Trusting a total stranger… totally

map of philadelphiaA few years ago, for my Mom’s 50th birthday, I took her to a musical concert in center city Philadelphia.   If you know downtown Philadelphia, it is a maze of one way streets.  It didn’t take me long to become “misplaced” in this big city at night.   I seemed to be driving in circles and struggled to find our destination. 

My Mom, being a natural born worrier, was convinced we were going to get carjacked.  Considering the murder rate in the “City of Brotherly Love”, car jacking would have been welcomed.  The only thing worse than being carjacked at night in Philadelphia is being carjacked at night in Philadelphia with your Mother.  That’s just embarrassing.  At any rate, we were sufficiently lost, running late and needed to find our way to the concert.  Since this was before the days of GPS and smart phone navigation apps, all I had was a AAA fold out map and my concerned mother as the co-pilot.  Being that my Mom had never driven in Philadelphia or used maps or enjoyed driving at night or enjoyed being in the most dangerous section of a dangerous city, she was not much help in the fetal position – hyperventilating on the floor of the car.  Time was running out and I knew I had to do something that would go against every male fiber in my being – ask for directions.  

Being evening, my options were limited.   I could either ask the group of men talking in the middle of the street or the lovely young lady on the opposite street corner.   My Mom was convinced the group of men were part of a gang and interested in taking our car.   Being her birthday, I obliged her fears and headed towards the woman.   As I slowed down, she approached my car with a strange familiarity.  Immediately, I realized two things.  First, this was no ordinary woman.  By all appearances, she was an employee in the world’s oldest profession.  Secondly, she knew the city streets well.  

My Mom was aghast.
Mom: “You can’t stop here. You can’t talk to her! Do you know what she does for a living?”
Me: “Yes, I know EXACTLY what she does for a living and no one knows these streets better than her.”

After talking to my female GPS friend, I got the directions and we were on our way.

At some point in time, we have all been in foreign cities (or cities foreign to us) and have gotten lost.  Being lost on unfamiliar turf, sometimes the only way to our destination is to ask a local.  After all, no one knows the area better.   We approach with humility, ask for directions and do exactly as they say, particularly if they seem confident in their response.

But, how do we know they are really a local?  How do we know they are telling the truth?  How do we know the people we ask really know where we are trying to go?  

Occasionally, while in a foreign city, another traveler will approach me (assuming I am a local) and ask me for directions.  To be honest, before I tell them I am from out of town as well, I have a very sinister thought.  Having no idea where they want to go, there is a tiny evil twin inside of me that wants to start giving very specific, clear directions and see if they believe me.

“Oh sure.  I know exactly where you need to go.   You want to take a right at the light.  Turn left onto Main Street.  Go past the bank and take another right at the school.   Go 1.3 miles and your destination is on the left.”  

For all they know, I could be sending them in the opposite direction or directly to the local graveyard.   For all I know, I may have just given them directions into a dangerous, car-jacking part of town. 

Likewise, we have all flown in an airplane.  We plan our trip, buy our ticket, get to our gate, board our plane and walk right by the cockpit without knowing the pilot’s name, his credentials or if he is even sober.  How do we know he is really a pilot?   Did he graduate from airline pilot school with straight A’s or is this guy the class clown who barely passed?  Does he even know where he is going?

The girl giving directions.  The man flying our plane.  The doctor in surgery.  The local mechanic.   Complete strangers to us and we trust them.  We trust them implicitly, without hesitation.

If we can trust these people with directions or even our very lives, why do we struggle trusting the God of creation?

God has never forgotten to rise the sun.  He has never been late on a sunset.  He keeps the stars in place and causes planets to orbit without collision.  He provides rain for the grass blade and food for the ant.  He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground and He’s counted the number of hairs on your head.  He gives what is good to those who ask Him and through “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).  If that were not enough, He loves us more than we can even love ourselves.  So much, that He died in our place so that we can live in His.

Next time you ask for directions, be reminded of who you are trusting.  Next time you board a plane, remember that your life is in the hands of a total stranger.  They don’t know your name.  They don’t care about your day.   But you trust them without blinking.  A total stranger.   We trust an unknown stranger before we trust the God who knows us.  The truth is, God is a stranger to those who do not trust Him.

Is He a stranger to you?

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

When a fast paced life meets a slow motion God

I recently received a heart breaking email from a single mom.  She read my blog (How to climb a mountain) and began to tell me about her particular mountain and how difficult the climb has been.  She is struggling vocationally and as a result, financially and is trying to figure out where God is in the midst of her ascent.  Her mountain is big and she’s tired of climbing.  She works constantly, cares for her child, maintains a house and goes to bed exhausted every night.  She sees very little light at the end of the tunnel.  Most days, it just looks like an oncoming train.  Sound familiar?

