Monday, October 16, 2017

Who's Steering this Ship?

Do you ever wonder if you could do a better job of running this tumultuous world than God is doing? Or if that seems too vast, perhaps simply your own life? I definitely have moments when I struggle to believe that God is as concerned as I am about some of the more difficult details of my life.

Of course, in our more objective moments, we can easily recognize that these jobs are far too big for us, but I still can't help but wonder why God doesn't sometimes do what I personally think would be best. I can be tempted to believe that this world, or particular details of my life, are spinning out of control, as if God has been negligent in looking after them.

But then I remember how big God is; that His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

God is not oblivious to our circumstances, nor is He negligent in His Lordship. He is not ignoring us and nor are we hidden from Him. God Himself asks us, "'Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?' declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:24a). Then God answers Himself with a rhetorical question: "'Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?' declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:24b). In other words, we aren't hidden from God, and nor has He missed any of the latest news headlines, for God's presence fills the earth as well as the entire universe!

Not only that, but the Bible assures us that God has complete authority throughout the earth. Psalm 82:8 says "Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations." And Psalm 83:1-2, 17-18 appeals for God to act on that authority in response to His enemies, "O God, do not remain quiet; Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, and those who hate you have exalted themselves... Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, and let them be humiliated and perish, that they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth."

This tells us that God:
  • fills all the earth,
  • possesses all the earth, and 
  • is presiding as the Lord over all the earth.
And each of those great truths apply to every single happening and heartache in our lives, because we are residents of this earth that the Most High God rules over.

So in light of that, do I still feel tempted to think that this world – or any aspects of my life – are spinning out of control as if God has been negligent in looking after things? Do I still wonder if I could do a better job than Him?

John Newton, the author of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace, once wrote, "If it were possible for me to alter any part of His plan, I could only spoil it." God knows what He's doing, and will ably steer us and this world into His will as His wise and sovereign plans unfold. And as He does so, He invites us to pray and obey rather than to complain and interfere.

Yes, God knows what He's doing, and quite honestly, we as stumbling sinners don't. So every day, I must choose to trust Him as I call out to Him to perform His perfect will in all the situations that trouble me in my life and in this complicated world. And every day, I must follow the leading of His Spirit in how I respond to those situations, because God knows exactly how every situation is meant to work out. As our "enemies make an uproar," that is the only way we will be able to respond with perfect peace.

© 2017 by Ken Peters

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A wedding message for my daughter and new son-in-law

Wow. Walking down that aisle was probably the longest 50 feet that I’ve ever walked. I don’t think I could ever express everything that I was thinking and feeling as we took those precious steps. In a way, I didn’t want it to end. And yet I’m quite pleased that it has ended right here at this altar, with you Ryan, waiting for her. And now, this one step you are taking is going to take you much further than any distance we can measure by metres or feet. You guys are going on an adventure!

As I’ve watched your relationship blossom, I think it’s fair to say that both of you seem to enjoy looking for adventure. How many times did you go hiking in the Whiteshell, or go out in all kinds of weather for walks around Winnipeg parks? There was that day Becky came home sopping wet because she said that the “puddle” she’d stepped into was deeper than she thought. And when I asked her specifically where they went, I said, Becky, that wasn’t a puddle – that was a “ditch!” But it was also an adventure!

And now the adventure continues as you take this step today. And mark my words: It’s a dangerous business taking this step. You step down this aisle, “and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to!” You have chosen a beautiful Scripture passage to be read on this wonderful occasion, and one that fits the theme of adventure.

So let’s read 1 John 4:7-12. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (ESV)

The love that is spoken of in this passage is an adventurous love. It’s a love that embarks, a love that sacrifices, a love that excites, and a love that travels great distances to achieve lofty goals! It’s a love full of challenges and rewards. Some might think it sounds a fitting passage for a wedding because of all the talk of love:  the word love is used 13x in those six verses. But God and His Son, Jesus, are also mentioned 13x in those six verses. So as an accountant Ryan, you’d be interested in knowing that those 2 words account for 21% of the 123 words in those six verses!

