buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Preparing the Way

As we contemplate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I want to draw your attention to the waiting time. Have you ever noticed when God gives a promise, it usually doesn’t happen right away? Abraham and Sarah waited twenty-five years before the promised child arrived. Noah had to wait 120 years before the first raindrop fell. The Israelites lived in the land of Egypt for over 400 years before they got sick and tired of being oppressed by their slave masters and cried out to God for deliverance. God waited forty years for Moses to be ready to lead the people out of Egypt. Once they were led out, it took forty years before they took possession of the Promised Land.

From religious scholars we are told that it was 400 years of silence from the last Old Testament Prophet until the voice of the Lord spoke to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist. A baby would be born to Zechariah and Elizabeth to prepare the way for the Lord fulfilling prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus. The Old Testament prophets prophesied the birth of Jesus and the anticipation grew year after year. But when He arrived on the scene, only a few recognized Him as God’s promised One. It was foretold about His death and His resurrection, but again, no one understood what this would represent to all of humanity. The promise was fulfilled and the sting of death would be removed for all who believe. Promise after promise – and it all came true.

God is faithful in His promises. The silence though is unnerving to us. It erodes our confidence. It causes doubt to arise in us. Did we really hear from God? Noah built a boat on dry land! Abraham and Sarah decided God meant something else; after all she was in her sixties when the promise of a son was given to them. So they took matters into their own hands to fulfill God’s promise to them. But that was not the promised child. God said what He meant. Elizabeth too had a promise of a birth in her old age. Really? This makes no sense to us; yet, God is faithful to fulfill His promises in His time for His reason and in His way.

Then there’s the birth, life, ministry of Jesus written for all of us to read and believe. Prophecies are meant to be fulfilled in God’s will, in God’s way and in God’s time. And we still wait on the fulfillment of more prophecies to come. The Bible is full of promise. It’s full of hope. We are told that Jesus will return one day and receive the church – His bride. And we wait. Like the people of old who didn’t recognize their Messiah, will we lose sight of the promise? After such a long wait, generation after generation; complacency and doubt sets in. God has taken forever to send the promise, maybe He’s forgotten. But we know that’s not true. To God, a thousand years is like a day. His timetable is not ours.

Every time we are waiting for fulfillment, God is still at work. God continues to move things in place in order for everything to be right for the promise to be fulfilled. During the 400 years of silence, the language had to be common throughout the known world; roads had to be built for easier travel; military peace was given throughout the land to make the way for the Word to travel when the time came. God was busy preparing the way. I believe He is still preparing the way for the next event in His eternal plan.

It may seem God is slow in fulfilling His promises. We may have to build a large boat. Or we may have to live in the desert to grow to our potential for God’s purpose. Or there maybe roads that need to be built or nations that need to be lined up to God’s plan. God is always working, even when we hear nothing but silence. Maybe the silence is for us too. Maybe He is preparing our hearts for the promise to be received. Maybe there’s a reason that we cannot fathom right now, but we can be confident in our God – He always comes through – no matter what. His will, His ways and in His time. Just look to the cross of Jesus as proof. He is faithful and He loves you beyond any reason. Count on it and trust Him to fulfill His Word to you. No matter what you’re waiting on; if you have a promise from God, He will fulfill it. And we can count on Jesus coming back. Are you prepared to meet Him?

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. 2 Peter 3:14-15a (NLT)

Sovereign King

Over the last week, I have had dreams about people I used to work with. Several nights ago, the dream was about people I worked with twenty plus years ago. Last night was about people I worked with on the previous job. I don’t know why I am having these types of dreams. They have been very real and very unsettling. When I woke up on the morning of the first dream, I began to pray for those people who I hadn’t had contact with in many years. Maybe something is wrong with someone and needs prayers offered on their behalf. Maybe that’s why God puts people on our hearts at certain times.

I wouldn’t say I am a prayer warrior. Sometimes my prayer life is like a trickle of water that runs constant but has limited use. I pray often but I feel like the words never leave the room. There are other times when I know God hears my prayers. The first time that ever happened, it shocked me. I was pouring out my heart to Him when I was in a desperate place. I was driving to my parent’s house several hours away, so I had lots of alone time. I don’t remember the exact prayer, but I remember the answer.

