Letting God Work

Ignition. There is a certain thrill when you hear the sound of your car coming to life. Especially when it is transporting you to a specific destination, one you have been eagerly anticipating for months! I’m looking at you Disney World. Other times the car is just the car. It’s just a part of your daily routine. Sometimes we get in the car turn it on and wonder, “Alright, now where am I going?”

Many times in the past five years people have told me that I should move forward in different areas of my life.

“You need to find a job where you can make more money.”

“You’re still single? It’s time to get married, look at her she’s great, now get moving.”

“Why don’t you have cable? You should really get cable.”

Some of those areas I would be thrilled to move forward in. However, when it comes to these important life decisions, forward motion is not the only factor to be considered. Direction matters. It is not wisdom to just pick a direction, step out and hope it’s the right one. Moving forward is in itself not the most important thing. We must move in the right direction, as God leads us. 

There is a clear distinction between someone dragging their feet and taking a long time to make a decision and someone who is waiting to hear leading and direction from God. And that’s where I have been for admittedly longer than I should have been. From the outside looking in, I get why people might wonder why I haven’t taken certain steps.

I am not the person God had called me to be. I spent years as an inconsistent Christian. I did take some steps forward without considering direction. I was this empty person with no direction or aim and lacked a sense of purpose. My pursuit of the Lord was secondary to my own wants. Recently I changed that. I feel like the Lord has been filling me up and at some point He is going to lead me forward in many areas of my life. At the right time He will lead and I will obey. I know He will not only lead me in the right timing, but also give me the right direction.

Right now, I know He is still filling me up. He is still working in my life and the best thing I can do is let Him work. It would be a disaster to step out on my own just for the sake of movement. When He speaks I will move swiftly with joy, but until that time I know He has a purpose for me right where I am at.

There are times when we need to plant ourselves in prayer and not move until He gives us direction. However, there are other times when we need to step out in faith, take action and trust God. Sometimes we have a clear direction, but are feeling great apprehension, fear and doubt. In those times we need to examine our faith, stop letting fear hold us back and take that step in faith allowing God to work through that step.

Perhaps you find yourself in one of those two places. In either regard we have a responsibility to trust the Lord. If you are in season of waiting, trust the God is orchestrating His plans and will bring them about in His timing. If you are in a season of action then trust the Lord, step out in faith and trust that He is on your side. No matter how challenging your circumstances might seem, we can trust that God will work everything out.

I think this scripture sums it up nicely.

Luke 12:35-36 (NLT) “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning,  as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks.

Some of us are in a position where we are waiting for that knock of the Lord. Suppose we tire of waiting and go out into the streets looking for Him, hoping to catch Him on His way. We might very well miss Him entirely. Let us wait patiently for the knock. Let us stay alert ready to answer the door. How terrible if when He knocks we have fallen asleep.

Perhaps some of you are in a place where He is knocking, but you are timid and fearful, “What if it is a burglar or some trap the enemy has set before me?” Put aside doubt, put aside fear and open the door. The Lord is calling us to Him in this hour, let us trust Him in all things.

I pray today that God would speak to your heart and guide you. Whatever season you find yourself in, you are a child of God and His plans for you are wonderful. Let Him mold you and make you the person He has called you to be. Follow His leading and always listen for His voice. As you walk with God today I pray He would lead you in whatever step you are supposed to take today. Whether it is a big step that will change the direction of your life, or a small step to your knees in prayer. In faith, take that step and let God work in your life and through your life.

A Call To Humility

Are you a prideful person? Of course not. That’s not something we think about ourselves. Do you know some prideful people? How about someone who is always at the center of conflict? I think pride and conflict sometimes go hand in hand.

In fact conflict is never higher than when one or both of the participants are filled with pride. Oh yes, pride. That monster inside that says, “Look at me and my experience. Look at what I’ve accomplished. I’m the best and I’m right and anyone who disagrees is an idiot.” OK, maybe pride isn’t always so direct, but we do tend to take offense at the suggestion that our way is not the correct way.

