What is God Up To?

If you’re like most people, certain events in life leave you wondering. What is God up to? Whether it’s a financial reversal, family problems, or even the unexpected death of a loved one, we can honestly wonder if God’s paying attention. Sometimes it can feel like you’re praying to an empty chair. If you are thinking that way, just know that you are not alone in that. In fact, people have been wondering that ever since humans exited the Garden of Eden.

Recently we’ve been studying through Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It takes all of 20 minutes to read through this epistle, but the principles in it are so powerful and helpful. I was thinking about the idea of God being at work in our lives as it is presented in Philippians. I encourage you to get out your Bible, read through the verses I have posted below, and consider how God has been up to something in your life that you may not have noticed. Use these verses to fuel your prayers for a few days. What is God up to?

God is using your circumstances to bless others – even if they have been difficult (Philippians 1:12-14).

God is giving you a mindset, a way of looking at life that includes the ultimate example (Philippians 2:5-11).

God is shining through your example to others who need to know him (Philippians 2:12-15).

God is giving you perspective, helping you to give value to the greatest things while diminishing the unimportant things of life (Philippians 3:7-11).

God is giving you hope that goes beyond the frailty of life (Philippians 3:20-21).

God is hearing every prayer and sending peace to be your companion (Philippians 4:4-7).

God is giving you the strength to make it through today, no matter what you’re facing (Philippians 4:12-13).

I’m not pretending that all of that is going to make your suffering go away. I am suggesting that when we contemplate the invisible ways that God is working through the situations we face in life, we can begin to have hope again. And maybe peace.

Be well, friend.

My Friend Chris

I can’t pinpoint the exact time I met Chris, but it is most likely that we became acquainted working at Gulf Coast Bible Camp during a teen retreat. One thing I do remember clearly is that there was never a time when I didn’t feel a deep kinship to Chris Lockhart. When his wife, Susan, messaged me to tell me that Chris had passed from this life, I was immediately filled with sorrow and regret. I haven’t talked to Chris in a while. How I wish I had called him last week to catch up. Chris was only 46 when he went to be in the presence of his Lord. That leaves a lot of people here who need comfort from above.

Chris leading singing in a summer session at Gulf Coast Bible Camp 2006

Good memories are not hard to come by. I remember Chris leading worship at Bible camp. I remember our youth group from Pascagoula going along with his youth group from Mobile on a bus to Youth In Action. I remember his bouncy jumpy character, he was just nonstop. The humor, the sharp conversation, his heart for loving especially those others overlooked, and the one thing he loved more than anything, family. Susan and his girls were the great loves of his life. That was unmistakable, as well as their love for him.

Chris and I became closer through the tragedies I lived through. His support and encouragement were such a strength to me. After Katrina roared ashore, destroying much of the Mississippi Coast, a massive rebuilding and restoration effort ensued. It was exhausting and exhilarating … then exhausting again. One of the people who gave me the strength to carry on was Chris. His day off was Friday. Every Friday for months he came over from Mobile to Pascagoula. He informed me that he was there for me – to help me with anything that I was doing. Even if it was nothing. He was like an extra jolt of energy and the support he gave me during those Fridays was so needed and so helpful. I felt very loved and the friendship he offered had an impact on me in so many ways. I remember coming to their home to meet with their small group on a Sunday evening, which was a warm respite from the damage and stress of Pascagoula in those days. I heard from Chris often in the shadow of losing John Robert. As I looked down my Facebook page I noticed that Chris left a note on every anniversary of that date.

Chris praying during a prayer station event at Gulf Coast Bible Camp

Chris and Susan moved to the Atlanta area and I didn’t see them as often any more. They invited me up to speak at their church about the relief effort. They came through Monroe once and we enjoyed a meal together. But that was some years ago now. I’ve watched his girls grow into beautiful young women through the virtue of Facebook, and I’m so glad to have had that window into his world.

Susan is so smart, dependable, considerate… she was always the rock that Chris needed. Now she will need her friends to surround her and see her through this unexpected tragedy. I have confidence she will walk through this valley with strength, and when her own strength falters, she will have friends to lean on. I’ve always admired their relationship and thought that Susan was the mooring that allowed Chris to be Chris.

When Susan messaged me about Chris, she said “he loved you so”. I tell you, I loved him too. I wish I could tell him that now. Maybe I’ll ask Jesus to tell him for me. I’ll just have to look forward to the regeneration of all things to see him again. God be near Susan, Hayden, and Mary Jane. May they always remember they were deeply loved.

Today is the funeral for my friend Chris (obituary). I can’t be there. But I’m thinking about the Lockhart family.

