Kevin Carson

Principles to Remember in Crisis: God Allows Circumstances for His Purposes

In God’s plan, more was going on than what met the eye. Although uncomfortable physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, God allowed these circumstances in the lives of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha for something greater. The immediate circumstance did not reveal the totality of what God was doing. In our own circumstances, it is important to remember God does have a greater plan than what we can immediately see.

In today’s post we continue on Principles to Remember in Crisis. Today’s principle: God allows circumstances for His purposes.
Recently in the first post of this series, we revealed that the Apostle Paul provided two vital steps to persevere in trials or crisis. The first step, in a world with false teachers, false belief systems, and false hope, the Apostle reminds us to stand firm in what we know. The second step is to hold fast the traditions which we have been taught or learned from the Word. We simply identified those steps as: (1) Remember key principles and (2) Obey practical steps to encourage our perseverance.
This is our fourth principle to remember.
God Allows Circumstances for His Purposes (John 11).
We need to look no further than the story of Lazarus to see this principle illustrated in the Scriptures. Remember that Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, were some of Jesus’ closest friends. This Mary is the one who anointed Jesus with very expensive fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair. They lived in Bethany, about two miles away from Jerusalem. In this situation, Lazarus gets real sick so Mary and Martha send for Jesus to come and heal him. They sent this message: “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick” (John 11:3).
John explains what happens next:
When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” (John 11:4-7)
The disciples with Jesus were not happy about going to Judea. The Jews sought to kill Jesus there before, so they warned Jesus to not go.
Jesus explains:
“Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”
However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” (John 11:11-15)
Jesus pointed out to the disciples that more was afoot than what they understood. As the story continues, they walk to Bethany, which was a two-day journey. When they arrive, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. Many women from Jerusalem had joined Mary and Martha to mourn Lazarus’ death.
As Jesus approached Bethany, still a ways out of town, Martha heard He was on His way. Martha went out to meet Him. She said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21).
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Principles to Remember in Crisis: God’s Immediate Purposes Are Not Always Knowable

It is impossible for us to discern exactly why anyone goes through crisis. Instead, we need to do two things: 1) Trust God and 2) Consider our own hearts to see if we are right with God.

Recently in the first post of this series, we revealed that the Apostle Paul provided two vital steps to persevere in trials or crisis. The first step, in a world with false teachers, false belief systems, and false hope, the Apostle reminds us to stand firm in what we know. The second step is to hold fast the traditions which we have been taught or learned from the Word. We simply identified those steps as: (1) Remember key principles and (2) Obey practical steps to encourage our perseverance.
This is our fifth principle to remember.
God’s Immediate Purposes Are Not Always Knowable (Luke 13:1–5; John 9:1–3).
Using the story of Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and Jesus, we discussed the fact God allows circumstances for His purposes (John 11). Here’s the snag: God’s immediate purposes are not always knowable. We both understand and believe that God does have a purpose in everything. If for no other purpose, God uses circumstances to help us grow in Christlikeness (which will be discussed later). Outside of that, we do not know all the particulars in any particular situation. Throughout the Bible, we see evidence that this is true. One of the more known examples of this being the case is Job in the Book of Job. As far as we know, he never knew what was truly going on – an incredible story of conflict between God and Satan for the glory of God.
Luke, in his gospel account, explains a lesser known story in this scene between Jesus and his disciples for us:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (John 13:1-5)
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Principles to Remember in Crisis: God Knows and Cares about Your Crisis

Jesus teaches that since God takes the time to know the seemingly worthless sparrow and since God knows the number of hairs on our heads, then Jesus’ followers can be assured that God is more aware of your circumstances than you are in the middle of them. 

Recently in the first post of this series, we revealed that the Apostle Paul provided two vital steps to persevere in trials or crisis. The first step, in a world with false teachers, false belief systems, and false hope, the Apostle reminds us to stand firm in what we know. The second step is to hold fast the traditions which we have been taught or learned from the Word. We simply identified those steps as: (1) Remember key principles and (2) Obey practical steps to encourage our perseverance.
This is our third principle to remember.
God Knows and Cares about Your Crisis (Matthew 10:27-31).
At times it can seem as if God does not know about our particular crisis. It is almost as if God has His eyes shut, is not listening, or does not care. You may need to hear and believe today this simple truth: God knows and cares about your crisis. Many Bible passages teach this (see below); however, let me highlight one primary passage first. Jesus, while talking to His disciples, said:
“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:27-31)
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Principles to Remember in Crisis: God is Sovereign

God provides eternal comfort to us knowing that He saves, sanctified, and guarantees glorification. God uses His control for your good. He actively participates in your life. He knows you and providentially provides for you in the midst of your crisis.