I think pride is the part of us that wants to gain, obtain and remain. We want to gain favor with people. We want to obtain wealth and status. We want to remain on top as long as possible. I think these are at the core, some basic human desires. The key thing is that they benefit ME. When it comes to conflict, people who are prideful are usually looking out for their own ego. They are more concerned with the way other people see them than the ones who disagree with them. They want to be proven right and are willing to fight for it.

Psalm 138:6 (NLT) Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.

There is absolutely none greater than God, yet He aligns Himself with the humble and distances himself from the proud. In fact, another scriptures says that God actually opposes the proud (James 4:6). The simple truth that pride insists upon its own way, while humility is more willing to yield. God has never forced someone to follow Him, but gently guides us toward truth.

As long as we think we have all the answers, we are headed for certain destruction. Pride will eventually destroy relationships, careers and most importantly our eternity.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV) If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Humility is a vital component of repentance. To seek the Lord is to recognize that you have need of the Lord. To turn from your wicked ways is to recognize that your way is the wrong way. Please take note that the scripture says if God’s people will humble THEMSELVES.

Humility is a process we must initiate. As we age, most people do not naturally become more humble, at least not without some humiliation. As we get older, we tend to get set in our ways and our thinking patterns become more rigid and concrete. Changing enough to admit we are wrong is often like taking a sledge hammer and breaking that concrete. It’s not an easy, nor enjoyable process.

Today I just challenge you to examine your own life. If you haven’t caught on by now, I believe we should ALWAYS be examining our lives, open to receiving correction from the Lord. We don’t naturally see ourselves as prideful people, but perhaps there are some areas in your life where you are a bit rigid and resistant to the tug of God on your heart to change.

Always be open to the Spirit’s prompting, even if it seems like a small thing that wouldn’t make much of a difference. Never underestimate how even a small change can impact the quality and effectiveness of your life. Let us continually strive to lay our lives before the Lord and yield to His pans.

Let us make every effort to be humble.

Changing Our Focus

“Why are you yelling at me?! Calm down.” Martin stared in disbelief at his brother George, who had been raving like a madman. They had been working on the car for two weeks and all George seemed to focus on was Martin’s mistakes. Martin bought the car as a gift for his brother and also something for them to do together. George didn’t spend much time thinking about that, he became increasingly frustrated that Martin was slowing down their progress.

In any relationship it is important to invest more time thinking about the positives than the negatives. It is a principle of life that what we think upon we empower. If you spend all your time going over and over all your past hurts and mistakes, then you likely will feel downhearted more often than not. On the contrary, if you invest time in being grateful and constantly counting your blessings in life, over time you will become a considerably more optimistic person.

It is very easy to focus on the wrong things and when it comes to our relationship with God, sometimes we do exactly that.

We tend to focus on our faults, failures and shortcomings. At least, speaking for myself, I do. When I blow it and sin, or don’t live up to my own expectations I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about it and feeling bad. It’s a self-inflicted punishment that I feel is deserved. The trouble is sometimes it goes too far. Sometimes I am so wrapped up in my faults that when I go to pray, I feel blocked, unworthy and have a mental image of God staring down on me with disapproval deep in His eyes.

Of course, I don’t really believe that’s what God is like. So much of what we struggle with would be minimized if we would, instead of focusing on ourselves, focus on Jesus. Are you captivated by the one you love? Do you spend time dwelling upon the goodness of God? Do you ever sit and think about how much you love Jesus?

I happen to have known several teenage girls in my life time who would sit around and just list all the amazing qualities of their crush until everyone around them is like, “Ok we get it, can we talk about the biological construct of humanity now, cause literally anything would be a more fun conversation than this.”

Do you ever talk like that about Jesus? Do you even like Him? What would happen if the church not only had a crush on Jesus, but was so deeply in love with Him that He consumed our every thought? I think there would be a transformation.

When you’re in love with someone, you highest aim is to satisfy their deepest desires. What if instead of trying so hard to fight against ourselves, we invested effort into dwelling upon and deepening our love for Jesus? After all Jesus said that the proof of our love was obedience, not that if we obey we will love.

