On Turning 30: Appreciating Providence

Time has caught up with me, and today is the first day of my fourth decade on this earth. I won’t bore you with all of the accomplishments that I have achieved over the course of my lifetime, for not only would that list be short but it would negate the goal of this post and hopefully the goal of my life. That goal is the glorification of God.

As I write this, I am reminded of the many dreams and goals I have set for myself over the years. I wanted to be a guitar legend. I wanted to reconcile with my mom. I wanted to make six figures before all of my peers. I wanted to be a swordsman and a marksman like no other. I wanted to drive a nice car and live in a big house on a ranch.

The list could go on, as could yours. We all have aspirations of grandeur. If there is one thing that I have learned (and am still learning) in my three decades on this earth, it is that the hand that we are dealt is the best hand that we could have. Imagine if we actually attained all of our grandiose goals? What then? Would we be satisfied?

Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied (Proverbs 27:20, KJV)

We would simply want more and more until the day that we die. This is our nature. We are never satisfied with the things of this earth. There is only One who satisfies.

I seem to have learned nearly every lesson in life the hard way, and this lesson is one of them. God has placed you and me here for His purposes, having predetermined our location, situations, and contemplations. All that we have is from Him and but for His grace we would have none of it. Our dreams are often selfish and our desires do not always come to pass and it is good that they don’t. Thus it has taken me thirty years and many trials to conclude that this is indeed true: God is in fact sovereign over all things, and I must be content with and appreciate that which God provides.

God has given me an excellent wife, 5 (plus one on the way) sweet and very unique kids who find new methods of breaking the rules daily, a rock solid church that is small but dedicated to the Bible, a job that I love and that provides for my needs, a house that isn’t all that big but is well built, and many other things that I don’t deserve. I continually fall short of His glory and am in constant need of His grace and deserve nothing less than His wrath.

God has also given me years of trials, expressed in crushing every idolatrous ambition that I set forth to consummate. Before I was a believer, I played rock and roll on the electric guitar and thought I was so good that I called myself Jimi Hendrix. When my wretched heart was brought to life in Christ Jesus, I quit playing the guitar for many months and lost my ability to shred. We owned a business that was utterly crushed by the so-called Great Recession of 2009. I lost my younger brother who I never knew in 2012 and just months later lost my sister Angie. My own career path has gone from me trying to do anything but IT because I hated it to pursuing full-time ministry and realizing that I didn’t have the guts for it to getting accepted into law school and not being able to attend because ain’t nobody got money fo’ dat to returning to IT as a software engineer. God has taught me to love IT and software engineering and I have found that it is indeed my calling, though it took me years to realize it.

You have these stories too. But we are informed that these things are gifts from God. These trials are meant to make us more like Christ by teaching us patience (James 1:2-4, Romans 8:28, etc.). As hard as it sounds, we are to take joy in them.

Maybe when I begin my fifth decade on this earth I will have learned to appreciate His grace more. In the mean time, may God help you to understand and appreciate His providence in your life. We won’t realize all of our goals on this earth. We will fail miserably. We won’t be everything we want to be. We won’t be everything others want us to be. That’s fine. We are who God planned for us to be and we depend on His grace every day to grow to be more like our Lord Jesus Christ.

Child Rearing, Family, Theology

Family, Death, and Forgiveness

Cameron ShultzThis is a picture of Cameron Lee Shultz, the little brother that I never knew. Like many Americans, I came from a broken family. My mother left when I was a toddler and I was raised by my dad and grandparents. She went on to marry and divorce and marry again, having 2 more kids with 2 different men. Cameron was the oldest of the two and was born on July 2, 1989. I met him a couple of times and I’m pretty sure he knew that I existed, but we never communicated. I’ll admit that I tried very hard to find him and my mother, but they have both eluded my investigation for years.

While conducting a periodic investigation yesterday, I found that Cameron died on August 4, 2012. It was about 4:30 and I was at work. My emotions began to take over. I became very angry and bitter. Why wasn’t I contacted? Why has Paula Garst (the woman who gave birth to me) hidden herself and her family from me all these years? Why has she refused to respond to my attempts to communicate with her? I had to leave the office and get home to my wife.

Emotions can be a dangerous things when they are not grounded in truth. I needed to apply the truths that I had realized about reality and existence to the situation. I know that life itself is a gift from God and that we are all deserving of God’s wrath. I know that I should rightfully be burning in the pits of hell (as should you, oh blessed reader!) Cameron deserved God’s wrath just as much as I do and just as much as Hitler and Stalin. How can this be true? Sin has penetrated every aspect of our being. We are guilty of the sin of Adam and by virtue of being human, we deserve God’s wrath. Our very nature is to reject God and embrace the things that God hates.

