Are You Surprised By The Path Of Your Life?

In working on an upcoming message on the Biblical character Moses, one observation about his life is that he certainly found himself in places he never expected to be. He was raised in Pharaoh’s home, although he was an Israelite. God chose him to lead the people out of Egypt, even though he was a murderer and a runaway.

I identify with how I suspect Moses may have felt, looking back at the path of his life.

1. I would never have thought I would be a pastor. (Most who knew me years ago wouldn’t either.)

2. I would never have expected others to look to me for leadership, considering my history.

3. I certainly didn’t expect our church to grow at the pace that it has grown.

4. I could never have imagined the spiritual growth I have seen in my wife and boys.

5. I could have never perceived the struggles life has brought to my family and me.

6.  No one could have described for me the grace God would pour out on my life.

Therefore, let me ask you to reflect with Moses and me by asking you a question:

If you look at your life and where you are today, has God taken you places you never expected to be? How has God surprised you with the path He’s had for you in life?

The Heart of a Believer: Love

This letter is from John the Elder. It is written to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in the truth, as does everyone else who knows God’s truth- 2 John 1 NLT

Let me ask you a question: How are you at loving others? Try not to think about those in your immediate family, your friends, or those who treat you well. Try to think about those who have hurt you the most. How are you at loving them?

If you know God’s truth, then you know that as believers we are commissioned to love…not just those who are loveable, but even the unlovely. Our decision whether to love is not predicated on the other person’s behavior, but on God’s truth that we are to love.

What kinds of people are hardest for you to love?  

Building Right Foundation for Children

The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. (Genesis 8:21 Emphasis mine)  

This is another one of those posts that can make a lot of parents mad, but when raising children it is important to remember this verse.  The intent of person’s heart is evil from childhood.  We don’t have to teach our children to be selfish.  We need to model generous living, because selfishness will come naturally.  We don’t have to teach our children to covet what others have.  We need to model contentment for them, because greed will come easily on its own. 

As parents, we should recognize this fundamental truth about our children. As sweet as we think they are, and they can be sweet, they are born with a natural propensity towards sin.   As parents, we are to disciple them so that their bent towards evil is one day redeemed by grace.  Our job is to plant within them the desire for God and His righteousness so that they will have a changed, saved nature, with a desire to overcome evil with good.

Recently I heard a quote on a movie (don’t remember which one).  “Two things we give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” I think that quote captures the essence of parenting.  We must give children deep enough roots so when their wings carry them away they are ready to face the world.  

Here’s a tough but great question for evaluation:  Is your parenting intentional to build the right foundation for your children so they will be prepared for life or are you simply feeding their “natural” tendencies?  In other words, are you more concerned about giving them what they want or leading them with what they need? 

(I told you…tough question. Someone needs to ask it.)  

Quick Strategy To Have a Less Stress-Filled Week

I have shared this strategy a lot.  When you are facing one of those stress-filled weeks try this:  

1.     Take index cards and write on each one what you are most concerned about this week.  (one concern per card)  

2.     Lay them face up on a table in front of you and share them with God.  He knows them better than you do, but do it anyway.  

3.     Pray something like this, “God, this is what I have before me this week and I can’t handle it all.  I’m asking you as my Father, who loves me more than I can imagine, to give me direction, success, wisdom, patience and understanding in every area of my life.  Lead me along the path you would have for me.  I’m trusting completely in you.  If this week is a success it will depend on you.  I love you Lord. In Jesus name, Amen”.  

4.     Do the best you know how to do, but leave the stress of the week in God’s hands. 

Please understand this is not a formula for success. I don’t believe those exist in any relationship and God is certainly not defined by my prayers.  This is, however, based on Hezekiah’s actions in response to receiving a letter that threatened his entire kingdom.  (2 Kings 19:14-19).  I have tried this numerous times and God always responds.

Sometimes that response has been to relieve me of all my stress.  Most of the time, however, this process has helped me refocus and feel a sense of calm among my circumstances knowing that my God is ultimately in control. 

Try this as you begin your week and see what happens.  

