Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Path To The Promise

  
Have you ever tried to right your wrongs? Have you tried to do two good things for every bad thing you’ve done? Have you tried to play God in situations? We’ve all interfered with things thinking, “This is what God wants. Maybe He’s been waiting on me to do it.” So we stick our nose where it doesn’t belong and we try to do what only God can do. We try to enforce God’s will in a situation only to make it worse.

Abraham tried it with Hagar. He knew that God was going to give him a child, but he couldn’t see how. To me, that’s the most dangerous territory we can find ourselves in. When we know what God’s will is, but we don’t see the path to the promise. In those moments, we often try to do God’s work for Him. We improvise and innovate in order to make what God said co e true when we think it needs to. Why? Because we are impatient.

I imagine David felt this way too. It had been declared to him that he was the next king of Israel, but his best friend’s dad was the king. There was no path to the promise. As Saul hinted him down, David had the opportunity, on more than one occasion, to kill Saul and to inherit the kingdom. But David didn’t do what Abraham and so many of us do. He didn’t make his own path, he waited for God’s path to open up. What made him different?

I believe the answer is in many Psalms, including Psalm 19. In verse 13 David prayed, ” Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I could take over your work” (MSG). David prayed often that God would keep him from doing what only God can do. He asked God to keep him from deliberate sins. He used the power of prayer to ask God to help him live the way God wanted him to. In return, he got the patience to wait for God’s plan to work itself out without him messing it up.

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Obedience In The Silence

  
Since I was a child, I have heard the story of King Saul in I Samuel 13. The army of Israel had won a small skirmish with a Philistine garrison. The Philistines then mustered an army several times the size of the Israelite army. As they waited for battle, fear crept into the Israelite camp. Men began to desert the army. Those that remained were visibly afraid. Saul looked around, saw their fear, and then checked the calendar. Where was the prophet Samuel? He had said he would be there by now.

As he watched more troops leave, he decided decisive action is what was needed to keep the troops. Verse 9 says, “So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself” (NLT). Wouldn’t you know that as soon as he finished with the burnt offerings, Samuel showed up. Saul realized that he jumped the gun. He ran to Samuel hoping to smooth things over, but Samuel wouldn’t hear it. He explained what a foolish thing he had done, and now God would take the kingship from him.

For me, this story is a reminder to stay patient when doing what God asks. If we let our circumstances dictate our obedience, we will fail and miss out on the blessings of God. It’s hard enough to stay obedient when God is silent, let alone when your circumstances show your obedience isn’t paying off. The easy thing to do is make assumptions, but assumptions often lead to disobedience. If God asked you to do something, you must keep at it until He says, “Stop.”

I Samuel 15:22 says, “But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” Whatever God has called you to do, obedience to that calling is most important. Your calling may seem small and insignificant. It may lack the spotlight that you want, but it is a valid calling. Don’t ditch it to do something more spiritual. God has you doing exactly what He wants you to until He’s ready to give you more. Stay obedient in the silence and God will reward you in due time.

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Tested Faith

  
I don’t know if there’s a Christian alive who hasn’t gone through a difficult time and wondered why people who are outright evil don’t appear to be suffering. You try to do everything God asks and follow all the rules, yet there is someone in your life living in outright rebellion to God and nothing ever happens to them. It’s unfair. It’s unjust. Why should the godly suffer when we are the ones who try to do right? Shouldn’t God bless us because we are his followers and curse them?

I’ve been caught in that trap before. I’ve questioned God’s decision to allow me to suffer while others enjoy life’s greatest blessings. At times, I’ve felt like my life was worse than Job’s. In the midst of my suffering, I’ve wondered if anyone ever had it as bad as me. I allowed myself to wallow in self pity. It didn’t get Job anywhere, and it certainly didn’t get me anywhere. God didn’t even seem to notice my pity party. I thought, “Maybe I should just live how I want since living right hasn’t gotten me anything except this pain.”

When we act on those thoughts, we fail the test God has given us. I’ve found that God only tests those worthy of taking it. Everything Job went through was a test to prove that he wasn’t righteous only because of his blessings. God was showing that his faith didn’t rely on his health or possessions. It relied on his trust in God even when God was silent during the test. It relied on who He had found God to be in the good times. It didn’t get distracted in the storm.

