Tag Archives: circumstances

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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You’re Not BER (Video)

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:8 (NLT)

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When God Says No

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:9 (NLT)

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Patient Endurance (Video)

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.

Hebrews 10:36

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I Am Loved (Video)

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13

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Rental Gear

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My nephew is into Airsoft wars and invited me to go to one with him. If you’re not sure Airsoft is, it’s a lot like paintball only the guns look real and they shoot plastic BB’s at you. At this Airsoft war, we arrived early. I rented a gun, mask and vest. It wasn’t long before lots of other people started to arrive. Most were dressed in full U.S. Military fatigues or camouflage while I was in blue jeans and tennis shoes. As we were standing there waiting to start, a guy in his 20’s walked up and asked about my nephew’s gun. After talking about it, he started talking about his AK-47 and the history of how they were designed and manufactured. He spoke of how much his Airsoft designed AK-47 mimicked the real one.

As he spoke, I watched other people arrive with Sniper rifles, cargo boxes full of gear, grenades and smoke bombs. I began to look at my rental gear and realize I was out gunned. When the guy finished talking about his gun, I jokingly said, “I’ve got this standard rental issue so look out.” He didn’t think it was funny. Instead he said, “That’s an M4.” He then told me all about my gun. It didn’t make me feel better about my chances in the upcoming battles. I realized I had a gun that had been overused, a mask that had been worn a hundred times before by a hundred different people and no idea of what was coming.

I wonder if that’s how David felt when he went to meet his brothers on the battle front. Did he look around and see everyone in their military gear and then look at his everyday clothes? Did he look at their weapons for war and compare them to his sling? He didn’t go there to fight. We just wanted to deliver some food for his brothers. When he did decide he was going to fight, the others for sure looked at his clothes and sling as insufficient. Saul gave him rental gear to fight in. We all know it didn’t fit and would have hindered his ability in the battle. David gave up the rental gear for spiritual gear.

He realized that the battle in front of him was more than a physical one. It was a spiritual one. He knew that his physical gear wouldn’t help him in a spiritual battle so he gave back the rental gear. He was out gunned on the physical front, but had all the fire power he needed on the spiritual front. His victory wasn’t due to his slingshot or the stones he picked out at the creek. His victory was due to his ability to recognize when he was in a spiritual battle. He knew that when God is on your side, victory is assured. He knew that physical attributes don’t guarantee spiritual victories.

Are you in a spiritual battle today that is masked as a physical one? Have you felt out gunned as you’ve approached the situation? Don’t get caught up in the physical impossibilities of the situation. Don’t get lost in what the other side has versus what you don’t have. When we look at the physical side of a spiritual battle, it’s easy to give up or to be afraid. When we look at the spiritual side, it’s easy to be brave because if God is for us, who can be against us? We have all the fire power and tactical advantage we need. Give up the rental gear, God has given you all you need to win.

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Why Me?

I’ve become convinced that for a Christian to retain hope in the midst of a trial, he or she must believe that God allowed the trial for a purpose; a purpose greater than what Christ would have been able to accomplish in and through that person apart from the trial.

“…even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

They might phrase it differently, but I think every Christian that goes through a difficult trial will eventually ask “Why me?” But I’ve learned that our motive behind asking this seemingly simple question tells a lot about how we view God and how we view ourselves.

The first man asks the question like this: “Why me; out of over 6 billion people in the world, why did I get ALS (or whatever)?” He’s really asking, “Why didn’t God put this on one of the other 6 billion + people?” This man has a warped view of God and an exalted view of himself. He views his trial as pointless and thought that he was somehow exempt from the suffering of humanity.

I know what I said about this first man sounds harsh and judgmental, but I know this man well; in a spiritual and emotional sense, I wrestled with him for several months after being diagnosed with ALS. Thankfully, with the help of God’s word, wise counsel from Christian friends and a well-timed conversation with our then non-Christian next-door neighbors, I began to see that there was a purpose behind my trial and I defeated that “woe is me” man that was trying to get into my head. (More about our next-door neighbors further down).

The second man asks the question like this: “Why me; what’s God’s purpose behind allowing this horrible trial?” This man has the correct view of God and of his place in the world. As a Christian who knows the Bible, this man knows that God wouldn’t have allowed this trial unless He had a purpose.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

That verse can only be true if we have an eternal (“Big Picture”) view of our trial. God still heals and performs miracles, and I believe that we should always pray for that result. But regardless of the outcome, God can bring about eternal good from every trial. In a hundred years, the eternal good that came from our trial will be the only thing that matters.

