Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stop Asking Start Thanking

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I believe there is a greater lesson to be learned about prayer. Much, if not most, of our prayers are asking, and most of our asking is without merit. We ask for things without considering how appropriate our request is, if what we ask is in line with God’s intentions, or if He has already promised the provisions we’re asking for.

Or maybe I ask and receive not because I ask with wrong motives…

Or perhaps I ask without faith and expect God to honor that request…

I ask to be released from consequences. I ask to get the rewards I believe I deserve. I ask for favors and advantages over others. I ask God to help me do (or even make me do) what the Bible says I should do.

Can you imagine a Private asking a General to help him pick up the cigarette butts that his Sergeant told him to pick up?

We say, “God, help me love them,” or “God, love them through me.” All the while knowing I was told to love them myself.

In other words, we get messed up when the thrust of most of our prayers is asking.

Instead, we ought to spend more time thanking. Thanking means I acknowledge what He has done in the past (gratitude), I’m trusting God in advance for what He’s going to do (faith) and admitting to myself He is actively involved in my life currently (trust).

If I thank Him for His presence instead of asking Him to be with me, I am acknowledging that He has already promised never to leave me. If I thank Him for power that energizes my will to resist sin, I am confessing my choice to refuse temptation. If I thank Him in the middle of my trials, I am declaring He is sufficient for all my needs and praising Him for the opportunity to rely on Him. If I thank Him for knowing my situation when I am sick, I am stating He is my healer and knows of my suffering and is involved in my case.

Making our requests known through thanksgiving is a much greater testimony of trust than simply asking Him to do something.

Today, I choose to be forever grateful for all He is doing in my life…whether I am dealing with what makes me happy or sad.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Today I Choose...

From the pen of Oswald Chambers: “After sanctification it is difficult to state what your aim in life is, because God has taken you up into His purpose by the Holy Ghost; He is using you now for His purposes throughout the world as He used His Son for the purpose of our salvation. If you seek great things for yourself - God has called me for this and that; you are putting a barrier to God's use of you. As long as you have a personal interest in your own character, or any set ambition, you cannot get through into identification with God's interests. You can only get there by losing for ever any idea of yourself and by letting God take you right out into His purpose for the world, and because your goings are of the Lord, you can never understand your ways.

I have to learn that the aim in life is God's, not mine. God is using me from His great personal standpoint, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him, and never say - Lord, this gives me such heart-ache. To talk in that way makes me a clog. When I stop telling God what I want, He can catch me up for what He wants without let or hindrance. He can crumple me up or exalt me, He can do any thing He chooses. He simply asks me to have implicit faith in Himself and in His goodness. Self pity is of the devil, if I go off on that line I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world. I have "a world within the world" in which I live, and God will never be able to get me outside it because I am afraid of being frost-bitten.”

This has become my daily struggle. Placing my desires underneath God’s intentions sounds easy but, trust me, desires rage within me at times and scream louder for attention than the voice of God calling me to Him. It is a battle yet resolved. So for this now, I “choose this day whom [I] will serve…”

Friday, November 9, 2012

Heart Check

It’s curious how mechanical we want things to be. Just give me steps to follow, a list of items to complete in order, and I’ll get it done. But leave something open ended, dependent upon my actions but not having those actions defined, and I’ll either stop too soon or go a different direction entirely.

Take the sacrificial system God gave the Israelites. Very specific. Do this, in order, according to this plan, and you will have this outcome. If I have sinned and need that sin covered, there is a prescribed plan. He tells me what to bring as my offering, how to present it to Him and assures me those actions will accomplish the purpose.

We don’t find out until later that it wasn’t the offering itself but the heart of the penitent person that was a vital ingredient. But at least there were specific actions that could be checked off.

Now if I have sinned, I have no offering to bring, no prescribed actions. All I am told is  confess and believe that confession satisfies God’s offering for forgiveness. Somehow that seems too little for so much. I have violated a command of God Himself. I have devalued His rule in my life. I have insulted His grace that sustains me. Surely an animal or something ought to have to die. Confession seems too small an action for such a provision as forgiveness.

But as David learned from Nathan, kill a million animals and you’ll still be dirty, offer God a contrite heart and broken spirit and He’ll clean you up. Which is easier?

