Why We Must Believe That God is Good

god-is-goodIn church, we often proclaim that God is good but do we really believe that when we feel like we’re drowning in life? In an interview with Bill Johnson, pastor from California, he made this statement. “What you know about God changes who you are, defines your purpose and destiny, shapes who you are, your thoughts and how you see life and your assignment.”

He went on to say that “seeing God as good is the cornerstone of all theology, that everything is defined by God’s goodness. When we look inward, our faith diminishes because we become more self-reliant than God-reliant. If we misdiagnose who God is, we become lopsided. We must understand that God is 100% good at all times, in every situation.” Even when we don’t understand.

As I’m contemplating Johnson’s remarks, I find them sobering but they make sense. If I believe in any situation that God is not good, my faith automatically weakens and I begin to question if He can be trusted with anything.

Johnson asked for a miracle for his father’s life when he had pancreatic cancer. His father did not receive his miracle but passed away. Instead of questioning God’s goodness, Johnson began to thank God and worship Him. Then he said something interesting in the interview. He said, “In heaven we can’t give God a sacrificial offering out of loss.” Only here on earth is that possible. He found that a season of mourning and sacrificial thanks and worship led to comfort and healing as he remembered God is good.

Pondering that thought, I recalled two verses that speak to this idea. Psalm 54:6, “Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.”

Hebrews 13:15, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

Only here on earth can we give God a sacrifice of thanks and praise in the midst of loss, pain, wounds, and hurtful situations. In heaven, these will be no more. Revelation 21:4, “…He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

Repentance is simply changing how we think. It is believing that God is good even in difficult times. Johnson says, “Real faith does not deny the problem. It denies the problem a place of influence.” Better to see our problems through the eyes of hope. That way, everything becomes redefined.

Maybe it’s time for us to redefine our difficulties through a fresh lens.


A Small Seed

a-seedSince I’m in the process of writing a book on witnessing, I’m more aware of opportunities to share my faith. While some witnessing ends with a commitment to the Lord, most has more to do with planting seeds. In that sense, we are all farmers, planting seeds. This morning a young black man with awesome black dreadlocks knocked on my door. He was here to change out our water meter. While he was in the basement working, I was sitting in our family room upstairs with my Bible open. I have been doing Scripture writing for the past year. It’s a great way to focus on the Word both in reading and writing it out. The verses for today were from Matthew 7:24-29. As I sat there writing, a thought suddenly entered my mind and I knew it was from the Lord. Why don’t you ask this young man if he is building his house on the rock or the sand?

Whenever the Lord speaks to me to do something unusual like this, my first response is to dismiss it as too odd. But when the thought persisted, I knew I had to ask him. So, when he came up from the basement, I began with, “May I ask you a question?”

He responded that I could so I continued, “I was wondering if you are building your house upon the rock or on the sand? I’m reading in the Bible right now…well, let me read it to you.” So I read:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell–and great was its fall. When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”

When I finished, I looked at him again and said, “Think about it, are you building your house on the rock or the sand.”

He quickly replied, “The rock,” so I pursued.

“So you’ve asked Jesus into your life? Tell me about it.”

“When I was 8 or 9, I did that but I haven’t been to church in some years.”

“Ok,” I responded, “I just wanted you to consider what you are building your house on.”

My assessment of this encounter was that while he had made a decision for Christ many years ago as a child, he had not given much thought to Jesus in a long time. Perhaps, our short conversation will awaken something in Him that has been dormant. Perhaps, a small seed was planted.


Hope for the Future

Cabin“There is hope for your future,” declares the Lord, “And your children will return to their own territory” (Jer. 31:17). Is there anyone who needs to hear those words? God promises there is hope for your future and if He says there is hope for your future, that is all we need to know.

A young couple, Walter and Grace, found a perfect log cabin for their honeymoon. Deep in the forest, it looked like the setting for the best possible get-away. Until…a woodpecker kept them awake each night with his incessant pecking. Peck, peck, pecking for hours on end. Then, when a heavy rainstorm hit the cabin, they realized the bird had pecked holes all the way through the roof. This miserable situation could have been enough to ruin their time together but instead, they chose to incorporate this woodpecker into their creativity. Today, we know them as the creators of the cartoon series, “Woody Woodpecker”.

For believers in Christ, assured that God has a plan for everything in our lives, this story echoes the principle that God can allow unpleasant events with a higher purpose than just an opportunity for us to grumble.