John 14:15 (ESV)“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…”

Obedience is the natural byproduct of loving our Lord. Another side effect of love is opening our mouths to tell the world.

Psalm 96:1-3 (ESV) Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Let us make every effort today to shift our focus away from ourselves and our shortcomings. Let us focus on the love of the Lord and developing and deepening our love for the Lord. After all, He is not in Heaven with a list reminding Himself of our faults, no, He chooses to remember them no more. Let us follow His lead, and let His love wash over us and fill us with joy.

Isaiah 43:25 (ESV)“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins…”

The Whole Story

Don’t you hate it when someone jumps to the wrong conclusion?! They completely misunderstood the situation and get upset with you leaving you like, “Dude, that’s not even what happened.” Peter found himself in that situation. All he did was obey the Lord, but in the process he broke with Jewish tradition and belief. Suddenly his fellow believers were a bit critical.

Acts 11:2-4 (NLT) But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said.

Then Peter told them exactly what had happened.

Notice the explanation point. They weren’t happy with Peter and they immediately jump to conclusions. That’s a tough spot to be in. A lot of us would immediately get defensive and start arguing back. I think it’s human nature. When someone gets a bit of an attitude towards us, or accuses us of doing wrong, there is this thing that wells up inside of us. We have this need to prove we are in the right.

Peter doesn’t do that, he simply tells them exactly what happened. What did happen? A group of men had come from Caesarea and The Lord had led Peter to go in with them, never minding that they were gentiles. There was a man there who was hungry for the truth and the Lord had instructed him to send for Peter. He had assembled his whole family to listen to the words of Peter and as Peter began to tell them about Jesus the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he had fallen on the Jews.

Now they knew the whole story.

Acts 11:17-18 (NLT) “…And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”

We are often guilty of the same thing. We criticize information before we know the whole story. We would be wise to listen the people first and coming to a conclusion later. Praise God they listened to Peter’s story. I’m so grateful that they recognized the truth of what happened and they began to Praise God! For salvation had not only come to the Jews, but to all who call on the name of Jesus.

We further see this truth demonstrated in the next verses.

Acts 11:19-21 (NLT) Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews.20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.

This is the results of what seemed to be bad, the scattering of the believers under persecution, but truthfully was God orchestrating the expansion of the Gospel. The truth of Jesus was even spreading to non Jewish people like me, the gentiles and the church was growing! Of course the Jewish believers were still a little skeptical of other people coming to Christ so they send Barnabas to investigate.

Acts 11:22-23 (NLT) When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.

Barnabas saw God’s blessing and he was filled with joy! He encouraged the believers to stay faithful to God. Can I tell you I rejoice also! These are the first moments of gentiles coming into God’s grace and into relationship with the Lord. I rejoice because as a gentile I too can repent and receive eternal life!

The whole story is that Jesus came to save all men and women. It is His will that none shall be lost, but that all would hear of the saving power of Jesus and turn from their sin. Too often we are content in our churches to have our services, but we don’t always think of those who don’t yet know. Church, we must remember that God is not done reaching the lost. He is not done showing His power to the world. Let’s take the great story of Jesus and the work He has done in our lives to the world so that all might be saved!

Getting Good Counsel

Everyone enjoys asking for help right?. What man does not immediately pull over and ask for directions when lost? Putting together the new entertainment center, obviously we all pour carefully over the instructions. For some people this is true. For many it is not. The reality is we don’t always want to ask for help. Asking for help means admitting we need help, that we aren’t always strong enough, or smart enough.

It’s not always easy to do, but it is often the wise thing to do. Still, asking for advice only works if we ask the right people. Do they know what they’re talking about? Do they have experience? Do they give advice from a Biblical perspective?

In 1 Kings 12 Solomon’s son Rehoboam has just become king and he is faced with his first opportunity to show wisdom. Some men come to him requesting he lighten the hard labor demands and taxes his father had put on them. This is an important opportunity, cause his dad was unquestioningly the wisest man who ever lived. Don’t wanna mess this up. He started off strong too. He sent them away and consulted with some wise men.