The actions of sacrifice, the steps on my check-off list, give me more to do to help accomplish my purpose, but they are only busy-work. Dealing with God personally, according to how He said, as simple as that sounds, brings all of Heaven to bear on my life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Throne of God Isn't Up for Grabs

When Naomi lost her family, her home and her ambition, she changed her name to Mara. Big deal? Yeah. Naomi meant pleasant, Mara bitter. Her losses gave her a new identity.

Since the Bible doesn’t tell everything about all that went on, I believe there was a conversation left out of this story. Someone who knew Naomi called her by that name. She said, “Don’t call me that anymore. I am now Mara.”

“Who told you you were now Mara?” the unnamed person asked.

“No one. I told myself that.”

“So you are choosing Bitterness to identify who you want to be?”

“Well, yeah.”

“So you’ve decided becoming bitter is how you’re going to deal with your loss?”


“How long do you plan to be bitter?”

“As long as it takes.”

“As long as what takes?”


“What is it?”

“I have no idea.”

Paul experienced a loss of some magnitude he couldn’t even describe what had happened—only that it left him with a disappointing thorn in his flesh. He asked God to remove it. Remove it or what? What would he do if God chose not to remove it? What if he had to live with his disappointment? How would that affect him?

Well, what Naomi missed, Paul heard. “My grace is sufficient for you,” God said. “You’re still going to carry this thorn but my grace will be your strength.”

Naomi chose a reaction that redefined her identity. Paul allowed his identity to keep him the same.

God never got off the throne in either situation. Naomi thought He had. Paul knew He hadn’t.

I think I will stand with Paul today. Because the throne of God isn't up for grabs.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Praying Words From Empty Hearts

I don’t like people to read prayers. That may have a place in spiritual expression, but not in prayer. Prayer is conversation with God. How weird would it be for two people to write out their conversation with each other then sit down and take turns reading what they have written to each other? How is that conversation? Where’s the dynamic, the flow, the spontaneity?

Prayer requires my mind and heart to be engaged in talking with God. That’s why vain repetitions bug God so much. People have ceased praying when they simply repeat words.

And why do we ask God for things He’s already promised to do? Do we not trust Him to keep His word? Do we not think He’ll remember if we don’t remind Him?

We tell Him to be with us. He’s promised He will be with us always. Why would He not be with us on our trip, in our venture, in a worship service?

We ask Him to guide us. Isn’t that a guarantee that comes when we trust the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding?

We ask Him to empower us. He’s promised more power than we could ever imagine or ask for. Why would He place the source of all power within us then expect us to ask for what we already have?

We invite Him into our problems. He’s already there. It would be like asking someone already in the room to come into the room.

We ask Him to bless us. He has, way more than we could ever deserve. Everyday is full of His blessings. Why would He stop blessing us?

We ask Him for His favor. We’re His children for crying out loud. We are favored beyond all the rest of the world because we are His and He has committed Himself to us.

If we would ever stop and listen to what we’re saying to God in our prayers we would discover we are highly immature. How do I know? I just finished my prayer time and am ashamed to say much of it was just words.

I hope you’re doing better at this than I am today.

Monday, November 5, 2012

When You Only See His Eyelids

What does it mean when God blinks? Well, what happens when we blink? There is a momentary disconnect. For a millisecond you cannot see my eyes. If you cannot see my eyes you don’t know if I’m focused on you or not. Freeze that instant and you might think I’ve left the moment entirely.

When God blinks, He gives the appearance He has temporarily left us. Of course He hasn’t, but it is necessary He give the appearance He has left. Actually, when God blinks He is testing us to see what we choose to do when we think He isn’t looking. It’s a great strategy. A lot of unapproved activity goes on when kids think their parents aren’t looking.

When God tests us, He doesn't want us to participate in the unapproved activity. He definitely isn’t setting up an opportunity for us to fail. He’s just giving us the privilege of working on areas where we struggle with obedience.

Tests come under the category of refinement. The goal is purity—improving the quality of the life. How? By showing us where we have yet to surrender to Him. Why? So I can gain victory over my rebellious tendencies.

If I’m having problems with my anger, what do you think God is going to do? Insulate me from situations that aggravate me or give me tests that bring my anger to the surface?

If I’m having problems with fear, will He keep me safe or allow me to face situations that make me afraid?

If I’m having problems with loving others, will He keep difficult people out of my path or let me run into them all week.