We were camping last week in Traverse City and of course, on the second day, it rained. I really believe that camping and rain are synonymous because most camping trips involve rain at some point. I’ve been tempted to say we’re going ‘raining’ instead of camping. God showed me something interesting, however, something I have seen from Him on many occasions and that is, when difficulties come, He is in the midst of working out a better plan, a plan that may require a shift for awhile.

The next day of our campout was clear so off we went to kayak the Crystal River. Because of the previous day’s rain, the river was up and easily navigable, but I did notice a few areas were shallow and required some maneuvering. Then, I remembered the rain the day before and knew why it was an easy ride. The river was just enough higher that we didn’t need to get out of the kayak to portage shallow waters as we likely would have if it hadn’t rained. Thank you, God.

Granted, that was a simple example but the point is that God is always at work behind the scenes of every event in our lives. He clearly promises that there is hope for our future. We may not see how all the threads mesh together yet but we can be assured He is the Master Weaver. Consider this poem by B.M. Franklin.

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving

Between my Lord and me;

I cannot chose the colors

He worketh steadily.

Oft times He weaveth sorrow

And I, in foolish pride,

Forget He sees the upper,

And I the underside.

Not til the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly,

Shall God unroll the canvas

And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful

In the weavers skillful hand,

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern He has planned.


Grumbling or Lamenting

Faithful 2Have you ever been talking to someone and a light bulb goes on in your thoughts? To me, that’s God speaking. A friend, Linda, spoke a word to me that led to the following insights on the difference between complaining and lamenting. So, what is the difference? We know what complaining is: grumbling. Did you know that grumbling is even in the same list as idolatry and immorality in I Corinthians 10:10? Yet, nowhere does the Bible tell us not to lament.

Why would God put grumbling in the same category as idolatry and immorality? Because they are all rooted in unbelief and hopelessness. When we complain, we are actually saying, God, I don’t see you anywhere in the midst of this issue and I have no hope that You will come to the rescue. It’s an attitude that denies the sovereignty of God and can lead to bitterness. In essence, complaining not only leaves God out but believes there is no solution, only gloom and doom. The core is unbelief.

The word grumble means to murmur, to be obstinate in a permanent sense. In the Old Testament, people grumbled against the Lord. They didn’t like His provision of manna. They grumbled against Moses, were obstinate, rebellious, and stiff-necked. In the New Testament, some grumbled against Jesus.

God’s response in Numbers 14:27 is definitive, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.”

Could it be that all grumbling is really against God?

But what about lamenting? To lament means to wail or mourn, literally to tear the hair and beat the breast. It can be a dirge where a person even beats on instruments as he groans or cries aloud.

Why is lamenting different than complaining or grumbling? While, there is also heartfelt emotion with lamenting, the difference is that it recognizes and includes God in the trial. Listen to Lamentations  3:2-12 as Jeremiah laments and then notice what follows.

“He has driven me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely against me He has turned His hand repeatedly all the day. He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away, He has broken my bones. He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship. In dark places He has made me dwell, like those who have long been dead. He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy. Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer. He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked. He is to me like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in secret places. He has turned aside my ways and torn me to pieces; He has made me desolate. He bent His bow and set me as a target for the arrow. He made the arrows of His quiver to enter into my inward parts.”

Perhaps, you can relate to “feeling” like this, maybe even now. Clearly, there is nothing wrong with appropriate expression of genuine emotion.

If all Jeremiah was doing was grumbling, it would be one thing but before the chapter is over, even though he is out of sorts and spent with emotion, he recalls something significant that makes ALL the difference. Read on.

In a sudden epiphany, in Lamentations 3:21-25, he continues, “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.”

Do you see the difference? Grumbling/complaining ends with no hope; Lamenting ends in belief, hope, and strong affirmation of truth about God’s sovereignty. Be sure to note that the hope is in God, not in the situation, not in change, just in God and His faithfulness. He knows God will come through.

In all that God does, we can know with certainty that, as we walk by faith, He will always accomplish His purpose. Lamentations 2:17 affirms, “The Lord has done what He purposed; He has accomplished His word which He commanded from days of old….”

Lamenting allows for hope, encouragement and comfort in times of distress.

Psalm 27:13 David laments, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.”


Was This a Healing?

Healing 3When we ask for a healing touch from God, we hope that it will be a miraculous, instant healing where we can excitedly declare His goodness. But what about those times when healing comes slowly or in a different way? Are those also from God? You decide from this story.