I was in a desperate place because I was in the “far country” away from God. I lived my life as I wanted. I didn’t look to God for much. I said my nightly prayers but had little to do with Him and His purpose. The prayers offered at night were the standard prayer – asking for God’s protection over my family, thanking Him for the day and looking after me, etc. No substance to the prayers and no real action plan about what was going on in my life.

So in my desperate prayer to Him that day on the drive home, I wasn’t really expecting much of a response. However, it was pretty immediate through a song on the radio. As soon as I finished the prayer a song came on the secular radio station from a Christian artist who sang about “doing right.” And that began the journey back to a relationship with God. Soon after, I lost my job; and I moved back home in order to start over. I hit the reset button. It was a big adjustment to move back home into my parents house. But I truly needed that time with them. And God used that time to get me back on track.

I need a reset button now. Sometimes I feel like I have gotten off track. I left my job several years ago expecting this new path to unfold before me, and it hasn’t happened as expected. However, I believe I needed this time for God to work in me some things that were desperately needed in me. I had some things that needed to be surrendered, and it took years to get me to this point. My prayer continues for God to use me regardless of where I am. And He does. But sometimes I would love to have the answer come as dramatic as it did when I heard the song on the radio. I would love the immediate response with specific instructions. Wouldn’t we all?

Andy Stanley said a couple of weeks ago in one of his messages concerning King David, “We place our hope in what we depend on and who we depend on.” There was no question of where David’s hope was found. I am sure he had his moments as we all do, but David was completely surrendered to God’s will, God’s way and God’s timing. David had clarity of who was the real King, and it wasn’t him or Saul. David encouraged himself in the greatness of God. He reminded himself of the Sovereign God and His faithfulness.

We are told in Scripture that God is faithful to complete the work that He has started. I think our prayers get anemic when we fail to understand God’s will, God’s way and His timing. Our part is to remain faithful. Our part is to continue praying for those around us. Our part is to continue to be useful no matter where we are. And in time, God will reveal the next thing. God will finish His work in us and through us. When we feel off track, then maybe it’s time to hit reset and remember who God is and His faithfulness.

I don’t know why I am dreaming these days of previous jobs and the people I worked with. Maybe God is preparing me for the next project that will unfold in the near future. His will be done, like it’s done in heaven. His way is perfect and I will wait on His timing. I hope you will too.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.
Psalm 25:4-7 (NLT)

David’s Heart

A couple of weeks ago, someone posted a video on Facebook of a four-year old worship leader. He was quite cute. The boy was on Steve Harvey’s show Little Big Shots (I think that’s the name). Soon after that I heard a couple of messages about worship. All this has me thinking about worship, and my effort to honor and glorify God through my worship time. God created us to worship. It’s naturally in us to worship.

One pastor mentioned that our worship is not about us but about God. We get it all wrong when we think we’re supposed to “get something” out of our Sunday morning “service” – it’s all about what we feel as we listen to the music or hear the word preached – did it move us? Instead, we should be more concerned with how we are worshiping – is our heart in it? Is our focus on God? Is the heart moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit? Do we feel an overflow coming from our hearts?

Another message focused on worship as a lifestyle. Worship is more than just singing. Worship is really living our lives in response to who God is and what He has done. Everything that we do can be a way of worshipping God. When we live our lives, fulfilling our God-designed destiny with the gifts and talents He has given us; we worship Him through our surrender lives. Worship is so much more than a Sunday morning experience. We glorify and honor God because of who He is and what He’s done. Having a life of worship makes me think of King David. He modeled the life of worship.

Whenever David poured out his heart to God, David either started the Psalm with praise or ended the Psalm with praise or both. He never let the opportunity pass without offering praise to God. He was after all the man after God’s own heart. But David was not perfect – far from it. Yet, God was pleased with David because of David’s heart. David pursued God with all his heart (as we all should). We are told in Deuteronomy 6:5, to love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. This is the heart of worship. When Jesus was questioned, which is the greatest commandment? He replied with the passage from Deuteronomy 6:5.

Our desire is to worship. Sometimes though, we get it wrong. Our hearts chase after the wrong thing. It’s so easy to do in this day and age. We put too much emphasis on people or things. Sports teams, sports stars, movie stars, husbands, wives, children, etc. We fail to understand people and things will always let us down. Worship is said to come from the term “worth ship” – there is only One who is worth worshipping.

