Your Doubts are NOT Your Problem: Unbelief Is

We are in a new series at Grace Community Church called Outsiders, looking at some characters in the Bible who aren’t as well known as other characters, yet who made huge impacts to the Kingdom.  Yesterday I spoke about the disciple Thomas. Though some know him as Doubting Thomas, I prefer the title I have also heard by which I’ve also heard him referred, Thomas the Believer.  In this message, I address the bottom line that doubts are not the major problem for a believer, unbelief is.  Ultimately we must go from doubts to a solid foundation of faith; that God is who He says He is and will do what is best in our life.

If you wish to view this message, here it is in it’s entirety.

For an audio version of this message, click HERE.

I also shared that some people are more naturally wired to doubt (some may even say worry), because of their personality.  Would that describe you? Be honest!

How Will This Decision Impact Others?

If we want to build a healthy community and strong relationships, we have to learn to think beyond ourselves…

Let’s face it…we live in a very selfish society…

Scripture is clear, however, that the role of a believer is to consider the interest of others, even before we consider our own. Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3…emphasis mine)

Before we make decisions, a good practice is to ask ourselves “How will this decision impact others?”

If I buy this…
If I control this…
If I say this…
If I allow this…
If I park here…
If I wear this…
If I post this…
If I ignore this…
If I pull out now…
If I ________(What else would you add?)…

Part of loving God and loving others is considering others interests as we make decisions.

In what ways do you need to think beyond yourself?

The Emotional Health of the Leader Impacts the Organization

Are you an empty leader?

Be honest.

It’s hard to lead others when you are getting your butt kicked. (Excuse the word, but I think it is needed here if that is how you are feeling.) When your world is crashing in around you, you’ll be less prepared to lead well.  When the stress and anxiety of your world is heavier than the strength you have to lead, you will find yourself treading backward more than forward.

Empty leaders begin to shut others out of decision making, for fear of being discovered as being empty.  Has that started happening to you?

The empty leader rarely sees much progress.  Is that your story these days?

The emotional health of a leader is of utmost importance to the health of the organization.

If you are an empty leader, get yourself together…rebuild your confidence, rediscover your purpose, renew your relationship with Christ, and then lead with everything you’ve got…the healthy side of you!

Please know that if you need a prayer, a suggestion, or some help thinking, that’s one of the purposes of this blog. If I can’t help, I’ll try to point you to someone who can.

Have you had times when you knew you were unhealthy emotionally while leading? What did you do to regain your health?

Have you worked for an unhealthy leader? How was (or is) the organization impacted?

When and How Did You Become Disciplined for Spiritual Growth?

Nate asked me an important question this weekend.  He asked, “When and how did you become disciplined in spiritual growth?”  That’s a great question.  I wish I could say I was most excellently disciplined, but I’m not…just disciplined.  I wonder though if some of you may be equal curious as to the answers to this question.

I first got serious about becoming a student of God’s Word and having daily time with Christ in my mid-twenties.  I wish it had happened earlier. I grew up in church, but it wasn’t until then that I really took my walk more serious than a Sunday routine.

As to how I disciplined myself, which may be the more important answer, that really has a two-part answer.

  • I developed a passion for spiritual growth. The bottom line for most of us is that we are only going to do those things we want to do.  For me, thanks to the encouragement of a pastor at the time, I gained a sincere desire to know Christ more; serious enough that I was willing to discipline myself to do it.
  • I found a system that worked for me. At first, I didn’t remember to tell Nate about this one, but it was an equally important part I believe in me becoming a self-learner.  Many people have a desire, but they never come up with the system that will accomplish the desire.  I found a system that fueled my passion, but also kept me disciplined enough to follow through each day.  I haven’t kept the same system I had then continually, but I know even today that without one I’m less likely to be disciplined in spiritual growth.  (I once wrote about that system HERE.)

There’s my answer to when and how I became disciplined in spiritual growth.  What’s your answer…or is this a question for which you still need to work on finding an answer?

I encourage you to start today!

Questions about Spiritual Growth

We love our community group that meets in our home (or someone’s home) each week. We had a great discussion recently in one of our meetings.