With the knowledge of the nature of man comes the knowledge of God’s sovereign grace. Not only is God in control of all things (including the numbered days of man), He is the one who saves man from His wrath. He does this by making us alive spiritually, which causes us to have faith and repent. He poured his wrath out on Christ so that His people, the people that He saved, is saving, and will save, will not receive the punishment that they have earned.

Having thought about those things, and the knowledge that the physical family that we have on this earth is temporal and the family of God, those numbered for salvation, is eternal, I can respond to life situations like the death of Cameron Shultz in an informed manner. Here are some conclusions that I have made that have comforted me.

  • Cameron was my physical half-brother. The woman who gave birth to me gave birth to him.
  • Cameron was not my brother in the sense that we were not raised together. We did not grow up in the same household. I had no emotional attachment to him and have no memories of him. Therefore it is hard for me to mourn for him like I would if my real brother or sister died.
  • Cameron may or may not be my spiritual brother. I do not know if he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved; the obituary does not indicate that he was or wasn’t. It is tempting to be troubled by this, but I can rest assured that God is just whether He saved Cameron or not. God saves all of the people that are supposed to be saved (see my previous post on this).

Thus we see three aspects of brotherhood, in order of importance: genetic, familial, and spiritual. My genetic half-brother is no more important to me than a stranger on the street. My brother and sister (and dear friends that I would call brother) bring me fond memories and have had an impact on my growth. My supernatural brothers and sisters, those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, are the most important people to me because the relationships that I have with them are eternal.

But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48 ESV)

How do I proceed with life, then? Should I pursue the one who gave birth to me and demand answers? Should I seek my little sister Heather Garst and try to be a big brother? Or should I seek the One who delivered me? I can no longer be bitter about Paula Garst’s abandonment of her son because she is a sinner just like you and me. How can I be angry about her sin when I am just as deserving as her of God’s wrath? Therefore I will not pursue her. I will pray for her salvation, worship the Lord, love my wife and kids, and eat barbecue. That’s what life’s about. We shouldn’t involve ourselves in worthless pursuits. We should rather worship God and enjoy the fruits of our labors. Read the following verses from Ecclesiastes (ESV):

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? (2:24-25)

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him? (3:12-13, 22)

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. (5:18-20)

And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun. (8:15)

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (9:7, 9-10)

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (12:1, 13-14)


2 Peter 3:9 – God’s patience toward believers

In my last post, I introduced the topic of God’s patience as mentioned in 2 Peter 3:9. I also mentioned that this is a highly debated verse, having two sides that cannot see eye to eye regarding who it is that God is patient toward.

This post explains which view I take and why I believe it is the right view. Remember–as Christians, we believe in objective truth and abhor the notion of relative truth. One view is right and the other is wrong, and our picture of God’s character will be determined by how we interpret this verse. Let’s finish this appetizer and get to the meat.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

(2 Peter 3:8-10 ESV)

First, allow me to point out the context. It is dangerous to attempt to interpret one verse, or even a paragraph, without looking at the full context. In Chapter 3 we find Peter reminding the recipients (“beloved”) that scoffers (mockers) will come, following their own sinful desires. They will mock the return of Christ and neglect to recall the judgment of the flood. In verse 7, we see that God’s next judgment will be by fire and is imminent.

Verse 8 is an interesting verse. Some have used it to claim that the Earth is really very old, since one day with the Lord is as a thousand years. However, I don’t think that’s what Peter meant. Peter just got through describing the judgment that is coming for the ungodly, the scoffers, those who mock God and Christ and His return, and now his mood changes. His passionate description of the coming fire is now contrasted with a “but” and a living, fatherly attitude. He addresses his recipients directly, calling them again “beloved”. Maybe he is addressing concern that the recipients had about delayed judgment–why doesn’t Christ return now and smash this Roman empire to dust? Regardless, we can leave verse 8 having made the observation that God has a different concept of time than us. God exists outside of time, yet is active within time. He alone is eternal, existing in three chronological realms: eternity past, created time, and eternity future.

Verse 9 builds upon this. The Lord isn’t dilly-dallying to fulfill His promise. What is that promise, by the way? Verse 4 tells us: it is the promise of the return of Christ. So, then, the Lord isn’t just taking his time to return, but is patient toward you. We need to make several key observations at this point.

