Category Archives: faith

How Can You Trust God After He Allows Evil?

How can you trust God after He has allowed evil and suffering to tear through your life?

My friend Joanna has known pain that I cannot even imagine. She experienced horrific abuse for many years of her childhood. Today, she says that she loves God–and I know that she does–but she wonders how she will ever be able to trust Him.

Perhaps you have wondered the same thing. Perhaps your suffering causes you to feel confused about the goodness of God. If so, then my letter to Joanna is also my letter to you:

Dear friend,

You have experienced incredible pain.

These painful pieces of your journey are like holy ground to me, and I take my shoes off here. I do not speak flippantly to you. 

I do not know the why’s of this evil. There are things in this battle that we do not understand. But I do know this: God will redeem everything that is given to Him. It is certain that this was egregious evil, but it is even more certain that the judgment of God will not fall short or be lacking.

These were awful things, but God will turn them inside out one day. He will satisfy the cry for justice, and He will satisfy your bewilderment. He knows something that we do not know.

trust God

How can God tolerate such incredible evil? I do not know how He can stand it. But I am confident of this: He is more tenderhearted than we are. He is more compassionate than we are. Our protest of evil is nothing compared to His.

Your suffering has exposed enemy territory—territory which God now purposes to overwhelm with His forces of victory. As you declare His ownership of these areas, God will push back the forces of evil and will powerfully advance the Kingdom.

Every hurt is a place for a promise, and ashes are the seeds of great beauty. You have many hurts that you can redeem for promises, and you have ashes that you can bring to Jesus. When ashes are allowed to smolder, they bring destruction and deformity. But overshadowed by the Spirit, those same ashes can be exchanged for beauty and glory.

We can pray, “God, I cannot imagine how You can do anything with this—it is such total devastation and heartbreak. It is death. It is beyond my ability even to speculate how You can transform any bit of this. But as Your covenant partner, I am holding on to Your promises. I do not know how You can create anything beautiful from this, but I am asking You to do that, all the same.”

God’s commitment to justice will include these very things from your life, dear friend—the specific deeds of darkness and the specific acts of evil that you have experienced. God’s desire and power to heal are greater than the deepest wound. He knows how to bring water from rock, and how to make the desert bloom. He knows how to bring life from death.

trust God

God has made immense promises to you. You see no way in which He can keep His promises, but that is okay. He will keep His promises. It will be more glorious than you ever hoped or imagined.

“For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17, HCBS).

God is up to this. That’s how big He is. Marvel at Him. You do not have to know how He can do this. God just wants you to trust that He will do something bigger than you can imagine. He longs to dazzle you.

God promises you this, dear friend: whatever you give to Him, He will transform. The things you suffered will always be evil, but they will lose their power to destroy you. They will lose their power to make you destitute in spirit: God will make you rich.

The enemy “intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20, NIV).

It is easy to see how the enemy intended these things for destruction. But what does God intend? He intends to redeem! 

The LORD God turns curses into blessings for you because He loves you (Deuteronomy 23:5).

It is far too trite to say, “You will learn some good things from this.” That would not be sufficient, would it? There must be more.

This is an evil that we cannot really measure; I know I can’t. It is too much. In the same way, I can’t imagine a “good” that would be good enough to redeem such pain. I can’t imagine a “glory” glorious enough to outweigh that suffering. But God can!

We can trust God because we are convinced that He knows something that we do not.trust God

You do not need to settle for pat answers and trivial assurances. Wait with expectation and confidence for something much greater. God promises something so incredible that it will be more incredible than the pain. We do not know of any such glory, so we are deeply grieved and we despair of the goodness of God.

But listen: God does know. He does know of a glory that will satisfy your soul. He knows something that will be bigger and deeper, something so GLORIOUS—we do not have big enough words, but something so AWESOME—that it will cause you to fall at His feet and worship Him and adore Him and marvel at Him and love Him like never before.

You will not be disappointed. You will not say, “Lord, this glory—it isn’t enough.” You will say, “Lord, I didn’t know! I could not have imagined this! Yes, Lord, my soul is satisfied!” You will be well satisfied, fully satisfied, completely satisfied. You will never come to the end of your delight in Him.

“The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23, NIV).

For God to do such a thing would be an absolute miracle, wouldn’t it? It would completely amaze us and take our breath away, wouldn’t it?

Just wait.

Love,
Tami

Reformation Day: A Day to Celebrate!

A Holy-Day to Celebrate

You probably know that today is Halloween. But did you realize that it is also Reformation Day?

reformation day

And did you know that Reformation Day is a fantastic thing to celebrate?