I remember a time in my childhood when my grandparents took me to a church conference. While everyone was singing, men and women were running around the room praising God. It’s a very vivid memory; and at the time, scared me a bit. I remember asking my Grandmother “what’s wrong with that man?” as an older man dressed in white clothes ran down the aisle beside us. She reassured me with a pat on the leg and everything was alright.

My time of worship is nothing like that. Sometimes I think of that demonstration and wonder why I can’t be as enthusiastic as that man? Not that I would get up and run around a room. But I should in my heart! I should have a heart that would chase God around the room! What would our lives look like if we had that kind of passion for God?

It reminds me of the passage in 1 Chronicles 15 where David is escorting the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. As the procession enters the City of David (Jerusalem), David skipped about and was full of joy. His wife Michal, looked on him with contempt for his undignified demonstration. David replied to Michal (found in 2 Samuel 6:21) that he was dancing before the Lord because of what the Lord had done for him. The Lord had given David a promise. The Lord had promised that a forever king would come through his line. And David believed God’s promise. And it was eventually fulfilled through Jesus Christ – the promised heir in the forever Kingdom.

We might not have a promise as great as the promise given to David, but God is faithful in all His promises – great and small. We can count on God. He is worthy of our praise. He is worthy of our worship. He will never fail us. He is trustworthy. Our lives are a reflection of what we believe about God. What we do with those promises, how we live in reference to our beliefs; this is truly our worship as we respond to who God is and what He has done. Worship is an overflow of the heart. Just like David, we can be men and women after God’s heart. Chase Him down!

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.

Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;

rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him. 1 Chronicles 16:8-11 (NLT)

From Here to Eternity

The question asked in our small group on Tuesday night was “Do you think about eternity?” Actually, I have to say “yes” especially this week. This is the twenty-third anniversary of a friend’s death. On that morning, she woke up in good spirits with excitement to do something she enjoyed doing. She loved to parachute and on that day she jumped into eternity. Her tragedy became one of my turning points in my life. Because of my friend’s death, I began the journey to find Jesus and make my life secure in Him.

About fifteen years ago, I struggled with thoughts of my death. When I would lie down at night, I would wrestle with the thoughts of heaven and hell. Well, more like be terrified with the thoughts of hell. I don’t remember what else was going on in my life at that time. I don’t know why Satan was tormenting me about those things. Eventually, I was reassured of my security in Jesus and hell was not going to be my eternal dwelling place. Jesus said He was going to make a place for me where He is (John 14:1-2), and I believed His Word to be true.

As I was contemplating this topic this week, a conversation with a college friend came to mind. Back on that day, I was questioning her involvement in church. She went to church but she was not a Christian. She said she knew she was going to hell, and she had already bought her air conditioner. Her comment unnerved me. How could she joke about something like that? I knew that was the place I didn’t want to spend my eternity. I had heard enough about hell that I didn’t want to end up there.

A study was quoted on Sunday in my pastor’s message that around 75% of the (American) population believes there is a heaven, but only 40% believes there is a hell. My pastor said that what you believe about eternity shows how you will live your life. If you believe there is no hell, then there are no consequences to your wrongdoing (sins). However, the default for everyone’s eternity is hell. Since Adam and Eve made the mistake of believing Satan’s word over God’s, hell has been our destiny. Because of the original sin, from that point on our fellowship with God was broken; and we have no right to be in His presence.

I have heard it said “How can a loving God send people to hell?” However, it should be said “How can a loving God not provide a way out of hell!” He provided a way out by sending His Son Jesus to restore our relationship with God. Jesus exchanged our cloak of sinfulness for His cloak of righteousness. And by His righteousness, we are allowed into the presence of God Almighty – Holy and Righteous One. It’s not by our goodness, because we don’t have any; but the goodness of Jesus.

I know lots of “good” people in this world that say they are going to heaven because of their good deeds. But it’s not about being good but being holy. Why would a holy God allow unholy people in His presence? He wouldn’t. Through His grace and mercy, Jesus shows us a different standard. Yes, Jesus is good, but He is also holy and righteous and a perfect representation of God the Father. Through Jesus, we become holy and righteous and are given the right to join Him in the Kingdom of God.

