Trust Issues

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV)

If you listened closely, you may have heard to collective groans go across Central Ohio yesterday evening. One was from any University of Kentucky Fans watching the  end of the tournament game. The other was from those who were trying to watch the game only to have the last few seconds interuppted by a tornado warning as storms swept through the area.

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I’ll admit I was one of the complainers. Obviously we want people to be safe and a person’s life  always takes precedence over entertainment. However, the lack of a split screen, or actually anything on the screen, and the game being very close added to the frustration.

Judging by the reactions of many who commented on social media I wasn’t alone.  Honestly, as angry as I was, I came out on the rational end compared to some who decided to comment. Apparently we have a lot more UK fans in Central Ohio than I thought, or people just relay love the tournament.

And I have no doubt that’s true. March Madness is big business. Even people who don’t watch college basketball fill out their brackets and watch the games. But looking at the comments, I find myself wondering if there is something else going on here.  I wondered  if it was a love of basketball or the frustration that comes from having one’s  plans interuppted that caused all the angst.

None of us like having our plans interupptions. I know I don’t. But I believe most of us can deal with life’s interupptions when they make sense. It’s the time when life doesn’t make sense that causes our frustration to grow.  I wonder if there had been a split screen or at least a video feed of any kind of people would have been as upset? As it was it just didn’t make sense.

We seem to have a guiding prinicple here don’t we? We can deal with life when it makes sense. We have a much harder time dealing with it when it doesn’t.  When our lives are upset by interupptions that simply don’t make sense to us, it’s jarring. We get angry. But here also lies the problem. Life very seldom makes sense.

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I am bombarded constantly by situations in my life that don’t make sense. Loved ones make decisions that don’t make any sense and we have to sit helplessly on the sidelines as they struggle. Sometimes we are adversely affected by those nonsensical decisions. Our bosses make decisions that make no sense to us, or the corruption itself makes decisions that  we don’t understand. We see people being promoted for, as far as we can tell, no good reason while we languish in obscurity. In fact, there are times when God himself does things, or allows things to happen that simply don’t make sense to us.   How are we to survive with any sanity in a world that makes no sense and constantly frustrates us.

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First we survive by being honest. When we say life, maybe even God himself , doesn’t make any sense what we really mean is things aren’t working out the way I think they should.  It’s not that life doesn’t make sense. Its that things aren’t going according to our plan.  The sooner we can made it the issue is we aren’t getting what we want, the better off we will be.

Or second step is to admit we can be wrong. A jarring blow to our egos, I know.  But isn’t it possible that if life “made sense” meaning it went he way we wan tit to, that we could end up in a much worse spot? I often what things to go a certain way for me regardless of how others might be affected.  There are plenty of times I can look back over my life and say I’m glad life didn’t “make sense”.

This is what the Proverbs mean by not leaning on our own understanding. It’s not that we aren’t intelligent, thoughtful people. We are. It’s just that our understanding will always be incomplete. And often selfish. The Proverb suggests that if our understanding of how life should be is incomplete and often in error, than wouldn’t it be better to look somewhere else?

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If you want to survive a world that doesn’t make sense, the Scripture suggests we hold onto the one we can trust. Trust God with all your heart.  That’s a huge paradigm shift in how we deal with life. It means we come to God and shout, “Life doesn’t make sense!”. And his answer is “Does it have to?”  Would it make your life any easier if it did?  Can you trust me even when life doesn’t make sense?  Anyone can trust when they are getting their own way.  But am I the same God when life is interrupted and makes no sense?Thankfully, He is.

It’s not that we as Christians adopt a laissez-faire attitude. Or that we ignore those times of deep struggle and confusion actually the opposite. It’s Ok for us to have questions. It’s OK for us to question God, otherwise we have to do away with most of the Psalms. It’s that we know in the end the answer is not  about a solution, but a person. It’s about a relationship with a God whose love and understanding is far above our own. And if we choose to lean on something in life, it’s better to lean on Him.

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

 

 

 

 

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Reality

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

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Well, we finally made it.  Today my calendar tells me what is an undisputed fact.  As I write this, it is the first day of Spring.  This is an undeniable fact.  My desk Calendar says so.  I looked it up on the internet.  Several friends have posted it on their social media pages.  And proof, of all proof, even the little animated Google logo tells us its the first day of spring.

There is only one little problem. It still feels and looks like Winter. The sky is overcast, I had to wear a coat to the office. If you look closely you can still see frost and maybe just the last stubborn remnants of last week’s snow under the bushes.  The trees are mostly still bare. Winter this year, at least in Ohio, decided to take the church snowbirds route.  It was nowhere to be seen November through February. But now it’s back.  You can say it’s Spring all you want.  But my eyes, thermostat and wind chill all tell me something very different. It’s still winter.

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(actual picture outside my window.  OK it’s not but it feels like this)

The facts and the reality don’t match.  The reality is, it’s Spring. But the facts, what I see around me don’t match up. So what am I to believe? Is it Spring or is it winter? Does the reality make any difference when the facts don’t line up?

I don’t know about you, but I feel the same way sometimes when I read my Bible. I read these wonderful things about how God can move mountains and changes people’s lives.  How he loves and gives his children good gifts.  And it is the most, moving, heart warming, life changing things one could ever read, or hope for.

