Tag Archives: answers

A Deeper Answer

Yesterday at work I asked a question to a group of people. A lady answered, but it was only a surface level answer. I prodded her for more to think about what I was asking. I asked her to give me a deeper answer. She sat there with a blank stare for a minute. I offered the question in a different way, but still letting her know I was expecting her to answer. She gave me a “What are you doing” look. I explained, “I’m asking for more from you because what we’re currently doing is not working. If we are to change our results, we have to change how we think and approach the problem.”

I’m kind of in that place right now where God is asking for more from me. I’m the one sitting on the other side of the table with that blank stare saying, “What do you mean ‘more’?” It’s uncomfortable to sit here and not have the answer. To know that somewhere inside me lies the answer and not know how to get it can be disturbing. Knowing that God is waiting makes the situation even more intense.

I wonder if that’s how Peter felt when they were sitting on the shore of Galilee and Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” Peter answered, “Yes. You know that I love you.” Jesus responded, “Feed my sheep.” He turned around and asked Peter the same question. I imagine Peter sitting there thinking, “Is He joking? Is this déjà vu?” He amused Jesus by answering a second time exactly as he had the first. Jesus wasn’t content with that. He wanted more. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that He asked him a third time, and again said yes.

There have been many sermons regarding this and I’m not about to preach another one to you. I just want to stop and look at the emotions of what was happening. Jesus was pushing Peter beyond a surface level love. He was ensuring Peter knew in His heart that he loved Jesus because He was about to ask for more. What Peter had done in the past was not going to be good enough for what he was going to do in the future.

If you skip down a couple of verses to John 21:19, Jesus did something I hadn’t noticed. He again called Peter to follow Him. Peter had been called three years earlier to follow Jesus, but this call was different. This “follow me” was into a deeper relationship. One where Peter would be given the responsibility of raising up the early church and leading thousands to Christ. The dynamic of their relationship just changed in that exchange.

That’s where I am right now. Where are you? What is God asking of you? Are you giving Him a surface level answer when He is calling for a deeper more meaningful answer? Are you scared of what “more” means? Me too, but I won’t let that fear keep me from answering His call. I won’t continue to give the answer I’ve always given. I don’t know the answer yet, but I’m willing to follow Him into that deeper commitment until I do.

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Approachable Jesus

My pastor asked a question last Sunday that still has me thinking about it. He asked, “Are you approachable by the world or are you so self righteous that they want nothing to do with you?” His next point was that Jesus was approachable. So approachable in fact that a prostitute came and washed his feet, a tax collector invited Him into his house and a Samaritan woman brought her whole village out to meet Him. His life wasn’t about showing how much holier He was. It was about showing love to others despite how the world labeled them.

It’s easy to not want to associate with certain types of people. It’s become normal for us to wonder about those who hang out with sinners. Why? I heard Kirk Franklin say, “If everyone I know loves Jesus, I don’t know enough people.” I get it. We need to surround ourselves with other believers and grow in the faith. We also need to make sure we have relationships with those who aren’t believers.

How can we have influence on someone we don’t have a relationship with? Jesus taught in the temples on the Sabbath, but the rest of the week He was in the streets, villages and hillsides building relationships with those who weren’t in the temple. He left the 99 who were safe in the temple to search for that one who would listen outside. He made Himself available to others. He healed those who weren’t religious. If He didn’t, why did He often say, “Go and sin no more”?

We limit God by thinking certain things are only for believers. God wants us to demonstrate His love to all so that none would perish. I was praying this week a prayer that I heard from a friend of mine. The prayer he told me he prays isn’t, “God show me your will and I’ll do it.” He said, “I’ve been praying, ‘God, what are you dreaming of doing? Pick me. I’ll volunteer to make that dream a reality.'”

As I was praying that this week, I asked God, “What do you dream about?” The answer was, “That none should perish.” God’s dream isn’t that we have large churches, debt free buildings or an amazing light show during praise and worship. Are those things great to have? Yes. But are we putting our time, energy and money into building relationships that grow the Kingdom? That’s where God’s heart is.

