Archive for the ‘Lordship’ Category

A common question we ask is, “What is God’s will for me?”  But before we pursue the answer to this question we need to ask, “Do I want to know it?”  We may be surprised to find out we only want to know what God wants us to do if we agree with it. He may not reveal his direction because we are not open to go wherever he leads.

Some may believe God doesn’t have a will? We think he doesn’t care what our careers are or who we marry as long as they meet some minimum standard. I disagree with this belief. God is interested in every detail of our lives and has a plan for our careers and who we marry. Paul says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT). Who we marry and what jobs he wants for us are part of the good things he has planned.

If we genuinely want to know God’s will, even if it may not be what we want it to be, how do we find out what it is?

First, we grow in following God by knowing him. As we grow closer to him we become more like him in making choices. We instinctively know which direction pleases him. That’s why knowing the Bible is important in knowing God and his will. His life and ways are described in the Bible. His plans for us never violate Biblical truth.

The Holy Spirit uses the Bible to speak to us about who to be and what to do. God says in Proverbs 6:22-23 (NLT):

“When you walk, their counsel will lead you.
When you sleep, they will protect you.
When you wake up, they will advise you.
 For their command is a lamp
and their instruction a light;
their corrective discipline
is the way to life.”

Another way we can know what God’s guidance is through our feelings. God says we experience peace when we are going his way (Proverbs 3:17). But when we feel in turmoil, God may be guiding a different direction than we are contemplating.

For big decisions, I have often used pros and cons lists. When I proposed to my wife I had a huge list of the pros of why I thought God wanted us to be married. I honestly don’t remember if I had any cons. There were many “common-sense” reasons for why I thought God wanted us together, but the main pro was God speaking to me through a couple of versus that he wanted me to marry her and now was the time to ask.

There are many other ways we can know his direction but probably the most important is through prayer. We can receive his guidance not only in the big decisions, like who to marry or what career would be best, but also in the little ones. For example, each day I ask God who he wants me to pray for and what to pray for them. I trust the thoughts that come from these prayers as his will.

God wants us to know his plans more than we can imagine. Jesus promises to reveal his desires if we persevere in prayer, as he says in Matthew 7:7 (NLT), “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

May we not be deceived into thinking God doesn’t care what we do. He cares and has many wonderful plans for our lives. May we not act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants us to do (Ephesians 5:17).

 

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Does Your Life Count?

I have been surprised by how many Christians don’t realize how richly God rewards our godliness and faithful service. Not just by letting us into heaven, but rewarding us with privileges and blessings here and in heaven.

Generally, I have been unimpressed by how much God is transforming and using me in his worldwide ministry. I also believe others are not impressed. Does this mean my life doesn’t count? No!

I used to measure how useful my life was by results. How many people showed up for the meeting? Do the people in the group seem to be growing? How many people read my blog this month?

What do the answers to these questions need to be for my life to count?

What I’m learning matters is just doing what Jesus leads me to do. I probably have no idea how God is using my acts of obedience anyway. Therefore, I try to focus on discerning what he wants done and depending on the Holy Spirit working through me to do it.

Sometimes the results are encouraging. Other times they aren’t. But it does not matter. I live by faith God is pleased by just doing what he says. He asks us, “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?”’ (Luke 6:46, NLT). Our lives count when we do what he desires.

The Judgement all of us believers will face is described in 1 Corinthians 10:12-14 (NLT):

“Anyone who builds on that foundation (Jesus) may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw.  But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.  If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.”

It’s hard to believe much of our work can be a waste of time. We seem to be doing so much for God. People are being helped and we are solving so many problems. But are we doing God’s works? We need to remember we are not our own. We are “God’s very own possession” (1 Peter 2:9, NLT) and need to live according to his desires. “No longer living for the lusts of men but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2, NAS). When we don’t focus on being and doing what he wants, we can miss making our life count. And God has specific tasks for us to do.

One important thing that can help us be useful to God is to grow in humility. God doesn’t need us. He gives us the privilege to serve alongside him in meeting the needs of the world. And whatever gifts and abilities we have come from him. “What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift? (1 Corinthians 4:7, NLT).

We can also ask the Holy Spirit to help us detect our strong desires to serve him in our way and change them to what God wants.  He designed us to partner and live in reliance on him throughout the day (John 15:5). Only when we submit to being and doing what God wants will our efforts count.

 

 

 

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We all have been rejected for one reason or another. it’s painful isn’t it! Probably the greatest fear I had from childhood was the fear of being rejected. I learned early how bad it felt to be rejected. Why does it hurt so much?

In my case, I believed the lie that I was what people thought I was. If they thought I was a dud, I was a dud. If they thought I was something special, I was something special.