But then I look at the facts around me.  And I see good, faithful Christians really struggling.  I see them in the midst of grief and pain. I see mountains not always moving.  I see people look at what life has handed them and wonder how any of this can be a good gift.  the facts around me don’t necessarily match up with the reality. So which are we to believe?

The author of Hebrews reminds us that this is where faith comes in. Faith is holding onto the reality, even when the facts don’t line up. It doesn’t mean that we are blindly ignoring the world around us. Far from it.  It simply means we understand that the facts can fool us. Things are not always what they seem. We are by no means the best judge of truth. If push comes to shove, faith says hold onto the reality every single time.

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In some ways it’s like this “spring day” we’re having right now. Yes the weather is less than optimal. But it is Spring.  And while we can’t see it yet, in small ways Spring is happening around us. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t here. No one panicked when they  got up this chilly morning (OK maybe a little. Spring will come, because we know it always has.  What we  have seen gives us hope when we can’t see it yet.

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I hold onto the reality that God will move the motions in our way because I’ve seen Him do it over and over. And I can point to plenty of times in my life when it seemed as if the mountain wasn’t going to move or it moved in an unexpected way. If God has done it in the past, there is no need to worry He will not continue to do so.  There have been many times when I have wondered why God allows His people to struggle in life. Yet I have never seen Him abandon them. In truth, those are some of the moments when they draw closer to Him.  And I have experienced many “gifts” in life that  I wouldn’t call good. Yet I’ve always seen God’s goodness somehow shine through.

So don’t worry. Spring is coming no matter what the wind says. And we can believe in God’s promises. That’s the reality. That’s the truth. That in the end, is faith.

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

 

 

Miss Me?

“O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 107 NRSV)

 

 

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I attended a conference recently that put me back in touch with friends I haven’t seen in some time.  We spent time catching up with one another and what what’s happening in our families. Then, as often happens, we began to talk about other people we knew but hadn’t seen in a while. I asked about a certain person, and my friend responded, “You know I see them from time to time, but I rarely get a chance to talk with them”  In other words they are present with someone without really being present with them. In the same room, but not connecting.

And that’s not to point fingers at anyone because I think we have all done this from time to time.  Whether it be a family reunion or a party its hard to get around to see everyone.  much less have a meaningful conversation with them.

I know I’ve experienced this more than once. It’s often at a family get together. Our family has gone over the years as most families do.  And while I see everyone who is in the room, I often don’t get a chance to talk really talk with everyone,  We both get engaged in conversation with to the people, we get busy.  There have been times when we go home and I’ll have to ask my wife how is so and so. I saw them across them room, but when they left it occurred to me that I hadn’t had a chance to talk with them even thought we had been in the same room for six or seven hours.

Without some real effort on our part, we may often be present with someone but not really be present. It doesn’t even have to be a big  event. It may be us and our immediate family or just our spouse. But because we allow worries or other thoughts preoccupy us, we may not say  two meaningful words to them all night.  How many partners are in the same room with the children but never really talk with them?  And we haven’t even touched on how technology has made us into a very insulated culture. We put on our ear buds, we plug in and tune out from the world.  Yes its every easy to be present and yet not truly present.  We can be with them, yet miss them altogether.

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Many Christians experience the same thing with God.  We come to church, we sing  the hymns or praise songs, we go through the liturgy and prayer. The truly holy of us might even pull up the scriptures on our phone. The really  pious who have a call to evangelism might even check in they are at church on their social media sites.  We can do all of that, yet still seem to miss God.

Like that evening with the family or the party, we come and acknowledge that God is there. Yet somehow we never seem to truly connect with Him. We get distracted.  We think about what might happen that day. The kid in front of us is about to have a meltdown, and so is her mom.  We get distracted by our problems and worries. We sing that last song, maybe grab a donut and leave. All the element are there but we missed God.  We are present, but not truly present with Him.

I have found that when I encounter spiritual dryness in my life it’s often because I am present without really being present. I did all the right things, but I missed God. Oh, I thought about him and praised Him. But I missed Him His presence in my life that out to be at the center of our worship experiences.

And that’s why Lent is such an important season for us in the church year.  Lent, by its nature is a slower paced season. Unlike Advent that hurdles along at breakneck speed toward the manger, Lent  calls us to slow down. It might even ask us to stop all together. Lent asks us to turn our hearts inward. It asks us to look upward toward God. It invites us to truly be present and not miss God.

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So how can Lent help us to be present and not miss God? One of the ways is to look at your life and give something up for Lent that is distracting you from God.  Giving up something in Lent isn’t about improving your body image.  It’s about letting go of    distractions that keep you from missing God.

 

Try not only giving uImage result for Missing Godp, but taking on something. Engage in a spiritual discipline. Read your Bible every day. Or set aside time every day to pray, but make it all praise time to God.  Or praying for other people. If your health allows it, fast. Ask yourself, what can I do to be more present with God.

Be in ministry. Ministry is actually a spiritual discipline, but for our sake today, I’m listing it separatley. Remember Jesus words to feed the hungry and take care of the needy? Matt 25 reminds us that serving others is serving Jesus. It makes us aware of His presence. One of the ways we can keep from missing God is to see Him in the eyes of someone else.

If you’ve felt like you’ve missed God lately, I want to encourage you to use this season to draw lose again. Become away of His presence and enjoy being with HIm. Please don’t miss Him this year.

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><