Trials cause the person going through the trial and those that are close to that person, to focus more on the spiritual and the eternal things because, by comparison, the temporal and the material things begin to look more and more insignificant.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Back to our next-door neighbors: Mike and Lorraine were not followers of Christ when we met them. We did our Christian duty and invited them to church and tried to share the “Good news” with them; even our girls (then 4 and 7) invited them to church, but all to no avail. (They later told us that they mocked us in private. I could relate; I once mocked Christians too. Let’s be honest: making fun of Christians is so easy).

But after I was diagnosed, they began to reexamine the faith that was sustaining our family through this trial. Lorraine told me; “…When you were diagnosed with ALS I began to see a man who held no anger with the God that ‘allowed’ this to happen. Then you began to demonstrate trust in God’s plan, I saw your faith and I saw 2 little girls accept what God was doing in your lives and I began to wonder how such young children could love God unconditionally. I opened my heart first to the possibility that this might be good thing for me as well. Then I finally got it and allowed my brain to accept the basic truth that God is only good, loving and faithful…”

Mike and Lorraine committed to following Christ and now faithfully attend church and share their faith with others. (Now people probably make fun of them). Would they have committed to following Christ if we had not gone through this trial? Only God knows the answer to questions like that. The only thing I know for sure is that this trial has strengthened my faith and given me more confidence for sharing that faith.

But I admit that trials can sometimes feel like you’re serving a prison sentence; especially when you have ALS and you’re imprisoned in your own body. But the Apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament while imprisoned and many of his fellow prisoners and the guards that observed Paul became followers of Christ. Only Jesus can spread a message of hope through a prisoner!

“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14)

This post was written by Bill Sweeney. Seventeen years ago Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and is now completely paralyzed. Through his “Unshakable Hope” blog he encourages others that, no matter how horrible our trials might be, there is always hope in Christ.

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Stuck In The Waiting

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.…
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

-T. S. Eliot, “East Coker”

I read these words in Philip Yancey’s book “Disappointment with God”. I was going through a brutal spell in my life. If you’ve read the book, maybe it helped. But it didn’t help me. In fact it just made me feel worse for all the people referenced in the book as well as for myself.
Why do bad things happen to generally decent people? I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever understand this side of heaven. It might be better if I stopped asking. But there are few things that haven’t escaped me. Maybe they were rungs on the ladder that kept me hitting rock bottom. Here they are:

I’m not in control. Even if I was, I don’t know what’s best for me.

It’s true – and actually this struck me when things were going well. What do you do when the things that happened by “chance” turned out better than your carefully laid plans? This had been the case a couple different times and while I was overwhelmed with gratitude, it eerily bothered me. When my tides turned, I realized that it goes both ways. In the end, I’m not God. I don’t know what’s best for me, I can’t see the big picture of God’s plan for me and I can’t control all the outcomes in my life. Living by faith means accepting both the good and the bad and realizing both are temporal. Accepting the fact that life isn’t fair helps too.

Take responsibility. Don’t sabotage myself.

If you’ve ever wondered if your life could get any worse, let me clear that up for you real quick. The answer is always yes. That may sound like a morbid thing to say, but the truth is that we’re always one decision away from making things much worse. And when things aren’t going well, we’re in the DANGER ZONE. Think about it: if you’re stuck in a crummy job, you are only one decision away from not having a job at all. If your marriage is going poorly, you are only one decision or one conversation away from a further setback. If you aren’t married and wish you were, you are one or several decisions away from creating a lot more misery for yourself and others.

It’s tempting to say that “God wills” my circumstances to be what they are and then act like a victim. But actually we’re usually our own worst enemy. Proverbs 19:3 says, “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord” (NLT). When the chips are down, the temptation is even stronger to make foolish choices that add to our pain. We can’t always control our circumstances, but in every situation, we always have a choice of how to respond. And that means we have the responsibility to make a good choice, no matter how good or bad circumstances are.

Realize my pain will be able to be used in a positive way in the future.

If someone had said this to me when I was down, it would’ve brought me up real fast… swinging. That’s not what I wanted to hear. But unfortunately, not “just anyone” said these words. They came from Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, recounting his experiences as a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz. They were also shared by psychologists to the survivors of the PanAm Flight 73 hijacking in 1986 as they prepared to board their next flight.
Those folks have “cred” in my book. I may not like the message, but I can take it coming from them. When I’m hurting, the last thing I want is “some perspective,” but even so, they’ve had far worse than me.

If you’re in pain, there is a sense in which you’re alone. Proverbs 14:10 says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy” (NLT). No one else can walk your path for you and you may not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know I couldn’t. When we’re stuck “in the waiting,” as Eliot’s poem says, we likely won’t be able to see the redemption in our circumstances. It’s only by faith that we can believe that this too shall pass.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach and thought leader. Visit him today at NathanMagnuson.com or follow him on Twitter.