Recently in the first post of this series, we revealed that the Apostle Paul provided two vital steps to persevere in trials or crisis. The first step, in a world with false teachers, false belief systems, and false hope, the Apostle reminds us to stand firm in what we know. The second step is to hold fast the traditions which we have been taught or learned from the Word. We simply identified those steps as: (1) Remember key principles and (2) Obey practical steps to encourage our perseverance. In today’s post we embark on Principles to Remember in Crisis. Today’s principle: God is sovereign.
God Is Sovereign (MARK 4:35-41).
When we teach, “God is sovereign,” we mean, God is in control of the world around us. It is His world. Although God interacts with us in time and space individually and corporately, time and space reside in His control. He is from everlasting to everlasting. God created the world and everything in it. It functions under His control and direction. This includes your crisis or pressures.
On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Hi
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What Role Does Heaven Play on Your Mind?

Paul lived every day with the anticipation of going to heaven again. However, until that great day, he was going to live a life that is well pleasing to God. In other words, he lived every day with the goal or aim to be a God-honoring, Christ-exalting person. Regardless of what happened to him in any day, he understood in real terms the future. Whereas we walk in faith having not seen the future, Paul walked in faith and anticipation of returning again.

As you go about day-t0-day living, how often is heaven on your mind? Do you think of it very often? As I have aged, I have found that it is part of the conversation more and getting to heaven is more of a desire than when I was younger. I remember as a young person a man named Bill who talk about heaven most of the time. My brother and I worked closely with him in construction. As we would work throughout the day on various projects, he would talk about heaven. It did not make much sense to me at the time. However, over the years, I have grown to understand his passion for heaven more. In a great conversation just yesterday, we spent some time around the table over some dominoes thinking about heaven. As we talked, it reminded me of this question, “What role does heaven play on your mind?”
The Bible
Let me begin with Paul the Apostle. Notice what he writes to the Corinthians:
Fourteen years ago I was taken up to heaven for a visit. Don’t ask me whether my body was there or just my spirit, for I don’t know; only God can answer that. But anyway, there I was in paradise, and heard things so astounding that they are beyond a man’s power to describe or put in words (and anyway I am not allowed to tell them to others). That experience is something worth bragging about, but I am not going to do it. I am going to boast only about how weak I am and how great God is to use such weakness for his glory. I have plenty to boast about and would be no fool in doing it, but I don’t want anyone to think more highly of me than he should from what he can actually see in my life and my message. (2 Corinthians 12:2-6, TLB)
Paul describes an event that happened to him fourteen years prior, which would have been sometime near his return to Tarsus from Jerusalem and when he was sent out as a missionary with Barnabas (somewhere from Acts 9:30 to Acts 13:3). Hardly anything is known from this time in his ministry. However, Paul explains this situation where he was either in the Spirit taken or physically taken to heaven. What he saw he is not even allowed to tell; yet, it was lifechanging for him.
Over the fourteen years, no doubt while being persecuted, when tired, when hungry, or when plagued by his thorn in the flesh, Paul’s mind had gone back to this experience. What he saw could not be unseen. What he experienced could not be unexperienced. This moment fourteen years ago no doubt impacted every day of his life. He saw Christ and experienced a foretaste of heaven by literally being there – whether physically or in the Spirit he was unsure.
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If You Only had One Day to Live….

On Jesus’ last day, we see that He spent time with God and with those He loved. The Gospel of John describes his conversation (John 13-18). Jesus spent the day in meaningful conversation with the disciples, as well as spending much time in prayer. While with His disciples, He washed their feet and ate with them. He still was teaching them throughout the day. Jesus talked about heaven, life, glorifying God, and loving others. 

