YOUR SLICE IN LIFE
In this issue
Why We Praise the One We Can't Comprehend Charles R. Swindoll
6 Life Blindfolded Robyn Roste 8
Do I have to be thankful for the trials in my life?
11 Discovering Joy in Lifeâ€™s Tests Grace Fox 14 Q & A Steve Johnson
LAUGHING MATTERS My Garden Party Phil Callaway
Copyright ÂŠ 2013 Insight for Living Canada. All rights reserved. No portion of this monthly publication may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the publisher. Insights is published by IFLC, the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. IFLC is an autonomous ministry and certified member of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture passages are taken from the NASB. Unless otherwise noted, photography and illustration by IFLC staff. Printed in Canada.
PRAISE THE ONE WE CAN’T COMPREHEND
by Charles R. Swindoll 3
The culture in which we live, work, and play complains that God makes no sense, so how can He be trusted? They refuse to worship a God they can’t comprehend.
MY THOUGHT IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE. Unlike others, I find God’s incomprehensibility absolutely refreshing. Especially in a day like ours when executive moguls prance like peacocks and deified athletes beat their chests as they strut their stuff. At a time when one-upmanship and human intimidation have become an art form, it is delightful to be reminded anew: “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). Our Lord doesn’t ask permission. He doesn’t bother to explain. He doesn’t feel the need to ask, “May I?” or “Please.” He simply does “whatever He pleases,” thank you. After all, He is God…the Maker of heaven and earth, the Alpha and the Omega, the Sovereign Lord of the entire universe. On our recent Insight for Living Ministries 2013 Greek Isles Cruise, I took a moment one night to gaze up at the stars from the deck of our ship. I stood amazed at the unusual array of luminaries that shined down upon the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The psalmist was correct: The heavens do indeed tell of the glory of God… their expanse does indeed declare the work of His hands (19:1). And when you mix that unfathomable fact with the incredible reality that He cares for each one of us right down to the last, tiniest detail, the psalm4
ist is, again, correct: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand” (139:6 NLT). We need that reminder, we who are tempted to think we’re capable of calling our own shots. We need to be brought down to size, we who feel we’ve got a corner on our own destiny. How many times does our incomprehensible God need to tell us that His ways are beyond our ability to understand before we begin to believe it? How often must He prove to us that He is the Shepherd and we are the sheep…that He is the Vine and we are the branches… before we bow and quietly whisper, “Have Thine own way, Lord”? Seems to me that if the Son of God found it necessary at the crossroad of His earthly existence to pray, “Not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39), we would be wise to use the same eight words often. Daily, in fact. But we don’t do that, do we? Instead, we feel capable of discerning and declaring His panoramic plan for our lives. What a joke! We’re doing well to “trust and obey” on a day-to-day basis. I’ll be honest with you, the more I probe the extremes of our universe—whether it’s a starry sky, a stormy sea, the majestic mountains, or microscopic minutia—the more I want to be still…and let the wonder in. Such ponderings do what they’re supposed to do: make us uncomfortable. But that which is a roadblock for the world’s
Why We Praise the One We Can't Comprehend continued from p. 3
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"HOW MANY TIMES
does our incomprehensible God need to tell us that His ways are beyond our ability to understand before we begin to believe it?"
