NF – Mansion, and the Meaninglessness of Chasing After Wind

It’s interesting what was once considered a mansion. This photo, for me, is a reminder of the ills of the exponentially growing expectation of the American dream. What was once thought a mansion, now looks almost average, and yet depression, chemical dependence (legal and illegal), and violent crime in our nation is not improving. It’s an image of the soul decay of serving at the foot of the idol of earthly riches. NF, the first Christian rapper to be signed by a major record label, Capitol Records, released this album cover today for his début album dropping March 31. You can see the video for the single here.

Great work by NF, presenting the collision of human reality and biblical truth in an unexpected medium.  I have been both of the people represented in the video, at both ends of the spectrum, and found depression at both ends. The answer only came when God opened my eyes to see that no matter what I had, or what I did, I was never going to have peace until I understood my purpose. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” He is what our souls are longing for. Until we understand that, we will continue be people who heap up possessions to fill our emptiness, or be those who are unsatisfied with life or feel insufficient because we can not keep up with the perceived success of others. Both paths lead to the same place.

Ecclesiastes 1:14  I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

 

Matthew 6:19-22  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

 

The Peace that Surpasses all Understanding Pt. 1

Part 1 of 4:  Peace Comes From Trust in God’s Plan

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Phillipians 4:6-7

In Romans 12 Paul exhorts us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices for Christ, and submit wholeheartedly to God’s will. When we are fully committed to that task, we should no longer find ourselves wanting.  I know from experience submitting fully to Christ is easier said than done.  Hopefully, I can shed some light on how trusting in God’s plan for our lives, aligning the desires of our hearts with God’s will, and having absolute faith in the LORD can bring about true peace, contentment, and rest for our souls.

If you truly believe in the God of the Bible, whose character traits are clearly and unequivocally outlined on nearly every page, then you know everything on this earth, good and bad, happens by God’s will. Everything you are receiving today is by God’s provision.  We are called to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

From our vantage point, life doesn’t always make sense.  Sometimes life doesn’t seem at all fair.  However, our present home is not heaven.  We are inhabitants of a fallen world that is the result of our sin.  There is no promise that this life will be easy.  It is certain that at times it will be hard.  The only real promise resulting from sin is that all people will someday die.  But, for His glory, God seeks to bring His children back to perfect fellowship with Him.  To do this, God works all things together, good and bad, to achieve His ultimate plan – the redemption of His people.  Our knowledge of His plan, and exposure to the details contained within, are limited.  From our vantage point it sometimes appears to be a mess, but by faith we must trust in the plan of our creator.

I have heard a couple of analogies that help provide perspective…

If you look at the back of a watch you will see many parts…cogs, sprockets, springs, levers, etc.  From the back of the watch it looks like a complicated jumble.  It is hard to follow how these pieces work together.  The watch is a relatively simple device in relation to the complexity of our universe.  Countless pieces work together in perfect unison each day to allow for our existence.  Does our lack of comprehension of the inner-workings of the watch indicate the watch is not working?  Of course not.  When you turn the watch over and look at its face, you can see there are two hands there working together in harmony, keeping perfect time.

Tapestry backside

A man was looking to buy a tapestry, and came across a massive one that appeared to him to be a complete disaster.  He stood puzzled as he examined it.  It was tufted and knotted, had colors that didn’t belong together, and  appeared to have a pattern that seemed indiscernible.  The salesman came to the man, and said, “It’s really beautiful isn’t it?”  The man said, “I’m sorry.  It looks like a mess to me.”  The salesman chuckled and turned the tapestry around 180 degrees revealing a most beautiful image – a true work of art.  The man was astonished and equally embarrassed.  He had been judging the backside of this tapestry.   All of the mess on the back came together perfectly on the front, and he was immediately aware of how little he knew about what was involved in the creator’s design.

You see from our vantage point, in this single isolated point in our lives, we do not see the big picture.  We are on the backside of the watch, or the backside of the tapestry, judging one single piece of a very large puzzle.  God’s plan becomes much clearer and much more amazing when we step back and view it from a proper perspective.  Like a stained glass window, the many broken pieces of our lives may actually be coming together to reveal a beautiful image.  Sometimes we just have to step back and take in the big picture.