1 Kings 12:6-8 (ESV) Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.”But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.

Rehoboam disregarded the advice of the men who had advised his father. Think about that. These are the men who had the ear of the wisest man in the world. Solomon would listen and take into account their advice, and instead King Rehoboam listened to his friends. That’s not a good move.

How often do we do the same thing? We are quicker take advice from our peers rather than seeking counsel from those further down the path of life than us. It sometimes works out, but sometimes it all falls apart, like it did for Rehoboam. The people turned on him, and he lost control of 5/6 of the Kingdom of Israel. He listened to the wrong people.

Sometimes people give you advice and you shouldn’t listen to them! An example of the is found in 1 Kings 13. A man of God had gone to Bethel to deliver a message from the Lord. He had been instructed not to eat or drink while there. He had already turned down an invitation to dine with the King. Now as he was leaving he is interrupted by an old prophet who also invites him to eat.

1 Kings 13:16-21 (NLT) 16 “No, I cannot,” he replied. “I am not allowed to eat or drink anything here in this place. 17 For the Lord gave me this command: ‘You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’”

18 But the old prophet answered, “I am a prophet, too, just as you are. And an angel gave me this command from the Lord: ‘Bring him home with you so he can have something to eat and drink.’” But the old man was lying to him. 19 So they went back together, and the man of God ate and drank at the prophet’s home.

20 Then while they were sitting at the table, a command from the Lord came to the old prophet. 21 He cried out to the man of God from Judah, “This is what the Lord says: You have defied the word of the Lord and have disobeyed the command the Lord your God gave you

What the old prophet said sounded good. It seemed like God was speaking, yet it wasn’t God at all. The man of God shouldn’t have listened to the old prophet. He didn’t stop and pray and ask the Lord if this was really true. He listened to a lie and disobeyed the Lord.

When do we listen to the word of others? When it confirms what the Lord is speaking to us. When we are wrestling with a decision and need help. When someone gives you a word that directly contradicts what you feel the Lord speaking to you, don’t just blindly go with it. Pray about it! Confirm it with more than one person.

When Saul first gave his heart to the Lord he travelled to Jerusalem to meet with the Disciples. They were rightly skeptical. Sorry, if a man known for killing Christians came into my church meeting and said, “I’m one of you now.” I would be a little bit cautious too.

Acts 9:26-27 (ESV) And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.

God hadn’t spoken to the apostles concerning Saul. Why did they listen to the word of Barnabas and accept Saul? Barnabas was a trusted brother of good reputation. He had a testimony tried and true. They knew he could be trusted and so they accepted what the told them and embraced Saul.

We must be discerning. We must learn to seek counsel, but most of all we must learn to seek good counsel. Find a hand full of people you trust. People who know more than you do. People who pray. People who know the Word of God. I promise you, we all need good counsel. If you don’t have people in your life to talk to, seek them out. You will be glad you did.

Origin Story

I love the origins of greatness. As a lover of comic book movies, I want to know how a hero got his powers or chose to fight crime. I even enjoy origins revealing the dark motivations of the villain. Today I want to look at the origin story of a man I would look at and declare one of the most wicked men in the Bible. However, God looked at him and said I can take his horrid past and make something amazing out of it!

His name was Saul and he was a murderer. He relentlessly hunted down, persecuted, arrested and even killed believers in the early church. He was a devout man and truly believed the followers of Jesus were blasphemers and needed to be stopped. He passionately pursued his goal, until God stopped him.

Acts 9:1-5 (ESV) But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Everything Saul had done at this point was done in ignorance. He truly did not know who Jesus was. He had never encountered the Messiah. This was a moment that changed his trajectory. I imagine he had a choice. Even in this miraculous moment, he could have hardened his heart and continued his persecution of the church. Thankfully, he did not do that. His exact response is not recorded, but he must have responded in humble repentance.

