Do you trust God or not?

A spider monkey hanging in a tree outside the Mayan Ruins of Tikal in Guatemala

The locals call it “the tour the monkeys take.” The canopy zip line near the Mayan ruins of Tikal is a series of cables strung from platform to platform in the thick of the Guatemalan jungle. It’s not uncommon to spot spider monkeys and bright-feathered birds as you sail from tree to tree.

I’ve never been on it, and I’m not planning to go anytime soon. But I know loads of folks who’ve done it. And I admire their fearlessness. They’ll strap themselves into the harness, hook themselves on the cable, and fling their bodies into the open air of the jungle.

If it were me standing on that platform with nothing but a slim cable to support my flight from tree to tree, leaping into the air like some kind of Superman would be the last desire in my heart. But while I haven’t done it physically, I’ve done it in other ways.

I walked away from my high-paying job to start my own business. I elected to write a novel that would challenge the way people see Christ-followers. I traveled alone to dangerous parts of the world. I climbed behind the wheel of a car after surviving a terrible wreck.

No, it’s not the same as riding a zip line through a jungle canopy. But it was just as crazy.

Facing the future can be terrifying. With everything we know is happening today, it’s hard to see the future as anything less than bleak. Yet some people still walk toward it with their heads held high. They charge toward the unknown without a hint of fear, risking life and limb as they fling themselves into the air.

How can you embrace the terror of the future without collapsing under the weight of everything you don’t know? How is it possible to be brave when all you have to go on is how much failure hurts?

Well, do you trust God or not?

That’s really the only question that matters. But it’s the one of the most difficult questions you’ll ever answer.

Trusting God can be difficult. God is perfect. That’s one of the things that makes Him so scary. Because He’s right all the time.

So what happens when you trust God for something, and you don’t get it? It happens more often than not. You think you know what He’s calling you to do. You’re sure you’re on the right track. You believe it with all your heart, and then BAM! The world changes. You lose that person you love. You lose that relationship you needed. You lose the job you had to have.

So much for trusting God, right? All it gets you is more pain, more heartache, more trouble, more stress. You trust Him to take care of things, and all you get is more difficulty and struggle.

But doesn’t it make sense that part of trusting God is trusting that He’s not done yet? If we say we trust Him, why do we give up when life gets tough?

The truth is, God never promised you wouldn’t get hurt. He never promised that you’d get to keep everything you have, relationships or possessions or positions included.

So many times I think we project our own wants and desires onto God’s promises. So when we hear Him promise to protect us, we think that means He’ll prevent heartache or that He’ll stop anything from happening that will hurt us. And that’s not the case.

The Bible doesn’t say trust God and you’ll never be hurt. The Bible says to trust God because He knows what He’s doing. Trust Him because even when you get hurt, He’ll stay by your side (Isaiah 43:1-2).

Your life isn’t what you expected. So what? Do you really want to limit yourself to what you expect? Why not believe that God has something bigger and better in store?

Your boyfriend or girlfriend left. I’m truly sorry, but maybe that’s not who God had in mind for you.

You lost a business deal or an election or a relationship. Do you really think God is so small that He can only work within the boundaries of your expectations?

I have trust issues. Everyone does. And God knows that. But He’s done so much to prove Himself. How much more does He have to do to demonstrate that He is good, that He is faithful, and that He is worthy of trust?

You can’t half-trust Him. Half-trusting is putting on the harness and staying on the ground. It’s writing your book and never telling anyone about it.

So decide. Ask yourself. Do you trust God or not? If you don’t, that’s fine. That’s your choice. And you have the right to make that decision for yourself.

But if you do trust Him, then it’s time to start living like it. Stop wallowing in the what-ifs and might-have-beens. Stop clinging to the life you expected. Stop pining for the dreams that didn’t come true. Open your eyes and see the world for what it is, see God for who He is, and remember that He isn’t finished yet. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Do you trust God?

Yes, you’ll probably be afraid. But that’s what bravery is—action in the face of fear, boldness in the face of danger (Proverbs 28:1).

You can stay on the ground if you want. But God has so much more for you. If you trust Him, He’ll take you places you never dreamed you could go, and He’ll do more through you than you ever thought possible.

The Twizzler Tree

Do Twizzlers grow on trees?

If I told you a saw a tree that grew Twizzlers would you believe me? What if I showed you a picture? Would you believe me then? Or would you have to see it for yourself?
I am amazed how much easier it is to believe something once you see it. Why is that? Why is it that we little puny humans have to see something before we truly understand it? It’s ironic to me because our perception is so flawed that even when we see something, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we actually see it.
My Twizzler tree, for example?  
The Twizzler Tree
The Twizzler Tree – Peten, Guatemala

Well, it does exist. But it doesn’t grow Twizzlers. It just looks like it does. This is one of the trees in the courtyard of the hotel I stay at in Guatemala when I’m visiting my friends, Jim and Shelley Dinsmore. So even if you believed me because I told you I had seen it, we would both still be wrong because my perception isn’t perfect.