Additionally we can see much of the glory of God’s providence by taking a 30,000 foot view of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and holding it against World History.  This is a wonderful investment of time, and changed my entire perspective on life.  I find it terribly hard to imagine anyone with an open heart would not marvel at the glory of God’s majesty in the unfolding of His story throughout history. When we know God’s promises we can truly witness that everything is working just as He planned.  We can see history is coming together just as He predestined it. The history of the world is unfolding just as it was prophesied, just as it was written, and we see that we can trust His Word as Truth.  God is working a masterpiece for His glory.  Trust in His plan. This is integral in finding the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Read Part 2 Here

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

The Peace that Surpasses all Understanding Pt. 4

Part 4 of 4: Peace Comes from true FAITH

Habakkuk 3:18 When all is lost, and all is hopeless, I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the LORD, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.

The deer hops with a graceful ease along the mountaintops, with elegance, high above the toils and struggles of the earth below.  So too shall we rise above the endless turmoil, navigating rocky times with graceful elegance, when we place our trust in the LORD, and rest on the hope assured by faith in Christ Jesus.

Hope comes from true faith in the promises of the LORD.  Peace comes from the confidence spawned in eternal hope.  If you’re reading this blog you probably already have some measure of belief in God.  The question we should be asking ourselves is:  when we are truly honest, do we have the kind of faith that can bring peace to our souls – the kind of peace that comes from believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a God in Heaven who has us in the palm of His hand?  Each post in this four part series hinges on the genuine belief that God is the real, sovereign, all powerful Heavenly keeper of the promises of the Bible.  In the moments when we doubt that God is any of those things, our peace can quickly become unhinged.

 “Temptation is a false promise–a promise that doesn’t deliver.   The sin to be ultimately expelled is our lack of trust, our unbelief.” – Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor and grandson of Billy Graham

The biggest temptation we face in this world is the temptation to doubt the LORD.  Sadly, our lack of peace is the direct biproduct of this very doubt.  Our salvation and protection lies with the LORD, and hope begins to wain when we start questioning wether the LORD truly directs our steps and has His hand on our lives. (Psalm 37:23).  When we have doubts in the LORD, in His existence, in His promises, or in His abilities, the foundation of our reassuarance is fractured.  When our trust in God is diminished, our peace also quickly fades.  This is where the devil slips his foot in the door.  Every person has moments of doubt, and every person has questions.  The Bible does not shy away from questions, but rather invites and  encourages the inquiring mind.  The Bible beckons us to vigorously seek answers within its pages.  “Seek and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7).  The more questions we ask and the more answers we seek, the more answers we will find and the less we will doubt.

Jeremaiah 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

We must take an honest assessment of ourselves.  Do we trust God with every ounce of our being?  Are we truly searching for God with all our hearts?  When we trust that God will be our defender and deliverer we find He is the rock under which we are sheltered when the storms of life come.

Matthew 8:26 And (Jesus) said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Four times in the gospel of Matthew Jesus says, “O ye of little faith!”  In each reference He goes on to assure us that a strong faith is the remedy for all things.  Jesus tells us that with a proper amount of faith we need not worry about whether we will be provided for and clothed (Matthew 6:30), we need not be fearful of our circumstances (Matthew 8:26), we need not doubt (Matthew 14:31), and we need not worry about whether we will eat (Matthew 16:8).  In Matthew 17:20 Jesus tells His disciples that it is by lack of faith that they fail, but with faith as small as a mustard seed, “nothing will be impossible for you.”  By faith we come to truly trust God’s plan, we align ourselves with God’s will, and we understand how God uses the circumstances of our lives for His glory.  True faith is not just belief but trust.  True faith brings about the peace that surpasses all understanding.

” A little faith will bring your soul to heaven,  a great faith will bring heaven to your soul” – C.H. Spurgeon

The Peace that Surpasses all Understanding Pt. 3

Part 3 of 4:  Peace Comes From Understanding How Your Circumstances Glorify God

John 9:1 As he passed by, (Jesus) saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (Then), he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.”  So he went and washed and came back seeing.