If I'm having problems trusting Him, will He straighten the path and remove all the obstacles in my way or give me a detour where I have no way to get through it without relying on Him?

God isn’t trying to make my life harder—just the opposite. He’s trying to remove from my life the debris that clogs up the flow of His intentions within me. And blinking is the best way He can do that. By exposing my faults He forces me to deal with them.

So when God blinks, He hasn’t disconnected from us, He has intensified His gaze upon us urging us toward success.

PSALM 11:4 The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD'S throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. (NASB)

Friday, November 2, 2012

When God Blinks

I can imagine the Lord’s frustration. While He was giving Moses the Law, the people were trying to replace Him with a golden calf. He was pouring His intentions into Moses’ life, those matters that would most benefit the people, and they were dancing at the altar of self-approval.

In His anger He told Moses to go ahead and lead the people the rest of the way without Him. That’s something I would have done. I’d have reached my limit and written them off. If they don’t want me, why should I want them?

But God’s words were not His intentions, only a test. Moses said, “If you don’t go with us, we’re not going. Without You we have no identity, no purpose, no reason to move. Without You we’re just people. You make us unique.”

Moses didn’t cause God to rethink His position. The threat of God’s absence was enough for Moses to realize how empty life would be if that were to happen. God merely blinked and during that blink, Moses saw the reality that his life held no meaning without God’s favor. Existing was not enough.

God often blinks in our lives to give us moments of desperation—periods of darkness where we grope about seeking answers. Go ahead and call it a reality check. He does it as a test to point out our insensitivity to His presence. It’s a reminder we have lowered His importance in our lives. It is a hint at what life could be like if we remained in the darkness. And for most of us that hint is more than enough to get us looking up.

When God blinks, He expects us to look to Him, examine what we sensed when darkness came, and renew ourselves to trust Him more.

Learn this new mantra—if God blinks, think up!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Darkness Doesn't Exist

They say darkness doesn’t exist. Light exists but darkness doesn’t. Darkness is the absence of light. You can make a room dark but you do so by turning the lights out. You can’t generate darkness. There is no “dark” switch. Darkness is an effect. It happens when something blocks the light.

There are various levels of darkness. It can be a little dark or a whole lot dark. I’ve watched an eclipse and saw the world dim. I’ve been inside caves and felt the darkness stinging my eyes.

If I feel dark in my soul only one thing has happened—somehow I the light got blocked. Paul says we have the Light of truth within us. Jesus explained that light is designed to shine but if you place a cover over the light, though the light’s still on, you get no effect from it. Like the sun on a rainy day. It’s still shining for all its worth but you can’t see it or feel it.

Darkness doesn’t trickle into my life, spill into my life, overwhelm my life—it comes on me when the light gets covered up.

Darkness cannot chase the light away, it cannot remove the light, it is unable to overcome the light. It cannot even make the light dim. Darkness has no power over the light. It only shows up when the light gets blocked.

Darkness doesn’t exist but shows up when I do not acknowledge, honor or respect the Light of lights who dwells within me. That’s why each day holds its own mystery. Yesterday could have been blazingly bright. Today could be dark and dismal. The difference would only be: what did I do or not do that caused the Light to get covered up?

God’s light is shining, in the right now, always. Today, I choose not to let anything get in the way. Today, I’m gonna let that Light shine!

ISA 60:1 Arise, shine; for your Light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen on you.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Where Did That Come From?

I have made it to this point in my life with a strong belief in the sovereignty of God. I have no clue how it works, only that He is in charge. There are times I have been able to trace God’s fingerprints and point everything back to Him and other times He seems to have wiped any evidence clean. There have been times I have felt His breath in gentle, comforting warmth and other times that the wind has blown cold.

In all, however, I have never doubted His presence nor his activity—seen or unseen. To be honest, it’s not clear to me how engaged He is in everything that goes on. I know He is all-present, powerful and knowing, meaning His sovereignty covers it, but I’m not sure how much He directly causes things to happen and how much He just lets happen. I also wonder how much just happens because that kind of stuff just happens.

One friend used to say, “God doesn’t plan everything that happens, but in everything that happens He has a plan.” That has become very important to the Code upon which I base my life. My job is not to examine what He did or did not do, but to see what He wants to do now that what has happened has happened.

