It is not always easy to make sense of the events of the world or the happenings in daily life. This fallen world can be full of experiences that are both blessings and troubles. While we enjoy and celebrate the blessings, the more distressful aspects of life can be very confusing, cause great anxiety and fear, and rob us of our joy. What is perhaps even more difficult is to be at peace with it all.
This is when the term “Providence” is most helpful. Providence is the word we use to describe God’s activity in the world as He works out His purpose. It is not always easy to understand the ways of Providence. We cannot predict what God will do or will allow to happen, or why He makes things happen differently than we would hope. However, embracing Providence assures us that much of what happens in life is not by accident. God is ever-working out His purpose in our daily lives, sometimes in ways that we may never be aware of. For instance, it is no accident when He puts people in our life’s paths, either briefly or long-term. Situations with which we must deal, both blessings and trials, are not without meaning. God has a purpose in all of this. We all have stories of events we can define as a “God thing”; this is what we mean by Providence.
Recognizing that the flow of our life includes God working out His purpose is often the only way we can make sense of it, especially when life is difficult. We wonder what God is up to, however we can be sure that God is up to something good while working out His purpose. Oftentimes His […]
The season of Advent reminds us each year of the remarkable life and ministry of John the Baptist. He is a single solitary figure, preaching an uncomfortable message. He had no ministry infrastructure, no marketing campaign, and no easy crowd access or visibility. He had no formal education, no endorsement from any religious authority, and no powerful alliances or financial supporters. His appearance, his diet, and his preaching were completely unappealing and unattractive. And yet great crowds flocked to hear him anyway, finding a way to his remote desert pulpit, and submitting to his call for radical repentance and baptism. What was it about this solitary fiery preacher that made him the small hinge upon which the huge doors of human history would turn?
Luke tells us the answer. The word of the Lord came to John, and that made all the difference. That is what drew the crowds to listen to him. He had a word—a real word—from God.
As Luke put it, quoting from the prophet Isaiah, John was “a voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’” I like that phrase, “a voice of ONE…” That sums up John the Baptist in a single phrase; he was an unstoppable army of ONE. His voice may have been solitary, but it echoed in the corridors of power until kings trembled; it boomed across the desert with a power you could only explain as the sound of God Himself. One voice can pierce the silence, just as one candle can push back the deepest darkness.
We would do well this Advent to remember the power of a single voice, a single action, or a single life to make a huge difference in the world.
The verses below are from the first of three letters the disciple John wrote to believers. John was the only disciple to live to old age, and he wrote this advice as a wise older man caring deeply about the newly forming church.
I invite you to read these words. Read them out loud, underline or highlight them, pray them back to God. Be grateful. Be brave. Know who you are and know that you are loved! Your identity is unchanging, even in an ever-changing world.
I am writing to you who are God’s children
because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.
I am writing to you who are mature in the faith
because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I am writing to you who are young in the faith
because you have won your battle with the evil one.
I have written to you who are God’s children
because you know the Father.
I have written to you who are mature in the faith
because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I have written to you who are young in the faith
because you are strong.
God’s word lives in your hearts,
and you have won your battle with the evil one.
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
…Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
– 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV)
One of the greatest legendary players in college and pro basketball was a coach’s son by the name of Pete Maravich. Pete holds all-time records in college and the pros for scoring and was so proficient at long range shooting that he earned the nickname “Pistol Pete.” He could not only shoot, he could dribble, pass, rebound, and set up plays for his teammates with such dazzling skill that left his opponents speechless and the crowd roaring. When I was growing up, my high school friends and I passed countless hours playing pickup basketball. We revered “The Pistol.” He was born in a town near ours in western Pennsylvania, so we felt a special affinity for him as one of our own.
After his successful pro career was cut short by nagging injuries, Pistol Pete went through a time of trying to find himself and figure out who he was outside of basketball. Then, in his late 30s, he found the Lord (or rather, the Lord found him!). Making a full and enthusiastic commitment to Jesus, Pete grew dramatically in his faith and shared it with all who wanted to hear. And then, at the tender age of 40, he suddenly dropped dead of a heart attack. He was actually in southern California, where he had traveled to record interviews with Dr. James Dobson for the Focus on the Family radio program. Dobson, who played in a pickup league at his local Nazarene church gym, invited The Pistol to come meet his friends and […]
The year 2020 has been one of the most unusual years that many of us can remember. New terms have even been created to describe the unprecedented times that we face. Prior to this year, I cannot recall anyone using the phrase “social distancing,” and yet that term encapsulates the essence of much of our shared experience in the past six months. In addition to the new language that surrounds this global pandemic, there are also new phrases that describe the social unrest spreading across the country. This year has been the year of “public outrage” and “cancel culture” which, like the pandemic, are infecting the nation.
In the complex social networks created by the interconnectedness of our technological society, outrage spreads rapidly. It seeks to undermine the character and credibility of individuals, brands, and businesses, similar to a political smear campaign. Like a proverbial angry mob with torches and pitchforks, the vitriol and vindictiveness of the internet mob mentality seeks to discredit those whom it deems in the wrong, or not supportive of the mob’s party line. What’s more, even questioning the mob could get one “canceled.”
Tim Keller, one of the leading Christian thinkers of our time, wrote that the Western world operates in a sort of “intellectual schizophrenia,” a term based on the Greek words meaning “divided-mind.” Today, many espouse a conviction that all moral judgments are individually determined or socially constructed and are therefore relative. However, those who would describe themselves as moral relativists often seek to hold others to their own standards of moralism as though they are universal or self-evident. A tactic many choose today to accomplish this is to organize a social smear campaign to punish those who don’t share the same outlook. This […]
How can we know God when He is invisible? How can we grasp something so huge, so unlimited, and so distant as the Creative Force who made the immeasurable universe by His awesome power and brilliant design? It is the puzzle that has stumped the human race from the beginning of our consciousness. Not only is God invisible to us, He has become relationally and personally distant because of human sin and disobedience. While unblemished man and woman lived in constant, intimate fellowship with their Creator, their rebellion broke that bond. Sin erected a veil between us and God which prevented us from seeing Him clearly.
That distance between the Holy Deity and mortal humanity was clearly symbolized by the veil or curtain that was erected to separate people from the Holy of Holies in the heart of the ancient Jewish temple. The veil could only be pushed aside once a year on the Day of Atonement. Only on that day was the High Priest authorized to, on behalf of his own and his people’s sins, take a sacrifice into the holy presence to seek forgiveness. Only on that day was access beyond the veil granted—if an innocent lamb was sacrificed. All other days it stood as a reminder that God was unapproachable.
At the moment Jesus took His last breath on the cross, the temple veil was split apart from top to bottom. The ultimate, once-for-all innocent Lamb had been sacrificed. To the shock and dismay of the keepers of the Old Testament temple and its restrictions, the way was now open for all people to approach God, not just a priest. Free access was granted on all days, not just a high holy day. From God’s perspective, we were […]