What Christ tells His disciples here is that this man was not born blind as punishment for his parent’s sin, he was not born blind because God foreknew his sins, and he was not born blind by chance, by a great cosmic fluke, or for no reason.  The man was born blind for just this certain occasion – this time when he would seek Jesus’ healing, and Christ would have the opportunity to perfom this miracle.  Then the man would run and profess Christ’s name to all, and the Lord would be glorified in this man’s testimony.

Why is it that when we suffer hardship we are so quick to question God or become angry with Him?  How do we suppose that God would be able demonstrate the greatness of His power and love if there were never any obstacles in our lives where we should need His assistance or His healing?  We must realize that we are a terribly jaded people.  It is only a small amount of time before we take anything for granted.  Stop and think…how much time do we spend appreciating the simple things like running water and electricity?  How long can we go without them before we realize just how fortunate we truly are?  How long does it take when things are going well before we start to forget how much we truly need the LORD?  Conversely, how long does it take when we fall into hardship for us to drop to our knees in prayer?  When things get hard it’s not long before we are asking our entire network for their prayers.  Even non-believers ask believers to pray for them.  Clearly there must be something to that.  At some point does it not seem that we can be too blessed – that we can have too much, or become too confident in our prosperity and begin to believe we have no need for the LORD (Proverbs 30:8)?  But…when life becomes overwhelming, we are often quick to cry out for help.

Man was given a perfect existence when Adam and Eve were created in the Garden.  Rather than embrace God, they rebelled.  They took their perfect existence for granted. They took God for granted.  In that perfect existence, Adam and Eve had no ability to comprehend life seperate from God.  Without an understanding of life separate from God, they had no appreciation of the value of life with God.

Just as God heals the sick and delivers the oppressed for His glory, he also uses our response to suffering as testimony to His glory.  The Apostle Paul understood this as well as anyone as he rejoiced in writing 2/3 of the New Testament.  The majority of his writing took place all while being ship wrecked, snake bitten, beaten continuously…nearly to death, and locked in prison multiple times.  It would seem many of us would surely get discouraged in all of this.  Paul never once did.  When you and I see a dreadful situation, like being beaten and imprisoned, ship wrecked, or ill we might see it as catastrophic. We might see it as God punishing us, or turning His back on us.  We might see it as God not listening to our prayers.  Paul saw it as an opportunity.  He saw it as a moment in which God was using Him.  He rejoiced in being chosen worthy by God to be used for His purpose.  It was an opportunity for him to overcome obstacles, preach the gospel through them, for God to deliver him from them, and for his handling of these situations to be a testimony to the glory of Jesus Christ.  Paul lived above the circumstances that surrounded him.  By keeping His eyes on God, he transcended all earthly difficulties in his heart and mind.  Nothing phased Paul.  Paul said, “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21), meaing that in either event, life or death, in Christ there is always victory.  His heart was so connected to God, his anchor so securely set in the clouds, the events transpiring around him did not toss him back and forth like a ship upon the waves, or blow him here and there like every gust of wind (Ephesians 4:14).  Paul rejoiced in doing God’s will and was thus a fully contented Christian super hero – fearless, unafraid, and eternally joyful.

Paul is an amazing testimony to the power of Jesus Christ.  I find it hard to believe that God could have been more glorified, or Christians more inspired, had Paul written his letters while lounging in a rocker or picnicking under a shady tree.  The truth is, the idea of anyone making it through this life without turmoil and suffering is not realistic.  It takes next to nothing of this earth to serve Christ.  Even people facing the most difficult of circumstances can seek God with all their heart, and serve God’s purpose for their lives.  It takes very little, just our daily bread and a heart for Christ, to find contentment in relationship with Him.  Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven (Luke 6:20).  The poor in spirit do not live a life wrought with distractions, and a simple life more often yields the realization of the need for God – the realization that we have needs that we are not able to fulfill on our own.  Many people believe they could become happier by having more of what we already have.  If we just had the next promotion, a little more money, a little bigger house, a little more free time, etc, etc.  Then we try like mad to acquire those things…they come…and yet there is still not contentment.  The things of this world are not sufficient to provide the contentment our souls desire.  Our souls desire relationship with our creator.

