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Transfer of Power

I had the Presidential Inauguration playing in the background. There is always a lot of talk about the transfer of power during the period between Election Day and Inauguration Day. Although the transfer of administrations in America is a wonderful testament to our form of government, my thoughts were not occupied with the transfer of power that was taking place.

Transfer of Responsibility

I was struck with the transfer of responsibility that occurred. As President Obama and the First Lady sat through the ceremony and then boarded the helicopter to resume life as public citizens once more, I wondered if they felt relieved by the transfer of responsibility from themselves to President Trump and his wife.

Feeling the Weight

I put myself in President Trump’s position. The Office of the Presidency of the United States has an enormous weight of responsibility. I feel for the level of scrutiny the President must endure. I feel for the great weight of obligation and duty a President is tasked. Decisions must be made that literally have life or death consequences.

Capability and Responsibility

A weight of responsibility is calculated by the aptitude of the person in the given position. I remember in the 5th grade playing at a friend’s house and seeing his high school age sister doing homework at their kitchen table. I looked at her textbook and wondered how I would ever be able to do the work she was required to do. Thankfully I was not being asked as a 5th-grader to the work of a high-schooler. Also thankfully, my aptitude grew as I faced the responsibilities of high school.

Bearing the Weight

As I look at the “textbook” a President is assigned, I feel the same way as I did looking at my friend’s sister doing her homework. My aptitude does not match the weight of responsibility of the Presidency. I am not interested in delving into whether President Trump has the capability to bear the weight of responsibility that is required. He has far greater experience and knowledge than I do. I am grateful for anyone willing to step under that weight.

An Unknown Weight

The weight of responsibility is always an unknown quantity until the situation calls for it. The circumstances and events to be faced are yet future, so it is yet to be calculated the exact weight of responsibility. Wouldn’t it be great to know that ability would always match the responsibility of every circumstance? For yourself, wouldn’t it be nice to know your capacity could match whatever you had to face? 

A Known Capability

What if there was someone with boundless aptitude? What if there was someone who possessed all strength, energy, knowledge, and foresight? That person could face any situation with total confidence. That person could be fully trusted with any responsibility. There would be no question as to whether that person could bear the weight of responsibility. 

Infinite Capability

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:28)

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What Questions Do That Answers Don’t

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“If there is a God who knows everything,” Collette Gary asked, “why does he ask questions?” Since God knows everything, they certainly are not for his own knowledge. What is it God knows questions do, that answers often don’t? 

In the Bible God asks a lot of questions. There are over 3,000 questions in the Bible and the majority of them are asked by God.

  • The first four things God said to Adam and Eve, after they disobeyed, were all questions. (Genesis 3:9-13)
  • The longest list of questions in the Bible was God’s response to the suffering of Job. (Job 38-39)
  • Jonah is the only book in the Bible that ends with a question. (Jonah 4:11) Any guesses who asked it?

So what is it that God knows questions do, that stating facts, or just explaining steps a person must take, doesn’t?

Questions make us think. They engage the mind. God wants to create engagement with what matters most. Questions invite us to get involved.

The better we get at engaging ourselves and others with profound questions and awakening the imagination to get involved, the more similar we are to approaching situations like God.

Question:
What is a situation where you can insert a question instead of an answer?

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Perspective Is Everything

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What do you do when you don't like what you see?

What do you do when you don’t like what you see?

He’s not successful

I was driving. Mady, the 9-year-old, and Bella, the 6-year-old, were in the back seat. Mady was flipping through a magazine and asked. “Do you have to be good looking to be successful?” Bella replied, “No, dad is good looking and he’s not successful.” I didn’t know whether to be proud that she thinks I’m good looking or sad that she thinks I’m a failure.

Distorted perspective

Success (wealth, power, approval, and all that goes with it) can distort my perspective. It can really do a number on the way I see the world in general and my life in particular. I think this is evident as the choice of new leadership is before our country.

A perpetual problem

The perspective distorting influence of success is a perpetual problem. It is not unique to our day. The classic example of this in the Bible is Psalm 73. The writer admits to being swept off his feet by the successful.

Calibrating our perspective

There was a remedy that straightened out his twisted thinking. He explained it in one line, “Then I entered the sanctuary of God” (v17) There is nothing more calibrating than a vision of the infinite and eternal. Everything (ourselves, others, the past, present, and future) is right-sized in light of what is truly True.