5 Ways To Help Determine if Your Plans are God’s Plans

I received an email from an Internet friend via my other ministry site (www.mustardseedministry.com) asking me how I determine if what I am doing is within the plans God has for me.  Here’s my quick reply to him for knowing you are within God’s plans for your life: 

1.     Does what you are doing (or planning to do) conflict with Scripture?

God’s will never will.

2.     Does what you are doing conflict with the counsel of others?  

God uses others to confirm His will.  (Don’t be confused though, because sometimes God calls us to go against the grain of life and walk by faith when everyone is saying we are crazy.  See Noah about that one.)

3.     Does what you are doing conflict with the spirit within you?  

God has sent His Holy Spirit as a helper.  He will guide us with an inner peace or a holy unrest.  

4.     Does what you are doing conflict with your life experience?  

God uses our experiences in life to teach us and mold us to His will.  Again, don’t be confused, because He usually stretches us out of our comfort zone also. 

5.     Does what you are doing conflict with your passion for life?  

God tends to work with the things that fuel our fire.  He loves when we are energized for the tasks He calls us to. 

Try those 5 together and see how they line up with your plans.  

If We Show Them Love…

Here are a couple of verses I have read many times, but today they made more sense than ever before.  At least how I’m interpreting them.    

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.  (Psalm 62:11-12)

I think what the Psalmist is saying is that God had shared His love with Him.  God had literally said, “I love you.”  He has to us also. Throughout the Bible we can see God telling His people and the world of His great love.  One famous verse, of course, tells us that “God so loved the world…. that He sent His son…”  (You probably know that verse!)  The Psalmist had heard others talk about God’s great love too!  It’s hard not to talk about such Amazing Grace! 

At the same time, the Psalmist had heard about God’s strength, yet God had never said to him, “I am strong!”.  God never bragged about His power.  I suppose He never had to.  When you can part the sea, raise the dead and put stars in the sky, you don’t have to convince people you have muscles. 

It also seems that Jesus lived His life that way as well. He was always telling of His love, but He never seemed to brag about His strength, but news of His love and strength spread quickly throughout the world at the time. 

I wonder if there is a lesson there for us as well, as leaders and as the church.  As we strive to be like Jesus, maybe we don’t need to brag about or even share with others how big, how powerful and wonderful we are.  Perhaps we just need to tell others how much we love them. News of that, and our majestic acts, will spread quickly without our help. 

Just a thought.  

(I realize the concept of a phrase or word being repeated in the Bible gives it double emphasis.  I love how a passage, though it has only one meaning, may have numerous applications.)  

The Dilemma of the Church

There is a passage of Scripture, which has been a favorite of mine for years.  It’s one I don’t understand completely, but it’s one that gives me great comfort at the same time.  It is also a dilemma the church has faced for many years. 

Here’s the passage:

In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:

       a righteous man perishing in his righteousness,

       and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.

Do not be over-righteous, neither be over-wise—why destroy yourself?

Do not be over-wicked, and do not be a fool—why die before your time?

(I love that is says, “Do not be over-righteous or over-wise”, because I can do that!) 

My church faces that battle.  So does yours if you honestly live according to the Bible.  The battle between legalism and grace is always difficult.  Are we to live holy and righteous lives? Absolutely.  Are we to be in the world and friends of sinners? If we want to be like Jesus we should.   Does God forgive us when we sin?  Thankfully.  Finding the delicate balance between those two extremes is difficult.

The reason the church has set standards for years is to help us live lives that more closely represent Christ.  The problem is that most of the time we struggle to keep our own rules. 

But here is the part that pulls it all together, but also leaves me wondering exactly how to do it:

It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.  (Ecclesiastes 7:15-18) 

I suspect I will spend the rest of my life trying to live that verse.  

How To Recover from Failure

In my personal ministry, sadly, I experience people more at their moments of failure than in their moments of success.  As an optimist, I plan for success.  I believe God desires success for His people. As a realist, I see failure all around me.  I believe God allows failure and uses it to draw us closer to Him and to teach us valuable insights into our characters and into the character of God Himself.   Failure has been a part of my life (a big part) and it is prevalent in the lives of the most of the successful people I know.  Therefore, we must learn how to recover from failure.   