These are the questions our small group considered. We had a great time talking about them…a few tears were shed…we had some great laughs…and I think we thought through our relationship with God a little more. Perhaps the questions will make you think.

1. What person has most encouraged you in your spiritual growth?
2. What event/activity/season of life caused your spiritual life to grow the most?
3. At what period of your life would you describe as the time when you were closest to God?
4. What changes would you have to make in your life now in order to grow more spiritually?

How would you answer these questions?

Our discussion centered with the fact that we need to see our closeness to God as more of a relationship than a religion. In religion, we have a list to check and complete, but in a relationship, we wrestle through the highs and lows of various degrees of intimacy. When we treat the relationship as something of value, we are more likely to intentionally work to protect and develop the relationship.

Are you more likely to see your closeness with God in terms of a religion or a relationship?

Jeremiah 18, Part 9

Then the LORD said, “Has anyone ever heard of such a thing, even among the pagan nations? My virgin Israel has done something too terrible to understand! Does the snow ever melt high up in the mountains of Lebanon? Do the cold, flowing streams from the crags of Mount Hermon ever run dry? Jeremiah 18:13-14 NLT

When my son was little he loved to pretend. One of his favorite characters was Superman. He had a red cape, red boots, and a Superman t-shirt. He could run around the house, jump off the coffee table, and even hold his eye a certain way and pretend to have x-ray vision. As hard as he tried, however, he was never Superman. He couldn’t fly. He didn’t have strength of steel and he didn’t really have x-ray vision. I tried to encourage him, but the whole time He was just Nathaniel pretending to be something he wasn’t. He was playing.

You and I were created by God to obey God. We were created to bring God glory. That’s who a believer is really designed to be. We weren’t created to run away from God’s plan in disobedience. We are given freedom, and we often use that freedom wrongly, but that isn’t God’s plan for His children. When we sin, we are walking away from God’s ultimate design for the life of a child of God.

If you are a Christian who is walking contrary to God’s plan for your life, you are only imitating a person who does not know Christ, but that is not the real you. Simply put, you are pretending to be someone you are not. You have been set free from the power of sin in your life and no longer have to be held captive by your past, but you are living contrary to who you were designed to be.

If you are a Christian, why not quit the pretense, drop the costumes, and get in on the life that God intended for you? Start acting like whom you really are; a child of God, bought with a price, born again for a purpose of glorifying God. Start being like Jesus!

When you sin, isn’t there a part of you that realizes it’s no longer who you really are supposed to be?

Jeremiah 18, Part 7

“Therefore, Jeremiah, go and warn all Judah and Jerusalem. Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: I am planning disaster against you instead of good. So turn from your evil ways, each of you, and do what is right.” Jeremiah 18:11 NLT

As a follow up to yesterday’s devotional, sometimes God allows plans to change during the course of our life, but His end goal for our life will be accomplished. Throughout the course of our life, regardless of what happens to us, God is in ultimate control. When God told the Israelites that He was planning disaster against them, that wasn’t His ultimate end plan for His people, but rather something God was allowing so that He could work in the life of His people towards His end goal.

If you are in a difficult situation right now, God has allowed it. I wish I could sugarcoat that fact, but I cannot. God is in control. Sin in your life may have welcomed God’s discipline, trying to get you back on the right course for your life. . You may have done nothing wrong and your situation may simply be the result of living in a fallen world. God may be strengthening your faith through the trial and you’ll later understand His reasoning, but whatever the reason you are suffering, God allowed it. God’s sovereignty is going to work everything for good in your life through the trial. Additionally, even though you may not currently understand how He could, God is going to use this time for His glory and to accomplish His end goal for your life.

The best you and I can do when going through difficult times is to cling closer and stronger to God during the hard times. Trusting Him through the hardest times of life is called faith. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. When faith is displayed…God must surely smile!

Have you noticed your faith growing more during the hard times than the good times of life?