One of the stories written in the Gospels (found in Matthew 8, Mark 5 and Luke 8) tells of Jesus healing a man (or two) from a legion of demons. The demons knew Jesus and they knew their fate. Yet, the demons begged Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs instead of going into their eternal torment (“Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”). In James 2:19, the passage mentions that the demons believe in the one true God and they shudder. We are told in Luke 12:5 Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.

Our loving God wants us to spend eternity with Him. His desire is for all of us to be with Him in His Kingdom. Hell is total separation from Him. His desire is for all of us to walk with Him today – from here to eternity. Like He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, He has made a way for us to have that kind of relationship today. But this is our choice. While we are on this earth, we decide about eternity now. We will not be given an option after we die.

From what I understand, the death rate of all people is 100%. We are so concerned with our few years here on earth, but we should really be concerned with our eternity; and the eternity of our family and friends. There maybe someone you know that needs to know the Good News today because tomorrow they may be jumping straight into eternity. Do you think about eternity?

“The time promised by God has come at last!” (Jesus) announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Mark 1:15 (NLT)

Reflections

This past weekend was my Mom’s birthday; the day she came into this world. However, she had a greater birthday, the day she was born into the Kingdom of God – her spiritual birth. I don’t know when that day was. I don’t think I ever heard her say. Maybe she didn’t even know it. She grew up in church. Her father was a minister of the Word so she grew up knowing about Jesus. But there has to be one day when we all put our faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior and commit to Him only. I don’t know that day for her, but I know she was committed in her relationship with Him. I know that on her birthday this past weekend, she was celebrating in heaven with Jesus – not because of her birthday but because of Jesus.

In the last days of Mom’s life, she spent them in a hospital room surrounded by her family. There were a few times when I found myself alone with her. Those times were precious. We had good conversations. But there is one conversation I wish I had with her. When she went into the hospital, she was in an emergency situation. We could see she was drifting towards heaven. The doctor would remind her to stay with us, and she would come back. The doctor told us she would be leaving soon to call everyone in that needed to be there. So we did. However, God gave us more time with her.

After she was admitted to the hospital, the next day I was alone with her for a couple of hours. I told her what a close call she had. At that moment she started thanking Jesus. I had never heard her say the things I heard her say in those moments. She was praising Jesus for something but I don’t really know why. I always assumed she was thanking Him for letting her stay here – that she was afraid to die. But I will never know because I didn’t ask her what she meant by her thanks. I never had that conversation.

We asked her pastor to have the conversation with her about her readiness for heaven to make sure she was okay before God called her home. After that conversation, the pastor reassured us that Mom knew her Savior and Lord and had trusted Him for her salvation. She was ready. My Mom’s sister told us later that Mom told the pastor that God gave her a glimpse of heaven when she was drifting in and out that first day in the hospital. I don’t know if this is true or not, but maybe that’s what she was praising Jesus for. Again, I’ll never know because I didn’t have the conversation with her.

During Mom’s life, she tried to instill in her daughters love – she showed us love in different ways. She modeled Jesus for us. She was not perfect. But she gave us an understanding of what God’s love looked like in human form – because she loved us deeply. I don’t think I returned as much love as she gave out. I asked her during one of those last conversations, if she knew how much I loved her and she said yes. So somehow in my fumbling attempts to love, she knew it. She also wanted to know if I would go back to my old way of life when she was gone (you’ll have to read my story in my book Mirror, Mirror to get the full context of my old life). The answer was no. I told her my faith and my life was in Jesus. There was no going back for me.

When Mom left us in the end, she was at peace. All the conversations were done. We gave her the release to go. And with one final breath, she was gone; at least from this present life. We know where she is right now. And for that fact, we rejoice and celebrate the coming reunion that one day we will have with her and the rest of our loved ones who know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Jesus said the way is narrow and not everyone will find it. He alone is the only way to find the door to heaven. He is the gate. He is the light. He is the truth. Only Jesus’ death and resurrection, gives us the key to heaven. We are told that when we believe this and receive that key, we will have entry into heaven. One day, every knee will bow to Jesus. Jesus said though, only the ones who know Him as Lord and Savior will be allowed in. That seems a bit narrow, doesn’t it? People scoff at that narrow-mindedness. But the only way to know you are secure in your relationship with God is through Jesus.

