I spend a few moments every morning reading the news. I have the CNN and USAtoday apps on my phone and I read the headlines and any articles that interest me. This morning I read a few articles and started feeling this anxious, sick feeling in my stomach. The news isn’t very cheery lately and there’s plenty to worry about in this world.
I had to take a few moments and remind myself of some things it’s really easy to forget. And because you might forget them to, I guess we could all benefit from a reminder…
- Nothing that happens in the world is a surprise to God.
- God is in the business of taking catastrophes and evil and turning them into blessings and opportunities. He’s done this all throughout history and he hasn’t stopped in our day.
- I am a child of God and nothing will touch me that isn’t allowed by my Father in heaven. And if he allows it, he has a plan and will walk with me through it.
- Safety is only an illusion. I am not in control and my best efforts to find security will always be temporary and insufficient. My safety and security, and all my hope, is found in Christ alone.
If you worry about all that is going on in our world, if the problems seem big and the solutions seem elusive, if anxiety is burning a hole in your stomach today, print that list out and post it on the fridge. We all need to be reminded from time to time.
[Originally posed at flourishministry.com on 1/24/13]
We all face a lot of critics. It is the rare person indeed who has only friends nearby. Most all of us go through life with a bunch of friends and bunch of critics. I am no exception. That’s why I was very encouraged by a comment that Brene Brown made in her Leadership Summit session on how she handles critics. I’ve pasted it here in her own words from her book, Daring Greatly.
I only accept and pay attention to feedback from people who are also in the arena. If you’re occasionally getting your butt kicked as you respond, and if you’re also figuring out how to stay open to feedback without getting pummeled by insults, I’m more likely to pay attention to your thoughts about my work. If, on the other hand, you’re not helping, contributing, or wrestling with your own gremlins, I’m not at all interested in your commentary. (Brown, Brene (2012-09-11). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (p. 171). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition)
I found that very helpful. If you are “in the battle” of working hard, living outside your comfort zone and trying to make a contribution for the Kingdom of God in a positive, healthy way, I can handle the criticism. But far too many critics are sitting on the sidelines, daring nothing of value and expecting the world to cater to their wishes and needs. Evaluating “who” said it is just as important as evaluating “what” they said. I want to hear from those engaged in the battle side by side with me. The ones on the sidelines are not in my radar anymore.
[This post originally appeared at flourishministry.com on 11/12/13]
I was reading 1 Samuel 8 recently and found it interesting that the same attitudes and desires of the Israelites in this chapter are the same attitudes and desires we struggle with today. In this chapter, the people are worried about the future. Samuel’s sons aren’t following God and caring for his people the way Samuel did. The Israelites are tired of depending on these judges and prophets for leadership. They want a king. Samuel takes this request to God and gets permission to choose a king, but at a cost. The people will find themselves slave to a king and powerless against him. But they insist that’s exactly what they want.
I see several attitudes at work in this passage that you probably recognize in your own life from time to time:
1. The arrogance to assume you know better than God. The nation was created to be a Theocracy, dependent on God alone to rule them and care for them. They felt God’s way wasn’t working for them so they decided to follow their own plan.
2. The arrogance to think that God’s provision and protection wasn’t reliable. They worried that Samuel’s sons weren’t up to the challenge to leading them. And they may have been right. But to go against the plan of God and make up their own plan to meet their needs was dishonoring to God. It assumes that he would have no other way to care for them if Samuel’s sons didn’t. It assumed that he was unaware or uncaring of the future.
3. The arrogance to think that the way the world around them operated was better than God’s way. They wanted a king because that’s what the other nations had. They didn’t want to be different or stand out. They wanted to blend in, to be like the others.
4. The arrogance to think that you can pick and choose your own consequences. Samuel repeated God’s message of warning to them that a king would be costly. But they choose to pursue a king anyway, thinking that those consequences wouldn’t affect them. It’s human nature to think that “it will never happen to me” and that we can alter the natural consequences of the world.
All of these arrogant attitudes are really idolatry; setting our own opinions, wants or desires as more important than God’s. It’s the same old sin Adam and Eve committed in the Garden and we’ve been falling for it ever since.
[This originally posted at flourishministry.com on 10/11/13]
I was reading the book of Luke this week, and came across some interesting things in chapter nine. I’ll just comment on one of them here, but the entire chapter is full of goodness. I encourage you to read through it one day.
Verses 51-56 read,
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.