True faith gets tested. True faith trusts God even when we can’t see Him or feel Him. It’s understandable that we want to compare ourselves to others who aren’t living right, but we are to trust in God no matter what. Psalm 40:4 says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods” (NIV). We are blessed when we can keep our eyes on God in the midst of chaos. We pass the test when our trust in God outweighs our circumstances. We need to realize God is testing us because we are worthy of being tested. 

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Eternal Works

  
On one of my trips to Haiti, Rubens, one of our translators, told our group about the great earthquake of January 2010. He talked of the sights, the sounds, and the smells of that tragic day. As we stood on the edge of the burial ground where over 100,000 are believed to have been buried, he shared how bodies were dragged to the street where dump trucks picked them up and dumped them where we were standing. He then said, “In this field, there are rich people and poor people. There is no difference when you are dead.”

Those words and that story have always stuck with me. As I was reading in Job 21, I was reminded of them. In verses 23-26, Job said, “One person dies in prosperity, completely comfortable and secure, the picture of good health, vigorous and fit. Another person dies in bitter poverty, never having tasted the good life. But both are buried in the same dust” (NLT). Someone later said, “Death is the great equalizer.” When we die, these corruptible bodies go back to the dust which they were made from.

Where this body ends, eternity begins. I Corinthians 15:53 says, “For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us, this nature that is capable of dying] must put on immortality (freedom from death)” (AMP). We will shed these bodies like a cocoon and put on our incorruptible bodies. What we have done in our time on earth will be put through fire. Only what’s been done for the glory of God will last. Anything that’s been done for ours will burn.

We are here but for a short time. Our time should not be spent trying to build our own legacy. The things we do for ourselves will burn in that fire like wood or hay. Hebrews 9:27 says that it is appointed that each of us will die and then face judgement. Even Christians will face a judgement in Heaven. We are not exempt. Our words, our deeds, and our actions will be tried. Paul said if a believer’s works are burned up, they will still be saved, but only as someone who barely escaped hell. Today is a great day to do something to advance God’s kingdom in this temporary world. What we do in this life matters in eternity. 

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Friendly Support

  
When we go through difficult times, we look to family and friends to be there for us. We need them to be our strength and to hold us up. Imagine though, what it would be like in the darkest time of your life if your family and friends turned on you. Imagine if they insulted you instead of offering you hope. Imagine if they accused you of doing something against God instead of praying for you. Your agony in the situation would be multiplied.

Job was facing just that. As he cried out to God, his friends mocked him and chastised him. In Job 19:13-19 he shares his struggle. He said, ““My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me. My family is gone, and my close friends have forgotten me. My servants and maids consider me a stranger. I am like a foreigner to them. When I call my servant, he doesn’t come; I have to plead with him! My breath is repulsive to my wife. I am rejected by my own family. Even young children despise me. When I stand to speak, they turn their backs on me. My close friends detest me. Those I loved have turned against me” (NLT).

I can’t imagine having to go through my most difficult times without the support of friends and family. What happened to Job still happens to people today. They are left to go through struggles on their own. Their friends turn their backs in them when life gets tough. Their hope and strength fade away without support. As believers, we must support people who are struggling. We must offer them the hope that is within us. We must hold them up in prayer when they don’t have the strength or will to pray for themselves.

Each of us know that the Golden Rule is to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. We need to treat people the way we want to be treated. We need to visit the sick in the hospital, comfort those who are broken, defend the defenseless, guard the unguarded, offer water to the thirsty, and food to the hungry. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said when we do these things for the least of these we are doing it for Him.

As Christians, we can’t be like Job’s friends who were self-righteous and pointed out the faults in other people. We need to be like the ones Jesus talked about in Mathew 25. We are to be the ones who offer help to those in need. We are to pick up those who’ve been knocked down. We are to give another chance to those who have used up all their chances. We are to offer grace to those who least deserve it because that what Jesus did. Look around you today. Who is hurting? Who is broken? Who is down an out? Go to them and be what they need. You are doing it for the Lord as much as you’re doing it for them.

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What God Says About Integrity

Businessman Henry Kravis said, “If you don’t have integrity, you have nothing. You can’t buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing.” I believe integrity is a necessity to be Christlike. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” As Christians, we have to be people of our word. We have to speak truth and live it or our testimony is void.