For years I suffered with leg pain. It felt like nerves entrapped in muscles and I never knew when or why it would strike. It could occur after I mowed the lawn, played tennis or took a walk, but it could just as easily crop up while sitting watching TV. It had neither rhyme nor reason. Yes, I prayed for many years that it would go away. For a couple years, I had to give up tennis and yard work because the pain was becoming debilitating.

Yes, I prayed often for relief.

My doctor was aware of the problem but dismissed it with no answer for me. When it became too annoying, I asked him again if there was anything to be done. He sent me to an orthopedic doctor who, although he didn’t help me, gave me an interesting piece of information. “Your problem is your hip,” he said, “not your leg.”

My reply, “But the pain is not in my hip, it’s in my leg.”

“It’s your hip,” he repeated.

Not wanting to argue with the doctor, I thought he was nuts, but I submitted to a cortisone shot in my hip because I was desperate for relief. The shot ended up aggravating the pain and I swore I would never put myself through that again even though he said I could return for more shots anytime. I was discouraged by that appointment but I kept thinking about his comment that it was my hip.

Okay, Lord, if it’s my hip, what should I do now?

I asked a friend, Mike Miller, who has the gift of healing if he would pray for me, which he gladly did. Nothing happened immediately, but looking back, I can see God was all over his prayer.

Within a few weeks, a thought began to form in my mind. I kept thinking of NovaCare, a rehabilitation clinic in town. Although my issue was not sports related, every time I thought about my leg, that name kept coming to mind. Was I hearing God’s voice? If it’s really my hip, then maybe they could help. My doctor agreed to give me a referral.

My therapist was great. She gave me seven simple exercises to strengthen my inner core and my legs. After only a few days, I began to notice the pain was diminishing.

Then another thought crossed my mind, If this is really a joint related problem, maybe glucosamine with MSM would also help. So, I began taking one pill a day. It’s a natural product so what could it hurt.

Within a few weeks of exercise and a tablet-a-day, I was pain free and to this day, I continue the regimen of stretching exercises and glucosamine as preventative measures.

Now, I’m in the process of expanding my thinking about healing. Is it possible that there are sometimes stipulations to healing? What about the leper who was told to go and wash seven times in the river and he would be restored? (II Kings 5:10). Or the lame man who was told to get up and pick up his pallet and walk, (John 5:8). All healing requires faith, believing that God can heal and faith implies action.

So, I ask you, did I hear from God and was this a healing? All I can say is: I was in pain and now I am pain free. I’m reminded of the blind man after Jesus healed him when he said in John 9:25, “…one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Two Little Girls

Rag DollWhile waiting in a long luggage check-in line at Seattle’s airport, I couldn’t help but notice two little girls as they passed by each other in the queue. They must have been about five or six years old. One looked like she was probably from India with her darker skin, soft brown eyes and long curly brown hair. She donned a Disney backpack and was dressed in cute floral tights and a jacket. Adorable. The other child looked typically American with her long blond ponytail, dancing blue eyes, and also wearing fashionable tights and a top. She was carrying her favorite rag doll, complete with long dangly legs, a smiling triangle face and a mop of golden hair.

What drew my attention was how these two children related to each other. What do five year olds find to talk about anyway? Of course, the doll was the icebreaker. The girl from India grinned with delight as the doll began to talk to her. It was so sweet to observe how these two little girls chattered away. No pretense, no awareness of race or ethnicity, no preconceived biases, no expectations, just two little girls having fun together, accepting each other’s differences without giving them a thought.

The Indian father glanced at them with a broad smile on his face and I kept thinking…this is how the world is supposed to be, one where we accept and respect one another, show kindness, and talk to people who don’t look like us or even hold our same values. Maybe we should start carrying a doll around with us. Looks like a good icebreaker to me.

Ps 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”

New Look at the Armor of God

Armor of GodSometimes it’s good to rethink a passage of Scripture. Recently, I read an explanation of the armor of God, and finally, someone wrote what I’ve always believed but rarely heard expressed. The armor is not something we just put on in an imaginary sense each morning. It’s so much more. Here is the meat of what it really means. See if you agree….