But in recent years, I’ve learned that I will never be rejected- by God anyway. He says to me, “I will never reject you” (Hebrews 13:5). But people can still reject me – but, whose opinion counts the most? I am learning that God’s acceptance of me trumps people’s rejection.

But do people really reject us? Are they even capable of rendering an accurate assessment of us? The answer is no.

Recently, I have been trying to start a small group with people at my new church in which I am not well-known.  I have had four or five refusals so far and only one acceptance. I feel rejected. I feel like they don’t respect me, and I feel challenged to believe that I have a lot to offer- even though God has used me extensively in this ministry for many years. Nevertheless, I feel like quitting sometimes and not putting myself out there to be rejected. But I would be disobeying the Lord if I did.

Why Rejection Is Hurtful

We want to feel accepted and respected. Therefore, it hurts when it seems like we’re not. The truth is, as God’s children, we have nothing to worry about. God has accepted and respected us for all time (Hebrews 10:14).

But we don’t believe this. It doesn’t make sense to our worldly minds. If we aren’t accepted by our peer group, we aren’t acceptable. If we aren’t highly respected by our church, we aren’t highly respected. People become the determiners of our worth – and that is dangerous because it’s a lie.

Many of us fear the opinions of people more than the opinion of God. God warns us that this is not good when he says to us, “The fear of man brings about a snare” (Proverbs 29:25). Certainly God uses the respect and acceptance of people to help us realize how much he accepts us- but not as a substitute for depending on his acceptance.

Because the old thinking is still a part of our lives, we can feel devastated when people reject our offers to serve, befriend, or lead. We believe the old thinking that their approval is necessary for our importance.

How to Face It

When facing rejection, it helps to realize that we will never be rejected.  We can have our qualifications rejected by people, but we are always accepted and special to God (1 Peter 2:9).

When we are hurting, we need to identify the lies that we are believing. In my case, is it true that leading a small group is necessary for fulfilling my calling of helping people connect to God in deeper ways? Or is it true that if I don’t lead a small group I’m not doing important work? Or is it true that if God does not use me to lead a small group now, that he never will? I have identified all three of these beliefs as lies.

A final thought about how to have the courage to face rejection is to focus on doing God’s will. If we discern that he wants us to start a small group, take on a new responsibility at work or cut back on activities outside the home to focus on the family, we need to do it. You may say, “But I will be rejected by people who are important to me. People who I look to to tell me who I am.”

But comfort is not our goal. “Well done, good and faithful servant” is. Rejection hurts. But God says, “Rejection will hurt for awhile, but your obedience to Me is producing for you an eternal reward far greater than the cost of rejection” (2 Corinthians 4:17, paraphrased).

 

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I seem to have a hard time accepting things I can’t change. I keep rehashing the past to try to change it so that today will be different.

What I have a hard time accepting is that I can’t change the past. What’s happened has happened and I need to accept it.

I had a recent ministry and a childhood home that I wish had been different. But it wasn’t. Now I need to accept the past that I can’t change, learn from it, and move on. No amount of hindsight and rehashing will change it. Otherwise, I will remain stuck in my grief, hurt, and anger. I will continue to heal as I accept what I can’t change, pardon the guilty, and expect that God will eventually bring good from it.

Why It’s So Hard

I think one of the big reasons that we don’t accept what we can’t change is that we want the past to be different. We want to call the shots. We get angry when God works or allows things to go differently. Dang it! We want to be God!

For example, when we’re hurt, we often want to take the law into our own hands and hurt those who hurt us. But God says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19).

This makes it hard to accept the hurt because God doesn’t want us to overcome evil with evil. Instead, he wants us to overcome it with good (Romans 12:21).

Another reason it’s hard to accept hard truth is that we are immature. We still harbor fantasies of greatness and grandiosity that run up against hard facts that we can’t change. We have limits on our I.Q., opportunities, and energy that we often refuse to accept because they interfere with our dreams of pleasure and ego.

Another reason we fail to accept what we can’t change is that daily reality is not what we want it to be. For example, it’s hard to accept the fact that without God, we can do NOTHING of eternal value (John 15:5).

But we don’t like that truth. We love living the fantasy of being the Captain of our Ship, the Master of our Destiny. It feels good! But it’s a lie.

Can we accept what we can’t change, that we need God to succeed in life? Or will we stay stuck in feeling good but deceiving our self by a whirlwind of activity that is a waste of time (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)?

What a sad result for failing to accept what we can’t change.

What’s Helpful

So, what would help us to accept what we can’t change?

One thing that is helpful is to know that our circumstances were allowed by God – and he has promised to work them for good. Rather than viewing the pain of the past with anger and regret, accept it and expect God to bring good from it.

Paul rejoiced in his painful situations because he knew that they would bring him closer to God. “Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Would we be who we are today without some of those things we’d love to change?

