The Iceberg

Iceberg

Icebergs are large chunks of ice that float freely in the open water. Some are small, measuring only a few feet across. And some are gigantic, being the size of a small country. They are formed when chunks of ice break off from glaciers, ice shelves, or even a larger iceberg.

The common feature of all icebergs is that only a tenth of the volume of an iceberg is above the water. This is because of the relative densities of ice and seawater.

The iceberg is a picture of many facets of life. The books we read have been through an untold number of edits that we have never seen. We simply see the final product. The cars we drive have unknown hours of research behind them. We simply enjoy the opportunity to use them for transport. Marriage problems that come to the attention of others will have a depth of other issues below the surface. We only see a little of what is wrong. The people we know and love have untold backgrounds and experiences that have shaped who they are. We only enjoy their presence today.

When it comes to living life before God, there are many things going on all around us that we have little knowledge of or little control over. But for those of us who love God, we can rest in the assurance that God is working in the unseen details of our lives. This is true of our present circumstances. “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NASB). This is true of our future circumstance. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV).

So live life trusting God with the unseen details in your life.

Losing Hope

ChicagoBears

Growing up near Chicago has made me a Chicago sports fan. I root for the Bears, the Bulls, and the Cubs. Over the years, there has been some joy (think 1985 and the Bulls dynasty), but mostly disappointment (think Cubs).

The Bears entered this season with so much promise. Yet, things have spiraled downwards in a big way. Not only are they out of the playoffs, but their team is a mess. Their coaches are under fire. One sportswriter called the Bears organization “dysfunctional.” Another sportswriter said that the organization is in a “Free-Fall” right now. The players seem to have no vision or direction or interest in playing the game. They play as if they have no hope. When one has no hope, it is hard to play with passion and enthusiasm. It is difficult to press through the difficulties.

Some of us at Rock Valley Bible Church are working at memorizing Desiring God’s weekly Fighter Verses. The verse for this week is 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” In the previous context, Paul had been talking about the ultimate hope for the believer in Jesus Christ: a changed body that will be raised imperishable to inherit the kingdom of God. And in the verse quoted above, Paul urged those in Corinth to press on “in the work of the Lord” because the victory has been given to us through Jesus Christ (verse 57).

Those who have such an eternal hope should live with enthusiasm and joy, even through the discouragements and challenges that come about living in a sin-cursed world.

… Just watch how passionately the Packers play this weekend. They have hope.

My Book!

MyBook

For the past few weeks we have been taking care of a two and a half year-old boy through Safe Families, a great organization that seeks to provide temporary homes for children without foster care or the courts. His mother is looking for a job to support her family, which is difficult to do while caring for a such a young child. As we have taken this boy in our home, the mother has been freed up to find a job. We are praying for her to find a job, and be united with her family.

This little boy has a very sweet disposition and we have enjoyed bringing him into our family for this short time. And for the most part, things have gone quite smoothly. Last night, however, we had a bit of a run-in.

One of the things that this boy really appreciates is bedtime stories. We have set out about twenty books that my wife pulls from to read with him shortly before putting him down for the night.

Well, last night, my seven year-old son happened to be in the room around reading time. He began looking at some of the books that were going to be read in a few moments. I think that this little boy felt threatened. He began taking the books from my son’s hand and yelling at him, “No!” He said, “Mine!”

Now, I have great compassion for this little boy. He’s alone, apart from his mother and family, and in our house, not his own. These books have probably become a sense of security and joy for him. And when my son began to look at them, he was justifiably upset.

However, he was wrong. These books weren’t his. In fact, they are my son’s books, that he has willing let this boy use during his stay with us. So, we took this little boy into the bathroom and tried to explain this to him.

As we were talking to him about these books, I thought of how I often respond in a same way toward God. Everything that we have is His gift to us. “The earth is the LORD’s and all it contains” (Psalm 24:1). He gave us life and breath and all things (Acts 17:25). The apostle Paul rightly asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). And yet, many times, I am possessive of “my things,” not realizing that they are really the LORD’s, which I am using for a brief time.

May we all hold our possessions loosely.

Customer Surveys

One of the things that has made Apple a wildly successful corporation is their innovation. They have made products that the consumers didn’t even know that they wanted (or needed).  Steve Jobs once said, “It is not the customer’s job to know what they want.” As a result of this philosophy, Apple corporation isn’t too keen on customer surveys.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. Non-Christians don’t even know what it is that they need. They are blind to spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). They are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1). Christians don’t need to survey non-Christians to see what they want. Rather, we need to tell them what they don’t even know that they need. We need to tell them that they need their sins to be forgiven by believing in Jesus Christ. They need to repent and turn to Christ (Acts 3:19).

When the Trials Come

In this life trials will come. It’s not a matter of “if” trials will come, but rather “when” trials will come. So, the question that all of us face is this: what will sustain you when the day comes?

Many find solace in God’s love and care for them, which is well and good. But, those same people will often limit God’s involvement in their trial. In other words, they will say that God would never bring a trial in their life, because God has only their good in mind.

Unfortunately, those who think this way lose the comfort that could be theirs. If God is not powerful enough to keep the trial from you, what assurance do you have that God will be able to remove the trial? You have none.

A better, more Biblical course is to trust that “Our God is in the heavens. He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). When a trial comes upon a believer, it comes from the sovereign hand of our God for our good (Romans 8:28). God will not bring it beyond our ability to triumph through it (1 Corinthians 10:13). He will sustain us through the trial (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). When it has accomplished its purposes, He who brought the trial will bring it to an end.

In other words, believing in the goodness of God AND the greatness of God is the key to sustaining you through trials.

The Subway Guy

Perhaps you know the story of Jared Fogle, often known as “The Subway Guy.” He lost 245 pounds in one year by eating nothing but Subway, every day. Certainly, he didn’t gorge himself. Rather, he chose only the healthy items on the menu and ate them in moderation (two sandwiches a day with no oil, mayo or cheese). He was transformed from a 60-inch waist and 425 pounds to 180 pounds. Jared Fogle was transformed with a new diet.

Christians are transformed by faith in Christ. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we believe in Christ, we are changed people. Paul spoke of his transformation with these words: “I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Timothy 1:13).  Those in Corinth were fornicators and idolaters and adulterers and effeminate and homosexuals and thieves and covetous and drunkards and revilers and swindlers, but were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Low Hanging Fruit

I recently returned from a trip to Nepal, strengthening pastors in their ministry. One of the things that most encouraged me was the fact that many in Nepal are turning to Christ. I spoke with one pastor who told me how it can happen. He told me of how people are longing to learn how to read. So, people begin a literacy class, teaching Nepali’s how to read. As the class progresses, those learning Nepali come to know and trust the teacher. They also are attracted to the manner of his/her life. As the primary text in these classes is the Bible, the students are also exposed to the gospel. You put all of these things together, and the students often turn from their sins and believe in the Savior.  This is what I call “low hanging fruit.”

How different this is than in America, where most people are skeptical. Furthermore, the majority of Americans are self-sufficient and see no need for Christ in their lives. The fruit in America hangs much higher, and it takes much more work for people so see their sin and their need for a Savior. “We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those whoa re the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).