 

Here are a few things to remember after and during your moments of failure.   

 

·         Take time to rest after your failure, but do not sit still for long.  Idleness often leads to temptations and worry. (I almost used another cliché’ involving idleness and the devil, but decided not to.)  Do something, even if it is volunteer work. 

·         Know that not everyone is talking about you, even if it may feel that everyone is. 

·         If people are talking about you, it will not last long until the new “failure of the month” comes along.

·         Take some time to re-evaluate what led to your failure.  Accept fault where appropriate and do not be too proud to say you made a mistake.

·         Learn from your mistakes and build safeguards in your life to keep from repeating the same ones.   

·         Keep your mind and body healthy.  Read, exercise, pray, and think.  It is important to stay fresh for your next opportunity. 

·         Begin to dream new dreams and set new goals.  (These goals can be the same goals you had before you failed if you are willing to take a risk on them again.) 

·         Make a decision in your heart to rise from your failure.  Prove to those who thought you could not (or at least you thought that is what they were saying) that you can succeed.  More than that prove it to you! 

·         Allow failure to make you stronger and better. 

What Language Are You Speaking?

Some people speak a language they share with the group of people who have a similar lifestyle, occupation or interest.  They use code words, anacronyms and phrases that only those within the group understand. Living in a military town, for example, I often hear a phrase like “he’s with the 82nd Airborne Division”, which to us civilians means????  Being married to an accountant wife means that having a tax conversation with her involves me knowing certain form numbers such as “W4 and W2”.   We tend to indoctrinate ourselves with the language and culture of the people we hang around, work with, and from whom we learn. 

 

Here is a short, random list of examples of people who speak a separate language. Feel free to add your own.

 

Accountants

Military

Physicians

Teachers

Christians

Pastors

Sports fans

Musicians

Techies

Cooks

 

Here is the reason this issue matters to us. It is perfectly okay and perhaps even necessary to have the language within a defined group of people.  It expedites the process and builds commonality and loyalty, but if we are not careful, we will alienate people outside our “group” who do not understand our language.  If we want to help people understand who Christ is and what He means to us, then we have to realize that not everyone understands what it means to be “growing in the Lord”. 

What phrases can you think of that Christians (or other groups) use that would be hard to understand outside the “group”? 

A Dog’s Christmas!

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. Romans 8:19 NIV

Most of us have a nativity set sitting around for Christmas. If your nativity set is like most I’ve seen, you no doubt have a few animals sitting around it. There may be a cow or two, a sheep, even a camel if it is a fancy set! Of course, Joseph and Mary placed Jesus in a manger, which is a feeding troth for animals, so there certainly would have been an animal or two close to the scene.  I wonder if the nativity scene were to take place in modern day America if there may be a puppy dog nearby.  (My yorkie dog would have loved the baby Jesus!)

It shouldn’t surprise us that animals may have witnessed the birth of the Christ child. Jesus was the Creator. He was with God from the very beginning, planning each intricate part of Creation. All creation, with the exception of man, naturally glorifies the Creator by unconditional obedience. A cow does as a cow is supposed to do. A camel is a camel is a camel. You don’t have to train a bird to tweet, it does as it was created to do.

The creation waits in eager expectation for God’s Son to be revealed! This was the Creator! This was their Master, the Inventor of life!

I once read a story about a mother who found her nativity scene continually disrupted.  She would enter the room to find all the pieces in one big pile. She would straighten it, only to find it messed up a few hours later. One day she witnessed her daughter piling the pieces together. When questioned, the little girl replied, “Mommy, it’s Christmas! Everyone wants to be real close to Jesus!”

It’s Christmas! Don’t be surprised that the animals were present at Jesus birth! And keep them close in your nativity! Creation is praising its Creator!

And don’t be surprised if you see a smile on a animal or two on Christmas day!