Today, think about your life. How approachable are you by those outside the church? If an unbeliever is around you at work, are you the type of person they could come to and ask questions about faith? Would you give them the churchy answer? Or do they know you will be real and transparent about your faith? None of us are perfect. We just serve a perfect God and do our best to be like Him. Build relationships. Win the lost. That’s God’s heartbeat.

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Let Go

As I mentioned here I will be studying Joseph’s life more in depth this year. I want to share with you something else I found while reading about him. In Genesis 42, the famine had spread from Egypt to the surrounding countries. Jacob, his father, heard that there was food in Egypt. In order to keep from starving, he sent 10 of his remaining 11 sons to go buy food there.

Since Joseph had correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he was placed in charge of selling the food they had been storing in the seven years of plenty. His brothers came in and bowed before him. He recognized them, but they didn’t. Immediately God reminded him of his dream and how it had just been fulfilled. He used an interpreter to speak to them and accused them of being spies. He then put them in jail for three days.

After three days he visited them and said he would release 9 of them and hold one until they returned with the youngest. He also filled their sacks with grain and secretly returned their money to them in the bags of grain. When they got home, they told their father what had happened and what the Egyptian wanted. They then emptied their sacks and found the money that was to pay for the grain. In verse 36, Jacob exclaims, “Everything is going against me!”

I find it interesting how Jacob crumbles in this situation. You and I have the privilege of knowing how the story ends, but he didn’t. We can see how God was lining things up for him to take care of his family and then to return his son he thought was dead. All that was being asked of him was to send all of his sons back to Egypt to get the last one. In his mind he was giving up everything, not knowing that he was about to be completely taken care of.

I wonder how many times in our own lives, God is trying to work things out for our own good and we think the sky is falling. He asks us to give things up that are precious to us and we cry out, “Everything is going against me” when really everything is lining up for Him to give us more. Our perspective is so focused on the now that we can’t see what God is trying to do. What if Jacob had decided not to send his 10 remaining sons to get the one? What if he chose not to give up everything? How would history have changed?

God is lining things up in our lives. He is asking us to let go of things we’re holding onto so He can fulfill dreams in your life. Everything is not working against you. It’s being worked for your good. You have to trust Him and let go of what He’s asking you to. So what is it that He’s asking you to let go of? What is it that He wants you to trust Him with? Are you willing to let go of everything so He can fulfill your dream and His promise?

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God’s Questions

In my job, I not only get to teach people how to ask questions, I get to ask them. There are different ways to ask the same question in order to get a more complete response. After I have given information to a group of people, I use questions to check their knowledge of the content that I presented. I often ask open questions and pose them to the entire group. I see who is paying attention and who gets it by doing that. I also ask direct questions to individuals in order to engage them in the conversation.

I’ve noticed that God does that too. He often asks questions that are open to all of us and other times He asks us directly. In Isaiah 6:8, God asks the questions, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah was standing right there. I can see him raising his hand, bouncing on his tippy toes and wiggled his fingers saying, “Ooooh. Ooooh. Pick me! Pick me!” I wonder if he knew what he was getting into. I wonder if any of us really know what we’re getting into when we volunteer for God.

There are other times when God asks very direct questions of us. Jesus did this to Peter. He asked him, “Peter, do you love me?” I can see Peter a little stunned by the question. His eyebrows furrowed, head tilted to the side and saying, “Uh, Lord, you know I do.” Then Jesus told him, “Feed my sheep.” I’m sure you know Jesus asked him two more times if he loved him. Peter got a little upset at Jesus for His persistence in asking a question He knew the answer to over and over. When God does that, it’s for our benefit, not His.