I recently have been thinking through the question, What would I do if I only had one day to live? Maybe this has crossed your mind at some point, too. Many other questions swirled in my mind as I considered this question. What would I talk about? Who would I talk to? What would I do? What would be important to me? Have you ever considered this question or these questions?
Two people come to mind when I begin to contemplate this. First, my friend Jack Drury. I remember receiving the phone call from the hospital. It was during the COVID pandemic. Because of the news they had given to him, the hospital allowed my brother and I to go see him. When we arrived, he told us with a smile on his face, “I’m going to heaven.” His medical doctors had explained to him that a recent bout with COVID had left his lungs in terrible shape. And, although he looked great sitting there in the bed, he was very sick. They anticipated he would die, possibly that day. He had only his church family nearby. Throughout the rest of the day, Pastor Craig and I, alongside his wife and adopted church daughter, sat with him. We listened to him; we talked to him. In a situation like this, you wonder what the conversation would be. Well, on this day, it was all about heaven and the Bible. He couldn’t have been more excited about going to heaven. Even with death staring him in the face, I have never had a more sweeter time than those hours spent together reflecting on the Bible and heaven, plus a few more topics of interest. As I walked away from that day and since, I have wondered what I would have talked about, thought about, or done.
Another friend also comes to mind. Near the time of Jack’s death, I had another close friend die. Beth Adams enjoyed a perfect day. She served others with her morning, supported a grandchild with her afternoon, enjoyed supper with her husband, and was headed to go serve at her church when it happened. A twenty-year-old man running from the police blew through a stop sign in a stolen box truck and crashed into my friend’s small SUV. She died immediately. Shock rocked all of us as we tried to wrestle with what had happened.
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New Christmas Toyota Commercial with All the Feels

Before our eyes, Toyota reminds us of the joy of loving well, and loving creatively. Maybe our minds go back to our own sweet grandmas who demonstrated love to us. Possibly, it is an adopted grandma through your church, work, or friend’s parent. Possibly, the commercial reminds you of your own aging parent or special friend. Regardless of who you remember, take a moment to say a word of gratitude to God for sweet memories. 

Chevrolet made the best Christmas commercial so far of the season, but a close second is this commercial by Toyota. When my twelve-year-old son saw the commercial with me, he immediately said, “Dad, another one! They just keep making great commercials with elders in them.” Let me encourage you to watch it below first, then I’ll respond to it. 
Video: Toyota Present from the Past 
Not quite the tear-jerker as the Chevrolet commercial, but sweet nevertheless.
“Present from the Past”
Toyota hits a homerun with this commercial that celebrates the relationship between a granddaughter and her grandmother. The granddaughter picks up a package on a snowy day from the post office. She gets in her Toyota pickup where she opens it. The package contains a very old camera with some pictures from her grandma. As the granddaughter looks through the package, in the grandma’s voice, you hear the letter the with the gift, “When I was your age, I was given this camera. May it capture your big, beautiful life the way it did mine. Love, Grandma.”
The daughter jumps in her new Toyota truck and sets out on a journey. As you watch, you realize the sweet journey is capturing some of the same places and people of grandma’s life. There is a beautiful mix of old and new photographs, along with some Toyota trucks.
At the end of the commercial, the granddaughter presents the grandma with a picture album. In it, the old pictures rests next to new pictures capturing both the grandma and granddaughter’s lives together. The special relationship and love of a grandma and granddaughter celebrated in random pictures of the grandma’s past. It ends with the granddaughter and grandma hugging, “Merry Christmas, grandma.”
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Gratitude is a Key Indicator of Your Spiritual Health

If you find yourself struggling with contentment and gratitude, you can be sure that some desire, want, lust, or idol has taken over functional control of your heart. You will need to focus your attention on what is ruling your heart. Whatever the desire is in you that you determine you cannot live without, that desire is both robbing you of your contentment and hurting you spiritually.