If I’m going to get hung up wondering: “Does the fact that even the winds and seas obey Him mean He made the storm or could have stopped the storm?” I don’t need to know. What I do need to know is: a storm has come and I need what God provides.

So, in the meantime, I’m going to rest in the understanding that within this moment lays His intentions. Whatever has happened or will happen brings with it the purposes, plans and provisions of God. That’s more than enough for me.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Doubt Mine's Gonna Fit You

When Moses told the nation of Israel what God’s expectations were, they quickly committed themselves to obey. What they never realized was, each expectation would have to be tested and refined in order to fit each of their particular lives. Like a tailor taking in a snip here and letting out a bulge there, the garment of obedience isn’t a one-size-fits-all poncho. It’s a custom designed robe.

The call to obey is universal, but the application of each command must be worked out in our lives. Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling. I do not understand what a command means until I am tested with it. Trust the Lord… is such a generic statement it almost can mean anything until I face my need for Him and have to choose whether I will rely on His goodness or depend on my own understanding. I can declare all day I trust Him and that means nothing until after the test.

Love the Lord… seems easy enough until I have to make choices based on that love. Will I give Him priority over all else I love? Will I deny my natural cravings to allow Him to be supreme? Will my love for Him make all other loves seem like hate?

What it means for me to trust God or to love God is similar to yours but different. Each of these commands have been customized to confront my character, to expose my weaknesses, to reveal my tendencies. They make me struggle with vital aspects of my life, just as yours do your own.

Bottom line: how God is working out my obedience is by refining me into the person He wants me to be. And the same applies to you. Don’t look at me and compare where you are to where I am. You may have already been down this road I’m just starting.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sorry, I Was Distracted

When it comes to temptations, some are invitations but most are merely distractions. Both have sufficient power to mangle our lives.

A lure dangling in the depths is there to invite the fish to bite. When he does he is caught, entangled in a trap that will eventually have him dancing in a frying pan. But the same lure dropped near where he usually finds food, may so capture his attention that he misses the opportunity for genuine nourishment. While distracted by the lure the real meal swims away, leaving him with the substitute or nothing.

When we have a distraction in our lives, even with no intention to bite, it can be as damaging as a direct invitation. It consumes our mind. It fills us with unsatisfied desires. It dominates the moments that hold great potential for higher thoughts. It robs us of clean minds and pure hearts, which interferes with us ascending the hill of the Lord. All the while being just a distraction.

The fight within is rarely over major matters of disobedience. We’re not struggling with breaking some commandment. We rarely wrestle with the desire to intentionally sin against God. But we battle distractions constantly.

Distractions side-track us during prayer-time. Distractions compete with our desire to be singularly devoted to God. Distractions clog up the flow of God’s power drawing us to focus on His sufficiency. Distractions trip us up when we wish to walk by the Spirit. Distractions make us stop for green lights and go on red ones when trying to follow God’s will. Distractions hide within our mind and pop out randomly and inconveniently throughout the day.

Needless to say, the greatest danger we face is being distracted. Not only are we going to miss great things God has prepared for those who love Him, but we might actually become so entangled in the distraction we crash. Ever nearly wrecked your car while texting?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


“Almost” is a trick word. We use it when we don’t want to say no and can’t say yes. “Are you ready?” “Almost.” The true answer is a black or white, yes or no. We either are or we are not ready. Almost is a grey.

Under most circumstances we are comfortable to take much of our lives into the grey. It keeps us from being definitive, from choosing sides, from admitting we haven’t completed the task. Instead of asking how much longer, our kids ask “Are we there yet?” Since we are still traveling the answer is obvious, but we still say “Almost.”

We don’t want answers that state the obvious. We don’t want rigidity, we want things to remain fluid. We want to believe there’s something more, something else. A snapshot of a moment does not capture all that’s going on. It freezes time, which doesn’t really happen, and leads us to believe this picture is all there was. A picture doesn’t show preparation or progress or response. It only shows what the camera saw in one split second. We know there is more to the moment than a split second.

So why do we have such a hard time waiting on God?
Oswald Chambers taught of the “Great Not Yet.” The grey area of God’s involvement—the hope within which we face the next few minutes, hours, days or even years. It is the time from which our prayer meets with God’s response. It is our “almost.”

