Fishbowl Faith

goldfishPhoto attribution: Souravgg8 [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Well… so much for my presidential aspirations.  It appears I’ve been shut out at the Iowa causus.

Again.

And, really, I’m okay with it.  It’s better to be a goldfish in one’s own aquarium than a clown fish in a cesspool.

It can be disappointing to set a goal and go for it, only to miss the mark and “fail”.  However, when we’re following Jesus and setting our sights on Him, we’re not going to truly fail.  Sure, maybe we don’t get the job or promotion.  Maybe we don’t quite hit the mark we set for ourselves (or had set for us).

Maybe we don’t feel like we are where we ought to be in life.

Relax.  Here’s some good news:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 [ESV]

Wherever we are in life, we are not alone.  God is always with us, working for our good.  And – here’s the tough part – we have to trust that God knows what’s best for us.

Even when His best for us isn’t what we think is best for us.

Especially when His best for us isn’t what we think is best for us.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. – Romans 8:29-30 [ESV]

You see, what’s important to God is what needs to be important to us.  And, frankly, the Lord is not impressed by our job titles.  Or our bank account balances.  Or our station in life.

What is important is that we are salt and light to world around us, wherever the Lord has us.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:13-16 [ESV]

It isn’t where we are in life that is important.  It’s what we do where we are, with what we’ve been given by God, that matters.  It is how we love the people who cross our paths.  Understand that we are not nearly in control as we like to think.

Looking back on my life, I can see times when God pulled me to safety as I stubbornly stood on the tracks with a speeding, runaway train barreling toward me. It would have been certain disaster had things gone my way.  If I had to guess, you can probably relate.

God can – and will – bless us where we are.  He equips us to fulfill His plan for our lives.  He meets us where we are.  So there’s no need to worry about failure, or any aspect of our lives.  

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:31-32 [ESV] 

Follow God with enthusiasm.  Love God and others with purpose.   Trust God with abandon.  Live like the Lord God, Creator and Sustainer of all, is with you always.  Because He is.

As for politics, I’m grateful I’m not called to be a goldfish in a carnival game, stuck in a small bowl with lids throwing ping pong balls at me.  I am thankful for the aquarium God has placed me in.

Sleep Well

There is nothing beyond God.  You cannot surprise Him.  You cannot stump Him. You cannot run so far that He can’t reach you.

He is bigger than any trouble you face.

He is greater than whatever’s plaguing you.

He is with you.  You are not alone.

Hang on with faith, dear one.  Go to our Father God.  Talk to Him.  Trust Him.  

Know He loves you.  Know the Lord is your hope.  Rest in Him.

Sleep well, dear friend.  Rest easy in the love of Jesus.

Good night.

Camping in Philippi, Part 2

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No, this is not me in the photo.  Nor is this campsite in Philippi or anywhere else in Greece.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – the source of this picture – this is a Junjik Valley Man with his wall tent.

The Junjik River Valley is in far northern Alaska.  I’ve never been to Alaska.

Or Greece.

But I’d like to someday.

When I say I’m “camping” in Philippi, I simply mean I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and meditating on the book of Philippians.

But you already knew that.

As I was sitting reading Philippians 4:4-9, I was struck by the absolute, emphatic, all-encompassing language Paul uses.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication 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.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:4-9 [ESV] – bold italics added for emphasis

There are no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” here.  No “maybes”.  No “sometimes”.

We are to rejoice in the Lord always.  Not when we feel like it.  Not when everything is nice and tidy in our perfect little lives.  No, we are called to rejoice always.  When we’re hurting, or worried, or down.  Rich or poor, healthy or ill, calm or stressed, we are told to rejoice.  Always!  This fact is so important, Paul repeats it for emphasis.

We are to be anxious for nothing.  Not “nothing but…”  Nothing!  Again, Paul emphasizes the point, this time with the opposite side of the coin: in everything, go to God.

It may not make sense to rejoice or refuse anxiety when you look at your circumstances.  But, that’s the point.  We aren’t meant to look at our circumstances.

We’re meant to look to God, to fix our gaze upward with joy and thanksgiving.

Paul even admits that such behavior is illogical from our limited earthly perspective.  But seeking true peace with God is seeking the peace beyond all understanding – far deeper than a mere calming of our life’s storms.

Finally, Paul tells what to think about.  Note the six “whatevers” and two “any(thing)s” in verse 8.  These are the thoughts God wants us to have.  All of these are thoughts on the ways of our Lord: truth, honor, justice, purity, beauty, awesomeness, excellence, praiseworthiness… in their truest forms, these are reflections on God.