Corrects every distortion

Billionaires are a fantasy compared to eternity (v20). Troubles are seen for what they really are (v23). Pleasures are merely the smell that catches our senses as a foretaste of the substance that lies ahead (v25). Being near God corrects every distortion (v28).

A devout musing

“Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea, be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul, so calm the swelling bellows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.” -Charles Spurgeon

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Are You in a Valley?

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Q Place Year One

Sunday nights, for the past year, I’ve met with a group of guys downtown. It’s called Q Place and the purpose is to discuss questions about God. We gather around a conference table for an hour. The first several months that we met, conversation would be around a life issue, such as suffering or purpose. Eventually, we transitioned to a Scripture passage from a resource produced by Q Place. We read the passage and walk through this list of questions:

  • What does this reveal about God?
  • What does this reveal about people?
  • What else did you learn?
  • If you believed this was true, how would you apply it in your life?
  • If you put it into practice, what could be the challenges and benefits?

I noticed something new

Last night the passage was Psalm 23. It is probably the most widely known part of the Bible. However, as we discussed what it says about who God is and what it reveals about people, I noticed something new. Half-way the pronouns switch and it becomes a prayer. When he mentions walking through the valley, the third person “he” becomes a second person “you”.

Ceases talking about God

It is a beautiful Psalm as a declaration. David states He [the shepherd] makes me lie down, He leads, He restores, and He guides. It is a comforting declaration of the security the shepherd provides. But it is when he leaves the green pastures and the paths of righteousness, and enters the trials and struggles of death valley that he ceases talking about God and talks to God.

Getting us talking to God

Over the past year, there have been valleys the guys around that conference table have walked through. One guy has been walking through almost three years of litigation. Another lost his mother at the beginning of the year. One has a daughter battling cancer and is in her fourth round of chemotherapy this week. Valleys have a knack for getting us talking to God.

Conversations from the valley

If you are in a valley currently, I would love to hear how this truth is playing itself out. Valleys always get people talking to God. They may not always be conversations we want made public, because often they are raw and unedited. But, they can also be the most encouraging and inspiring to others. Conversations from the valley are testimonies of God’s presence in those places we fear the most.

 

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What Voice Do You Hear?

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The most important thing about you

The most important thing about you is the voice in your head. It is what drives your choices, sets your mood, and shapes your interactions with others. If you’re conscious of it, when you meet someone, there is a voice inside you telling you what to think, say, and act toward that person. The voice you hear is very powerful.

A battle of voices

Life could be summarized as a battle of voices. There are many voices competing to be the voice in your head. The point of success or failure could be pinned to the decision of which voice to follow.

The calling of voices

One of my favorite Frederick Buechner sermons is “The Calling of Voices”. He articulates so well this idea that a person’s life is full of all sorts of voices calling him in all sorts of directions. He articulates particularly well the danger of the battle, as I mentioned. Buechner says,

The danger is that there are so many voices and they all in there ways sound so promising. The danger is that you will not listen to the voice that speaks to you through the [epiphanies of life], that you do not listen to the voice inside you or to the voice that speaks from outside but specifically to you out of the specific events of your life, but that instead you listen to the great blaring, boring, banal voice of our mass culture, which threatens to deafen us all by blasting forth that the only thing that really matters about your work is how much it will get you in the way of salary and status, and that if it is gladness you are after, you can save that for the weekend.

Of course, the epiphanies of life and the voice “from outside” that Buechner is talking about is the voice of God. This is, as Tozer wrote, The Speaking Voice. God is always aiming to influence the voice in your head, because Tozer said God is continuously articulate, always speaking.

To form people’s character

I am careful not to say that God will always speak to you. I am suspicious of those who promiscuously toss around the fact that God told them such and such. I am more of the persuasion that God wants to form people’s character to be and do as Christ would if he were in one’s shoes. That’s why I say God is always aiming to influence to voice in your head.

God still speaks

I don’t mean to quibble about the how. The bottom line is God still speaks. The battle of voices is won by listening to his voice. Tozer wrote, “Whoever will listen will hear the speaking Heaven. This is definitely not the hour when men take kindly to an exhortation to listen, for listening is not today a part of popular religion. We are at the opposite end of the pole from there. Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and bluster make a man dear to God.”