I relate to her struggle.  The last three years have been the hardest of my life.  In fact, it seems like everyone I talk to these days is hurting on some level.  Maybe because of my life circumstances I am around more hurting people?  Or maybe we just live in a hurting world and some of us are more honest about the pain than others.  Some of us are hurting from self-inflicted wounds.  Others are hurting as a result of the decisions of others.  Though the reason we hurt may be different, the pain is still the same.  The mountain just keeps growing bigger and your legs just get more tired of climbing.  It feels like the movie, Groundhog Day.  You wonder, when will this day or struggle ever end?

It reminds me of the story of the woman on the donkey:

One day a woman mounted a donkey and began to ride.  Within seconds, the donkey kicked her off to the ground.  She got up, brushed herself off and mounted again.  Within seconds, the donkey kicked her off again.  She repeated this again with the same result.  Finally, in frustration, she raised a fist to heaven and shouted, “Why do You keep doing this to me??”   Surprised, she heard a loud voice respond, “I do this to all My friends.”   She replied, “And that is why You have so few friends!”

My friend wonders why God is allowing her such a struggle.  She loves God, goes to church and doesn’t rob banks or kill anyone – isn’t that worth something?  Daily she wonders how long she must continue to struggle before life gets easier again?  If you’re honest, you have probably thought the same thing.   King David asked the same question in Psalm 13.   You can hear the tone of his desperation through each word he penned, “How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide Your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?  How long will my enemy triumph over me?”   Even the martyrs in Heaven, those killed on earth for their faith, ask the same question in Revelation 6, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”   From the depths of earth to the heights of heaven, everyone seems to be asking the same question – HOW LONG until my situation changes?  How long until God acts on my behalf??  Everyone else seems blessed, when is it my turn?

Moses understands the frustration of dealing with a slow motion God.   Having been called by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses finds himself battling against the most powerful ruler in the world, Pharaoh.  After watching God perform ten amazing miracles (Exodus 7-11) and bring Pharaoh to his knees, Moses finds himself on the verge of national freedom.  For the first time in over 400 years, God’s people would no longer be slaves.  On the night before their “exodus” into Canaan, God has them first camp “in Etham on the edge of the wilderness.” (Exodus 13:20).   Then, He orders them to “encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea..” (Exodus 14:2)  In what seems to be an intentionally irrational move, God has them pitch their tents with the Red sea on one side and the mountain range on the other.

As Egypt’s army approaches, Pharaoh realizes the tactical “mistake” of Israel and weighs in on God’s confusing maneuver, “They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.”

Does that sum up life for you right now?  Are you dealing with a slow motion God?  Wondering why it’s taking Him so long to act on your behalf?  Questioning why He does what He does?  Can’t figure out why His timing is so off?  Feel like you are wandering aimlessly in a desert?  Wondering how much longer you can survive in your worn down and vulnerable position?

Militaristically speaking, Moses couldn’t be in any worse of a location.  Literally, the Israelite’s have no chance of escape and are completely trapped and out-gunned by the powerful Egyptian army.  With the Red Sea on one side and the Egyptian army on the other, they are simply out of room, time and options.  Can you relate to that feeling?  How long till God finally does something about this?

If you are familiar with the story (Exodus 14), you know that God (through Moses) parted the Red Sea.  The Israelites walked across on dry ground and when Pharaoh’s army tried to follow, the sea collapsed upon them and delivered a fatal blow to the Egyptian military.   Though it seemed that God was too late, it turns out – He wasn’t late at all.   He was just working on His own timetable.

We may never understand why He calls us to wander in a desert.  Or why He asks us to stick with a job.  Or a spouse.  We may never know why He asks us to take the scenic route of life when the highway makes so much more sense.  Why do it His way when my way is so much quicker?

God can appear to move slow – but it is only slow on a human clock.  As He reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are My ways your ways.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  

The truth is, we live in a different world than God.  If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, God lives in another galaxy altogether.  He thinks differently.  He acts differently.  We prefer the speed of microwave food.  God cooks over an open flame.  We like to drive fast.  God prefers to walk.  We are all about getting to our destination.  God is all about the journey.   We watch the clock.   God watches the heart.   We want to get to the end result.  God likes to focus on the process.

We do live in a fast paced world.  But God is often a slow motion God.   Though He can create a planet in one day, He often takes His time when building some character.  Though He can instantly heal a blind man with one word, He prefers to heal a human heart over time.

The next time you wonder “How long?” – remember this… you’re in good company.