Reformation Day
from the movie “Luther”

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the wooden door of the cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany. This was the spark which fueled the Protestant Reformation and some remarkable changes for the world.

Posthumous Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustine Monk
Posthumous Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustine Monk

God used Martin Luther in a dramatic way to restore freedom and truth to His people. Luther had some significant flaws in both his doctrine and character. However, God gifted Luther with many profound spiritual insights, as well as the courage and conviction to defend those Biblical truths.

As he studied the Scriptures, Luther re-discovered this glorious truth:

We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift. It cannot be earned, bought, or sold.

This wonderful news, like a precious jewel, had been buried under thick layers of distortion and corruption within the Church. Luther retrieved this valuable gem, dusted off the deception, and held it up so that others could experience its beauty again.

Luther also re-discovered the key doctrines of the priesthood of all believers and the authority of the Scriptures. He taught that Church leadership was not infallible. For his refusal to recant some of his convictions, Luther suffered excommunication from the Church and threats to his life.

Luther Before the Diet of Worms, by Anton von Werner (1843–1915)
Luther Before the Diet of Worms, by Anton von Werner (1843–1915)

Reformation Day reminds us to thank God for the free gift of salvation, for the Scriptures that we hold in our hands, and for the direct access that we have into the Presence of God Almighty.

Ways to Celebrate

Here are several ways you may want to celebrate Reformation Day at your house:

  1. Watch the movie Luther. (The entire movie, in two parts, is posted on youtube. The movie is rated PG-13 and is not appropriate for children. )
  2.  If you have young children, they will enjoy coloring pictures of Luther’s shield and learning about its interesting symbols. You can find fun activities for children at these sites:
    *http://www.blessedbeyondadoubt.com/reformation-day-activities/
    *http://theroadto31.com/2013/10/celebrating-reformation-day-like-christian.html
    *http://www.sojournkids.com/blog/2010/10/reformation-day-party-plan
  3. Sing or read the lyrics to A Mighty Fortress is Our God, written by Luther in 1529.
  4. Prepare a German supper. (I think German-chocolate cake qualifies, don’t you?)
  5. You can read more about Luther through many resources, but this website is unique in giving an easy-to-understand translation of the Ninety-Five Theses: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/the-reformation/the-95-theses-a-modern-translation/
  6. Enjoy some great Luther quotes (below).

Quotes by Luther

Prayer

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

Pray, and let God worry.

Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.

All teachers of Scripture conclude that the essence of prayer is simply the lifting up of the heart to God. But if this is so, it follows that everything else that doesn’t lift up the heart to God is not prayer. Therefore, singing, talking, and whistling without this lifting up of your heart to God are as much like prayer as scarecrows in the garden are like people.

I have often learned much more in one prayer than I have been able to glean from much reading and reflection.

Scripture

The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.

Faith

This is true faith, a living confidence in the goodness of God.

The heart overflows with gladness, and leaps and dances for the joy it has found in God. In this experience the Holy Spirit is active, and has taught us in the flash of a moment the deep secret of joy. You will have as much joy and laughter in life as you have faith in God.

Faith is the “yes” of the heart, a conviction on which one stakes one’s life.

We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.

Therefore, when some say good works are forbidden when we preach faith alone, it is as if I said to a sick man: “If you had health, you would have the use of your limbs; but without health the works of your limbs are nothing” and he wanted to infer that I had forbidden the works of all his limbs.

The two chief things are faith and love. Faith receives the good; love gives the good. Faith offers us God as our own; love gives us to our neighbor as his own.

Marriage

Katharina von Bora, Luther's wife, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526
Katharina von Bora, Luther’s wife, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526

Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.

One learns more of Christ in being married and rearing children than in several lifetimes spent in study in a monastery.

Other

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.

Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.

Temptations, of course, cannot be avoided, but because we cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, there is no need that we should let them nest in our hair.

Happy Reformation Day!

Mountain-Moving Faith

Need to move any mountains?

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt,
not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”
(Matthew 21:21, NIV)

mountain-moving faithWhat is this faith that shrivels fig trees and tosses mountains into the sea?

It must be more than believing that “God can.” There have been times when I have believed that, and the mountain did not budge. And it must be more than believing that “God will.” There have been times when I have believed that, and the mountain just laughed.

Achieving or receiving?

I don’t claim to have the final answer on faith. But here is an aspect of faith that I am learning:

Faith is often an act of receiving.

Faith is always active, but it is not always an act of accomplishing or achieving. Primarily, it an act of receiving.