It all boils down to this: we are to focus on the Lord, not  ourselves.  We have to not let life get us down, but rather let God lift us up.  And let all the world know Jesus is our hope!!

Rest in Jesus.  Sleep well dear friends. Trust in God’s grace and love.  And know the Lord is in control.

The Substance of Faith

 

20190614_191112 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. – John 16:33 [ESV]

There are people on this earth who just exude joy.  Even in the hardest of circumstances, they hold it together.  They project an inner peace and calm and confidence in something beyond them.  By all worldly standards, their situation should have them shaking in their boots.  But… they keep on smiling, resolute and defiant in the face of opposition.

People like this used to befuddle me.  I couldn’t figure them out.  I could only come to conclusion as to the source of this seemingly inappropriate joy.

Drugs.

Thankfully, over the years God has shown me a few things through my own circumstances. I’ve had – still have – plenty of battles with anxiety, depression and worry. Do you mind if I share just a few thoughts on the subject of joy and troubles?

It’s Faith, Not Drugs

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1 [KJV]

Faith – that assurance in God in all things – is the substance, the thing that makes our hopes tangible.  Not just some pie-in-the-sky dream, but reality.  The NIV uses the word “confidence”.  The ESV says “assurance”.

The Greek word for “substance” is ὑπόστασις (hupostasis).  This term indicates faith is our very nourishment.  It is by faith  in God through Jesus that we grow.

It’s Faith, Not Human Perception

Simply put, we don’t know what we don’t know.  Likewise, we don’t know what God knows.  We are not omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent.  We do not know what will happen in ten seconds, let alone ten hours (or days or weeks or… you get the picture).

This is why we must learn to see through eyes of faith.  We have to trust the Lord.  We have to give Him our burdens and not take them back.  We have to believe that, despite the circumstances we see and perceive, our situation is not hopeless.  Our hope is in the Lord.

It’s Faith, Not Navel Gazing

The big problem with fear, anxiety and worry is the focus they bring.  They cause us to look inward.  We spin our wheels worrying about how we’ll fix this or that problem.

Worry and anxiety are unproductive at best. And, when we spin in the mud of doubt and fear, we just end up slinging filth and ick and burying ourselves in the mess.

Am I saying we should do nothing to fix the problems in our lives?  Not at all.  What I am saying is this:

  1. Go to God.  Tell Him your troubles.  Confess your doubts.
  2. Believe in God.  It is in faith – the true reality of our lives – that we find joy, calm, peace and strength.
  3. Rest in God.  Stop letting anxiety and worry call the shots.
  4. Go with God.  Live your life without fear.  Cast off the anxiety.  Proceed with great confidence in the Lord, knowing in the deepest recesses of your soul that God loves you. He will guide you and care for you and see you through your trials.

As you walk through life, walk with God.  Always.  Stay in His Word.  Pray without ceasing.  Make the Lord your first priority – not your worries.  Focus on God.  Find your nourishment though faith in Jesus.  Set aside the fear and anxiety.  And, when the self defeating thoughts come, stop. Set them aside.  Go to God, in faith, knowing you are safe in His very capable hands.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7 [KJV]

Camping in Philippi

​4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, s but in everything by prayer and supplication t with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be a content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:4-13 (ESV)

I’ve been meditating on this passage a lot lately.  Whenever I’m troubled or anxious, I find great comfort in these promises.  I find myself pitching a tent and just camping here.  I read and re-read the words until they overtake my anxious thoughts.

I want you to do the same.  No matter what you’re facing, it isn’t beyond God’s reach.

Camp out here a while.  Revel in His promises.  Let God show you the reality of your situation in Him.

God bless!

Crazy Eights

I have heard the journey of self discovery described as a path, or long, winding road.  For me, this “adventure” is more like racing on a figure eight dirt car race track. Everything’s great rounding the outer curves.

Then it gets a bit hairy careening toward the center with all the other racing obstacles speeding tow hard the exact same spot in the middle.

Race enough laps and a crash is inevitable.

Eventually, the time will come when one narrowly escapes the mid-point – perhaps with a few scratches or banged up fender – and, entering the calm of the outside curves, has an epiphany.  

I’ve been so busy on this exhausting, anxious “adventure” to discover who I am, all I’ve been doing is driving in circles, getting nowhere.

 And beating the tar out of myself doing it.

My point is simple: if you find yourself on the crazy right track of finding the real you, pull off to the side.  Stop looking inward and begin looking Upward.  Just live.  Do for others.  Truly, selflessly love others.  Just be, and forget all the distractions and detractors.  Only when you stop looking for the real you and start seeking Jesus will God reveal who you truly are.