But do you see the adventure in the God and in the love this passage speaks of? – This God of whom it is said: “God is love”? Do you see the excitement of it all? The God who sent His Son Jesus from heaven to visit this world to proclaim and demonstrate a message – the message that God is setting up His Kingdom in the hearts and lives of people like you and me so that He can show us what it truly means to live! And that same Jesus showed the world God’s amazing love as He gave His very life to pay the penalty for every act of rebellion humanity has ever expressed against God! And then, while the world waited in astonishment, God raised Jesus from the dead and gave Him heaven’s throne! That is the adventure this passage speaks of when it speaks of this love from God.

And may I suggest that the step you are now taking is a part of that adventure? You see, the adventurous “love” this passage speaks of is what the Bible calls a “covenant” love – meaning a love that God solemnly commits to, guaranteeing promises that He includes in the covenant relationship that He initiates and invites us into with Him. And marriage – which has always been God’s idea – is meant to be an illustration, or a picture, or even a demonstration – of God’s covenant love for us!

You see, the love expressed in your marriage is also meant to be a love that embarks, a love that sacrifices, a love that excites, and a love that travels great distances to achieve lofty goals! A love full of challenges and rewards. In other words, a love that follows the example of God’s love for us.

There are people who wonder, “What does God’s love look like?” Well, we’re told what it looks like in what I just read: “This is love… that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins…” But the passage also says: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” In other words, our love for one another allows people to see God’s love expressed in us by how we love each other. The Bible is not speaking here of some ordinary love – but about Almighty God’s covenant love being expressed through us! 1 John 4 is speaking of a powerful love that can only be found in God! And when we truly experience that everlasting covenant love, it not only motivates us to love others, but it enables us to do so in the toughest of times when our natural and limited ability to love fails.

This is vital for a marriage. I promise you: There will be tough times when your natural ability to love each other as husband and wife is not sufficient and will not last unless you have the love of God at work in your heart! Only then will your love for each other also become a love that embarks, and sacrifices, and travels great distances to achieve lofty goals.

You might be wondering: What “great distance” am I talking about? Or how do we need to “embark” in order to love each other? The great distance Jesus traveled was from heaven to earth, but the great distance that we need to travel is the distance between our focus on self and our focus others. The distance this requires us to travel in our hearts is proportional to just how selfish we are capable of being. As you learn to share life together as a couple, there will be times when you want your way and not his or her way. And you will want to insist on doing things YOUR way! At these moments, the distance between you will have the potential to increase until there are many emotional miles between you. Loving one another will feel like a long way to travel – and perhaps a great sacrifice. But if you remember the love of God that your marriage is meant to illustrate, you’ll choose to embark from that selfish self, and in one simple act of repentance, travel those many emotional miles because you’re committed to loving each other the way Jesus loves you.

But that can be very difficult in the moment, and so you will truly need God’s help as you embark on this adventure called marriage. You will need God’s love in you in order to be a loving husband and wife. You will need His love at work in you in order to selflessly love each other on the days when the other doesn’t seem so lovable. And don’t be fooled into thinking that your love for each other as husband and wife is a 50/50 kind of thing, as if you’re each supposed to meet each other in the middle. That’s not the example God set for us through His love. God did not ask us to meet Him in the middle. He left all the glories of heaven to come all the way to us to show His love to us. Loving one another is not a 50/50 proposition – nor is it a 60/40 proposition, or 70/30, or 80/20… You can see where I'm going with this... It’s 100/0.

That’s how this adventure you’re embarking on involves sacrifice: You must give all of yourself to love the other, dying to self in order to prefer the other person. If you’re on an exciting adventure, do you hold back and pursue it half-heartedly? NO! You give it all you’ve got! You jump off that cliff with both feet and make the most of that time! Well, that’s how I want you to think of this marriage and of loving one another – you’re all in, ready to make sacrifices, and to go the distance, embarking on an adventure like nothing you’ve ever done before!

But to do this, you’ll need to continually depend on God for the love you will need to survive the dangerous business of stepping down this aisle! So make Jesus the Lord of the adventure you begin with each other today, and Jesus will help you to love each other the way He loves you.

© 2017 by Ken Peters