faith becomes instead a catapult for ours. How? In our discomfort an essential change takes place. God becomes what and who He should be to us, namely incomprehensible. Holy? Of course. Powerful? Yes, no question. Compassionate? Always. Righteous and just? Gracious, loving, self-sufficient, sovereign? All the above, certainly. But more…so much more. More than we can grasp. More than we can think. More than the brightest among us can even imagine. (If you question that, you owe it to yourself to read Job 38:1–40:4, nice and slowly.) And what are the benefits of such a realization? We no longer reduce God to manageable terms. We are no longer tempted to manipulate Him or His Word. We don’t have to explain Him and His will or defend Him and His ways. Like the grieving prophet Isaiah, we get new glimpses of Him “lofty and exalted,” surrounded by legions of seraphim who witness Him as “the LORD of hosts” as they shout forth His praises in antiphonal voice (Isa. 6:1-3). All this gives new meaning to the singer’s ancient song: O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!… When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them? (Ps. 8:1, 3-4) Talk about a great question! In a world consumed with thoughts of itself, filled with people impressed with each other, having disconnected with the only One worthy of praise, I suggest it’s time we return to Theology 101 and catch a glimpse of Him who, alone, is awesome, yea, incomprehensible. He is our infinite, inexhaustible God. As a long-time friend of mine once said, “If that don’t light your fire, you’ve got wet wood!” I urge you to discipline yourself to think on these things. Refocus your mind beyond the horizontal to the vertical. Rise above the nonsense of human viewpoints and tedious worries about non-eternal issues. Go deeper with thoughts that really matter. It’s time we got reacquainted with our Maker. Any serious study of God takes us from an unconscious to a conscious awareness of our ignorance. The One we worship defies human analysis. That is, in fact, why we praise Him. ▪ Photograph of Chuck Swindoll © 2012 by Luke Edmonson
by Robyn Roste
’m what you could call a nervous host. Although I enjoy entertaining I stress over how much food there is, what sort of seating is available, and whether or not people are having fun. To offset my anxiety I plan in advance. I try to anticipate what people will want and ensure I’m prepared for anything. When things go according to plan, I feel good. However, things rarely go according to plan. 6
No matter how much planning or preparation I do, I can’t anticipate everything tomorrow brings. And this makes me uncomfortable. What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. (Lk. 12:6-7 NLT)
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Deep down I know these uncomfortable feelings indicate a larger issue—a lack of trust. I want to plan my party, my day, my life so I’m prepared for whatever happens. But the future isn’t something I have control over. How do I learn to let go and rest in God’s promise to handle it? The key to being comfortable with life’s unknowns comes down to two words: attitude and acceptance. ATTITUDE There’s a game I used to play as a child. One person is blindfolded and another calls directions through an obstacle course. The blindfolded person has to rely on the voice to guide him through the course successfully. I’ve come to realize this is the same way I must trust God’s guidance. As much as I love mapping five-year plans in reality I am travelling through life blindfolded. I don’t know what’s around the corner. I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. I can’t see the obstacle in front of me. Proverbs 3:5-6 helps me keep my attitude in check. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV). When I worry do I trust the Lord with ALL my heart? No. But I need to. And I shouldn’t worry about where He’s taking me because He will make my path straight. Even though I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, I can choose to believe God has it under control and will take care of me.
As much as I love mapping five-year plans in reality I am travelling through life blindfolded. ACCEPTANCE One of the main reasons I make plans is so I can have a comfortable life. I want to be a good steward of my resources and to me this includes a roof over my head and food on the table. If I didn’t plan for the future this may not happen. In my mind the worst thing that could happen is I make a poor decision or miss out on a great opportunity. But what I need to accept is this is not in my control either. Just because I plan for a nice life doesn’t mean it will happen. I can do everything right and still end up on the street—again, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. One of the best examples of acceptance is the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. By all accounts he did everything right. He had a great relationship with God and even was given prophetic dreams and visions. He lived a pure and honest life. And what did he get for his trouble? Thrown in a well, sold into slavery, put in prison, and then forgotten about completely. From a human perspective Joseph had every right to be upset about his situation. But he accepted God’s sovereignty over his life and submitted to his circumstances. No one is exempt from hardship. It’s a part of life. From one day to the next all my wealth, security, and comfort can be taken away. I need to accept this so when trouble does come, I am in a place to welcome it. ▪ Robyn Roste is the Living Bridge Media manager at Insight for Living Canada.
by Phil Callaway