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Handling Disappointment

How do you handle disappointment? Think of a time recently when you were really wanting something and then it didn’t happen. Did you cross your arms, stick your bottom lip out and stomp around? I know that’s how kids handle disappointment, but are we really that different when we grow up? We still like to have our pity parties when things don’t happen the way we think they should. We may not be stomping around on the outside, but we are on the inside!

Jonah is a prime example of how a lot of us handle things. When God was able to get him to obey and to go to Nineveh, he was hoping they wouldn’t repent. When they did and God showed mercy on them, he was furious and threw a temper tantrum. In Jonah 4:5 it says, “He went out of the city to the east and sat down in a sulk.” While he was sulking, God arranged for a leafed tree to grow up to provide him with shade from the blistering sun.

That night, God sent a worm to eat the leaves. The next day was hot. With the shade gone, Jonah sulked even more and said he was better off dead. I love verses 10-11. God said, “How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get? You neither planted it or watered it.” When I read that, it made think, “Do I really have a reason to let my disappointment turn to anger?”

Disappointment is a part of life. What you do with it is your choice. You can choose to sulk, stomp around, be depressed about it or you can learn from the situation, see it from a different perspective and move forward. Some of the greatest people in history faced huge disappointments. It was how they handled it that made the difference. They took the opportunity to learn from the situation rather than to be upset.

While we cannot control the circumstances around us, our attitude is our choice. We choose whether to stomp off like Jonah or to say, “God, that isn’t how I saw that happening. I’m not happy how it happened. What can you show me in this situation to help me in the future?” It’s ok to not be happy that things didn’t go according to plan. It’s not ok to throw a pity party and think that life is over because it didn’t.

God sees your life beyond today. He sees the path ahead of you and often allows things to happen in our lives to help us get to the destination of His choice, not ours. When our plan doesn’t match His, disappointment is the result. The good news is that God still loves us when we are disappointed or even disappoint Him. He still has a plan for us and uses those times to shape us into who He wants us to become. So, again, how do you handle disappointment?

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Why following Jesus is like playing Monopoly

I took a 16 hour solo road trip recently. Normally I have a policy against that, but for whatever reason, it just had to be done. So there I was sitting in my car, mile after mile, alone with my thoughts. That’s not quite true, I had Pete Wilson’s book Plan B playing on the stereo. But that was it, just mine and Pete Wilson’s thoughts.

What do you do when where God has you just doesn’t make sense? What do you do when “the plan” just isn’t working out, you get off course, or you lose track of the course altogether? That’s what Pete and I were thinking about on my drive. I remembered some old prayers I had prayed. Not the easy/cheesy ones. I mean prayers to know God better and that He would care enough about me to interfere with my life. What was I thinking? I remembered the first such prayer before my senior year of high school. I had simply invited God to take away anything He felt necessary for my life to belong more to Him. A couple months later the girl I had a crush on all through high school began dating one of my football teammates. Soon after that one of my best friends moved out of his home and our church and in with his girlfriend. Next, my hopes for a national championship in an important (to me) Bible competition were dashed. By the time I graduated, I was gulping for air.

Then last year, a decade later, I had the guts to do it again. Lord, take me to the next level in my relationship with You, I prayed. I don’t have any other explanation for the erratic events of the past year than that God is answering that prayer. That’s when I realized the following Jesus is a lot like playing Monopoly.

In the game of Monopoly, you’ll occasionally land on a spot that invites you to draw one of two cards: a Chance or a Community Chest. That can set a completely new course in motion. You can move drastically ahead in the game. You can win free money. Or you could experience a major setback. You could owe money or be forced to forfeit property. You could even go jail (directly, I might add). The thing is, you don’t know what the result will be until you draw the card.
When we pray for God’s best, it’s like drawing a Chance card in Monopoly. We don’t know if it’ll help or hurt. It may not change the whole trajectory of our lives, but then again, it may. God’s answers may be big or small. They may last a short time or for the rest of our lives. The only way to avoid them is to not play at all. But then what is the point?

I coined a new phrase lately. My circumstances are precarious but my future is secure. And that includes my short-term future as well as my eternal future. I don’t know why God stretches my faith the way He does, but I don’t know any other way than to keep playing the game on His terms. Lord, help me in my unbelief. I won’t let You go until You bless me.

This has been a guest post by a friend of mine who knows what it means to live by faith. Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, and thought leader. Visit him today at NathanMagnuson.com or follow him on Twitter.

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