Eph 6:13-17. “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

  1. The helmet of salvation – you got that the minute you gave your live to Christ. You don’t have to pretend to put some imaginary steel cap on your head in the mornings. It’s already there.
  2. The belt of truth you get from studying, learning, and knowing God’s Word, not by merely whipping it out of some pretend closet.
  3. The breastplate of righteousness is also something we already have. It’s the protection we have because we have exchanged our sin for Christ’s righteousness.
  4. Your shoes, the gospel of peace – This is when you make God’s Word part of you then, as you walk and meet people, you spread the Word by telling others about the peace you’ve found. We have something the world needs.
  5. The shield of faith comes as we feed on things that make us stronger. Study God’s Word as if it were your very lifeline. Because it is. Merely, holding up an imaginary shield doesn’t cut it.
  6. The sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon. As we get to know the Word of God front to back, layer upon layer, hunger for it and breathe it, that sword will get sharper and more effective. If we don’t arm ourselves with God’s Word, it’s about as effective as that imaginary one some people take up in the morning.

We already have all the parts of the armor at our disposal. Our part is to build them into our lives so we are prepared when we need them. Many Christians are unarmed, completely unequipped. Occasional curiosity about something in the Bible doesn’t cut it. Neither does regurgitating what someone else told us. It’s a hands-on project and we are responsible to keep our armor in good condition. We are members of God’s army and that’s what a good soldier does.

(Taken from “River’s Edge,” by Terri Blackstock, pages 276-279, Zondervan, 2004)


A Perfect Fit

gas tank 2Last Sunday, Bill and I attended Rush Creek Bible church in Byron Center, MI where our son attends. The pastor, John Spooner spoke on the topic, “Is Jesus the Only Way?” At one point, he gave an illustration that clearly spoke to me. He talked about how, some time ago, as he was taking a girls volleyball team to Ohio, they stopped at a gas station to fill the van’s tank. Upon getting out of the van, he couldn’t help but notice a lady at one of the other pumps cursing and swearing with every breath. She had the pump handle in her hand and was trying to jam it into her gas tank. Bam, bam, bam, she rammed the diesel hose against her gas tank in her effort to force it in.

Graciously, Pastor John approached her asking, “May I help you?”

“I don’t know what I can do to get this hose into the tank,” she responded with great frustration and more expletives.

Quickly noting what the problem was, he gently answered, “I don’t think that pump is the right one for your car. There are different pumps for different cars and the one you have is the wrong one.”

“Well, which one works for my car?” she asked with a puzzled look on her face.

His obvious answer, “You have to use the one that says gas.” He helped her put the correct hose in her tank. This time it fit and filled right up.

By using this simple illustration, Pastor John compared it to religion. There are many religions in the world and they all have this in common, “Religion tries to force something into the tank of life that simply doesn’t fit,” he said. “The more you force it, the more you try, the angrier you get, the more frustrated and upset you get because religion doesn’t fit. Jesus knew that. He came to earth to be the One who does fit. He became sin so that we might fit in the heart of God. Jesus said, “No one gets to the Father,” (no one fits) “except by Me.”

I love that illustration. So often people try, try, try by their own work, their own effort to fit into heaven. It’s like trying to force the diesel pump into the gas tank. It just doesn’t work. Just as the gas pump fits a car perfectly, so Jesus is the perfect fit for our salvation. He is the only One who fits. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

Closed Door Lesson

Closed doorHave you ever begun to go in a certain direction only to run into a closed door? There are times when we think we’re on track; we pray about a situation and are not sure of God’s will so we move forward assuming if He wants to redirect, He will close the door. That happened twice to me in one week.

I had met Pam in the jail where I do ministry on Sundays. Later, she was transferred to a woman’s prison in Indy. Pam was a unique soul with whom I had invested time and felt she would be one of the few who had made a sincere commitment to the Lord. She was very focused on developing her relationship with Him. So, when we went camping last week and passed right through Indy, I hoped to stop by to see her on our way to the campground on Tuesday. Since I had applied for visitation a month and a half before, I was sure that would work. But when I called the prison, I learned that the only day they did not allow visitors was Tuesdays.

Hmmm, I thought, is that God closing a door? Not to worry, I would just stop on the way home on Friday. I had written to Pam telling her I would visit on Friday afternoon.

Nevertheless, I decided to pray about it and told the Lord that if it was not His will for me to visit her, to please close the door. On Friday, as we passed through Indy, Bill dropped me off for a visit. As the guard looked for my application, he informed me that it had not been processed yet. Forty–five days and it was not yet in the system. He graciously called his supervisor who also confirmed that I could not visit. Ok, I thought, I guess God did not want me to visit her. Interestingly, I was not disappointed. I recognized that it was God who was closing the door. He was answering my prayer and I felt He was protecting me.

