Trust in God

10 minutes into flight: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be turning the plane around and returning to the Greenville airport in the next 10-15 minutes. During take-off the plane experienced a mechanical… event. The pilot will come on in the next few minutes to elaborate….”

Some minutes later: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we want you to know that it is customary for Fire Engines, Ambulances, and rescue personnel to attend the scene during landing of a returning plane. Please do not be alarmed as this is normal procedure required at the airport….”

That’s what I heard no more than 48 hours ago as I started my travel to France. For some people, this would be cause for alarm; thinking the worst of what might happen, or that maybe fate was telling them not to travel. Some might think: “Why was I on that flight? The planes engines could have stopped and we could have crashed….”

There are a myriad of thoughts that can run through a worrier’s mind.

For others, who trust in the Lord, they might say “I’m sure it will all be good.” And that’s what my loving wife said – it’ll be all ok. She trusted that God had a plan for my travel. Despite what happened, or what would happen, she knew that God was in charge and that she shouldn’t worry.

Now, just because someone trusts in the Lord, doesn’t mean they should be “care free.” In fact, moments later, she texted “Thank you Lord, for your protection.” You see, it could have been time for life to end. Our lives are not scripted by us, but by God. He is the one in control of what happens and when it happens. We can believe that we are in charge, but that would require us also not to believe that God is in charge.

And for those that don’t trust God, they are generally worrisome people. They don’t understand that despite the circumstances they are in, God has a plan better than we could ever imagine- a plan that will carry us through. That plan may not be easy or totally free of trials (most likely it won’t be free of trials), but it is the best plan for us.

Now, after a very exhausting travel over 24 hours, with multiple flight changes, I am safely at my destination. Does that mean I know WHY all these events happened? No. But again, I don’t need to know why, I just need to trust in the Lord. And that’s all I’m doing.

Thank you Lord for always being there and guiding me day to day!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? … Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25, 27

captains_windsheildBy the way, in case you were wondering what a mechanical “event” looks like – see the picture here: During take-off the Captain’s side of the windshield fractured. We don’t know if we hit something or if pressure or stress caused it.

It’s almost Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving – The day of the year that we all stop for a brief moment (long enough to eat a huge meal), and spend time with family. What could be wrong with that?

Well, many families look forward to the get together, but almost all people dread that one person, or that one thing that will be said or done, and perhaps ruin the whole day. But why? It’s a ritual, a tradition, maybe a habit that seems to happen every year – and it just wrecks the whole day for everyone.

This year, I ask you to look past that. Look instead to the positives!

If we consider a larger event, say 2000 years ago, Jesus didn’t dread what His Father would do when He was on the cross. Jesus knew that He had a job to do: to pay a penalty we could not afford. He knew that His Father had a plan, He knew His Father would turn away from Him, yet Jesus still stood proud and did it.

Sure, He was dismayed at first, and prayed fervently almost all night that there would be another way, but in the end, I believe He knew that there was no other way. And when it came time to be Thankful, He gave all Thanks and Glory to God, for He knew that God the Father had a better and bigger plan than what He could pray for.

He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. – John 19:30

So, this year, don’t dread that obnoxious Uncle with rude body sounds or that mustache-lipped Aunt with snide comments about how fat you’re getting…, instead, use the joy in your heart that Jesus provided to allow you to enjoy your Thankful weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving!

False Evidence . . .

What is fear?

False Evidence Appearing Real!fear

That’s what I read today in a cubicle here at work. It’s the first time I’ve thought about “fear” like that. But I started thinking. What have I “feared” in the past? Generally, it’s the things we “worry” about – things that never happen, or things that are inconsequential. Things that are false, but appear real.

Most of the time, we worry or fear things that we have no control over, and things that in the end don’t really matter.

Changing topics for a second, I have had the privilege of listening to children recite memory verses for AWANA, as well as recite questions about “Why God gave us the Bible.” While they have the answers in the book, I try to ask them, why do you think God gave us the Bible. The answers are almost all genuinely better than the answer the book gives.

One answer I think comes back to the question of FEAR. God gave us the Bible so that we would know our future.

We don’t have to fear anything. God is in control. He has given us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

And to that end:

Fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God – Isaiah 41:10a

Modeling Job

Today I was asked about my prior experience in modeling.

I know what most of you are thinking. So what kind of modeling experience does James have? Maybe you are thinking “I know he is an attractive and handsome guy, but modeling, really?” 🙂

The answer is yes – I have experience modeling. For years, I have spent time putting my experience and knowledge into computer simulating and modeling programs…. What? That isn’t the kind of modeling you were thinking of?

OK, so maybe I was a little vague in my explanation.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about modeling, and in particular modeling life.

You see, we are rather intelligent beings (some more so than others). And we can piece together small bits of information to form hypotheses, that can be tested, and tried to prove a multitude of theories.