My prayer is that you will not wait for your final moments to know if you are secure. Get right today. Know Jesus today as Lord and Savior. Walk with the assurance that Jesus is your Lord and Savior and find peace today. My Mom’s life was a good reflection, and I hope mine will be for someone else to see Jesus in me. That’s the purpose for all of us – to honor and glorify Him every day of our lives. Let it be said of me – and you. Thank you, Jesus! I praise Your Holy Name today! Amen.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” John 3:16-18 (MSG)

Imitating the Teacher

This week’s theme is compassion. It started with the message on Sunday from the book Believe by Randy Frazee. We visited the story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10. I’m sure you recall how the “religious” men passed by the one left for dead, but one man Samaritan man stopped. We could look down on those men who did not stop. We could get self-righteous about how we wouldn’t do such a thing. We might believe we are more like the Samaritan than the religious men. The Samaritan actually did more than required. He took the man an inn; paid for room and board and any essentials the injured man would need in order to heal. He even told the inn keeper he would reimburse him for any extra that the injured man needed when the Samaritan passed that way again.

We could place ourselves in the story as the one who stops, but that’s really not the case. Our place in the story is the one who was beaten and left for dead. We are the ones broken in need of a healer. Jesus is the Samaritan man who stops what He is doing and goes to the one who needs help. Jesus is shown throughout the Gospels as the one who had compassion on the men and women He encountered; He always stopped to help those in need. Many times the Gospel writers would tell of Jesus’ compassion for the one who has stopped Him. The Good Samaritan had mercy on the broken man just as Jesus has mercy on us as broken people.

But right after the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10, we find another story about two sisters; Mary and Martha who invited Jesus into their home. Mary was at the feet of Jesus listening to His every word, which when you think about it, this was not done in those times. Women were not taught like the men. The men gathered around teachers but the women were always in the background. They were like Martha who did the work that needed to be done in order for the teacher and the men to have everything they needed. Martha was playing her part but Mary wasn’t. Mary was in the midst of the men; she was out-of-place. This just wasn’t done in those days, but Jesus changed how men and women related to Him and to others. Jesus turned everything upside down.

Martha pointed out Mary’s place to Jesus, but Jesus pointed out Martha’s place. Martha didn’t know Jesus was turning things upside down. Martha didn’t realize that Jesus was elevating women to a new place in society. However, this isn’t the story of elevating women. This is the story of how we all need to sit at the feet of Jesus. We all need to learn from Him if we are to have compassion for our neighbors. This world is desperate for compassion. Societies will not change unless we show compassion as Jesus did.

I was reminded in my quiet time on Tuesday, in Paul’s letter to the Philippians pointed to Christ serving in humility. Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant (2:6). Paul wrote to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves (2:3). When we consider compassion, we look at others – not with judgment – but with humility. That could be us in that situation.

The Good Samaritan saw the man on the side of the road recognizing that it could easily have been him in that same situation. Every person walking that particular road could be beaten, robbed and left for dead. The Good Samaritan showed the man mercy by not only taking pity on him, but provided for him in his hour of need. He did for the man what he wanted to be done for him if he too found himself in that situation. Sounds like the “Golden Rule” to me. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is how I learned Matthew 7:12.

Compassion and love are the foundation of how we are to be good neighbors to those we meet on our paths. The religious men who passed by may have sat under great teaching but there were not good doers of the Word they learned. Learning has to be put to good use. There is a time for sitting and a time for doing. We all have a little Mary and Martha in us, but we first need to get the right priorities. Sit first then do. It’s the only way we will feel compassion and love for the people we will encounter today. But also, the beauty of this message is that we are invited into His story. We get to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We can become the Good Samaritan to someone today.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NLT)

Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher. Luke 6:40 (NLT)

What Could Have Been

On Tuesday I heard two messages with the same theme. Pain and suffering with the right perspective. One story was shared with Andy Andrews on his latest podcast. The other story was shared with Louie Giglio at Passion City Church. This woman had a stroke with complications. Her and her husband shared the difficulties as they found a new normal. Their story was inspiring and hopeful. Her attitude was one of pure joy. The first lady was looking for a new perspective in the midst of her pain and suffering from her past. She couldn’t get past the hurt of her past. She wanted “what could have been” instead of what she got.