The gift of faith is not a perfect life free from struggle.  The gift of faith is not earthly prosperity.  The gift of faith is the peace that is found in relationship with Jesus Christ!  That is the reward.  This relationship is more valuable than anything this universe can afford.  You will never find perfect peace or contentment in anything else the world could offer.  It is better to have nothing, and know God, than to have everything and not know Him.  If we are missing that, we are missing the entirity of our existence.

All of these earthly things we desire are merely distractions from the one true thing that will bring about contentment and healing in our lives.  Sometimes it takes a little struggle for us to realize that.  When things get hard it becomes very clear what is truly important. God sometimes uses suffering to pry our grip from the things we have sinfully made too important.  His intent is to break our hold of these idols and to redirect our focus to what will truly bring peace to our lives – relationship with Him. Understanding why the LORD has placed us in our circumstances, and understanding the result that God desires to bring out of these circumstances is essential to finding the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Joni Eareckson Tada is an amazing testimony in rejoicing in all circumstances and suffering well.  It’s hard to say it much better than this:

Read Part 4 Here

The Peace that Surpasses all Understanding Pt. 2

Part 2 of 4:  Peace Comes When We Align Ourselves With God’s Will

All things come by God’s will, in God’s time, for God’s purpose.  Seek His will for your life, and you will receive what you seek 100% of the time.

So how do we know what God’s will is?

Romans 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

God is diametrically opposed to the sinful nature of man.  Many of our world leaders, the politicians, media outlets, scientists, doctors, and so-called experts constantly advise us as to what they believe is proper.   Being that God is holy, sinless, and perfect His will remains counter-intuitive to the instruction of people who have their sight set on the things of this world.  We must understand that as Christians we are not to conform to these ideas but to be transformed by the Word of God.  The renewing of our minds comes from replacing the fallible knowledge of man with the truth of God. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. (Psalm 111:10).  We know what is the will of God by holding all things against His Word.

Word

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

To know the Word is to know God.  To know God is to know His will.  The biggest problem we have as Christians today is that we don’t know the Word.  We don’t read our Bibles.  We are expected to be able to recall the truths contained within scripture in all circumstances, but we can’t possibly do this if we don’t even know what is in the Bible.  If God is the Word, and we don’t read the Word, how then do we know God?  Perhaps we don’t.  Six times in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus asks,“Have you not read?”  The expectation expressed here is that we should read the scripture. The expectation is not that we will depend on preachers to teach us, or that we will depend on the teaching of our worldly society.  The Word of God is the measure by which we determine all that is right and good.  This is how we test our actions and the actions of others.  This is even how we test good preaching and good teaching.  We are to hold on to preaching that is good, and discard what is not biblically sound (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  The Bible says many false teachers will attempt to lead Christians astray.  Do you have the peace of knowing that the teaching you’re listening to is biblically sound? Do you have the peace of knowing the God of the Word?

So what does Christ say is His will for our lives?  In John 14:15 (Jesus says), “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  As believers in Christ we would be well advised to know what those commandments are.  Jesus’ commandments are not the 10 Commandments that God gave to Moses…Jesus fulfilled that covenant in living a sinless life, and that covenant is finished and paid in full by the blood of the cross.  The 10 commandments remain as a general principle for our behavior, but Christ, in His preaching, gave new, more pointed commands. In Matthew 22 Jesus simplifies the entire law in 2 commands:

Matthew 22:37 (Jesus said), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law…”

Jesus uses the phrase “If you love me…” a very small number of times in the gospels.  These “if…then” statements are specifically indicative of whether or not we actually love Christ, and we should take them seriously.  Here are the things He said we will do if we love Him.  “If you love me you will obey my teaching (John 14:23), you will keep my commandments (John 14:15), and you will feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep (John 21:15-17).”  In other words, if you love Jesus you will know His commands, you will live by those commands in order that your life will honor Him, and you will share His word with others.  Jesus is the great shepherd and the bread of life.  His sheep (children) must be fed (taught).  When you hold yourself against the Word of God can you say that you love Jesus Christ, and that you have submitted your life to Him?  If not, then prayerfully get into the Word of God and get the Word of God in you!