ave you ever met someone whose life seems to be a never-ending string of amazing, marvellous, wonderful, and awesome? Do you feel like punching them? Maybe it’s a friend who goes on vacation and sends you daily updates describing how magnificent and fantastic things are. Breathtaking scenery. Succulent food. Smooth and timely flights. Meanwhile you’re back home with a flat tire, a leaky faucet and a neighbour’s cat that’s scouting out your flower beds. Recently my dear friend James and his wife Anne embarked on a European vacation. I was delighted for them. I really was. He’s a college professor with a doctorate from Cambridge, so the guy works hard six or seven months a year. I, however, was staring down the barrel of some deadlines and a to-do list longer than a Victor Hugo novel. Then the first epistle from James arrived. “Beautiful sunny day for walking around Rome. I think I got a sunburn. We hung out at the Colosseum and the Forum today. Quite a city. Down from our quaint hotel is the perfect place for gelato. We plan on visiting it often. Have a great day!” I wrote back, “That sounds fantastic, James! I’m envious, but glad for you. Give thanks for that sunburn. I got a rain burn today. Better run. Take care.” A few days later he launched his second volley. “The sun has not stopped shining here. My second cousin works at the Vatican library so he invited us to a garden
party. Quite spectacular. Hope all is going well. Grace and peace.” I let it sit a few days then responded. “So! Garden party at the Vatican, huh? Ramona and I had a garden party last night. We weeded our garden. Did you snap any pictures? Was the Pope there? Did he let you try on his hat? I’m glad your second cousin works at the Vatican library. I have some second cousins who are finally out of prison. Our sewer backed up again today. A crew comes tomorrow to dig up our driveway. Went for a bike ride today. Got a flat. Better go, my daughter just brought her car over and there’s an awful ding in it. The door goes katingee! when you try to open it. Grace but not necessarily peace. Your ever-lovin’ friend, Phil.” In no time this arrived. “Anne and I had a good laugh reading your email. You should write comedy. Yesterday we visited the Sistine Chapel, saw Michelangelo’s great frescos on the ceiling, ate some incredible pizza, and enjoyed more blue sky. Today we hopped a train to Venice. The Grand Canal. Gondolas. More blue sky. An evening stroll in San Marco square. You really should be here. More grace and peace, James.” I responded immediately, “We are sorry, your email was blocked due to excessive gloating. Please send a dismal report should you encounter one.” “Dear St. Phil,” he wrote. “As much as I would like to report that things are going badly, I cannot. We are dining like royalty. Food is flowing on an endless conveyer
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belt. The view from our apartment is stunning. Maybe tomorrow will be awful and I can cheer you up with the details. James.” I couldn’t type fast enough: “Sadly, your email came through in German. I think it instructed me to put your house up for sale, Yavol? You’ll be pleased to know that interested parties are walking through it now. “Today I received the bill from the sewer repair guys. Almost had a conniption, which is a rare thing. Our parents had conniptions, but you don’t hear much about them anymore. I am thinking of becoming a plumber. Travel safe. Your envious buddy, Phil.” Have you ever felt like I did? A friend is having a garden party; you’re having a pity party? The Bible is filled with difficult commands, few more difficult than Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” I excel at the latter half of that verse. I care. I listen well. I gladly bring my wife’s casseroles to the sick and grieving. But rejoice with those who rejoice? Most of us find it more dif-
ficult. Yet if we want to experience contagious joy, five practical steps will help: 1. Avoid the sin of comparison. Nothing breeds dissatisfaction faster 2. Learn to take genuine delight in the successes and joys of others 3. Throw a party to celebrate a friend’s achievements 4. Invite a friend like James over to show you photos of his trip 5. Marvel moment by moment at God’s grace and goodness to you True joy is impossible if we remain self-focused. However, it is inevitable if we focus on Jesus and give thanks for the blessings in our own lives. Remember wherever you vacation, whatever kind of garden party you’re having, joy grows best in the soil of thanksgiving. I’m getting so carried away with all these thoughts, that I may just take James and Anne a casserole. If I can just get my wife to make one.▪ Phil Callaway is an author and popular speaker. Visit him at laughagain.org
ON THE AIR IN NOVEMBER
LIVING ON THE RAGGED EDGE Chuck Swindoll examines King Solomon’s vain quest for satisfaction, recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes. In this straightforward study, we discover the ultimate secret for the “good life”—a life of meaning and satisfaction in a world on the ragged edge. 10
UPCOMING MESSAGES INCLUDE: A Fool’s Portrait Be Bullish! Enjoying Life Now, Not Later Grey Hairs, Fewer Teeth, Yet a Big Smile
DISCOVERING IN LIFE’S TESTS by Grace Fox
od’s word to me came on January 11, 2013: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4 NLT). Less than 12 hours later, I partially ruptured my left Achilles tendon and landed in a knee-high cast. “Three months with no weight bearing,” the ER doctor said as he wrapped my leg in plaster. That’s a tough order regardless, but living in a three-storey townhouse with upstairs bedrooms complicated matters. God’s word came to mind that night as I hoisted myself backwards, on my bottom, up 15 steps: When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. Pain wracked my body, but purpose
Discovering Joy in Life's Tests continued from p. 11
filled my heart. The next 90 days could get ugly if I don’t respond well to this, I thought. I’ll be miserable, and so will everyone else in my household. If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. I wanted to avoid negative fallout at all cost. More so, I desired the promised outcome for obedience. My endurance would grow, and my faith would mature to where I’d be ready for anything! OK, God. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, I choose to view my situation as You say. Hold my hand. Rule my heart. And control my mind. The test intensified nine days later when my opposite knee suddenly developed issues requiring surgery. I became confined to a wheelchair. Then insomnia struck. And finally, shingles. Physical pain was one matter. Emotional and mental pain was another. My husband and I cancelled a missions trip to Moscow. Attending our ministry’s annual
"Focusing on the truth— the all-powerful God is on our side—dispels fear and transforms our attitude."