Sometimes it’s hard to move past the past. We play the “what if” game thinking that the other choice would have been better than the one that was made. We don’t know what the “other” decision would have led to; we assume everything would have been better if the other path had been chosen. But we will never know “what could have been” if the choice was different. God allows our struggles. He chose us for this unique opportunity to do the hard thing. He even equips us to endure it.

In the book of James, we are told to count our pain and suffering as pure joy. He wrote that it is a test of our faith. This is where we get honest with God. We admit our part of the problem. We give ourselves over to God for healing and restoration. We are supposed to draw nearer to Him in these hard places. He has seen to it that we need this hard place for our growth and development. We have been counted worthy of this time to learn endurance for God’s glory through it all.

There were a couple of crossroads in my life that were pretty significant. One was made for me; the other was a bad decision on my part. But God allowed both. The first choice was made by my parents to move a few hours away from my sisters at a critical time in my life at the age of thirteen. I had a hard time dealing with and took me a great deal to overcome.

It was a joke in my family for many years that I would never forgive my parents for making the move. Many years after the fact, I asked my Mom if they had prayed about the decision to move. The answer was yes. At that point, I knew I had to be okay with the past because this was the will of God. I don’t know why we had to move – whether it was for my good or for someone else’s good. But God brought good out of it for me.

“What could have been” if I hadn’t moved seems to be a long list of opportunities I would not have had. I would have never experienced everything that I experienced, traveled where I traveled, met the people I met; things would have been totally different. I would have never gone to college where I went or experienced one of the highlights of my life – winning a national championship in women’s basketball at that college.

Mom asked me before she died if I had forgiven them, the answer was yes. The joke was not really a joke for her. She wanted to know before she left this earth that we were truly okay. It was all good.

The other decision that I made was at a bad time in my life. I made a lot of stupid decisions that led to a lot of heartache for me and my parents. It was not one of my stellar moments. I was in a relationship that was not a good one for me. The one I was seeing had a bit of a control problem. I realized one morning that I needed to get out of the relationship when I woke up with a shotgun close to the bed.

I don’t know if it was a scare tactic or what was explained as safety precaution for hearing something outside that night. The scare worked if that’s what it was. I knew in my heart that I needed to get out but I was deceived into thinking this was a good relationship. But God set me up; my parents were made aware of what was going on. To make a long story short, with the help of my parents I moved on to a new place.

We all face difficulties and have to face the hard times. But God will help us through it. He promises He will never leave us alone. Our part is to lean upon Him. He will give us the endurance to sustain us in those hard times. Pain and suffering is the way we become more like Jesus. God gets the glory win we shine the light on His working through it. Others get the benefit from the wisdom we gained in it. We get the blessing of helping others through their pain and suffering as only we can do as ones who have experienced what we’ve experienced. Yes, we can count it as joy because we have endured the worst and made better for it. It just takes the right perspective to see God at work in it. Lean on Him and watch Him work through it!

Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 (NLT)

Learning Lessons

When I was in high school, I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to do when I graduated. I knew I would go to college, but that was the extent of my grand ideas for the future. I had no idea what I really liked to do since I really hadn’t pursued anything other than sports. I took an accounting class my senior year. I was in horticulture for two years. I actually really loved working with plants. I liked to see things grow.

When I got to college, I still hadn’t a clue as to what I should pursue as a career. I took the advice of my Dad who said to go into business – “you could never go wrong in business.” So I did. And for twenty-five years, I struggled to find contentment in that field. At one point early on, I contemplated other avenues but nothing stood out to me. Also, it would mean I might have to go back to school to learn another trade, and I just didn’t know if I could do it. You see, I hate to study. So, year after year, I stayed in something that I was good at but felt drained day after day.

God provided through the jobs, so it was not all bad. I met some really good people in those places. I enjoyed life outside of work. I did what I had to do in order to live. God provided the opportunities each and every time. I would get restless and start looking for the next place. God would provide the next place. I figured out in hindsight, it was never about the job. God had lessons in each place where He placed me.

God used the circumstance to train me up; to become more spiritually mature. I am still a work in progress. I am still learning and hopefully growing. I wrote a few weeks ago, that I really didn’t see much growth over the past year. Maybe it was there, but it wasn’t significant for me to see. There were subtle shifts in my thinking. Some of my struggle is over financial concerns. God has been at work in this season of my life.