We can even formulate suppositions based on prior knowledge and experience to predict outcomes and establish probabilities on certain future events. However, there is one variable in the equation that we haven’t quite figured out how to manage yet, and that variable is God. You see, no matter how much experience, how much knowledge, or how much we think we know of something, God can turn the tables on anything and cause the outcome to be drastically different than we would ever expect.

The interesting phenomenon to this “variable” however is that God is constant. He doesn’t change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)

He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. We know this. We know He doesn’t change, so why can’t we predict Him. We call Him a “variable” in the equation, when in fact He doesn’t vary, He remains constant.

So, if we know that His position is constant, why can’t we predict the outcomes of events? For example, why do we have trouble sometimes trusting in Him when we are in a valley of trials? life_planWhy do we struggle and worry over the outcomes of our children or our friends?

We know that God is a God of love and that He has a greater plan than we do.

Recently, I saw this Facebook posting which I believe is a great depiction of how we may think Christian life is. While I really do love the contrasting picture that this shows, I feel that there is one thing missing from the picture that would better help us focus on the reality of life. And that one thing missing is God. You see, despite our ups and downs, no matter what struggles we endure, in spite of how hard we may think our life journey is, God is there, right beside us the entire time. He is just patiently waiting for us to reach over and hold His hand and ask for His help. Will you put out your hand to His today?

Hope in Front of Me

Many of us go through everyday life with disappointing news. It seems like we just can’t get ahead. A recent Facebook post I saw said something like “Being a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t get knocked down, it just means you won’t stay down.” This is a good paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 4:9 which states:

We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. (2 Cor 4:9 NLT)

Today, as I was driving to work, I heard the song “There is Hope in Front of Me”  I didn’t know much of the background to this song, but the announcer briefly gave some history of the singer.  Danny Gokey was a contestant on the 8th season of American Idol. His wife had encouraged him to audition, and soon it became both of their dreams for him to become a superstar. Just four weeks before his audition, his wife underwent routine surgery (her third for a congenital heart disease), but unfortunately due to complications did not survive.

He went on to audition, and became a finalist.  Now, just 4 years later, after continued pursuit of his dream, he has succeeded as a prominent Country singer, but with strong ties to his church and a great new song “There is Hope in Front of Me.”

Despite how bad your circumstances may seem, God is watching over you. In spite of not seeing hope, we can all have hope.

Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Romans 4:18 NLT)

 

It’s a Beautiful Day!

Today as I travel to Atlanta, I think not about snow, but about the beautiful weather, and it reminds me of one of Wesley’s favorite songs: “Beautiful Day” by Jamie Grace.

The link to her video can be found here: Click HERE to listen while you read

The song reminds me not only of Wesley’s love for music and love for the Lord, but also of how wonderful God truly is.

No matter what our trials, like “rain on my dreams,” instead of letting things get me down, I can let the rain “wash all the bugs off my windshield.” You see, God has a plan for each of us, and for every day of our lives. We get caught up sometimes in the moment and fail to see the forest for the trees.

But, “I’ve got no need to worry, I’ve got no room for doubt; No matter what’s coming at me, You’ll always be the beautiful I sing about.”

And more than anything, the song reminds us “There ain’t no limitations to Your amazing grace.”

“It’s a beautiful day!”

Today, just one week after we saw a historical Winter snowfall in the southeast, we will be seeing Springtime, with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. Just a reminder that, like the weather, God can help us turn around in mighty ways.

Don’t believe me? Think of David & Goliath (1 Samuel 17), Moses and the Pharaoh of Egypt (Exodus 1, 5, & 6), the Feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:14-21). Despite overwhelming odds, God turned situations around that no one thought possible!

“There’s something ‘bout the way,
Your love shines on my face,
Oh no I could never get enough of You,
This feeling can’t be wrong,
I’m about to get my worship on,
I’m gonna sing a brand new song.
It’s a beautiful day!”

URL Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPy0ctqMwE0  (I apologize in advance for any advertisements prior to the song playing).

If the truth be told…

Ok, let’s admit it, we all do it, even me. We see a totally awesome Facebook post, and we just have to re-post/share it.

I mean, come on, this one is Christian after all!

Well, I must be a skeptic at heart, as much as I hate to admit it, (just ask Kimberly, I argue all the time – sorry sweetie. I love you!)

So when I saw this recent Facebook post, I had to start my research. Could it really be true? 365 times, exactly? One for each day of the year? That would be awesome!Do_not_be_afraid

But due to my nature, I reverted to a favorite quote of mine I found some time ago:

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” – Abraham Lincoln

So, off to research. The best way to confirm this is to, uh, read the Bible? Ok, so I can’t quite complete that reading this morning. So, I revert to some trusted websites and Bible Search programs I use. Unfortunately, the exact phrase “Do not be afraid” is in fact not quoted per se 365 in any of the translations that I used (it appers 70 in NIV, 48 in NKJV, 33 in ESV….). HOWEVER, there are more than 500 references to ‘fear’ and ‘afraid’ in the Bible.