We don’t have to wonder

We don’t have to wonder about what God’s voice sounds like. In times past, it was tough to be sure. God spoke in a lot of different ways. Prophets would step forward, claiming to say what the Lord said. There was a formula to verify it. Sometimes it was the Lord’s voice, sometimes it wasn’t.

God’s voice is Jesus

We know what God’s voice sounds like now. God’s voice is Jesus. Hebrews 1 begins, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” This should make things so much easier. It doesn’t always, but it should.

Whose voice do you hear

You can know whether the voice in your head is one you should listen to if it sounds like Jesus. That begins a whole other discussion regarding how to know what Jesus’ voice sounds like, but that will need to wait for, perhaps, another time. For now, I will simply restate the premise that there is a voice in your head and it is the most important thing about you. The question you must answer is what, or more precisely whose, voice do you hear?

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4 Truths for Facing Trouble

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I will often expend a lot of energy trying to figure out where my trouble is coming from. Did I create this trial myself? Has God orchestrated this to test me? Is this Evil trying to trip me up?

I don’t know why I think knowing the who behind my problem will make things any easier or get me through it any faster.

I can fritter away quality brainpower trying to nail down the source of a trial.

I’m not sure it matters. The New Testament doesn’t make it easy to decipher. Throughout the New Testament the same word is behind trials, testings, and temptations.

In James 1, for example, the trials mentioned in verse 2 and the temptation in verse 13, is the same word. The same word is in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” Again, in 1 Peter 4:12, the same word is used, where it says, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you.”

So a case can’t be made for trials being what we do to ourselves, tests being something God does, and temptations finding there source in the Evil One. In the Bible they are all jumbled up. Anyhow, I don’t think pinning down the source makes getting through the trouble any easier.

You are not encouraged to seek the who of our troubles, but the what. What are you supposed to do when you face a trial?

The James passage referenced above offers instruction if you aren’t sure what to do. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Ask God for wisdom. What wise advise!

What is wisdom? Wisdom it is doing the right thing for that moment. It isn’t necessarily knowing the who, or even the why, behind a given situation. It’s about the what and the how.

Eugene Peterson wrote about wisdom that, “It has little to do with information or knowledge or even understanding. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves.”

Wisdom is about what you should do when you’re going through a trial and how to do it.

I see 4 things about who God is in James 1:5 that are stabilizing truths when we face “trials of many kinds.”

  1. God dispenses the wisdom to get through any trial.
  2. God is generous.
  3. God never makes fun of anyone who asks for help.
  4. God always gives wisdom to people who ask.

Those 4 truths will keep us anchored through any storm. We don’t have to be blown and tossed by trouble, destabilizing our lives.

Can you imagine, after getting on the other side of your next trial, being more together than when you went into it? What would it be like for a community of people to weather the toughest of storms with wisdom and poise? What kind of witness would it be to those around us to see times of trouble making us stronger, not shakier? That’s the kind of skill in living that God is itching to give to us.

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You’ve Already Made It

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Getting Tense

Sometimes in Scripture the tenses make all the difference. Knowing if what is being said already happened, is happening now, or is going to happen really changes the impact. In Ephesians 2:6 it says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” God raised and seated those he made alive in Christ. These are “already” statements. God already did this—past tense.

Something to Prove

In complete candor, we would all admit feeling we have something to prove. How we go about it may manifest itself in different ways. It is something that can be felt though. You feel it when it’s hard to relax and there is the faint hum of tension just under the surface. You feel it when you can’t contain the burst of anger. You feel it when someone makes a stinging criticism.

Heaven’s Approval

Even with God, the need to prove ourselves surfaces. We know our relationship with God is sola gratia. We know grace is free. We are card-carrying evangelical Protestants, for heaven’s sake. We can’t deny the feeling is there though.

Already In

What would it be like to really trust in the fact that from God’s perspective, you’ve already made it? You are raised and seated in heaven. You are in. Not only are you in, but you are sitting down—because there’s no more work to do. What else is there? Sitting down in heaven is pretty much the top of the ladder, wouldn’t you say?

God’s Work

We are familiar with the grace-through-faith statement of verse 8, but the logic of the two verses that follow gets missed sometimes. This free grace that saves is “not of works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship…” (verses 9-10). We didn’t make it because of our work. God was the one at work.

Nothing to Prove

What would it be like to trust that there is nothing to prove? How would you feel if there was no one to impress?

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