A Variety of Trials

A Variety of Trials

Trials come in a variety of ways, at various times, and with different pressure points. Some are relatively insignificant (a flat tire), while others are more impactful (a job layoff). I learn a lot about myself during trials, particularly from what comes from my heart. Often I become impatient and angry. I want the trial to end quickly and worry about the outcome. I usually ask the important question about trials too late, "what is the Lord trying to teach me?" The book of James reminds believers why trials exist, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4)." Trials are a tool in the Lord's hand to grow the faith of believers. Yet, knowledge of that truth does not mean that our experience of trials will be easy. Last Friday, I began...
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Hope from Heidelberg

Hope from Heidelberg

I have recently been reading through some of the historic confessions and catechisms. As I have been reading, one statement from the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) caught my attention and has been very encouraging. The first question in the catechism is: Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.The Heidleberg Catechism (1563) The question and answer...
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Book Review: Work: It’s Purpose, Dignity, and Transformation

I've been workin' on the railroad,All the live long day.I've been workin' on the railroad,Just to pass the time away.Can't you hear the whistle blowing? Rise up so early in the morn.Can't you hear the captain shoutin'"Dinah, blow your horn?" I do not remember when I first heard these lyrics, but I think this song captures the thought of how much time we spend working. Everyone has one hundred sixty-eight hours in a week. If you work 40 hours (not including commute time), you spend 23.8% of your weekly hours working. For most of us, work is not optional but is a necessity of life. How should we think about work? Is it just a job to make money, or does it make a difference in the world? Is it where I find my identity, or is it a necessary evil? Should I leave my job and pursue a different one that pays more or gives me more satisfaction? What if...
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Grace upon grace

Grace upon grace

One of our annual vacations has been a two-day camping trip over the memorial day holiday. We have camped with friends at Carpinteria State Beach for the last couple of years. The campsite is within walking distance of the beach and the city. There are train tracks nearby, so you hear the train whizzing by, while at night, you hear the sound of the crashing waves on the shore. A bonus (not really) are the crows that wake you up in the morning. One of my favorite times during the trip is waking up early in the morning to walk on the beach while the sun begins to rise. I like to reflect as I look out into the sea that seems endless, watching the wave goes back and forth. I feel a sense of peace and tranquility as I take in the sounds of the sea and the sights of birds overhead. A particular Scripture kept coming to my mind...
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A Time to Lament

Here we go again? Another American mass murder. First, it was ten African Americans murdered in Buffalo, New York. Yesterday, it was nineteen children and two adults in Uvalde, Texas. How do we make sense of these atrocious acts in our country? I would suggest that we pause. This is not a time for trivial or simplistic answers, nor is it a time for egotistical politicians to push their agendas. Now is a time to lament before the Lord and mourn with those who mourn. Some families have had their lives changed forever, and answers that will never bring their loved ones back. The Psalm writers would often lament before the Lord with questions of "how" and "why" in response to the most challenging circumstances in life (see Psalm 10, 13, 22). Lament was a way for the psalmist to express their deep mourning and trust in God. Lament allows one to mourn the realities of this fallen world, leading back to...
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Book Review: Redeeming Your Time by Jordan Raynor

Book Review: Redeeming Your Time by Jordan Raynor

I learned about Jordan Raynor's new book Redeeming Your Time through my job. We have book clubs a couple of times a year in which we read and discuss books. There were various books to choose from, and the title of this one caught my attention. If there is one thing about my life right now, I am busy and need more time! The book contains seven purposeful, present, and wildly productive principles. These are taken primarily from the life of Jesus, which Raynor then derives principles and practices for greater productivity. I appreciate that he begins by setting the tone that he wants Christians to have "grace-based productivity" instead of "works-based productively." He means that our true identity and worth are not found in what we do but in who we are in Christ. He also guards against legalism by offering many different ways to put the principles into action, without saying his methods are the best. Therefore, the reader...
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Money, Exercise, and Motivations of the Heart

How do you combine money, exercise, and the motivations of the heart? Answer: Paceline Paceline is a new fitness app that gives rewards for exercising. This app is not the first to combine exercise with rewards, but it has additional benefits. The Paceline app is the first fitness app that I have seen which combines credit card rewards and the ability to receive a free Apple Watch (Series 7). How it works First, you download the Paceline app, which connects to Apple Health, Fitbit, or Garmin. Next, you will need a fitness tracker that includes heart rate tracking. The goal is to have 150 minutes of elevated heart rate (eHr) per week (maximum 50 minutes a day). For example, a brisk walk will track an elevated heart rate. You will receive a reward each week that you reach the exercise goal. These rewards include $1 Amazon gift cards and other offers for discounts on products and services. The real benefit to the program comes with...
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Book Review: Redeem Your Marriage: Hope for Husbands Who Have Hurt through Pornography by Curis Solomon

Book Review: Redeem Your Marriage: Hope for Husbands Who Have Hurt through Pornography by Curis Solomon

I recently had the opportunity to read a new book by Curis Solomon called, Redeem Your Marriage: Hope for Husbands Who Have Hurt through Pornography. His wife, Jenny Solomon, also wrote a companion book called Reclaim Your Marriage: Grace for Wives Who Have Been Hurt by Pornography. Solomon is a biblical counselor and serves as the Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. The topic of pornography is important for biblical counselors to address. Unfortunately, the message in our culture seems to be that porn is no big deal, and my experience in the church is that many people struggle but few people talk about the issue. This new book by Solomon felt you were sitting with a friend over coffee who offered hope and wisdom to deal with this common struggle with sin. I appreciate the transparency from his own life and how he held the tension of calling pornography evil while not condemning the one struggling. Instead, he...
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Book Review: Sanctification: God’s Passion for His People by John MacArthur

Book Review: Sanctification: God’s Passion for His People by John MacArthur

I have read many books and journal articles on sanctification over the last couple of years as I was doing research for my doctoral project. There are many books and differing views on sanctification, and I have not found one book that captures everything about this important theological truth. Last year I came across John MacArthur's book on sanctification and added it to my Kindle library. I attended The Master's Seminary, and I respect John MacArthur as one who has been a faithful pastor for decades and impacted my life when I first became a believer. I was very interested in how he would deal with this important topic. MacArthur wrote this short book called Sanctification: God's Passion for His People in 2020. This book is only seven chapters in under 100 pages so that one can read this quickly. He writes this book to pastors, and he says that their primary calling is the "sanctification of God's people." As with...
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Reflections on war and hope

Six years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Ukraine with Children's Hunger Fund, the nonprofit organization I have worked at for the past eleven years. There has been an ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine for many years. In 2014 there was turmoil in Ukraine over the President who wanted to have closer contact with Russia while the people wanted to join the European Union. Instead of signing an agreement with the European Union, the President sided with Russia. In response, there were protests called the Revolution of Dignity in Kyiv at Maidan square. The outcome of that event was that the President fled to Russia for asylum, and a new president was installed. I remember visiting Maidan square and seeing the memorial of the many people who had lost their lives during the protests. Later in 2014, Russia annexed the Peninsula of Crimea away from Ukraine. They also invaded Eastern...
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