  • Noah spent over 100 years building the Ark.  (He had never seen a flood before).
  • Abraham spent 25 years waiting for God to provide the “child of promise.”  (For someone who desires a child, that’s an eternity to wait!)
  • Joseph was in prison for over 2 years waiting for those he helped to remember he was there.  (His crime?  Doing the right thing.)
  • Moses spent 80 years wandering in a desert.  (No air conditioning.  No books to read.  No wi-fi.)
  • The longest night of Daniel’s life was spent in a lion’s den.  (Why was he there?  Because he prayed.)
  • David was anointed as the King of Israel as a teenager.  It would be years later before he would actually wear the crown.  In the interim, he spent most of his time as a fugitive literally running for his life.  (No wonder He kept asking God “How long?”)
  • Even Jesus asked God “Why?” while hanging on the cross.

God likes to put His children in a position where He is the only possible solution.  If Israel could have fought their way out, Israel would have bragged that they delivered themselves.  If Moses could have delivered His people, then Moses would have been hailed as the hero.  God doesn’t play like that.  He doesn’t share His glory with others.

That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses his servant.” – Exodus 14:30

Waiting on God?  Get used to it.  He’s shaping you for a greater work.  You will be there longer than you want, that’s for sure.  But know this – He hasn’t forgotten you or your cries for help.  He’s just not done His work in you yet.

He doesn’t need more time – you do.

God approved my flat tire?

When I was a youth director, every year I had the privilege of leading members of my church overseas on our annual mission project.  Every year, prior to my departure, I had the same conversation with a relative about the apparent dangers of air travel and foreign countries.  Every year I tried to explain to her that if God wanted to “take me out”, He could do it just as easily in aisle 3 of Wal-Mart as He could on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic.   Although there is intellectual consent to this truth, I find my relative is not alone in her thinking.   Most Christians, although claiming to believe in a sovereign God – somehow question His sovereignty as it affects their daily life.  And if they do not question His sovereignty directly, they do so by allowing worry to infiltrate every area of their life.  This contradiction leads me to the question, “How sovereign is God?”   In other words, is He in control of things or is He not?

I recognize that my friends who are Christians might be quick to say that He is in control of everything, because the Bible tells them so.  It can be easy to understand why my non-believing friends might scoff at that idea – particularly as you watch the evening news and see all the chaos that is around us.  With the newspaper in one hand and my Bible in the other – I am learning how to walk by faith (though feebly most days) instead of sight.  My physical eyes see one world.  His spiritual eyes see another.  I’m trying to get more of His vision.

Having said that, I have come to realize that there is no doctrine more comforting to the soul of man than the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.  The doctrine of God’s sovereignty simply means that God does WHAT He wants, WHEN He wants, HOW He wants, WHY He wants, WHERE He wants – simply because He is God.

As Psalm 115:3 reminds us, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”  As Abraham Kuyper – Dutch theologian & one time prime minister of the Netherlands once wrote, “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare,“THAT is mine!”

Proof of His sovereignty is all over Scripture:

  • God is sovereign over creation (Genesis 1:1, 4, Acts 17:24).   Just ask the sun, moon & stars (Psalm 19:1-6).
  • God is sovereign over mankind (Genesis 1:26-27).  Just ask Adam (Genesis 1:29-30, 2:5-8, 15-25).
  • God is sovereign over the affairs of man.     Just ask Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 50:20).
  • God is sovereign over the hairs of man (Luke 12:7).
  • God is sovereign over the thoughts of man.   Just ask the Pharisees (Luke 6:6-11).
  • God is sovereign over court decisions.    Just ask Pilate (John 19:8-12).
  • God is sovereign over the kings of the culture (Proverbs 21:1).  Just ask Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-37).
  • God is sovereign over relationships.   Just ask Boaz (Ruth 3 & 4).
  • God is sovereign over where we live (Genesis 12:1-9, Acts 17:26).   Just ask Ruth (Ruth 1).
  • God is sovereign over what we do for a living.   Just ask Moses (Exodus 3:10).
  • God is sovereign over money.
  • God is sovereign over greed.    Just ask Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).
  • God is sovereign over clothing.    Just ask the wandering Israelites (Deuteronomy 8:4).
  • God is sovereign over food and drink (Matthew 6:25-34). Just ask the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21).
  • God is sovereign over the womb.  (Psalm 139:13-16)   Just ask Sarah (Genesis 18:9-15, 21:1-3) or better yet, the virgin Mary. (Luke 1:26-38)
  • God is sovereign over health.
  • God is sovereign over birth defects.   Just ask the man born blind from birth. (John 9:1-12)
  • God is sovereign over paralysis.   Just ask the roofer in Mark chapter 2. (Mark 2:1-12)
  • God is sovereign over illness.   Just ask Peter’s mother in law. (Matthew 8:14-15)
  • God is sovereign over chronic pain.   Just ask the man by the pool in Bethesda. (John 5:1-9)
  • God is sovereign over disease.   Just ask Naaman. (II Kings 5:1-14)
  • God is sovereign over “accidents”.   Just ask Malchus. (John 18:10) or Just ask Eutychus. (Acts 20:7-12)
  • God is sovereign over the weather.   Just ask the disciples. (Mark 4:35-41)
  • God is sovereign over the clouds. (Isaiah 5:6)
  • God is sovereign over the elements.   Just ask Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego. (Daniel 3:19-27)
  • God is sovereign over angels. (Luke 1:26)
  • God is sovereign over Satan (Job 1:8-12, 2:3-6) & his demons. (Luke 8:26-39)
  • God is sovereign over sin
  • God is sovereign over betrayal.  Just ask Judas. (John 18:1-11)
  • God is sovereign over rejection. Just ask Peter. (John 18:25-27)
  • God is sovereign over genocide. Just ask Herod. (Matthew 2:13-23)
  • God is sovereign over tragedy.   Just ask Job. (Job 1:13-22, 2:7-10)
  • God is sovereign over murder.  Just ask Cain. (Genesis 4:5-16)
  • God is sovereign over adultery.  Just ask Hosea. (Hosea 1:2-3)
  • God is sovereign over life. (John 1:3-4, 14:6)  Just ask the thief pardoned from the cross. (Luke 23:39-43)
  • God is sovereign over death (Acts 17:26).    Just ask Lazarus. (John 11:1-46)   Or better yet, ask Jesus. (John 20:1-18)
  • God is sovereign over salvation. (Acts 4:12, John 14:6)   Just ask Zacchaeus. (Luke 19:1-10)
  • God is sovereign over time.   Just ask Joshua. (Joshua 10:12-14)
  • God is sovereign over space.   Just ask Phillip. (Acts 8:38-40)
  • God is sovereign over eternity.   Just ask Him. (Revelation 22:13, John 1:1)
  • God is sovereign over the future. (Matthew 16:21-23)
  • God is sovereign over animals.   Just ask Jonah (Jonah 1:17).   Or Balaam. (Numbers 22:23-35)
  • He is well aware of birds (Luke 12:6) and when He chooses to end their flights (Matthew 10:29).
  • Even the movements of a single fly are under His control. (Exodus 8:31, Isaiah 7:18)

In our fallen world, there will always be evil and as a result – such evil will create events that make us question whether God is able to do anything about it.  It can make us wonder whether He cares.  We have all heard sentences like “How can a loving God allow _______? (fill in the blank).   But just because He does not choose to supernaturally intervene in a particular situation does not mean He cannot.  It also does not mean He is impervious to our suffering.  God is a cause and effect God.  He is a reaping and sowing God.  We see this most clearly in the natural law of gravity.

God placed the natural law of gravity into effect and allows that natural law to govern our physical world.  What goes up, must come down.  If I were to walk off a bridge, I would immediately fall.  No one questions that.  No one complains that God is unfair when He lets people violate that natural law.  You do not hear questions like, “How can a loving God allow that man to fall to his death after he walked off a bridge?”  We understand that is the natural consequence of violating that natural law.   Can God stop or suspend the natural law of gravity?  Absolutely.  But does He?  Not often.   And because He chooses not to, that does not mean He is not sovereign over the law of gravity.  It also does not mean He does not care about what is falling.  He put the law into effect and we learn best when He does not tamper with those laws.  Likewise, it is the same with His moral law.

So, next time you are taking an overseas trip or becoming concerned about when your teenager is coming home with the car, remember that God is sovereign.  Whether you lose your job or get diagnosed with cancer, remember that God is sovereign.  Next time you lose a relative or lose some money or get a flat tire or get a speeding ticket – remember He is still sitting on His throne and paying close attention.  He is simply letting the law do what it does best… point to your need for grace.

Like a Grandmaster of chess, He allows us to make foolish, sinful moves.  He is never caught off guard with our poor decisions or their natural consequences.  He can even take the most sinister evil move and make good come out of it… eventually (Romans 8:28).  Sometimes He even lets us see that good end result this side of eternity.  Though He allows us to move some pieces the game will end exactly as He plans.  (Gotta read the Bible for that – I am not spoiling that spectacular ending here). And regardless how you may feel, at no point does He stop caring (I Peter 5:7).

God is in complete control of all areas of life and nothing comes across your desk unless it has first been approved at His desk above.


In God’s world, “everything happens for a reason” – HIS reason.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?  And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.   But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!   Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’   “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34