staff conference in Romania also fell by the wayside. Play dates with my grandkids proved too exhausting. Leaving my house was impossible unless someone transported me. And exhaustion prevented me from hosting well-meaning visitors. True to James 1:2-4, my troubles tested my faith. They brought hardship and hidden tears, but, also true to Scripture, they became opportunities for great joy. Here are several insights I gleaned through my experience. Troubles bring joy if we adopt God’s perspective on them. The enemy will feed us lies such as, “This situation’s too difficult to endure,” and “I can’t cope.” Believing these lies causes discouragement and defeat, but God’s perspective does the opposite. He says we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Phil. 4:13). He also says, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Focusing on the truth—the all-powerful God is on our side—dispels fear and transforms our attitude. Troubles bring joy when we learn humility through them. My weakness forced me to admit I needed help—something this self-sufficient soul had resisted. I grew to be OK with friends and family cleaning my house, doing my laundry, supplying meals,
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and more. Their practical expressions of love brought me joy, and these folks, in turn, experienced joy when I accepted their service. Troubles bring joy when we develop gratitude as a result of them. My circumstances taught me to be thankful for abilities I’d taken for granted—going grocery shopping and cooking, sitting crosslegged on the floor to play with my grandbabies, sleeping, and driving my car, for starters. I rediscovered the simple pleasure that life’s little things bring, and an attitude of gratitude now permeates every moment of my day. For what can you be thankful in the midst of, or as a result of, your troubles? Troubles bring joy when we experience God in new ways. My injuries happened a few weeks prior to three book deadlines and a fourth major writing assignment. Fulfilling these deadlines became humanly impossible. I cried for God’s help, and His answer left me in awe. In essence, my trials provided the backdrop for me to experience a modern-day miracle, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. What new understanding about God’s character can your present troubles reveal to you? God’s word tells us that troubles are a part of life. It also says to embrace trials as opportunities for joy. No…great joy. Easier said than done, but possible as we rely on God’s strength to do what He says. The result? Spiritual growth and mature faith. Who wouldn’t want that? ▪ Grace Fox is an international speaker and author of several books including Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation. gracefox.com
by Steve Johnson
Do I have to be thankful for the trials in my life? ANSWER: The Bible says, “give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thess. 5:18 NIV). But being thankful for trials doesn’t seem right and we wonder if that is what God really wants of us. We need to understand some things about thankfulness and trials in order to gain perspective on this question. First, thankfulness is an attitude before it is a feeling or emotion—a mindset that looks for the good, the pure, and the positive in things that happen in life. For Christians it is rooted in the belief that God who is sovereign over all is a loving God working all things for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). It’s an attitude, which we must cultivate and develop through the power of the Holy Spirit. Second, being thankful is different than being glad. This is an important distinction because we may be thinking when Scripture tells us to give thanks in all cir14
cumstances it is telling us to be happy about everything, or glad that the circumstance happened. I spoke to a woman whose husband had passed away from a brain tumour. There is nothing happy about that. And she was not grateful that God took him. She was grief-stricken. Yet in the midst of her grief she was grateful for God’s care and provision for her and that her husband was with the Lord. If we have an attitude of gratitude there will always be things for which we can be thankful. And thankfulness helps to assuage our grief. Third, thankfulness is social. It is best expressed to others, especially and ultimately to God who providentially works all things for our good. In that sense thankfulness works against our self-serving bias, which thinks when good things happen to us it’s because of something
© shutterstock/Digital Storm
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we did. Then when bad things happen we blame God, other people, or circumstances. Ingratitude negatively affects relationships, including our relationship with God. Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something or someone and we are less likely to take them for granted. Fourth, thankfulness is an antidote to unhealthy and destructive attitudes and behaviour. Ingratitude, resentment, complaining, and bitterness—things that Scripture speaks against—are things that poison us and others spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. To bring further clarity to this question we need to understand trials. The Bible tells us that there are numerous purposes for them. God’s ultimate purpose is to conform us to be more like Jesus (Rom. 8:29). Trials wean us from self-sufficiency to greater dependence and depth of relationship with God. Trials test our faith with a view to proving it is genuine (1 Pet. 1:67). If responded to in the right way, trials develop godly character. (Rom. 5:3-5). The fact that God is at work in our life to accomplish these things is something for which we can give thanks even though the
circumstances surrounding them may be unpleasant. It’s like surgery—though we do not like the pain we are grateful for the healing it brings.
“If we have an attitude of
gratitude there will always be things for which we can be thankful.”