The verse for today is 2 Corinthians 5:7.
For we live by believing and not by seeing.
This is a hallmark verse for a Christian because so much of what we believe about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit is beyond human perception. Notice I said “so much” and not “all” because there’s a vast amount of what we believe that can be obviously perceived. But when we get right down to the bare bones of Scripture, the Bible tells us to believe things without seeing them.
We are to believe that God created the world, even though we didn’t see that He did it. We are to believe that God is making a place for us in heaven for when Christ comes back to get us, even though we can’t see Him doing it. We are to believe that Jesus is our Savior, even though we can’t see Him. On and on and on it goes, believing things that we haven’t actually seen and have only heard someone tell us about.
Granted, we have the Bible. And despite what many people think, there is more historical evidence for the accuracy of Scripture than any other historical manuscript. Research it. Don’t just listen to me and don’t just listen to other people. Find out for yourself and see that it’s true.
There’s another verse I can’t help but think about. John 20:29. Christ says this after His resurrection, after He appears to the Disciples, after Thomas announces that he won’t believe that Christ is alive until he sees it for himself.
Thomas is often demonized for that statement. And I don’t think that’s right. He just wanted proof. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for proof. There’s nothing wrong with doubting. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. And you’ll notice if you read John 20:24-29 that Jesus doesn’t rebuke him and doesn’t call him on the carpet. He shows Himself, shows His scars to Thomas, and Thomas believes. And that’s when Christ says this:
“You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
Thomas believed because Jesus appeared to Him and proved Himself to Him. But Jesus is saying that people who believe in Him without seeing Him are blessed. Happy. The Message paraphrases it as saying that “even better blessings” are waiting for people who live by faith instead of by sight.
I don’t know about you, but “even better blessings” sounds pretty good to me. And if Jesus says that believing in Him without seeing Him is better, I’ll take His word for it.
It really all comes down to believing what’s in the Bible. Believing what other people have said. I have never seen Jesus. I have never seen God. I’ve seen evidence of Them in my life and in others’ lives. But face to face? No. I have to wait for that day, and I believe that day is coming. Why? Because the Bible says so. And I have chosen to believe it.
And I can’t help but wonder if Twizzlers really will grow on trees in heaven. Because that would rank pretty high on my list of “even better blessings.”
Chicken Caldo

How a bowl of soup can remind me to be thankful

Did you know that Americans are spoiled? Sure, we’re in an economic crisis at the moment, but even so there are dozens of opportunities for Americans to find food or shelter. People in other countries often don’t have that luxury.

I know I mentioned my trip to Guatemala yesterday, but I’m recycling pictures. And this one just seems to fit the concept behind today’s verse.

When I was in Guatemala I got the chance to eat what the Q’eqchi call caldo. Basically it’s some kind of meat (turkey, chicken, fish, etc) thrown in a pot with some vegetables and cooked all day. YUM.

Turkey Caldo

Turkey Caldo - Peten, Guatemala

I’m serious. It was actually the best turkey soup I’ve ever had. I could stand for some right now, really.

What amazed me was how the people of the village were insistent that we eat their food. And it wasn’t just this village. It was every village we visited.

Granted, it’s part of their culture, but they didn’t have to act so happy about it. Especially when they might not have had enough food to feed themselves.

What I have learned, though, is that when you’re thankful for something, you tend to be much more likely to share it. Being thankful for something, whether it’s food or clothing or whatever, indicates that you realize you didn’t earn it.

Today’s verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

This is a lot harder to do than you think at first glance. Be thankful in all circumstances.

Be thankful if you live in Guatemala where the mosquitos are big enough to carry off small children. Be thankful if you live in Kansas where the wind is strong enough to blow away small children.

Be thankful if you eat three meals a day. Be thankful if you eat one meal a day. Be thankful if you have a job, even if you don’t like the hours. Be thankful if you have clothes to wear, whether they’re the latest fashions or something you found at Goodwill.

Be thankful if you’re in a good situation.

Be thankful if you’re in a bad situation.

Whatever situation or circumstance you’re in, be thankful.

Many Christians struggle with finding God’s will for their life, and I’ve said it before: I don’t think we can know God’s will for our life. I think God’s will for our lives would blow our tiny little human brains. However, I think we can know God’s will for today.

And part of God’s will for today is to be thankful.

I’ll never forget how happy it made the family who made this soup for us that I asked for more broth. They were thrilled.

I want to have that kind of spirit, that gives and gives and is happy when people ask things of me. I want to be that thankful for the gifts in my life that I am willing to share them unconditionally.