Another thing we can do is to avoid comparisons. For example, it would’ve been nice if my childhood home had been as loving as my son and daughter-in-law’s home is that they are creating for their kids. But it wasn’t – and that will never change. I need to get over it. I need to grieve the past, forgive who needs forgiveness, rejoice in the good, and make lemonade out of lemons.

A final thought is that painlessness has never been God’s goal for us – godliness has. God says, “Better to be godly than comfortable and immature” (Proverbs 15:16, paraphrased). As we move forward in life, may we use the Serenity Prayer to accept what we can’t change.

The Serenity Prayer 

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.  

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It Takes Courage

I admit that to some extent I am a timid person. I am afraid of heights, do not have any desire to skydive, and never mastered the art of speaking calmly to a large audience.

I have also struggled with many other fears, pains, and scary circumstances in life.

But in the process of living my life, I’ve developed a lot of courage.

What’s courage and why do we need it?

What Courage Is

Courage is our ability to do something that scares us or causes us great pain because it’s the right thing to do. It is not being fearless. It’s our commitment to do God’s will at all costs, which could be losing our head, as some have.

Why We Need It

We need courage to live the life that God intends for us. For example, as Joshua was about to enter the Promised Land and conquer it God commands him to be strong and courageous. Why?

Because it was scary and dangerous to conquer the Promised Land. Many fighting men would be tempted to give up and retreat. They needed a leader who followed God into the heat of battle where death and injury often happened.

And our life also has many dangers and pains in it. God promises it will. “In the world you will have tribulations” (John 16:33). How can we live for the will of God if instead we are guided by our fears and comfortable circumstances?

When I was going through a particularly difficult and confusing time several years ago, my main beacon of light was determining what the responsible thing to do was. Then, I asked God for the courage to do it. It was not finding what felt good or what was easy.

An example from that time was the problem of resting. I usually didn’t feel good when I rested. But I needed to rest, even though I felt guilty and sad because I wasn’t accomplishing anything. But I courageously learned to rest because it was the responsible thing to do.

So, how do we get courage?

How We Get It

One thing we can do to get courage is to act courageous–to face our fears. The opposite thing to do is to run away or avoid them.

I have seen the consequences of acting cowardly, both in my own life and in organizations. There are serious consequences when we don’t act courageously in the face of danger and pain. In my case, I burned out keeping busy until I courageously learned to rest.

Another key to acting courageously is to live in the reality that God is always with us and helping us to do his will. If only we will rely on him. “Don’t be afraid, I will help, strengthen and uphold you. Only rely on Me” (Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 11:6, paraphrased).

A third thing we can do to acquire courage is to be filled with the Spirit. We need to learn how to live in the power of the Spirit. Then we will be courageous. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV).

A final suggestion in acquiring courage would be to reflect on God’s help in other difficult times in our life. Part of David’s courage to face Goliath came from his reflection on God’s faithfulness to help him in the past to face the dangers of both lion and bear (1 Samuel 17:32-50).

So, are we going to choose to be courageous?

Remember the old saying, “ A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero dies but once.” A courageous person is a hero.

May we choose to be courageous. May we have the courage to do all of God’s will, even when it’s scary and hurts.

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Wait for the Proper Time

I sought the girl of my dreams for many years. After all, I was in my twenties and it seemed the proper time to get a wife before all the good ones were taken. Even though deep within me I questioned if I was ready for marriage, I still dated a lot and tried to find the right one.

Then, one day I became a Christian. Shortly after this, I was challenged to give up pursuing girls for two years and to focus on getting to know God. It wasn’t the proper time to focus on dating and marriage.

I considered the challenge and liked the idea. Pursuing relationships with girls had become very frustrating for me because I never seemed to be satisfied with what I got or was scared when I did.

Finally, five years later, I found the girl of my dreams and wanted to get married. But a friend cautioned me, “It’s not the proper time. She’s not ready.”

So, with all the strength I could muster from the Lord, I continued to court her and wait for the proper time.

A few months later, as I was departing for two and one-half months back east to finish a master’s degree, she told me that she most likely would not miss me. She explained that she tended to be an “out of sight, out of mind person.” She felt compelled to tell me this because I had told her several times that I would miss her.

I was devastated. I shot up a quick prayer and reminded the Lord, “This whole courtship thing was your idea. Now, look at the mess you’ve got me into. I can’t go any further in this relationship unless you change her feelings towards me.”

As I drove east, God began answering my prayer in a mighty way (within 5 minutes after I left) to change her feelings and help her realize how much I meant to her. It would be two weeks later before I learned of her change of heart (this was before cell phones and texting).

At last, the wait was over!

It was the proper time for love and eventually marriage! Thirty-seven years of a good marriage later I see clearly why this was the proper time.

