Not So Smooth Seas

The sway of the ship was slowly but steadily growing. Passenger’s faces were painted with a mixture of discomfort and concern. The storm was approaching.

My companions groaned and quickly prayed for smooth sailing and calm stomachs. Me? Well, I was up out of my seat powerwalking to the deck. I wanted to feel the power of the sea.

Open water, especially when it is windy and wild, has always been an odd mix of calming and exhilarating for me. Hearing the waves crash violently against the rocks can both soothe and motivate me.

Standing there on the deck in the middle of the Aegean Sea surrounded by white-capped waves helped me to process the horrors I had just seen in a refugee camp. But it also motivated me and encouraged me to press on and to make a difference in my own corner of the world.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

James, the brother of Jesus once wrote, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Both of these quotes are appropriate for our current troubled times. Many of us may be feeling the stresses of life crash around us. Both on a macro and micro level we all are being impacted by this pandemic and all the implications following lockdown.

But how we act and react is crucial.

We must realize that in the midst of any circumstance God remains good. Our faith is not dependent on our circumstances. We cannot be tossed back and forth by the situations that we face on a day to day basis.

Our circumstances change, but the object of our faith does not.

And so, when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can endure the storms that come. In fact, we can joyfully embrace the trials that we face because we know, as the Bible tells us, that these trials will deepen our faith and ultimately produce steadfastness in us.

We can also realize that when, not if, but when God sees us through these rocky waters, we will be better prepared for the next set of waves when they come. Troubled times come and go. This set of unfortunate circumstances is not the first that we have faced, and it will not be the last. In fact, Jesus tells us that, “in this world, you will have troubles…” But, thankfully, He doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just leave us with the bad news that we will face trials and troubles, no, He gives us hope. He continues on and says, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Understand that in this time God is looking to develop you into the man or woman that He created you to be. As He molds you, don’t forget to be joyful in the midst of every circumstance. And ultimately, rest in the fact that Jesus has already overcome this world.

After the storm died down a bit, I snapped the picture shown above. It is a nice reminder that even when the wind and the waves rage, the sun is still shining.

Even when the wind and the waves of our lives rage, the Son is still shining. Trust in Him today.

Secured

Can a Christian lose their salvation?

Chances are this is a question that you have heard before. Maybe you have even pondered this subject yourself.

Well, in order to answer this question, we first need to define two terms, Christian, and salvation. Once we understand what those two words truly mean the answer to our question will hopefully be plainly clear. Just a heads up, there are a lot of Bible verses referenced in this post. I didn’t put them in here to make myself look smart, instead, I put this in here because I want you to check them out for yourselves. Digging into the Bible for yourself is the coolest thing you could ever do!

So, what is a Christian? A Christian is someone who, by faith, have put their trust in Jesus, and Him alone, for their salvation. A true Christian would affirm that: they are a sinner in need of a savior, (Rom. 3:23, 6:23) Jesus came to earth and died on the cross for their sins, (Rom. 5:6-8) Jesus rose again from the dead, (Rom. 6:9) and that they are saved as a result of God’s free gift of grace, not their own good works. (Eph. 2:8-9)

A true Christian is also made distinct because at the moment that they place their trust in Jesus they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:13-14, Rom. 8:9, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) The Holy Spirit seals believers and guides them in righteousness. (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1: 13-14) Once a believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit they are guaranteed a permanent inheritance as a child of God. (Ephesians 1:13-14) This promise of the Holy Spirit living inside of believers, guiding, directing, empowering, and gifting them, is a permanent promise. Believers do not need to worry about the Holy Spirit leaving, He never will.

Now, to define salvation. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…” Salvation is the free gift of God of eternal life and forgiveness of sins that is extended from God to sinful mankind. (Ephesians 2:8, John 3:16)

This salvation is only found in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. (Acts 4:11-12)

Jesus came to earth and died as a substitute (2 Corinth. 5:9, 1 Peter 3:18) in order to bring life that never ends. (Romans 6:10, John 10:10) This life that Jesus brings to those who believe is freely given, guarded, and guaranteed. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Another promise given by God is that true believers after they have been saved, will one day be glorified. (Romans 8:30) This Glorification means that one day believers will be perfectly free from sin, pain, fear, and death, and will forever be with God.

Now, since we have an understanding of who a Christian is and what salvation means we can now come to the realization that a person who is a true follower of Jesus Christ cannot lose their salvation.

The true believer’s salvation cannot be lost because:

  • The Holy Spirit is indwelling them
  • The promise of the Holy Spirit is permanent
  • The promise of the life that Jesus gives to believers is permanent
  • The promise of Glorification is still yet to be completed

A true believer of Jesus can rest assured that God fulfills His promises to them and that their salvation is secure. (John 10:28, Philippians 1:6)

With that being said, security of our salvation is not a license to keep on sinning. We cannot just simply pray a prayer and then continue living our lives however we want to.

True faith results in true life-change.

Romans 6:1-2 Paul addresses this very thing. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

When we become a true Christian, we have died to sin and become completely new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, we cannot continue to live unrepentantly in our old sinful lives.

The security of salvation that we have in Jesus is not an excuse to keep sinning “because I prayed a prayer that one time,” rather it should motivate us to more fully love and obey Jesus in every aspect of our lives.

The Way Life Should Be

My wife and I are on a mission. Our goal is to, eventually, make a visit to all 50 states. We have been incredibly blessed to stop by, and subsequently get a magnet from, a decent portion of the 50 states in our great Union already. (Quick poll: if we have been to a state but forgot to get a magnet can we just buy a magnet on Amazon, or do we have to go back in order for it to “count?”)