And the first step to doing that is understanding that everything I have, God has given me. Yes, I’ve worked hard, but God gave me the strength and the talent to work. He gets all the credit for any good thing in my life, and if I get to the point where I think I deserve the things I have, my life will begin to revolve around them.

But if I can remember that it’s God who gave everything in my life to me? Then, my perspective will change. And if we can get our perspectives to change, that’s the biggest step in overcoming selfishness.


Trust first. Ask questions later.

Do you know people who can remain hopeful even when the world is falling apart around them? And I’m not talking about the kind of hope characterized by plain old denial. Unfortunately, that’s usually the kind of hope I brandish, refusing to deal with a situation until I absolutely must, ignoring it until it becomes undeniable. After all, it’s a lot easier to live in denial than it is to actually face your troubles, confidently believing that everything will work out.

But is that real hope?

I guess to find out what real hope is we need to find out where it comes from. 

If you listen to the message coming out of the world and the opinons in television shows and movies, hope comes from some ethereal belief in the human spirit. Or from following your heart. Or from believing in the general goodness of Mankind. And everyone knows that’s a bunch of bologna. Well, maybe not everyone knows . . . . but if they’d really think about it, they would.

What good does the human spirit do, other than get us and others in trouble? What hope can you derive from your heart when it’s often what causes the problem to begin with? And is Mankind really good? Not in my limited experience. On occasion we do kind things, but does that kindness come from us or from somewhere else?

So what is the source of hope? That answer, I believe, is found in today’s verse.

Romans 15:13

 13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is the source of hope.

I know I say it all the time, but it’s true: God knows everything. He knows what happened in the past. He knows what will happen in the near future. He knows what will happen in the far future. And so who else better to help us through today that Someone who already knows what it will bring? Someone who already helped us survive yesterday?

This is a terrible example, but it’s the only one I can think of until my coffee kicks in. In March 2010, I went to visit my incredible, awesome friends Jim, Shelley, Jonah and Silas Dinsmore in Guatemala. Originally, I had hoped other people could go with me, but the way everything worked out I was going by myself. Oddly enough, however, I wasn’t concerned. Plenty of other people were concerned with me travelling internationally for the first time by myself, but I wasn’t. Why? Well, Jim had given me clear instructions on how to navigate the Guatemalan airport, even down to giving me Spanish phrases to use if I got in trouble. And I had his cell phone number.

I know there was plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong. Looking back on it now, there were LOTS of opportunities for something to go wrong. And I’m certainly not saying that Jim knew what would happen. But he knows Guatemala. He knows the people. He knows the culture. He knows the airport. He knows the airlines. And I trusted he knew what he was talking about, and on account of that trust I didn’t worry about my trip down or my trip back home. I had hope that everything would work out just fine because Jim had given me instructions and I had followed them.

What would have happened if I decided that Jim was just faking when he gave me directions on how to navigate the Guatemala City airport? What would have happened if I hadn’t taken him seriously and tried to talk to a child in Guatemala City (very bad things would probably have happened, just so you know)? What would have happened if I didn’t bring the medicine or the supplies Jim told me I needed?

Disaster. The trip would have been a bust. I would have spent all my time miserable or terrified or lost or struggling to make do, unprepared, unhappy and unfocused.

Does that sound like us in life?

God is the source of our hope because He knows what has come and gone, and He knows what is coming, and He has given us instructions not only on how to face it but how to overcome it. If we really believe that God knows everything, we need to take Him at His Word and do what He has told us to do. We need to follow His instructions (the Bible) and live the way we’re supposed to live.

If we really believe that He knows everything, we need to trust Him.

And when we trust Him completely, the automatic, instantaneous result is peace and joy, followed by hope. Real hope. Confident hope. Not the fake smiles and “I’m fine” sort of hope that gets people to leave you alone but turns your hair gray. Hope that lets you see no matter how difficult a situation might be God is in it.

That’s the kind of hope I need. That’s the kind of hope I can have if I trust God truly. It’s the kind of hope the world needs too, especially now in this time of economic crisis and natural disasters. We absolutely can’t understand everything, but God can. When I’m in a situation that’s too big for me, I usually default to people who know more than I do (in algebra, I always took my brother’s word for everything; I still do).

I could struggle through life on my own understanding, but why? My own understanding is limited and claiming that I comprehend why bad things happen to good people is nothing but pride on my part. Pride hurts me, it hurts people around me, and it does absolutely nothing to accomplish what God left me here to do.

Trusting God to resolve a problem is a lot harder than denying it exists — but trusting God works better. Because if you’re so busy trying to figure out why God has done the things He’s done or allowed the things to happen that have happened, you’ll very likely miss the point of why it happened in the first place.