Faith is not grabbing something as much as it is holding out empty hands. Perhaps a quick willingness to receive is part of the childlike quality that Christ commended to us:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child
will never enter it.”
(Mark 10:15, NLT)mountain-moving faith

Mountain-moving faith must have a spiritual emptiness which God can then fill. This kind of belief is not a gathered-up power; it is more of a posture. It is the mode of receiving. It is the very opposite of what we usually do when we want something: we try to grab!

Rather than commanding God, faith is the act of submitting to God. It is submitting to receive. It is the act of opening, the act of rolling out a red carpet of expectancy. It is submitting to the will and goodness of God.

Causing or allowing?

This kind of faith is not about causing something to happen as much as it is about allowing something to happen. It is about creating spiritual space that God can infuse with His power.

This helps us understand why God cannot forgive us if we do not forgive others. Bitterness causes us to close our spirits. Resentment is actually a lack of faith in God. We don’t trust His justice and goodness enough to relinquish the matter to His care. When we close our spirits to others, we are closing our hands to God. We no longer have an inner openness that can receive from Him.

Adam and Eve were the first to close their spirits to God. Instead of living with “open hands” before the LORD, Adam and Eve decided to take matters into their own hands. Instead of remaining in a posture of receiving from God, they grabbed for themselves. And then, in a futile attempt to cover their shame, they picked leaves from a fig tree—leaves which soon shriveled.

fig-316141_640

Was that first fig tree related to the tree that Jesus cursed in Jerusalem? Of course, I don’t know that, but I think we can link them a bit in symbolism.[i] The fig leaves that Adam and Eve wore represent their closed spirits and their lack of faith in the goodness of God. When we resist God, it is as if we are wearing spiritual fig leaves. We will experience shriveled spirits unless we open ourselves again to the Spirit of God. Like sap flowing through a tree, the Spirit will revive us, and He will produce spiritual fruit in our lives.

figs-504499_640

Prepare to see some mountains move!

 

 

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[i] I think that the primary symbolism of the cursed fig tree is a denunciation of the “false advertising” of empty religion, which is full of “leafy” deeds to show off but which bears no fruit to feed hungry souls.

 

Faith is Like a Fish

Do trials increase our faith?

Have you heard that trials increase our faith? “Trials and troubles … are treadmills for the soul.”[i]

faith

That certainly may be true. But if trials increase faith, then we should be muscle-bulging spiritual giants and we should be surrounded by people of massive faith. We have no lack of trials, but we often have a lack of faith.

Clearly, it is not trials themselves which develop our faith.

In fact, our problems present as much opportunity to weaken faith as they do to strengthen it. Satan wants to use our trials for his destructive purposes, just as God wants to use our trials for His life-giving purposes. What makes the difference, then?

How can we go through tough times so that we are strengthened instead of shredded?

We can ask ourselves two important questions:

  • Who has our ear?
  • Who has caught our eye?

We always have the choice to listen either to our circumstances or to our God. We always have the choice to focus our gaze either on our circumstances or on our God. One will be a misty fog to us, and the other will be a solid rock.

faith

If we listen to the enemy speaking to us through our circumstances, we will hear faith-crumbling lies about God. We will hear that He doesn’t care, doesn’t know, or doesn’t have enough power. If we put our eyes on our circumstances, God will seem to be an unreliable vapor to us.

If, however, we listen to God’s voice as we go through trials, we will hear faith-building truth. Not only will we hear about God’s love, wisdom, and power, but we will witness them firsthand.

What does increase our faith?

If faith does not come from trials, from where does it come? The Scriptures explain that faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). As we experience problems in life, we must open the Scriptures and listen to the promises of God. We can then take those promises, throw them down like planks over a ditch, and walk on them.

faith

Robert Morgan says that we will “never encounter any situation for which God has not provided a precious promise to bear us through it.”[ii]

How is faith like a fish?

Thomas Watson, a Puritan from the seventeenth century, had another great word-picture for this same concept. He said, “Faith lives in a promise, as the fish lives in the water.”[iii]

blue-tang-1288727_640

If you are going through a trial without living in a promise, then your faith will struggle like a fish out of water!

Ask God for His specific promise for you in the trial you are facing now. Plant your feet in it. Cling to it. Swim in it!

Who has your ear? Your problems, or your God?
Who has caught your eye? Your troubles, or the beauty of Christ?
Let your circumstances be the temporary mist. Let God be your immovable, eternal Rock.

When you focus on God, your trials will serve you. They will strengthen your faith, expand your capacity for joy, and maximize your delight in the glories of Jesus Christ.

 

 

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[i] Robert Morgan. The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-given Strategies for Difficult Times. Nelson. 2001. 96.
[ii] ibid. 102-103.
[iii] ibid. 103.