If God has not accomplished what concerns you, your response should not be yes or no but “almost.” Because faithful is He to do it…to complete the good work He has begun in you.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Living in the Meantime

I am concerned that modern Christians don’t live with anticipation nor expectation that God will bring about change. Like those who told Peter that believing Jesus would return was unrealistic because things had continued like they had since He left and there was no evidence things would be any different.

Awaking each morning to the same conditions you went to bed with, after a while, makes you lose hope it will ever be any different.

But God is not affected by those conditions. He is able to make all things new, to do exceedingly abundantly beyond what we expect, to turn our mourning into laughter.

When He does that is immaterial. That He does that is our promise of a new day. Hope is designed to cover the distance from our cry to God’s provision. It helps us live in the meantime.

Today, I choose to live in hope, knowing God is faithful and the provision is on the way!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Don't say change is impossible!

When Sennacherib, King of Assyria, was taunting Judah, he used the oldest fear tactic out there—look at the circumstances. He used actual footage of real life accounts of what he had been able to do to other nations and imposed past history on Judah’s present situation. That’s easy to do. It makes sense. How it’s been is typically how it’s going to be.

He told them how foolish it was to trust in their God since the gods of all the other nations had not been able to stop him from conquering of their lands. And with that being the appearance of what had happened, it would have been easy for them to agree and give up.

However…setting aside the fact that there are no “gods” to help the other nations, our God had not had the final say. Just because someone boasts of his success doesn’t mean he’ll win the next battle. And though Satan has triumphed in the past, doesn’t mean he’s on a role to victory. He’s still defeated even though he operates as though he doesn’t know it.

I saw stuff in Haiti that I felt could never be changed. I saw people living in disgusting circumstances with no hope of getting out. I saw a cycle of despair so well-fixed that it should continue on indefinitely. But I also saw a God who is infinite in His power to make changes.

I also see that same God here with the same capabilities to make changes even though things have been going this way for quite a long time.

When God is trusted, change happens.

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's Always Tea Time

It’s an old illustration but the same hot water that will make you a cup of tea will also make an egg hard and a potato soft. The point is not the process but what you add to the pot. Boiling water is neutral. It’s just water. I choose the outcome by what I put into it.

Each result is definite. And each result is an absolute. Tea bags in hot water will make tea every time. Eggs in hot water will make hard boiled eggs. Potatoes in hot water will make mashed potatoes.

How does this information affect me? I’m going to get into hot water occasionally (okay, regularly). But the question is: what result do I hope for. Making my heart hard seems undesirable. Getting all mushy seems wrong. Expressing my life, the essence of who I really am, into the water would be more natural, don’t you think. I don’t have to worry, or try to force an outcome. I don’t have to fear what’s going on or try to control it. I simply let what’s in me come out.

Now that brings up a very important consideration—what’s in me? Maybe I don’t want others to see what’s in me. Maybe my outside doesn’t match what’s inside and I’m afraid for the inside to show. It could be I’ve worked very hard at creating an image I hope is believable. Well, that’s why I often choose the other two outcomes—hard or soft instead of natural. I don’t want my natural to show.

We spend so much time getting the outside to be presentable, we often forget that the inside is really who we are. Thus, the reason for hot water. Hot water isn’t to frustrate us, punish us or consternate us. Hot water is to reveal who we are.

Since I know hot water is coming, I think working on the inside of me is a prudent use of my time today. Tea anyone?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Seeing in the Darkness

One of the greatest principles of faith I ever heard was: Never doubt in the darkness what God has revealed to you in the light.

Darkness is not the time to question. It’s the time to trust. Just because we can’t see clearly now we shouldn’t begin to discount what we have seen previously.

How do you navigate in a dark room once you’ve turned out the lights? By memory of what was where when you had the lights on. You remember a chair was to your right, a table to your left. You slow down when you go through where you remember a doorway being. You proceed cautiously, but you still proceed because know where things are.

Stuff doesn’t move around simply because you can’t see it. If you stumble over it, it’s because you forgot where it was.

So it is with the truths of God. They remain constant, fixed. Darkness doesn’t make them move or go away. They stay put.

If the lights go off, don’t panic…trust. The God of the light is the same one present in the darkness. David said, “Darkness and light are the same thing to You.” (Ps 139). Just because I can’t see Him, doesn’t mean He isn’t there.