Some of Them Sneered

I imagine most of us have, at some time or another, felt out of place because of our Christian commitment. Maybe you were at a work party where things began to be uncomfortable. Or perhaps you were asked a pointed question by someone who was obviously hostile to Christianity. Maybe friends are doing something that goes against our commitment to the Lord, but we feel pressured to join in – we have all been in those kinds of situations.

When Paul went to Mars Hill and stood with people of many different faiths and beliefs, he talked to them about the “unknown God” – the God they did not know. When he told them about Jesus and how he arose from the dead, the Bible says there was a mixed reaction.

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” -Acts 17:32

Everyone wants to be liked and it’s hard to stand firm when we receive criticism for our faith. Yet, even while some sneered, others wanted to hear more. This is a good description of our Christian walk today. Some will sneer, no doubt. Some will open up their hearts for the opportunity to know more about Jesus.

Jesus himself experienced the same kind of reactions. Luke 23:35 records that at the cross, “The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

At the same time, we know that there was a thief there that Jesus promised eternal life.

Living for Jesus doesn’t always produce the results we want to see. Sometimes our Christian commitment makes us or others uncomfortable. Whenever you feel uncomfortable to be a person of faith in a context of unbelief or even rejection, remember that there are always those who will believe and want to know more. We must remember that the Gospel offers the only hope that humans have – the love of Jesus and His willingness to save sinners. And that’s all of us.

I Did It

Photo by Monstera

One of the hardest things to say is, “I did it.”

When we were children and we did things that we knew our parents didn’t want us to do, we hoped that it would never be discovered. Of course, it usually ended up in a mess, which our parents were trying to help us avoid. At some point we might lie about it. We might make up a story and blame someone else. Ultimately, though, we had to admit. I did it. If our parents were godly people, they offered forgiveness and encouragement to follow their instructions.

Even though we learn that lesson as children, as adults we still struggle to do everything the way God has asked us to. We fight our own will, the temptations of the world, and even worry about pleasing other people more than pleasing God. We are not alone in this – everyone struggles with disobedience to God. Just as we hoped our parents would forgive us, we hope that God will forgive us also.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. -1 John 1:9

This should make us sigh with relief. Maybe we might shed a tear – because being forgiven is one of the most precious gifts God gives us. John tells us that the forgiveness of our sins comes on the heels of confession. When is the last time you told God what you did, specifically, and just let it all out in prayer to Him? Generic requests for forgiveness do not carry the same power that specific confession offers. It’s not that God is unaware of your sin. He won’t be surprised by it. He already knows. But a perfect and perfectly gracious God wants you to be aware of your sin and to bring it before Him so you can work on that together. A few verses prior to 1 John 1:9, John tells us:

…If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. -1 John 1:7

Forgiveness is a special gift from God because it cost him significantly: the death of his son Jesus. Don’t hesitate to say to God, “I did it” … He wants to give you the forgiveness and grace that comes only through Jesus.

What You Can’t Do

Photo by lalesh aldarwish

Video of this post HERE.

We don’t like to hear the word “can’t” – it implies weakness, inability, dependence on others. We would much rather think about all the things we CAN do. It’s true, we can do a lot. 

– You CAN make radical changes in your life by making specific commitments.

– You CAN help others and show them love, even if they do not show you love.

– You CAN acquire a new skill, get another degree, finish another project.

– You CAN do so many things because you are a capable human being with skills and drive.

But you CAN’T do one of the most important things that needs to be done. You CAN’T save yourself. Even with all of our greatest efforts at godliness, saintliness, goodness, perfection – we still can’t do it. Every person who has ever been saved has been saved by grace.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” – Ephesians 2:8

It is a tremendous blessing to know that through the work of Jesus, every human being can be saved. In faith, we follow what the Bible teaches us to do in order to accept the grace of God. 

Scottish theologian William Barclay wrote, “The word grace emphasizes at one and the same time the helpless poverty of man and the limitless kindness of God.”

– To accept Grace is to acknowledge that we can’t do it on our own – we need God’s help.

– To accept Grace is to acknowledge that God, in all of his wisdom and perfection, wants all of us to live forever with him … what undeserved kindness!

On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, some who were present had called out for the death of Jesus. Can you imagine God offering the gift of grace to people who had called for the death of his son? When Peter told them what they had done, they asked what they could do about it? He said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). You might notice that the word ‘grace’ is not in that verse. True. But when God offers a way forward, a way of forgiveness, a way to receive His indwelling presence – He is offering grace.

It’s a gift no one can earn, it is totally undeserved, it is a saving gift, and it is from God. I can’t overcome my own sins – can’t wash a single one away, but I can turn to God who CAN!