Below, you will find ten Bible verses that talk about integrity and its importance to God. If it’s important to God, it should be important to us.

  
1. Fear the LORD and judge with integrity, for the LORD our God does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes.

2 Chronicles 19:7 NLT

2. Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

Proverbs 10:9 NIV

3. But as for me, I will walk in my integrity; redeem me and be merciful and gracious to me.

Psalm 26:11 AMP

4. Wicked people bring about their own downfall by their evil deeds, but good people are protected by their integrity.

Proverbs 14:32 GNT

5. Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.

1 Timothy 4:11-14 MSG

6. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Titus 2:7-8 NIV

7. Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God, And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace.

Ephesians 6:14-15 AMP

8. GOD can’t stand deceivers, but oh how he relishes integrity.

Proverbs 11:20 MSG

9. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.

1 Chronicles 29:17a NIV

10. Like a muddied fountain and a polluted spring is a righteous man who yields, falls down, and compromises his integrity before the wicked.

Proverbs 25:26 AMP

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Consistent Christianity 

  

One of the things I love about the book of Job is that it goes into depth about his thinking during his suffering. So much of the book is him conversing with his wife and friends about his situation. You can feel the pain this man went through as you read it. After his children died and his possessions were stolen, he became very sick. He was covered from head to toe with sores. He felt like trash and that’s just where he went, to the dump.

In Job 6:2-3 he said, “If my misery could be weighed and my troubles be put on the scales, they would outweigh all the sands of the sea” (NLT). He was struggling with the loss of his family, the loss of his stature, and the loss of his health. He was weighed down by everything that had happened in his life, but he was determined not to let it affect his relationship with God. He refused to let his external circumstances dictate what His thoughts about God were.

For me, that’s one of the greatest lessons of Job. Choose to serve God anyway. Don’t let circumstances determine the depth of your faith and trust in God. We cannot be fair weather Christians. We cannot only serve God when things are going well and it’s convenient for us. We also can’t let the only time we run to God be in the bad times. God wants consistent Christianity out of us. He wants us to be in communion and fellowship with Him no matter what is going on in our life.

Consistent Christianity is more than going to church. It’s more than performing rituals and memorized prayers. It’s about taking the time to know who God is for yourself. It’s about having a daily time set aside where you pray and meditate on what God’s Word says. It’s about living your life the way you say you believe. It’s not about being perfect, but holy. It’s not about being a Christian in name only, but in our lifestyle and through the words that we speak. Consistent Christianity is a daily choice to live a life that is different than the world lives.

I Peter 1:15 says, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.” It doesn’t say to only be holy between 9-12 on Sunday’s. It’s a command to be holy in every area of our lives. When we live that way, we can survive what Job survived and more. We can fall to our knees and worship God the way he did because our relationship with God is deeper than any struggle. That’s how we were intended to live.

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Choose Forgiveness 

  
When you’ve been hurt by someone, you can either forgive them or you can hold a grudge. Holding a grudge makes you look at the chain reaction of what they did to you, and then blame them for how you ended up where you are. It creates “if then” statements in your mind: “If they hadn’t done that to me, then I wouldn’t have been in this miserable place in life.” Anything bad that happens in your life gets blamed on them. Your mind becomes consumed with how bad things are, and you create a perpetual cycle of a downward spiral.

When you forgive someone for hurting you, you set your mind free. You no longer give that person power over you and the direction of your life. You are no longer consumed by the bitterness that creeps into every area of your life. You no longer dread waking up each day, and your perspective changes. You can look back at that moment and see how God used it to get you where you to be. You quit despising the life you have, and begin to see it as a blessing.

If anyone ever had a reason to hold a grudge, it was Joseph. His brothers beat him, threw him in a cistern, and sold him as a slave. That event took him away from all he had known. His freedom and all he had were taken from him in an instant. Hew as Farley accused and spent years in prison because of their betrayal. Bitterness could have linked it all together and made him hate his brothers. Instead, he chose forgiveness and God blessed him for it.