I encourage you to look at the difficult situations you may be facing right now and find ways to be grateful for what has taken place in your life. In the midst of our darkest moments God is still good. He still loves us infinitely and unconditionally. And He is still working for our good. These things will never change and for that we can always give thanks. I hope this helps. - Steve Steve Johnson is the executive director at Insight for Living Canada.
THIS MONTH’S FEATURED RESOURCE
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ADVENT is Around the Corner! Prepare your heart for Christmas with Chuck Swindollâ€™s keepsake book A Bethlehem Christmas. Creatively retelling the biblical account of Christâ€™s birth through the eyes of Mary, Joseph, and the angel Gabriel, this book will stir your imagination as you observe the familiar Christmas story through new eyes!
Order by November 15 to enjoy this story for Advent.
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NEW! Paws & Tales DVD 13: Doing What’s Right
$ 00 reg. $12.00
2 DVD episodes, approximate running time 50 minutes
Based on 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and Luke 12:15, this animated DVD features two episodes teaching children valuable lessons about greed and God’s forgiveness.
Great Christmas Gift Idea !
Living the Psalms and Proverbs Set Two hardcover devotionals by Charles R. Swindoll, 590 pages combined
The perfect companions, Living the Psalms and Living the Proverbs are engaging and down-to-earth 26-week devotionals. Chuck’s practical study of these inspiring books of the Bible will help you to face the challenges of life’s daily grind with God’s wisdom and grace.
on sale in
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Reasons to Give God Praise: 2014 Insight for Living Canada Calendar Wall Calendar, 9.5” x 10.8”
Each month features a reason to praise God and includes an applicable Scripture passage, an encouraging quote from Chuck Swindoll, and a beautiful Canadian landscape photograph— all designed to orient each day toward a life of praise!
order/donate at insightforliving.ca or call 1.800.663.7639 offer expires NOVEMBER 30, 2013
ON THE AIR THIS MONTH Living on the Ragged Edge: Coming to Terms with Reality 24 CD messages + workbook
Do you want to know the secret to living the good life—a life of meaning and satisfaction? Chuck explores the personal journal of King Solomon, the book of Ecclesiastes. If you struggle to find contentment and joy in life then join Chuck as he shares wisdom for living at its best.
Ten Reasons to Give God Praise: Truth to Carry You Through the Tough Times single CD message
Discouragement, disappointment, difficulty—the stuff of life can get us down. Chuck zeroes in on some of the unseen spiritual blessings believers in Christ possess to help us to deal with the tough things we all face.
Finding and Following God’s Will
24 Ways to Explain the Gospel
booklet by Charles R. Swindoll
pamphlet, unfolds to 8.5” by 38”
“What would God have me to do?” This simple question often paralyzes believers. Chuck examines the Scriptures to help you find and follow the sometimes winding, often mysterious, and always rewarding path of God’s will.
“Why do I need to be saved?” Salvation can be a difficult concept to explain to a postmodern thinker. This pamphlet contains dozens of word pictures and illustrations to help you communicate the Gospel in ways everyone can understand.
Practical Christian Living: A Road Map to Spiritual Growth 40 daily devotionals by Insight for Living, 167 pages
Divided into 40 daily segments, this devotional-style workbook begins with the initial moment of decision for Christ and describes in practical terms what the Christian life should look like beyond that commitment. Designed for both individual and group study.
Meeting God in Familiar Places 8 CD messages + study guide
Chuck Swindoll unveils new wonders from familiar Bible passages that are too easily forgotten. Discover God in His sovereignty, comfort, love, peace…and His awesomeness.
Order by November 15 to use as a family advent devotional!
A Bethlehem Christmas hardcover by Charles R. Swindoll
Ever wonder what the first Christmas was like? What did Joseph think? How did Mary feel? A Bethlehem Christmas creatively retells the biblical account of Christ’s birth through the eyes of Mary, Joseph, and the angel Gabriel.
Getting Through the Tough Stuff 14 CD messages + workbook
Family struggles. Financial crises. Debilitating diseases. Crushing disappointments. We all face complicated struggles. Chuck focuses on practical insights from God’s Word to help you get through the tough stuff you’re facing today.
Intimacy with the Almighty hardcover by Charles R. Swindoll, 79 pages
Inner satisfaction is neither complicated nor mystical, but it does call for some essential changes in the secret places of your life. Chuck focuses on four practical actions that will draw you closer to God.
$ 00 reg. $12.00
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Published on Oct 10, 2013
Insights Magazine is the monthly publication of Insight for Living Canada, the Bible teaching ministry of Chuck Swindoll.