I can’t imagine that moment. All the weight crashing down on him. The realization that he had been persecuting the true followers of the Messiah, but he immediately changed his path. Now blind, Saul obeyed the Lord as He told him to go into the city of Damascus.

In the city there was a man named Ananias and the Lord also appeared to him and gave him this instruction.

Acts 9:11-15 (ESV) And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 

Ananias was understandably afraid of this man Saul. It is no surprise that he would protest, “Umm…isn’t this the guy killing people who follow You Lord?” But God was clear, “I have chosen Him to spread my name to the Gentiles!”

And Saul did accomplish much for the Lord. He travelled to many many places to present the gospel. He was arrested and suffered greatly, but the Lord used him and is still using him to build up the church. We know him today as the apostle Paul. God used him to write at least 13, possibly 14, books of the New Testament.

I never would have picked Saul the great persecuter of Christians to be saved let alone a prolific writer of the inspired Word of God. That’s not the origin story I would want to have, yet God often picks the unlikely to carry out His will.

What is your origin story? What is in your past? Sometimes we are ashamed of our past, we feel like our brokenness and our sin is too great for God to use, but the apostle Paul should be an encouragement to us. No matter how messed up our past may be, God wants to take it and use it for His glory.

Your origin story is a part of  your testimony, good, bad or ugly, it should not be hidden. You are perfectly established in God as His child. Let Him take your past and use it to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

The Great Conquerer

We all loves stories of mighty men who conquered cities and obtained great wealth. I especially love stories of the underdog, the man who started with nothing and fought his way to greatness. We love those stories, in part, because we want to be that person. We want to be great. We want to be the person who has it all. Ambition is not a bad thing, but ambition without discipline is dangerous.

Proverbs 16:32 (NLT) Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

I love the way this is phrased because let’s face it, it’s not good to be powerful if you are not also patient. I think of the Hulk, he is powerful, but not patient and stuff gets all smashed up. He’s unpredictable and everyone has to walk on egg shells around him.  That’s not positive.

In the same way what value is there in conquering a city if you can’t conquer yourself? No matter what you gain, a lack of self control will eventually cause you to lose it all. How many people reach place where they have obtained it all, yet they are completely empty and hollow?

Proverbs 17:1 (NLT) Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting—and conflict.

The value of life is not in what we obtain or in physical accomplishment. Achievement mixed with conflict, rather it be outward conflict with others  or inner conflict within yourself, the ultimate goal is to be at perfect peace! Many times our focus is on outward gain and outward achievement. Too often we are willing to sacrifice our inward peace for outward gain. That makes us unhealthy on the inside. Our souls are not at rest. (Recently I read the book, “How’s Your Soul” by Judah Smith. I definitely reccomend it.)

What good is it to gain all you’ve ever wanted, if you’re not happy? If theres conflict in you or around you? If you’re mind is not at peace?

Of course true peace comes from Jesus. In fact, our souls are never more content than when we are right with the Lord. Jesus himself illustrated that it is better to be right inward than outward.

Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

I would rather have nothing and be right with the Lord than have everything and be spiritually bankrupt. So often as we get further in life, achievement, ambition and financial goals become more insistent in their demands. Our spiritual growth can sometimes be put on the back burner as more of our time is eaten up with pursuing educational, relational or career success.

Some people conquer the world, or at least they seem to succeed in all they do, but true greatness is achieved by conquering yourself. Work to be someone who is truly patient in all things, filled with self control and lives at peace, both within yourself and with others.

Most importantly make sure that you are right with the Lord. “Denying yourself” to take up your cross and follow Jesus is no easy feat. It is most unnatural, but the one who does finds true freedom and a peace beyond understanding.

Things in the spiritual Kingdom of God are often counter intuitive to our natural thinking. Just like Jesus said, if we try to hold on to our lives and all the things the world says are important such as power, money, and having the biggest house or the nicest cars then ultimately we lose our lives to them. However, if we are willing to lay all that down for the sake of Jesus then we will truly live. Then we will conquer ourselves. That is what it takes to truly be great.