Until the lights come back on keep reminding yourself what you already know to be true. That darkness is no time to begin to questioning God.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why Am I Here?

Ever feel trapped? Like being sandwiched between what is and what you know could be? You see both sides clearly. You know which is better. You even know how to get it there, but it’s out of your hands. Every day you envision the possibilities, only to get snapped back to reality when someone reminds you your job description doesn’t cover such privilege.

Solution one: just settle back and do what they hired you to do—your job and nothing more. Show no initiative, look for no answers, stay within your cubicle. That’s probably easy for them, but for “big picture” folks, for those who see everything interconnecting, who let the paint run over the lines in order to blend in with the rest of the scene, it’s misery. Like watching the clarity of Blue Ray when you’d prefer everything less distinct and more natural. Just do your job.

Solution two: keep dreaming but expect to be frustrated. There are a lot of pooh poohers out there. Those who have little imagination beyond their limited scope. They can’t even grasp the concept of there being anything except the box, much less risking the effort to think outside it. They are neat, everything in place, calm in the water, do what’s expected kind of folks. They’re great for filling in the blanks but ask them what the words in the blanks mean and they have no answers. You’re better off just keeping your thoughts to yourself.

Solution three: look for the reason God has you there. Frustration grows when we lose purpose. If I have to have surgery to fix a problem and I lose sight of the end—problem solved—I will grow frustrated with the pain. If my truck develops a problem requiring it to go to the shop and I have to struggle through the day without it, my frustration will grow unless I envision getting it back fixed and usable again. If I become infuriated with diet and exercise (writer’s imagination) I have lost sight of why I’m doing this.

Solution three gives me the means by which I can go on—a purpose bigger than my frustration. I can violate God’s intentions and end up where He doesn’t want me (free will), but once I am there God’s intentions crank up again. He has a will concerning wherever I am. It may be for me to make a difference where I am. It may be for where I am to make a difference in me. Either can be highly rewarding, however, we may not know which it is until after it’s over.

What I’m called to do is live faithfully in the great not yet—the time within which I have no clue why I’m here or what’s going on. I must look beyond the frustration to the higher goal of honoring my commitment in order to be faithful to the God who loves me and calls me according to His purpose. If being faithful becomes my goal, every day can hold amazing treasures God will help me find.

I don’t have to worry about where this is going or where it’s been. I only have to deal with where it is and how I fit into that moment.

God help me get my eyes off of myself and onto You and your intentions. Save me from my own inflated sense of importance.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Borrowed Words I Need Today

I read Michael Hyatt’s blog this morning and thought his thoughts were higher than my thoughts. He wrote of changing our attitudes. Since attitude has a life-altering effect on how I see my life and live my life, considering these truths may make a difference today  wherever I go and with whomever I connect.

    • I am not here by accident. God sent me. To these people. At exactly this time.
    • That’s because He has a purpose; therefore, I have a purpose in being here.
    • Through Christ, I can do all things. He has given me every resource I need to succeed.
    • I have the energy, the passion, and the message to make a huge impact—now and for eternity.
    • What I have to share today is vitally important. It matters. To them and to their loved ones.
    • Those that hear it will be changed forever. Years from now, they will look back on today and say, “It started here.”
    • By God’s grace, I am prepared. I am strong. I am energetic. I am outstanding. My heart is wide open. I will connect and make a difference!

I cannot remain the same if I believe what I have just read.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When Giants Fall

I just read the story of David’s battle with Goliath. I get much more from it now than I did when I was a kid. All I can remember from those early days was how courageous David was. Standing before a giant, limiting your weapons to a few rocks, promising everyone how successful you were going to be…David became the poster child for fearlessness.

But now, I sense something more. The story is not about courage, it’s about faith. David did what he did, not because he was confident in his capabilities, but because he trusted God to be God in His behalf.

You don’t need courage to trust God. You simply need willingness. Trusting God brings courage. David’s experiences with the bear and lion did not teach him warfare, they taught him faith. He learned how God can be trusted. Those experiences were David learning he could expect God to accomplish what concerned him.

On the battle field, standing before Goliath, David said this battle was not about him or Goliath, but it was about God accomplishing His purposes. David knew it wasn’t his abilities to sling a stone that would save the day. God would. David’s decision was to let God accomplish His purposes through him. That placed the focus where it needed to be, where God could get the honor.