Anyway, one of my favorites, if not the favorite, state so far would be Maine. (Fun fact: Maine is the only state whose name is only one syllable. Go ahead say all the states in your head, it’s true!)

I fell in love with Maine in a matter of minutes, literally. Now, I know that the short time I spent there does not necessarily offer a complete and fully accurate picture of what life in Maine might be like. But, with that being said, what I did see and experience was absolutely breath-taking.

I was debating of whether or not to share a bunch of pictures here and I decided to just go with the one. (Taken by my awesome wife, by the way.) The reason I am not showing more is that, even though the pictures we took turned out really well, they still do so little justice to just how beautiful it truly was.

God is such an awesome and incredibly creative creator. This world that He has made is so beautiful. (Read more about that HERE.)

Maine was awesome. The coast was my favorite. I could sit there on a rock and stare off into the ocean for hours. The blueberries were heavenly. The lobster was in mac n’ cheese. The donuts were exceptional. The trees were tall and skinny, just the way they should be. (Oh, also trees make up 90% of the land in Maine…so that’s neat!) The people were down-to-earth and friendly. And did I mention the coast?!

While we were driving we saw a sign that stuck with me. It read, “MAINE: The Way Life Should Be.”

I remember smiling and saying out loud, “yea, that’s about right.” I mean, if there is a way that life should be lived it probably is: on the edge of a forest-on the top of a cliff-next to a lighthouse-overlooking the ocean-eating fresh blueberry pancakes. Now, that’s living.

I kept thinking about that sign for the next few days and even weeks. The phrase itself makes my mind run to Genesis 2. Back to the Garden. Back to the way life should be.

That one chapter in the Bible where all was as it should be. Man and woman walking and talking and living and enjoying life together next to God. Together with God.

If you look around you today, you won’t find a picture-perfect garden paradise. Instead, you will see brokenness, pain, hurt, despair, sin, and death. This is not the way life should be.

That is important for us to remember. This new normal for mankind is so “not the way life should be” that God did something about it. He sent Jesus.

Jesus died on the cross so that we could experience life, abundant life. (John 10:10)

Jesus came to show us the way, and the way that life should be. (John 14:6)

And, God promises, for those who put their trust in Jesus, to take away all the things that stand in the way of “life being the way it should be.” (Revelation 21:1-8)

You may be reading this and be thinking, “that’s great! I have already trusted Jesus, but how do I navigate life today?”

That’s a great question. Proverbs 3:5-6 gives a great answer. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Trusting in Jesus today and tomorrow and the next day and the next…that is how we, not just survive, but thrive in this life.

Trust in Jesus.

That is the way life should really be.

The Wait of it All

“There is one thing that we can be sure of, even as we wait, God has not and will not forget about us.”

“We have done everything we can…all we can do now is wait.”

This is what I usually say to well-meaning people who, with a smile on their face, ask me about our adoption process. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the questions at all. In fact, the other night I asked my wife if she ever got frustrated or saddened by questions that reminded her that we don’t have a baby yet. She said no. We both can see the love and genuine concern that people have for us that leads them to ask these sorts of questions. We don’t mind thinking about it. We don’t mind talking about it.

But what we do mind is the waiting.

It’s hard to explain the feeling – a sort of excitement and expectation mixed with frustration, joy, hope, and a bit of disappointment.

But I think what bums us out the most about waiting is that we can’t control it. We can’t do anything to make it go faster. We just have to wait.

If you know my wife and I, then you know that we and doers. We do things. We get things done. Go-getters are often a step behind us because we have already gone and gotten.

And that’s why this period of waiting is so important for us. It’s why it is so good for us. God will/is/has been teaching us lessons about the waiting, and through the waiting, whether we like it or not.

I did a quick search and found the word “wait” in one form or another in the Bible upwards of 135 times. The most common words from Hebrew that get translated into the English “wait” would be: קוה and יחל. Now, I know those squiggly lines may not mean much to you so let me just tell you what they mean. קוה means- to await, hope; to wait for. יחל means-to wait; to cause to hope. You don’t need to know Biblical Hebrew to see the common theme of hope.

In the New Testament the three most commonly translated words for “wait” are: προσδοκάω, ἀπεκδέχομαι, προσδέχομαι. Their definitions are in the same order- wait for; look for; expect – await eagerly – and wait for; look forward to. Here also is a common theme of eager expectation. I would even say that the Greek words help to “sum up” and complement the Hebrew.

Waiting, more specifically, waiting on God, has to do with hope which is an eager expectation of what will most assuredly come.

So why does the Bible talk about waiting so much? Well, there are a few reasons, but I will just highlight two in this short time.

First, the Bible talks about waiting a lot because it is a natural part of life on earth and we ought to know how we should respond in a God-honoring way.

Psalm 37:7-9  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. (Emphases added.)

While we wait we still need to continue to live our lives, and the quality of how we live our lives needs to be worthy of the Gospel by which we have been saved.

Second, waiting teaches us about God and His genuine care, steadfast love, and kindness towards us.

Romans 8:15  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Psalm 33 20-22  Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

God loves us with a love that is far beyond our own comprehension. But there is one thing that we can be sure of, even as we wait, God has not and will not forget about us. He will not forsake his own adopted children. If you are like us, in the midst of a wait, be encouraged. He is our shield. He is our help.

He is greater than the wait, and He is using this time to teach us and to draw us closer to Him and to one another. It kinda hurts, but I’m really thankful for it.

Proverbs 3:5-6