When I begin to be anxious about the future, God sends me a reminder that my future is in His hands. I saw this just yesterday. I have been praying for direction on what I should do next. Sell my house or stay? Look for another job? Where do I go, what do I do? I asked God to take my hand and lead me to the next place.

I opened one of the books I have been reading on a daily basis called The Seeking Heart by Fenelon. On this day, I just happen to read the chapter “Depend on God.” Okay; not a coincidence. The first sentence read “The best place to be is where God puts you.” And more statements about the future: “Do not think too much about the future. Worrying about things that haven’t happened yet is unhealthy for you. God Himself will help you, day by day.”

I was reminded of Elijah while he was by the brook during the drought. God sent ravens to feed him until the brook dried up; then God sent him to a widow lady in Sidon. God provided for Elijah through this woman’s meager supplies. The supplies never ran out as long as the drought persisted.

Elijah believed God would provide. He didn’t seem to have any trust issues like I do. I have always been self-sufficient. I have lived independently – or so I thought at the time. It was God who provided through the job opportunities. Before I left my last job, I would not have imagined the future of living without a fixed income. God has provided for the last six years. It’s all come from God. The ravens may have not been instructed to feed me, but others have come along at just the right time.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, except to trust God more and me less. I want to be where God wants me, doing what He wants me to do for the Kingdom. I still like to see things grow, but today it’s more than plants. As part of the Body of Christ, we are all meant to grow. We all struggle in different areas of our lives. Mine is financial, yours maybe something completely different. God will put us in a place where we can learn best the lessons He wants to teach us. I will sit by the brook, until I am instructed to go to the next place – all in God’s time, not mine. Let’s be faithful where He plants us and grow to be the men and women of God He wants us to be.

But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. Psalms 1:2-3 (NLT)

Proper Understanding

Question: “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” I read that in a book by John Piper (Let the Nations Be Glad) yesterday morning. I have heard this saying some time ago but it hit me fresh again as I began to read in chapter one. In the first chapter, John Piper gives the case of God’s glory as the foundation for our worship. Scripture after scripture, he reminds the reader that throughout the Bible it’s about God’s glory. He said that God’s goal is “to uphold and display the glory of his name.” I think we’ve forgotten how to truly be in awe of God.

In generations past, they had a different view of God. I think it’s been just a century of prosperity that we have displaced God’s glory with our own. We worship the wrong things and the wrong people. We truly don’t worship God in the manner we should. I witness the subdued attitude when we gather together to worship and notice the difference at a basketball or football game. I’m no better at worship either. There may be a time or two of hand-raising and a few tears, but are our hearts truly worshipping God in the right manner?

In our prosperity, we’ve lost something fundamental in our view of God. Most of us can get by without God. We don’t need Him as society once did. Our needs are met without much thought to how we get what we have – we’ve earned it ourselves. We’ve done it all ourselves or at least that’s the perception. That was the way I thought for many of my early career years. Everything though comes from God. We get nothing on our own. It’s all by the grace of God.

There is an identity crisis in this land. We don’t know who we are, and we have no idea who God truly is. First, if Jesus is our Lord and Savior; then we have a new identity. We have been adopted into God’s family. We are heirs with Christ. We have His righteousness. Jesus traded our filthy rags for His cloak of righteousness. We have been set free from the bondage of sin. We are secure in our knowledge of our eternal home. Jesus provided our new identity by His death and resurrection. Not because of our goodness, but because of His.

There isn’t anything that we could have done to make our place secure; it’s a gift. We have a position in God’s family based on Jesus and not our performance. There is nothing we can do to earn His favor. And in this gift of salvation, we are complete; we lack nothing. Complete but unfinished. There is work that still needs to be done in us. Every now and then, I get a thought of what I could have been if not for the fact that Jesus pursued me and changed my life. Those are the times when I truly worship God.

Every now and then, I also get a glimpse of the greatness and glory of God. Louie Giglio has a message on YouTube called Indescribable. I found it last week and watched the different pictures of the universe – the vastness, the beautiful images of the known universe – flash on the screen. He said that we should remember that God holds all of it in His hands. We are this one little speck on this one little planet in the vastness of what God has made. Pastor Louie said that he wasn’t trying to make us feel small, but to remind us that we are small. And yet, God watches over us with the love of a Father. His eye is on us.