When everything’s over for us and we look back over our lives, we’ll see it wasn’t about us. It was about Him being God in our behalf. So in the meantime, learn to trust Him to accomplish what concerns you.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Be a Duck!

When  the boys were little and had moments of disappointment, like when something they wanted didn’t work out, or somebody said something that hurt their feelings, I’d tell them to be a duck.

A duck is designed to float on the water. His feathers are a protective covering made to form a tight seal to prevent the water he’s sitting on from absorbing. If the water ever got through and absorbed he was going down. Repelling the water was the key to his ability to stay on top of the waves instead of sinking beneath them.

Even in a rain storm, he could still float. The water would drip on this head then trickle off without soaking in.

The boys learned that absorbing the bad comment or latching on to the bad feelings would weigh them down excessively, making it difficult to function. So, like a duck, allowing things to drip off would keep them on top of the water.

I’ve watched them since and realized that all those lessons gave them were tools. The lessons provided resources. They didn’t force the boys to use the resources. Occasionally the boys have taken in too much of their frustrations and have experienced life just under the surface. I have ached for them but realize I can’t make them be ducks. Only they can choose to be the duck.

As God made the duck to physically repel water, He has made us to not drown by our circumstances. I will still be affected, still get wet, may even go under the surface for a while, but I don’t have to drown. He has provided the resources, I must choose to use those resources.

I’m going to be a duck today. I choose not to absorb what my circumstances rain upon me. Today, I will walk with the Lord who remains on the throne regardless of any and all circumstances. Today, I am a duck. Hear me quack. See me waddle.

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's Not as Hard as We Make It

The challenge of walking in the Spirit is refusing to set the terms. The whole idea is to release ourselves into God’s intentions and respond to what we face detached from our ways. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

It is obvious that our ways and our thoughts tend to be more earthly than heavenly, more flesh than Spirit. So to walk in the Spirit, I must deny myself the impulse to go my way and invest in my thoughts and, instead, take up the cross to follow Jesus.

The cross was an implement of death in Jesus’ life. But in the bigger picture it was the symbol of why He came in the first place—to do the will of Him who sent Me. So the cross is bigger than the means of Jesus’ physical death, it is the statement of His willingness to find and do the Father’s ways and have the Father’s thoughts.

For us, by refusing to follow the flesh, we will walk in the Spirit. It is not a complicated process. It is a matter of choice. I will be who I am (a child of God) and live my life reflective of that identity if I refuse to act contrary.

The sculptor who created a horse from a block of granite only had to knock off all the stuff that didn’t look like a horse. He didn’t create the horse, he merely exposed the horse.

With the Spirit indwelling us, we need not invite Him in—that’s like telling someone to come into a room they are already in. Our responsibility is to yield ourselves to His presence. The promise of Him walking with us (paraklete) is a constant provision waiting for release. Once yielded, I simply go through my day acknowledging His presence and anticipating Him leading me toward God’s ways and thoughts.

“If we walk in the Spirit we will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” And, as a child of God, if we do not carry out the desires of the flesh, we will walk in the Spirit.

Let’s see where our feet lead us today.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My God's Bigger Than Your God

Has God become so common He is no longer holy? Relational theology, our attempt at knowing and relating to God, has changed throughout the years. The change has come when people gravitate toward one aspect of God’s character more than the others. When you look at God through the wrong end of the telescope, instead of seeing the big picture you end up focused on limited features. In our eyes, God becomes less than who He really is.

 With the privilege of “knowing God” comes the task of not limiting Him to any one characteristic. I know that He is a loving God whose mercy endures forever. I know that He is a forgiving God who removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. I know that He is a faithful God who remains steadfast regardless of my own failings.

But to limit Him to any one of these, to make one characteristic the primary distinctive, I lose sight of the totality of who God is. He cannot be loving without being holy. He cannot be merciful without being just. He cannot be faithful without being sovereign. By picking a characteristic as “my favorite” I run the risk of offending rather than honoring God, by limiting His limitlessness.

You often hear Christians say they like the New Testament God more than the Old Testament God. In the New Testament God is loving, forgiving and actively pursuing a relationship with them. In the Old He is separating out the good from the bad, judging the actions of His people and punishing them accordingly. We see the New Testament God as being friendlier than the Old. We are drawn to friendliness.