How We Know the Proper Time

But how do we know when it’s the proper time for what we want? Why do we often think that NOW is the proper time when it’s not?

Sometimes we know that now is not the proper time because it violates God’s clearly stated command as Saul did when he made an inappropriate sacrifice because he chose not wait for the proper time (1 Samauel 13).

Other times we can know it’s the proper time when we apply biblical principles to our situation. For example, the biblical principle, “Prepare your work outside, and make it ready for yourself in the field; afterwards, then, build your house” (Proverbs 24:27), can be applied to establishing our self in a career before we take on a wife and family.

I applied this verse a few days ago in counseling a man I’m mentoring regarding marriage. I advised him to wait for the proper time because he doesn’t even have a job yet. Besides, he is still getting grounded as a Christian.

A third way we can discover if it’s the proper time is to remember that there is a proper time. Throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that he not only wills certain things for us, but also brings them into our life at the proper time. “There is a time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing” (Ecclesiastes 3:5).

Just because we don’t have the woman of our dreams now, or are not reaping a harvest of blessings, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. God encourages us with “Don’t give up, for I will bless you at the proper time, if you don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9, paraphrased).

How We Keep From Giving Up

One thing we can do is to accept God’s rule in our life. He’s the boss and although we may strongly disagree with him about the proper time, we choose to humble our self under his powerful hand. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6).

Another thing we need to know is that often God’s blessings come through a long and challenging process. We need to endure the wait, continue to pursue his promised blessings, and follow him step by step (Luke 8:15).

A third thing that can keep us from giving up is to learn to rest in him. We need to learn to say to God, “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15).

 

 

 

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Whose Honor Do You Seek?

In recent years I have grown to realize that only actions I’ve taken to further God’s honor will have lasting value. Also, I have grown to realize that often when I think I am pursuing God’s honor, I am seeking a lot of my own honor too.

As I reflected on this, I recalled one of my favorite stories that illustrate a time when I did seek God’s honor above mine.

I had recently given my colonel notice that I would be getting out of the Air Force in six months. This notification was necessary to give the Air Force time to train my replacement.

I had also become a Christian four months earlier, and was proud of it.

One of my duties in the Air Force was to manage a part of the performance of a large aerospace company who provided considerable engineering services to the development and testing of the Minuteman Missile program.

But the company didn’t like me. One of the big reasons was because I gave them a hard time when they sought to spend money out of my budget. I hated wasting government money and often I felt that they were more interested in spending government money than giving the Air Force a good product.

So, one night they tried to get me fired. After dinner three of them tried to talk the Colonel into firing me, with me sitting at the table.

They said to the Colonel, “You can’t trust him, he’s getting out in a few months. He won’t work hard.”

I felt anger and blurted out,” Oh yes he can! I’m a Christian.”

Then one of them said, “So what? Carl’s one too (one of the three men at the table).”

Without batting an eye, I said, ”Well, he certainly doesn’t act like one.”

Carl melted into his chair.

The Colonel didn’t fire me that night but trusted me to make good on my promise to do a good job for him because I was a Christian. I had no other reason to work hard.

After that night, I went to work with more determination and energy that I had ever had had before. And good things begin to happen. I stayed in budget, several engineering projects were completed, and a number of other projects went well.

At one point, the Colonel questioned me about changing my mind about getting out of the service because I was working so hard.

As my time in the Air Force drew to a close, he honored me with the Commendation Medal for meritorious service.

As I reflect on this experience, I sensed the main reason that this very challenging job turned out so well, was that God was helping me because I did it to honor him. I did it in the name of being a Christian, not for self-glory. I had no idea that there was even such a thing as a Commendation Medal.

Also God says, ”I honor those who honor Me (1 Samuel 2:20).

So, may this true story encourage us to seek God’s honor in all that we do this year.

Why Honor God?

Who else should we honor, ourselves? “What do you have that you did not receive, but if you received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Whatever we have that would move us to honor ourselves is a gift from God anyway. “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17).

We honor God simply because he deserves to be honored and wants to be honored for who he is and what he has done for us.

How We Do It

So, how do we honor God? Go to church every week? Try to be a good Christian?

He says to us, “Do what I want you to do. Be different; be like Me (1 Peter 4:2, paraphrased).

He also says, “You don’t need to honor yourself, because I have already honored you because you are my child (Isaiah 43:4, paraphrased; Romans 8:18).

Finally, we honor God by growing spiritually and giving love to others. Jesus says, “This is my Father’s [honor], that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8, NIV).

So, are we “seeking great things for [ourselves]? Do not seek them, for behold I am going to bring disaster on all flesh” (Jeremiah 45:5), God warns. The entire honor we seek for ourselves is wasted effort.

However, as we seek to honor God in every task, may we remember that he says, “I honor those who honor Me.”

 

 

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