my plan for your day is always better than your plan.” “I won’t God. And let me just tell you God, thank you for everything today.”
“You’re welcome child. It was just another day being your God and I love looking after my children.”

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

(1) http://www.aviatorsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_0035-2.jpg
(2) Original author unknown


Precious Promises

She was our neighbor and a member of the youth group. She was also our occasional great baby sitter. I had been her youth pastor for about a year. I’ve forgotten the substance of our conversation but I remember her expressing concern that I would move to another church before she graduated from high school. I also remember telling her not to worry, that I would certainly be around for her graduation in a couple of years. A year later I took a call to another church in another state. She looked at me with her sad eyes and said, “You promised you’d be here for my graduation.” What could I say – she was right and we were both feeling pain. I broke a precious promise. And when I did that her trust was shaken.

Perhaps that’s why I am drawn to Moses encounter with God at the burning bush. Moses wanted a guarantee, a word of assurance that he could show to the people, that God could be trusted. (Exodus 3:67-9) God responded, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (I am the God who was present with your people in the past.) “At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians…” (I am the God who is present with you now.) “… and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (I am the God who will be present with you in the future.) I am the God who has never let you down. I am the God who has never failed to deliver on my word. I am the God who is faithful to all my promises.

God is both a promise-maker and a promise-keeper. In fact, God has made a promise to be faithful to His covenant. We see it in His call to Abraham – God called him to leave everything he knew and had and head for a place he had never seen – all because God wanted to build a great nation through him. That’s all Abraham had – the promise, the word of God. But he discovered that God delivers on his word – from Abraham, a nation was born. And Moses was called to go face to face and toe to toe with Pharaoh – all because God wanted to rescue Israel from slavery. That’s all Moses had – the promise, the word of God. But he, too, discovered that God delivers on His word – for Israel was set free.

Centuries later, when it seemed as if maybe God had forgotten His promise to send a deliverer, the man named Jesus marched to a cross, shed His blood, was laid in a tomb, but rose again! God’s people – you and I – were set free! God delivers on His word. God is the ultimate Promise-Keeper! On His word, and His word alone, we are free to love and serve – because the future is guaranteed. As the Apostle Peter later wrote (2 Pt. 3:13): “According to his promise, we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth where everything will work right.” We are free to be faithful to our word.

God wants us to be covenant makers not contract makers. A contract states what each party promises to do – you do this and I will do this. But if either party breaks the contract it is null and void. A covenant states what one party promises to do, no matter what. When we are covenant promise makers and keepers, we are like God!

Just imagine what being faithful covenant makers and promise keepers would mean – in our marriages, our families, our schools, our workplaces, our halls of government, our churches. What if, in our marriages, families, schools, workplaces, government, and churches we truly promised, “I am the one who will be there for you” instead of “I will be there for you as long as you provide me with all the satisfaction I have coming?” To be like God is to keep our promises even when we are not getting what we want or deserve. Thomas Carlysle, near the end of his monumental history of the French Revolution, concluded that the revolution failed, not because of corruption in high places, but because ordinary people in their ordinary places neglected to keep their promises. Lewis Smedes wrote, “If we do not keep our promises, what was once a human community turns into a combat zone of (self-centeredness.)” We are free to be difference makers – we can keep our word because God has kept His.

What if you really trusted God? What would your life look like? What would you do if you really trusted God – truly believed that He is with you? What would you do if you really believed that God is – that He makes things happen, that He is the answer to all your needs? What would you do if you truly believed that God was faithful to His word? What promise would you claim? Are you willing to trust God? A little boy was walking down the beach, and as he did, he spied a matronly woman sitting under a beach umbrella on the sand. He walked up to her an asked, “Are you a Christian??” “Yes.” “Do you read your Bible every day?” “Yes.” “Do you pray often?” the boy asked next. And again she answered, “Yes.” With that the little boy asked his final question, “Will you hold my quarter while I go swimming?” What quarters do you need to give to God as you head back out into the waters of life? I invite you to establish your trust in Jesus. Lay before Him your needs, your fears, your challenges, your dreams. Give Him your quarters – whatever they may be. For you can trust Him!

A Shady Life

I admit – I live a shady life.

But it’s not what you think. I’m not dishonest, crooked, underhanded or shifty. Rather I’m shaded and sheltered. Here’s what I mean.

A desire for being in the shade and shadows brings to mind the time we took our 3 boys to Washington DC. It was hot. No – it was scorching hot. It was so scorching hot that the front page of the news showed a row of parked motorcycles all tipped over laying on their sides. In the intense heat the blacktop had softened so the kickstands sank, tilting the cycles until they all fell. Now that’s hot!

I vividly remember the sweat and fatigue. We planned our walking routes so we could get periodic spots of shade – it was the only relief and rest available outdoors. And even the air conditioned buildings seemed muggy and stifling. Perhaps that’s why I identify so easily with the Psalmist who prayed “…hide me in the shadow of your wings…” (Psalm 17:8) The wings are another image of and symbol for the cloud. What we would have given for some shadowing clouds on that day! (1)

The Psalmist uses the imagery again: “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.” (Psalm 121: 5-7) The Lord is a shadow for all the distresses and threats we encounter – any time, day or night.

How can we be sure? Jesus points to Himself as the wings of God. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” (Matthew 23:37) What a picture! When her babies are in danger Mama Hen spreads her wings to protect them. Pretty much what human mothers do for their children!

The issue is whether or not we will plan our routes to go under His wings.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Underlining mine) The shady spots are available – sometimes God’s wings and shade are right where we are – but oftentimes we need to go to the shade – like the hens need to go to Mama. The Psalmist knew it – he made it clear: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91: 1-4). Curry’s Paraphrase: When we dwell under His wings we will have rest during the heat and storms of life.

One final image – Jesus hangs on the cross with His arms outstretched. His wings are spread. He’s offering the refuge of a shady life for all who come to Him.

The words of William Cushing say it eloquently: “Under His wings I am safely abiding, Though the night deepens and tempests are wild, Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me, He has redeemed me, and I am His child. Under His wings, under His wings, Who from His love can sever? Under His wings my soul shall abide, Safely abide forever.” (2)

(1) See my three previous posts: Life in the Cloud, More Life in the Clouds, Living in Glory

(2 Under His Wings, William O. Cushing