But Hebrews says He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Old Testament God is the same one in the New Testament and the New Testament God is the same one in the Old Testament. As difficult as it is to grasp, He was loving, merciful and faithful while at the same time holy enough to judge the actions of His people. Why can’t we see that? Why couldn’t the people back then see that? Perhaps it was the lack of understanding that it was because He loved them so much He was faithful to judge them. They failed to see that His intentions were good and right.

If we reverse the telescope and see the bigger picture we’ll see the God who desires relationship also has standards reflective of that relationship. Maybe the holiness by which He demonstrated His goodness is there for us to see. Maybe His actions were working all things together for good. And maybe the furnace by which He burned off the worldliness, was designed to purify not destroy.

Embrace God. All of God. Not just the parts that we like. Be assured there is more to God than we have yet discovered. By stopping too soon, or seeking only the parts we like, we may never discover how great He really is.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Down is Not the New Up

There is a downward spiral—like a plane losing control and tumbling to earth in ever tightening circles of despair—that catches us and hurries us into defeat. It begins with disappointment, a subtle regret that something didn’t work out as planned. If left unchecked the disappointment becomes discouragement. Discouragement is a gnawing agitation that stirs up thoughts of on-going disappointment. It is the regular reminder that what disappointed me will do it again.

Unchecked discouragement turns into disillusionment. All I can see is a distorted future of being disappointed continually. In my mind, I am in a tail-spin of disappointment and have no hope of pulling out. The downward spiral has captured me. Once captured I enter a dark and deep depression.

To change the analogy, I am disappointed I got a rock in my shoe. If I leave it there I will be come discouraged to take the next step, anticipating the pain. Failure to take the next step will paralyze me into refusing to go forward in my life. I will remain in a dark and deep depression.

Obviously, it is easier to stop the downward spiral from beginning than to pull out once gravity has gripped the plane. It is easier to deal with disappointment than discouragement and disillusionment.

Disappointment comes when I cease to give thanks in all things and become restless instead of contented in how God is accomplishing what concerns me. I may not like what goes on, but I do not have to absorb the dislike until it becomes a regret that grips my heart.

Let go of it and it will not pull you down.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Grady, Goober and Righteous Indignation

Pastor Jerguson had waxed eloquently for nearly twenty minutes on why it was okay for Jesus to get angry but not us. “It wasn’t that Jesus was mad,” he said, “it was just righteousness indignation.”

Righteous and indignation were two words Goober had never heard together in the same sentence. In fact, though he knew what the first meant, he had no clue about the second. His first thought was that Pastor Jerguson had meant to say was indigestion. But, then again, what would righteous indigestion be? Maybe indigestion you got after a church pot-luck?

“What’s righteous indigestion?” he whispered to Grady.

“Not indigestion,” Grady whispered back, “instigation, means He got so mad He did something about it.”

“Nah, I heard him say indigestion,” Goober replied a bit too loudly. Wanda Albright and little Jimmy turned around from the seat in front of them and shushed them rather loudly.

Pastor Jerguson looked over at Grady and Goober and made his eyebrows touch together. Grady poked Goober in the ribs and they both sat up straight, looking toward the front with a sudden inquisitive piousness on their faces. Pastor Jerguson continued.

“Righteous indignation is the only anger God allows,” he said. “It’s getting mad at the things God gets mad at.”

“See, I told you it was indigestion,” Goober whispered.

“He said indignation, you imbecile. God doesn’t get indigestion.”

“Don’t call me an imbecile, you moron.”

Moron? I’m the moron? You’re an idiot moron.” As the tone and volume began to kick up a notch, Goober’s neck started turning red and Grady had started spitting his words, which were now splattering on Wanda Albrights bouffant. She turned around and shushed them again, adding an argh to emphasis her displeasure with the two of them.

Pastor Jerguson stopped and looked down at Goober and Grady. “Would you two like to take this outside? Now!” he shouted.

Grady and Goober got up and headed for the back door. “I think Pastor J’s pretty mad at us this time,” Grady said.

“Nah, I think Pastor J just got his righteousness indignated,” Goober replied.

Needless to say, Pastor Jerguson lost total control of his congregation as they burst into righteous laughter with him at the pulpit fuming and Grady and Goober walking down the aisle calling each other names.