Another incident in the LaGrange jail… I had been spending time with Tonya. She was scheduled to be released Wednesday but explained to me that she didn’t have anyone to pick her up and take her to a friend’s house in Shipsy. She also hadn’t heard back whether her friend could take her in for a few days until her family could arrange a ride for her to their home several hours away.  Things were up in the air so I volunteered to pick her up at the courthouse where she would walk to from the jail to meet her probation officer.

I was stressed and worried about my decision to pick her up because what if she hadn’t found a place to stay? What would I do with her? I couldn’t bring her home but where could she go? I asked for the collective wisdom of my Bible study group and they gave suggestions. My pastor also said the pastor’s association would be willing to put her up in a motel a couple nights. I began to regret that I had offered a ride. Wednesday morning, I drove to the courthouse and waited in my car at the agreed time. After about twenty minutes, I phoned her probation officer who informed me that Tonya had left some time ago. Apparently, someone else must have picked her up. After fifteen more minutes, I left. Another closed door. Again, I felt God’s protection.

But God had a lesson for me to show me all my worry was for naught. Here’s what’s interesting to me. Before supposedly picking up Tonya, I stopped by the jail to see another lady, Courtney, about something we had discussed. She began telling me that God is helping her to not worry so much. Then she recited Philippians 4:6 to me, a verse she had been memorizing. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Here she was, a new believer and God was using her to minister truth to me. I almost laughed. If that weren’t enough, when I got in my car, I turned on the radio and David Jeremiah was teaching on…you guessed it….worry. God had my attention. I had worried about being responsible for Tonya for several days and here it was a no show. What did all my worry accomplish? Nothing!

David Jeremiah quoted someone who said this: I’m an old woman now and I’ve had many troubles in my life but most of them never happened.

So true!

What Will We Do In Heaven (Part 3)

heavenWe know that when Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he was in a perfect environment, maybe like heaven. While there, did Adam have work? Yes, God instructed him to “keep it.” The Hebrew word is “shamar” which means to oversee, protect, have charge of, or tend to. Because there were no thorns or weeds, his work was joyful and satisfying.

I Corinthians 2:9 tells us that “… No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” We can speculate that what God began in Eden will be completed with work as it was meant to be. Perhaps Eden is a snapshot of what is to come. Adam had work in a perfect setting, not burdensome, stressful work, but rewarding and fulfilling work where he enjoyed good fruit from his labors. As God’s steward, he cared for the garden and named the animals. In this perfect work environment, Adam never got sick, never had a disease, or pain of any kind. His body did not tire or weaken. This is again promised for our eternal sinless state. Revelation 21:4, “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

In a parable in Matthew 25:21, Jesus said to the faithful slave,“… You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” It would seem safe to sat our faithfulness here on earth has a direct impact on what responsibilities we will be given in heaven.

We know that God is occupied with work as is Jesus who said, “…My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” That might be a new thought to you but here’s something to consider. We know that scientists have said that the universe is continually expanding or stretching. Could the triune God be creating new universes, galaxies, stars? We don’t know. What we do know, in our tiny dot called earth, is that we have a God who is constantly at work in our individual lives, answering prayers, leading and guiding us, protecting us, healing us, loving us.

Since we were created in God’s image, work is in our DNA. In heaven, work will never be drudgery but rather exciting and rewarding. Even the angels continue to work for God. Some of their specialties include being messengers and warriors in His kingdom. Angels are often found praising and worshipping as well. And we can’t forget their work as guardians as they protect and direct people on behalf of God.

Another work we will be involved with in heaven is learning. Romans 11:33-34, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?”

Unlike Hades, where “there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom” (Ecc. 9:10), heaven will be exploding with activity, planning, knowledge and wisdom. We will learn the  “…treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.”

We can begin now by storing up good treasure as we study the Bible today. The more of the Word we have stored in our heart, the better prepared we will be for heaven. It will take all eternity for us to grasp the height, breadth, and depth of God’s love for us. We will continually be learning.

So, will there be work in heaven? All indications point to “Yes.” Praising, worshipping, thanking, learning, serving, doing good and sharing plus many joyful, fulfilling, satisfying occupations that are beyond our capacity to even imagine.

(Be sure to check out Parts 1 and 2 on my blog, http://www.betsytacchella.com)