Because of so many translations and paraphrases of the concept “afraid,” it is practically difficult to prove or disprove this claim. Therefore, in the great tradition of Mythbusters (one of Wesley’s favorite TV shows – which I know is not quite entirely factual and 100% scientific either), I claim the result of “Plausible.” I will not Bust this, nor Confirm the saying. I will however, agree with the concept: DO NOT BE AFRAID!

So I leave you today and with the beginning of 2014 a passage to remember from Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV):

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Happy New Year to ALL! . . . and the truth is told: our Lord God has told us repeatedly to not be afraid!!

– side note – in case you didn’t read closely the quote from Abe Lincoln above, I found it on the internet 🙂

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil…

“the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” –
2 Thessalonians 3:3

As I read this Scripture, I was reminded of those monkeys with their hands over their ears, eyes, and mouths. But really, this Scripture is not regarding evil as an “action,” rather it’s speaking of the devil.

Some people don’t really consider that the devil is a real being, a fallen angel. But he is real! And unfortunately for Christians, he continues to come after us. But this Scripture reminds us that the Lord will protect us and deliver us and that He will strengthen us!

Some days it seems really hard to cope – but these are just days that the devil is working overtime to get to us. It’s our choice whether we decide to give in or not. Think about it for a second, how many days are you sad or down when there is truly no “good” reason to feel that way. Maybe something didn’t turn out like you wanted, or maybe you got a less than perfect grade on something. Ok, so it didn’t work the way you wanted, but is that any reason to be sad? Maybe you feel a little disappointed, but PRAISE GOD that something worse didn’t happen.

It reminds me of the day that a nice farmer offered a room to a guest passing through town one night. That night, he entertained the guest, offered him room and board. The same night, the farmer had a cow pass away. Should he be depressed? He could have lost much more . . . Think about the story of Job in the Bible, he lost so much, to include many family members and possessions galore. Yet, Job recovered and fought off the devil and evil thoughts.

So, if you’re a little down today, cheer up! As my wife once told me before we started dating “Cheer Up or Else!” The Lord will protect you! Don’t allow the devil to think that he’s got some pull on you.

anonymously,

1 I look up to the mountains—
      does my help come from there?
 2 My help comes from the Lord,
      who made heaven and earth! 

3 He will not let you stumble;
      the one who watches over you will not slumber.
 4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel
      never slumbers or sleeps.

 5 The Lord himself watches over you!
      The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
 6 The sun will not harm you by day,
      nor the moon at night.

 7 The Lord keeps you from all harm
      and watches over your life.
 8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
      both now and forever.

Written by an unknown author, Psalm 121 (above) relates the story that we will never outgrow the need for God’s protection in our life. The Good News, however, is that we don’t have to worry, because God will ALWAYS be there to protect us.

Good and bad may come and go, but God is here forever to stay. No matter what you may be experiencing in life, God is with you. ‘Emmanuel’ means ‘God With Us.’ This is such a great description of God. He is with us no matter where we are, no matter who we are, and no matter what we do, He is present to protect us.

Just when you think you’ve taken all you can, rely on God – He will help you get through it!

Imagination is such a great thing

So many times throughout our lives we imagine things. But unfortunately in times of trouble, our imagination can get the best of us. We worry about the “what if?” What if this happens, what if that happens. Wm Paul Young writes in The Shack that “Without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster” (p. 141). As I look back on the life of King Solomon (one of the wisest men in history): when God asked him what he wanted, he asked for wisdom (1 Kings 3:9). Without wisdom, fame, fortune, anything and everything is totally useless. One has to be able to “know” things in order to live a fulfilling and rewarding life. Without wisdom, imagination can destroy one’s life through “what ifs.” In the Shack, the main character Mack states that he lives a small portion of his life in the present, a large amount of time in the past (concerns over past actions), but “most of the rest of the time…trying to figure out the future” (p. 141). Is there anything wrong with that? I would say NO, except in the case of duplicating Mack’s mistake.  So what is his mistake?  He failed to picture God in the future. God spoke to Mack saying “do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures [God] there with you?” (p. 142).

This made me stop and really seriously think. Why do I fear the future? The answer was simple: I forget to include God. When I picture God in the future with me, all things are made clear. The worries disappear. The fear is conquered. There is nothing to be troubled about.

On the other hand, “the person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in [God’s] love” (p. 142). But those who completely trust God and turn over their lives to Him, can live confidently and joyously in the present and the imagined future because of His loving grace. In church, we “sing about it, [we] talk about it,” but how many of us truly live it? (p. 142).

Let your imagination know and remember that God is ALWAYS there with us. Rid your imagine of the dreaded “what ifs” and let God direct your paths.

{quoted passages used with permission, from The Shack.}