A Quick 1:00 AM Post

I don’t know what’s got you awake at this waaaaay too early hour.  If you’re up worrying about some situation, I want you to know you are loved.  

I want you to know you are not alone.  

I want you to know there is hope.

I want to remind you things look worse in the dark of night than the light of day.

I want you to rest.

I want you to rest in Jesus.

I want you to trust the Lord with whatever has you bugged.

I want you to realize God is greater than any trouble.

I want you to cast your cares on God, our Heavenly Father, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

I want you to remember you aren’t meant to carry your burden alone.

I want you to talk to God.  Pray.  Have faith.  Let go.

I want you to walk in the Lord’s strength.

I want you to experience the peace of Jesus.

I want you know you are loved, cared for, and never alone.

And I want you to sleep easy, confident in our Father.

Rest, dear friend.  You are loved.

Rejoice!

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This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24 (KJV)

Be glad!  The Lord God is your Heavenly Father.  He is not some theological construct.  Not an idea.  He is very real – the One Eternal Designer, Creator and Sustainer of All.

Including you.

God our Father is not only real, He is personal.  Jesus called Him Abba, which roughly translates to “papa”.  Our Father made a way by faith in and through Jesus Christ for you to be His child.

And God loves you.  That’s not some lofty ideal but the absolute truth. God sent His Son to die for you.

God loves you.  God cares for you.  God is with you.  Let Him be your comfort.  Find your joy in Him.  Go to the Lord with all your troubles and needs.  Trust in Him.  Stay in tHis Word.  Follow His voice.  

Rejoice in the Lord always!  Let His grace and mercy and love pour over you. Live in peace.  And be glad!!

Rest in Jesus and sleep well tonight.  There’s no fear in God.

We’ve Added On!

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. – Proverbs 17:22 [KJV]

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.

I’ve prayed.

I’ve wrestled.

I’ve started.

I’ve stopped.

I’ve fussed and fidgeted and wrangled and thought and thought and thought…

You get the picture.

You see, for a long time, I’ve wanted to write a humor blog.  Something to make people smile, laugh, chortle, until milk comes out their noses.  I really enjoy making people laugh, bringing them a reason to chuckle.

The problem has been a question of balance.  How do I balance ministry and humor?  What if the Humorist overtakes the Diarist?  What if, by being comical, I lose street cred?  What will the Old Time Religionists say?

Then it dawned on me.  What a hypocritical moron am I?  Street cred – what on earth?  Where did that come from?  And since when did I care one bit what the religious-at-heart think of me?  Who am I to write about not having fear while being afraid of what others might think?

The truth is, this is me.  I am an armchair theologist.  I am an encourager.  I am a teacher.  And I am a humorist.

And I need to use all of these gifts.  Otherwise they go to waste.  And isn’t it a slap in the face of God Almighty not to put the gifts He’s given each of us to good use?

Besides, it occurred to me while trying to find a comedy special on TV that wasn’t oozing with profanity and “f”-bombs that there’s no reason the devil should have all the laughs.  God created humor.  I want to use it for good.

For now, the Bouville Humorist will only be available on Facebook.  Eventually it will be expanded to WordPress and Twitter and other outlets.

The first post is out there.  Please find The Bouville Humorist on Facebook (@bouvillehumorist).  And please let me know what you think.  (Not that I’m pandering for approval, mind you.  But a bunch of “likes” and “follows” never hurt anybody right?)

And, don’t worry.  The Bouville Diarist isn’t going away.

Street cred.  Seriously…

Surely God Was With Him

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“Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken-hearted.” – Rich Mullins at Carpenter’s Way Christian Church, Lufkin TX, 19 July 1997

“I went to an older Protestant gentleman that I’ve respected for years and years, and I asked him, “When does faithfulness to Jesus call us to lay aside our biases and when does it call us to stand beside them?” His answer to me was that it is not about being Catholic or Protestant. It is about being faithful to Jesus. The issue is not about which church you go to, it is about following Jesus where He leads you.” – Radio interview with Artie Terry, “The Exchange,” WETN, Wheaton, Ill., April 1997, quoted in An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, James Bryan Smith, p54

Twenty-two years ago this past Thursday, we lost an artist and ragamuffin who set religious conventions aside and left Indiana to follow Jesus Christ, to seek Him with his whole heart.  I am grateful Rich Mullins came along and so openly shared his very personal journey with all who would listen.

Think today I’ll dig out my copy of The Jesus Record and sing my praise to the Lord!