Paul wrote out a prayer for the saints in Ephesus to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ; to know this love that surpasses knowledge and be filled with the measure of the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18,19). I think we miss this understanding. Maybe its head knowledge, but I don’t think we have grasped the heart knowledge of how true this really is. When we finally have a proper understanding of who God is and what He has done, then I think we will truly worship Him in the proper manner. God is Creator – the known universe testifies to His glory. God has created us for a personal relationship with Him that we may glorify Him and worship Him – the one true God. We are made in His likeness so that we can glorify Him through our lives.

Do you understand who you are and your purpose? I think I am finally coming to my own revelation. I hope you do as well. Let it be said of us – we know how to worship God because of our love for Him.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. Ephesians 1:4-6 (NLT)

Road Maps

Remember road maps? Before GPS systems, there were those ancient paper maps that once you open them, it was hard to fold them back in the right manner. I loved to read maps. When I moved into a new city, I always got a map of the city. I studied it for months to find the best routes to all the places I wanted to go. I would take it everywhere I went, just in case I found myself in an unfamiliar place.

Not too long ago, I was making my way home on a few of the back streets to avoid rush hour traffic. My sister was following me closely because she didn’t know the way I was going. She made the remark that I knew these roads well. My comment back was that I had lived in my city for 17 years so I should know it pretty well. However, it wasn’t because of my longevity here. It was because I studied the city map for months when I first arrived and became familiar with the roads I needed to take to get me from point A to B.

I have heard that the Bible is our road map. It helps us navigate this life’s path. Yes, it is very helpful to our way of life as a follower of Jesus. However, it’s so much more than that. The Bible is not about us; it’s about God. It’s His story. It’s the story of redemption and glory – our redemption for His glory. The Bible is not just one book. It is 66 books and letters; written by approximately 40 authors over 1600 years that tells one story. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the story flows through the different books and letters to give us a revelation of Jesus and God’s ultimate plan for humanity. It’s there for us in black and white and a few red letters too (if you have Jesus’ words in red). It is all there – from beginning to end. We know how the story ends.

I have heard also that you can’t trust the Bible. There are contradictions or errors or it was written for a different time. But God’s word will never go out of style. It will stand forever. These ancient documents have stood the test of time. There are approximately 32,000 known ancient transcripts of this book; more than any other book in history. What we have today is verified as accurate through all these transcripts. That’s pretty amazing.

But God’s word isn’t very popular. Oh, it’s the most sold book in the world. However, it is not the most read book in the world. It’s difficult to understand. For the longest time, I didn’t read it. I had multiple copies of it but they all sat in my nightstand or on the book shelf. But one day, I began to read. I ask God to give me a hunger and thirst for His word. He answered that prayer and I haven’t laid it aside since. The difficulty of reading it turned to a love of it through the Holy Spirit’s teaching. The Bible makes no sense to those who are not under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. But as the Spirit leads, we are taught from its pages.

The Bible is a relationship. It is God’s Word to us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is said to be God’s Word in the flesh. Prayer is our voice in communication with God, but His Word is the communication back. To be in relationship means, we need to have more than just our voice in the communication pattern. We have to listen to God’s voice too. For those who call themselves Christians and do not read God’s Word, I just don’t see how there is much of a relationship. Someone is probably arguing with me right now. Maybe there is a way to know God without reading, maybe there is the experience portion of knowing Him. But experience must also be undergirded with reading. How are you to know if you are experiencing God unless you know His Word?

Someone may argue that they get all the teaching they need through Sunday morning church service. But if one is married; if you only communicated once a week, how long will the marriage last? The message in the Bible is hard. I get it. There are things I don’t like to read. But that doesn’t mean I discount God’s Word. It just means I truly don’t understand God’s ways or His thoughts. Francis Chan said in a message “When we disagree with the Bible, we assume the Bible is wrong; something is wrong with us not the Bible.” We have stinking thinking going on. The only way to correct our thinking is to get into God’s Word. God’s Word is the road map to God.

It’s time to invest some time into the relationship with God. There is no other answer for the craziness we are experiencing in this world today. We have to know the Truth. Get out God’s road map and start studying it so that you may know the right way to go, and you will not be lead astray by someone else’s stinking thinking!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

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