Many of us fill our lives with desires that have very little to do with God’s will for our lives as outlined above.  Where do these desires come from?  It would seem they come from a desire to be like the world.  The best way to know whether or not what you are desiring is of God is to ask yourself the question, “Does this glorify God?  Does what I desire bring glory to His name and further the advancement of His Kingdom?”  If what you are desiring or praying for doesn’t honor God, then it probably isn’t God’s will for your life.  God’s desire is that we would serve Him and praise Him.  These desires that are not of God become dangerous for our lives because they eventually overtake us, drive us far from what is good, and lead us to final destruction.  God is a loving God, and being the good Father that He is, He may use hardship as discipline to teach us as His children. (Hebrews 12:7) All good fathers discipline their children, and no good parent will allow an unruly, spoiled, or lost child to go unchecked. Some children do not grow up the way a parent would prefer, but many times it is not for lack of the parent’s disciplining and guiding them.  Let us make the effort to be good children of the LORD, to follow His commands, to be good stewards of our resources, and to make the concerted effort to live by His will.  Why invite opportunities for His discipline?  This will only become hardship in our lives.  At some point most of us have felt the LORD’s discipline, and all strong Christians, while we recognize we are infinitely better for it, would prefer to avoid discipline.  To use the cliché, the circumstances of our lives good and bad “have made us who we are today.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 God’s discipline, while it seems severe, is designed to intensify our joy in that it destroys the origins of our worst sorrows.

1 Peter 1:7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

When we place ourselves in alignment with God’s will for our lives, and we understand that struggles we face are a means by which God purifies us, refines us, and strengthens us…and we trust that…we can find contentment in any situation.  Everything we endure is for our good, and for our growth.  God is sanctifying His believers.  God desires that you will seek Him. He desires that you will honor and glorify Him by seeking His will.  When he turns you from your wicked ways back towards Him, though it may be painful, he is truly saving you from destruction.  We should let all circumstances of our lives point us toward the cross.  When we seek God’s will for our lives, we will receive what we seek 100% of the time.  In being in right step with the LORD and submitting to His will there is found peace that surpasses all understanding.

Read Part 3 Here

Prosperity Gospel Fiction and God’s True Deliverance

Unfortunately for prosperity gospel fans I have some bad news.  God does not always free the oppressed on earth.  God does not always remove every obstacle from our path, and his promise to believers certailinly isn’t earthly wealth.  Demanding God remove all obstacles or deliver us from all earthly oppression as a requirement of our faith is egregious Idolatry of the things of the world and of our earthly existence.

Christ’s offered deliverance in the Bible is eternal life.  This is central to the understanding of God’s plan for the deliverance and the glorification of our souls.  If it was God’s intention to free oppressed peoples on earth, he would not have let the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Isaiah, be sawn in half.  He would not have left John, the Baptist, the most righteous man ever to live (prior to Christ), in prison to be beheaded.  He would not have had the holiest men left on earth after Christ, (the Apostles) put to violent deaths….executed by crucifixion and beheaded defending their beliefs to the very end.  The apostles confidence in what they had witnessed was so strong, and their belief in the resurrection so powerful, that they confidently walked into death in an expression of utmost conviction to Christ, all for the glory of God.  If His plan were an earthly prosperity, God would not have let nearly every great Protestant Reform leader and nearly every translator who attempted to make the Bible accessible to the common man, be burnt at the stake or slain at the hands of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.  He wouldn’t have let hundreds of thousands of Protestants be murdered by their oppressive theocratic rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries – all for trying to remove government rule from the Church.  These are God’s people…the ones most closely aligned with His plan.  Not set free from bondage, put to death.  Man’s purpose is to glorify God, and the conviction of these men – to the death, is the supreme demonstration of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  These men all recognized God’s plan is not the deliverance of His people in the earthly realm, but rather, His call is for us to put to death the earthly desires within our hearts and seek Him.  His grace is sufficient.  Deliverance comes through death to self and life in the eternal salvation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  If you’re looking for the temporal, earthly things God can provide you, your eyes are on the wrong prize.  Set your anchor beyond the clouds (Hebrews 6:19) and you will be provided a peace that transcends all understanding (Phillipians 4:7).

By:  Chad W. Hussey By:  Chad W. Hussey