If you are like me, often I like simple ways to determine how things are going. For instance, don’t you love vehicles that do not simply tell you a tire is low, but instead, identify the tire and how much air is in it? Wow! The first time I had a car that could tell me the pressure in each tire, I felt like I had hit the jackpot. Why? Because it was a diagnostic that was helpful. The indicator light clued me in to a problem and the digital screen explained it. In a similar way, in your walk with the Lord, there are a few key indicators of how you are doing, and today we consider one such indicator. Gratitude is a key indicator of your spiritual health.
The Bible Teaches Three Important Reasons to be Grateful
First, We Should be Grateful Because it is the Will of God for Each of Us.
Look how the Apostle Paul describes it: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:16-18). He emphasizes in everything to give thanks. Not only here, but Paul mentions it in other key texts as well. When explaining the results of walking in the Spirit, he writes: “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:20). Here, instead of referencing in everything, the Apostle Paul describes it always for all things. As a follower of Jesus Christ, then, gratitude holds a high place in our lives. Being grateful is both the will of God and evidence of walking in the Spirit. To the extent we are not grateful, to that same extent we will not be in the will of God or not walking in the Spirit.
Second, Jesus Gives us the Power to be Content, Which is Directly Connected to Gratitude.
The Apostle Paul again helps us think through this issue. He writes:
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:11-13)

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Outward Grace with Inward Humility: A Great Combination

We both are the Lord’s and, as such, should live to the glory of Christ. Once again, notice how Paul makes his emphasis on both groups. The strong and the weak both live under Christ and are responsible to Christ. Regardless then of which category you belong, you are responsible for your own decisions before God as an in-Christ person living under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

To say that we need to demonstrate grace toward those around us seems like a gross understatement. The world around us desperately needs grace extended to them. They need to know about God’s grace, God’s refuge, and God’s love. Further, the church needs it in equal measure. At times, Christians are no more kinder, no more thoughtful, or no more compassionate than many in the world. However, there should be no greater grace extended toward each other than in both the family of God and the biological family unit. These two places should exude the grace of God from each other to each other. Instead, what we sometimes find is judgement, impatience, and insensitivity. Yet if we hope to do this God’s way, we need to manifest outward grace with inward humility; these two provide a great combination of experiencing God’s grace in your life and passing it on to others as well.
Here is where we begin:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions (Romans 14:1).
Welcome the Weak, but do not Quarrel over Opinions
The idea of welcoming the weak is our key to grace. If you happen to be the strong, then you welcome – or show grace toward – the weak. The Apostle Paul is very clear here. Will the weaker person have the maturity of the strong? No. In absence of the spiritual maturity of the strong, the temptation for the stronger person will be twofold. First, there is potential for the strong to judge the weak. Second, in hope of helping the weaker person, the strong will desire to share opinions with the weak. The Apostle Paul continues.
Here are Two Early Church Examples: Food and Holy Days
The Apostle provides us two different examples. However, upon further examination, we see that although the examples are different, the principles are the same. Notice how they parallel each other.
The Subject of Division: Food (vv. 2-4) and Holy Days (vv. 5-6)
Food: One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.
Holy Days: One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. 
The Principle: Pay attention to your own heart before God, not the other person’s
Food: Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats,…
Holy Days: Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
The Motivation: The issue is a matter between the person and God
Food: …for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Holy Days: The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
In today’s culture, there are many more than just the two examples that Paul mentions. Today, one could add various forms of entertainment, tattoos, alcohol, tobacco, music, dress, sports, politics, and more. These principles apply in all of these areas as well.
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When in Weakness… Here’s How to Respond

Paul boasted in his infirmities so that the power of Christ would rest upon him. In other words, he had perspective on life’s greatest hardships. He was strong with Christ’s help and for Christ’s sake. Paul accepted, eventually even welcomed, his weaknesses because he knew that God used his weaknesses to make him strong for Jesus. 

In 2 Corinthians, Paul makes a defense of his ministry against those in the church who were criticizing him. These critics were hurting the church of Corinth. Paul writes to them his fourth letter to the church, both defending himself and encouraging them to remain faithful in their walk with Jesus Christ. In this paragraph, Paul explains how God works in life to help him change and provides grace in weakness.
Notice Paul’s Resolve
Paul boasts in his weakness and not as a fool (vv. 1-6). He only boasts because he is responding to his critics (v. 1). He explains this incredible experience from fourteen years earlier where he either went to heaven or received a vision of it from God; although spectacular, Paul determined his experience is not worth discussing (vv. 2-4). Paul uses the third person to refer to himself. The vision is so spectacular, he cannot even describe the incredible nature of it. In fact, he is not allowed to tell all the spectacular things that he experienced – and that God has in store for us too. An absolutely incredible experience – possibly one of the greatest since Pentecost – and Paul does not boast in it. Instead, Paul will only boast in his infirmities (vv. 5-6).
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