He often asks things of us to see what our response will be. It’s not that He doesn’t know what our response will be. It’s that He wants us to be sure in our purpose. What I’ve found is that when God asks us a question, action on our part is required beyond our answer. When Isaiah answered, he had to go deliver God’s message Israel. When Peter answered that he loved Jesus, he was then given the command to feed God’s sheep.

Whenever God asks a question of you, know that He is looking for a commitment beyond your answer. Answering is the easy part. Following through becomes something more difficult. You’ll have to make changes to your life, sacrifices to your schedule and give of yourself to someone else. God is looking for us to serve others for Him. We are to be His hands, His feet and His voice to show and to speak His love to those who need it.

I think God asks that same question to us that Jesus asked to Peter. “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.” If we love Him, we will find ways to feed others both physically and spiritually. He also asks, “Who can I send? Who will go?” While many of us love Him, not all of us are ready to say, “Here am I, send me.” Faith requires action on our part. James 2:17 says, “Faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).”

So what is God asking you right now? What will you need to do beyond what He is asking? Are you willing to make the changes and sacrifices required? The men and women in the Bible who followed through after God asked them a question were blessed beyond measure. I believe you and I will be too if we respond in obedience with action.

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Why I’m burnt out on religion

I’ve seen first hand what the effects of religion are. I’ve seen people who are forced to follow strict guidelines or risk being shunned by their community. I’ve watched people mutilate their body in hopes of paying some kind of penance. People do a lot of unnecessary things to themselves and to others all in the name of religion. It’s very sad to see.

Religion often seeks to control others. It uses rules and regulations to force people into doing things in order to earn their way into the afterlife. By keeping people guessing about their assurance of their salvation, they can manipulate them into doing whatever they ask. People comply and the follow in the name of this or in the name of that, but really it’s in the name of whoever is trying to control them by fear.

Jesus did not come to bring fear or to control you. It’s just the opposite. II Timothy 1:7 says that God has given us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind. He gives us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind, we won’t be controlled or manipulated by religions that seek to do that. Even in Christianity there are those who seek to manipulate and control through fear.

In Galatians 5:1, it says that it was for freedom that Christ set us free. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could be bound by religion and the rules that come along with it. He came to bring freedom from religion. He knew that the only way to have a true follower is if it were by choice. He wants to have a relationship, not a dictatorship.

Another thing that religion does is to condemn people. Condemnation uses shame and judgement to make someone feel bad. By using condemnation, religion seeks to elevate itself by tearing down those who follow it. Those who are under condemnation can never be good enough or do enough. They can never be sure of their salvation, but they keep trying in hopes of making it when they die.

Jesus said in John 3:17 that He did not come to condemn the world, but that through Him, the world might be saved. Where religion brings condemnation, Christ brings salvation. His message was not Hell, fire and brimstone. It was love, compassion and forgiveness. He desires to spend eternity with His creation and made a way for that to happen by paying the high cost of giving His life for you.

Religion also seeks to make you conform. It wants to make you conform into its image, not God’s. It doesn’t want you to be who God made you to be, it wants you to be who they think you should be. When you lose who you are, you are more likely to blindly follow their rules. As mentioned before, Jesus wants you to be free.

He wants to take who you are, all of your successes, failures, scars and shortcomings to use them for His purpose. When you become His follower, he doesn’t make you conform. Instead He makes you transform! Romans 12:2 says that we should not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the entire renewal of your mind. This transformation starts with renewal. You get a fresh start spiritually. Jesus wants to give you a renewed hope and future.

I know what it’s like to be religious and to try to impose religion on others. Jesus didn’t do it that way and neither should we. Where religion seeks to control, condemn and conform you, Christ wants to set you free, forgive you and renew you. In fact, Christianity is the opposite of religion. It is not a set of rules and regulations as some would have you believe. It’s about having a relationship with a God that loves you more than you can comprehend. It’s about living for the One who died for you. While there are those who seek to make Christianity act like religion, that was not Jesus’ intent. He came to bring life and peace. There is freedom in Jesus.

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