  1. Note the “but” – Peter is again making a contrast. God isn’t being a slow poke, but rather is patient toward you.
  2. Who does “you” refer to? When we see a pronoun in Scripture, we need to trace the antecedent in order to see who the author is referring to. In this case, we find that Peter is talking to the “beloved” (3:1). This group is mentioned in the greeting: “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (1:1). In 3:1, we note that this is the second letter to this group. How did Peter greet the folks in the first letter? “To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood,” (1 Pet 1:1b-2). We find that Peter is writing to believers, and that they are classified as believers according to the foreknowledge of God and are being sanctified by the Spirit for the purpose of obeying Christ.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise of returning, but rather is patient toward you believers, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” (3:9b). We now have 2 options. Either we can deviate from what appears to be Peter’s clear intention and say that God doesn’t want a single person to perish and go to hell, or we can interpret this passage in context. Why is the Lord patient? His purpose is for all of His elect (1 Peter 1:1-2) to come to repentance. That’s it. Why hasn’t Christ returned? All of God’s elect haven’t been regenerated (made alive in Christ, aka saved, Eph 1-2).

Verse 10 again shows us that God’s fiery judgment will come unexpectedly and fiercely. We cannot expect it because we do not know who God’s chosen people are. What should we do? We should await God’s judgment eagerly and live holy, godly lives (3:11-18).

Why is this important? If we ignore Peter’s intended meaning and yank 2 Peter 3:9 out of context we see God as a childish, weak, soft, and noninvasive deity that wishes that everyone would just repent and get saved. This is dangerous because not only is it humanistic, placing the responsibility of our salvation in our own hands, it creates a false picture of who God is. There is a word for that (creating false pictures of God, or creating our own God): idolatry.

We should constantly be seeking to understand the character and nature of God as presented in the text of Holy Scripture. He is not weak. He is pleased in His holy judgment. Do you really think that God doesn’t want to send a soul to hell and that He has to force Himself to do it? That’s absurd. We all deserve to be in that pit of burning fire. God would be just to send us all there. However, He is gracious to us and has decided to save a portion of humanity. Don’t you think that if God wanted to save all people He would just do it? Is He not all-powerful? He can save whoever He wants. We can rest assured, however, that He won’t execute His fiery judgment until all of His chosen people have been saved.



2 Peter 3:9 – God’s patience toward [?]

Patience is one of the many characteristics of God. If it were not so, then God would have vaporized us long ago. In fact, He probably wouldn’t have created us.

In life, we observe that humanity is saturated with sin. This is true among pagans and those who profess to be Christians. Sin is part of our very nature. Indeed, sin has corrupted every part of our being. That is not to say that we are as bad as we could be, but it does drive home the fact that none of our works are good enough to please God.

That’s all the more reason to delight in God’s patience. Children disobey their parents repeatedly. We have one who has been playing with water in the sink and “washing” his sibling’s toothbrushes daily (with soap) and then washing the mirror with the toothbrushes. He knows what the result is when he is caught–punishment. Nonetheless, he continues to violate the rules day after day. This behavior is very much characteristic of humanity. We continue to fail before our thrice holy God.

In 2 Peter 3, we find God’s patience mentioned. “[God] is patient toward you,” (verse 9). What did Peter intend when he wrote those words? There is significant debate in the evangelical world. Many Sunday dinners have likely been chewed with grimaced faces after having discussed the possible meaning of 2 Peter 3:9. Some would say that this is all the proof one needs that God is really sort of a deistic, stand-offish God that is knocking at the door of every heart and eagerly waiting an answer. After all, He doesn’t want anyone to perish. Others would say that Peter meant to encourage believers with the fact that God won’t bring final judgment until all of His chosen people reach repentance.

In the next post, I will provide a biblical basis for my interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9. Can you guess which camp I set my tent in? Read 2 Peter and tune in next time.


Logo Design: Managed Media Solutions

Managed Media Solutions is a startup in Amarillo, Texas that provides managed website development and hosting for small businesses and municipalities at a discounted price. I will be doing the graphic design and web development work for the firm. Look for more updates soon.


Web Development , ,

Goodbye, BlogEngine.NET; Hello, WordPress!

I joined the blogosphere insisting on using the Microsoft .NET Framework as my blog engine. After many struggles and much attraction to the ease of use and features of WordPress, I have made the switch.

WordPress is a PHP-driven blog engine, which means it doesn’t need a Microsoft server to run. I am, however, still using WinHost and Microsoft server technologies by choice. One of the cool features of WordPress is that I can easily create my own themes for personal use and profit.

Now, what deep and controversial theological topic shall I tackle first?

Technology, Web Development