At some point in Jesus’ ministry on earth, he knew it was time to head to Jerusalem. Going there wasn’t going to be an easy trip for him. He knew what was coming. Jerusalem meant the end was near. Once there, he would go from the high of the triumphal entry to the low of his crucifixion and death. But it was the past marked out for him, and Jesus was the perfect model of obedience to God. And so he went.
Rejected because of their mixed heritage, the Samaritans were no friend to the Jews. Jesus was just as willing to teach, heal and perform miracles for the Samaritans regardless of their status to the Jews. But his steadfast determination to go the holy city of the Jewish people caused them to reject him and he left the town.
I am sometimes surprised by opposition. I take some fumbling steps to obey what I believe is the voice of God and invariably, someone has something to say about it. It isn’t always as overt as the rejection Jesus faced, but it’s obvious nonetheless. And like the disciples, I’m often ready to call down the vengeance of God upon those who oppose me.
I’m humbled by Jesus’ willingness to let them disagree. He chastised the disciples for wanting vengeance and voluntarily left the town to other places. Instead of forcing his own way, protecting his reputation or setting the record straight, he just left.
I think one reason could be that he wasn’t surprised by the reaction. He expected opposition. Jesus had faced it his entire adult ministry and wasn’t taken off guard when it came his way. Once he reached Jerusalem, he faced opposition even by his own disciples, one who betrayed him, one who denied him, and another who doubted him. And handled all those with grace and compassion.
My takeaway from this story is this: when God asks me to obey him, I should expect that opposition could come in some form. And when it does, I should respond with grace and compassion, knowing that God will take care of me and my reputation and will just as lovingly and carefully care for those who oppose me.
I have had period of opposition and I can’t say I enjoy them. But over the years I’ve learned that opposition can have some great positives. In every case I’ve become more sure of what God is asking of me. It’s like the time of opposition refines the vision in a way that peace and ease could not. And I’ve always had the pleasure of seeing God work in me and the situation in amazing ways.
I’ve been learning to respond more graciously. And I hope my days of asking for vengeance as the disciples did are behind me. This short passage was a big help and encouragement for me. When opposition comes again, I pray I’ll handle it more like Jesus than I did the time before. I want to keep getting better as this being Christ-like thing!
[This post originally appeared at flourishministry.com on 12/16/13]
I was working on some things for Sunday School this morning and was thinking back through the discussion time in class this past Sunday. As I was thinking through some things that were said, I have been reflecting on the question, What does God want from me? I know what I want for me. I know what others want from me. But what does God want from me? My thoughts went right to a familiar passage in John 14. In verse 15, he writes…
“If you love me, obey my commandments.”
If Jesus has a love language, I’m pretty sure obedience is it. We show him our love by our obedience. That’s what he wants from us. In a way, that’s very freeing. I don’t have to live to please others, to accomplish all my goals or live up to the expectation placed upon me. I just obey and God takes care of the rest. But, of course, the reality can feel quite different.
As much as obedience to God is the safest course, it’s often the most difficult, least clear or most uncertain path we can take. And obedience always costs us something. It’s been that way forever. Obedience to God cost Jesus his own life. We shouldn’t expect it would be different for us. Something has to die for us to obey. It might be our own goals or plans. It might be our selfishness. It might be that thing we hold most dear. But in every case, obedience will demand something of us.
I’m far enough along my journey of faith to tell you that it always works out. Obedience might be a struggle and it might not go as you planned. But God always works it out in the end. And you can trust him with your life. You can trust him with all you hold closely because he’s trustworthy and faithful.
And of course, we do not do this alone. Obedience would be much more difficult if he didn’t continue on with verse 16 and 17…
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth."
We have a helper, an advocate, who will give us the desire and the ability to obey. The more we cooperate with him, the greater an ally he will be for us. His power is only limited by us. I am so grateful I am trying to obey in my power!!
The day you gave your life to Christ, you signed a full-time ministry employee agreement. A very small percentage of Christians derive their livelihood from a religious institution, so it’s very likely that you work in the educational, legal, medical, financial, or some other industry. But no matter who pays your salary, you’re a full-time employee of the kingdom of God. And wherever you work, that’s your ministry. Whatever you’re good at, that’s your calling. The components of your assignment are the sources of your significance. And there are burning bushes all around you. Every business negotiation is an opportunity for Christ to shine through you. Every teachable moment with your children is a bright spot in the making. Everywhere you set your foot is potential holy ground. And this concept is the key to effectiveness in the local church.
For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of.…Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack.…This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life.…