Jeremiah 18, Part 6

If I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, but then that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned. And if I announce that I will build up and plant a certain nation or kingdom, making it strong and great, but then that nation turns to evil and refuses to obey me, I will not bless that nation as I had said I would. Jeremiah 18:7-10 NLT

Is this the same God talking that also said, “I the Lord do not change!”? Does God really change His mind? And, if God’s Word says that He has plans to bless and prosper me, will He change His mind on that as well? Can I really depend on a God who would change His mind?

To understand this passage, you must put it into context with the entirety of Scripture. Scripture should always interpret Scripture. First, God is Sovereign. Scripture is clear that God is overall in control. In the end, God wins every time. It is also important to understand that God has an ultimate plan and He is working all things towards that plan. What happens in between now and the completion of that plan is where God is sometimes “flexible”, for lack of a better term. God’s overall plan will not have changed in the end, but He may allow some altering of the path towards reaching the completion of His end plan.

I know that is confusing, so let me illustrate it like this. If you were to leave my house in Tennessee and head to my mother’s family in Kansas, there are several routes you could take to get there. Ultimately one route is probably best, but you could get there from several directions. In accomplishing God’s end goal for our life, God sometimes allows different courses of reaching that end goal.  God will even allow us to take turns that are not really His best plan for us. In that way, God has allowed His plan to be altered, but the overall end plan remains the same.

You and I may never fully understand how God has a sovereign plan and yet He allows us to make individual decisions for our life, but both are true in Scripture.  In the end, when this life is over, God’s plan for our life will succeed. Our best course of action today is to seek and get in on that plan!

For more thoughts on this concept, read THIS POST.

Jeremiah 18, Part 5

Then the LORD gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. Jeremiah 18:5-6 NLT

I’m not going to ask today if you agree with what God is allowing or doing in your life right now, but I do want to ask this question, will you give Him permission to do it? A better question might be, does He have the right to do it?

My son made a sand castle once at the beach. I thought he did a super job with it. People would pass it by as they walked the beach and comment how good it was. He wasn’t happy with it, so he smashed it and started over. I didn’t stop him. It was his sand castle.

God made you. He shaped your life. He’s been in control of every moment of your life. He hasn’t caused all the bad things that have happened to you.  Many of those happened simply because we live in a messed up world, but He certainly had to allow them and will choose to use them for an ultimate good if you allow Him to do so.  He has a plan for your life. He knows what He wants you to look like in the end. The question of this post is: Doesn’t He have a right to do with His creation as He chooses?

If you aren’t happy with your life right now, I want to encourage you to talk with your Creator. Tell Him your concerns.  Ask Him for changes that line up with His desires for your life. He may allow them but, always keep in mind, if God says “No”, the ultimate role of a follower of Christ is to accept His will for your life. He made you and has a right to shape what He made.

If you could ask God to change one are of your life, what would it be?
(I will conclude this series next Monday through Friday.)

Jeremiah 18, Part 3

So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. Jeremiah 18:3 NLT

This verse reminds me of countless others in the Bible where men obeyed the command of God, simply because He is God. “Noah did just as the Lord commanded” (Genesis 6:22) for example. We can read similar verses about Moses, Abraham, Joseph and Mary, the disciples, Paul and others. God is still looking for people like Jeremiah who will obey God and do what He commands. I have always suspected that God knew the hearts of the people He spoke to enough to know what their response to His command would be prior to asking them to obey.

If you want to hear from God, you will have to do what God commands. You’ll have to let God’s path be your path. You’ll have to quit resisting His prompting and surrender to the will of God. God works through people who will give up their selfish motives and humble themselves to God. I believe even today He is looking for that kind of heart in people.

If you are trying to hear from God on an issue, examine your life to see if you are walking in obedience to God’s commands, as best as you know how today. Then examine your heart to see if you will continue to be obedient, regardless of what He asks you to do. If you aren’t sure, consider these questions. If God told you to do something that would cause you to have to give up your plans, would you still obey? If God called you to let go of something of great importance to you, even though you may not want to do so, would you still obey?

God speaks and works through people with this kind of heart.

What is something God has asked or encouraged you to do that was difficult at first to do? (Sharing your story will encourage others.)