Forgiveness is about remembering we aren’t perfect ourselves. We make mistakes and hurt others too. God wants us to give people room to make mistakes and then to forgive them. Colossians 3:13 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT). If you’ve held onto a grudge towards someone because they’ve hurt you, let it go snd forgive them. Quit giving them control of your life and your mind. Bitterness is unbecoming.

When you let go of it, instead of always thinking about how bad your life has gotten, you will be able to see how God has used that situation for your good. You will see that the path you were on wasn’t going to get you where God wanted you. It’s easier to move on when you see that God can use what’s been done to you to help someone else. You can now shine a light into someone else’s darkness and show them the way out if you choose forgiveness. 

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Patient Endurance 

  
Patience. It’s not a word we like very much. We like to have results quickly without having to put in the time and effort. We want answers given to us without us having to dig for them. We want growth without risk, and we want fruit without tending the garden. We’ve heard the saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” but who really wants to wait? We live in a now society where everything is given to us quickly. The temptation is to let our societal speed carry over into our spiritual growth.

Endurance. It’s not something you get in good times. It requires pushing yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of. It takes mental toughness to get it. You have to withstand pressure repeatedly in order to attain it. Giving up can’t be an option if you’re going to increase your endurance. You have to keep your mind on the prize to keep your mind off the struggle of you’re going to build your endurance. It isn’t given to you, it’s earned.

Both of these things are required of us as Christians. The more of God you want to know, the more patience and endurance you’re going to have to have. If we are willing to give up in the struggle, we will miss the blessings God is preparing us for. Hebrews 10:36 says, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised” (NLT). When things appear to be going wrong in our life, God is preparing us to receive all He has for us.

We can’t be like Jacob and fight it. In Genesis 42, there was a famine in the land. Jacob sent 10 of his sons to get food in Egypt. Joseph wanted them all there so he pretended to not know them, sent them home with their food, and held one brother captive until they returned with their other brother. Jacob felt like he was being punished when God was just trying to get him to the land of plants. In verse 36, he cried out, “You are robbing me of my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin, too. Everything is going against me!”

If everything is going against you, it’s quite possible that God is actually trying to bless you. Jacob waited a long time before he sent his sons back to get more food and their brother. He could have been living without fear of starvation. He could have had the relationship with his son restored. God was trying to use what appeared to be negative circumstances to move him into a place of blessing. Imagine what God could be trying to do for you in your situation. Work on having patient endurance instead of complaining, and see what God does.

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Fruitful In Affliction 

  
When going through difficult seasons in life, it often feels like they will never end. The hits seem to keep coming. After a while, it’s easy to quit looking for the lesson and to start wondering what we’ve done to deserve it. Our prayers that ask God to restore us seem to fall on deaf ears and we question whether God remembers who we are. As time goes on. It becomes the new normal for life and we wonder if we will ever be restored to that place of joy.

Joseph, the guy with the coat of many colors, went through an extended period of hardship too. His season of sorrow lasted 13 years. He was betrayed by his family, lied about having his good name smeared, wrongfully thrown in prison, and forgotten. This season lasted 13 years of his life. We think God has forgotten us after 13 weeks. This man endured 13 years of sorrow, yet he remained faithful to God throughout it. We know this because God blessed him during that time.

Just like all seasons, there will be a turning point in your life. It will not last forever. When we are faithful to God even when we can’t see Him, hear Him, or feel His presence; He will reward us and restore us. He takes what seems like an end and turns it into a beginning. He takes a period of sorrow and turns it into a lifetime of joy. He takes the hardest times in our lives and shows us the greatest grace we’ll ever see.

When Joseph’s life was restored and things were going well, he had two sons. Their names are very telling of what God will do for us when we’ve been faithful. Genesis 41:51-52 says, “And Joseph called the firstborn Manasseh [making to forget], For God, said he, has made me forget all my toil and hardship and all my father’s house. And the second he called Ephraim [to be fruitful], For [he said] God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (AMP). God will help you to forget how hard the struggle was and make you fruitful in that time.

Jeremiah 18:7-8 echoes this for us. It says, “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit” (NLT). Even in your time of sorrow or your drought, God will cause you to be fruitful if you trust in Him. Even when everything in you tells you that God doesn’t see you and that He doesn’t care, stay faithful to Him. Your restoration is on the way. 

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