How many times have you heard someone say something like, “give God your best”? I imagine this elicits similar images for many, a church without spot or wrinkle perhaps. Our basic response might be to put our best foot forward, covering up the mess within, to appear worthy of being counted among the faithful. This, however, seems to conflict with other advice, that we come to God with all of our hurts and pains and bumps and bruises, knowing only He can rebuild our broken lives.
Last year, I sat in on a Father’s Day Sunday-school class that my friend was teaching the middle-school students at our church. He presented a great message about how, as a father, he wanted his sons to come to him with anything, and for anything. I think it’s the desire of all fathers, to be that to our children, a totally open door and inexhaustible resource for everything they need.
In that context, I think I better understand what God would mean if He said, “bring me your best.” Certainly He desires our best service, our best devotion, our best efforts. On the other hand, I hear him also saying, “bring me your best desperation, your best hurt, your best brokenness. Bring me your best anger, your best sadness, your best resentment.” Whatever you’re feeling, feel it completely.
Holding nothing back, bring God your best. Find, in Him, a Father whose love is unfailing, and whose resources are without end.
There aren’t many people I trust without reservation. Perhaps that says more about me than it says about “people”. There’s a troubling lack of firm, consistent standards in our lives. Sadly, the rate by which individuals fall to life’s myriad temptations is seemingly no different among Christian leaders than among people with other beliefs, or lack of.
Problems arise from God using men to deliver the news that His love bridged the distance that separated us, if we can’t be trusted. Men, after all, are the primary vehicle by which He chose to make this truth known. Men are responsible for laying the foundation of all we know God to be, since His Word has been relayed through them. Is it possible, then, that we jeopardize the credibility of these men of God when we, as modern-day “men and women of God”, don’t consider how well or how poorly our example might reinforce their message?
Unfortunately, it’s all-too-easy to lose credibility. We lose credibility as Christians, when we live at odds with one another. We lose credibility with our neighbors, when we live without peace in our homes. Pastors lose credibility when they embellish details of a true story, for the sake of maximizing it’s impact in a sermon. Churches lose credibility when they have a form of godliness, but deny His power. While any one of these things may seem small on their own, together they give the world every reason to not believe.
Our lives are on display. If you profess to be a Christian, people are looking to you for something in which they can believe. The challenge, then, is not to convince people of the truth, but to live according to that truth. When our beliefs translate into convictions that permeate our lives, we can be sure that the credibility of God’s Word will be evident in us.
There are certain things we all just kinda know about God. It’s a different step, however, going from knowing something, to believing it. Then again, there’s a difference when we go from believing something, to allowing it to become a source of faith and strength for our lives.
When reading the Bible chronologically, Psalm 91 is suggested to be read immediately after Deuteronomy. Doing so, places these thoughts just after the death of Moses, because they’re attributed to him. These sentiments are staples of our faith. They’re responsible for restoring the confidence of countless believers, even leaders who feel their call has taken them through hell on earth. The irony is that this confidence is expressed by one whom arguably walked through the driest, most desperate years of service to God (both literally and figuratively). Still, he knew his source of hope and strength.
Psalm 91 was part of my reading this morning. These words aren’t new to me. Yet, somehow, the life they speak is new, refreshing and right-on-time, every time.
1. Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
. will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2. This I declare about the Lord:
. He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
. he is my God, and I trust him.
3. For he will rescue you from every trap
. and protect you from deadly disease.
4. He will cover you with his feathers.
. He will shelter you with his wings.
. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
. nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
. nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7. Though a thousand fall at your side,
. though ten thousand are dying around you,
. these evils will not touch you.
8. Just open your eyes,
. and see how the wicked are punished.
9. If you make the Lord your refuge,
. if you make the Most High your shelter,
10. no evil will conquer you;
. no plague will come near your home.
11. For he will order his angels
. to protect you wherever you go.
12. They will hold you up with their hands
. so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13. You will trample upon lions and cobras;
. you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14. The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
. I will protect those who trust in my name.
15. When they call on me, I will answer;
. I will be with them in trouble.
. I will rescue and honor them.
16. I will reward them with a long life
. and give them my salvation.”
Is it OK to admit that I like eavesdropping on people’s conversations? I really do. I’m not talking about tapping people’s cell phones or anything. I’m talking about just sitting quietly and listening as people converse in public spaces. You can gather some good information, listening to people. You get a sense of the hierarchy within a group of friends by listening. You also discover that, within any group, there’s always a “know-it-all”.
I had a high-school friend whom my dad jokingly referred to as “The Book of Knowledge”. He talked as if he knew a little something about everything. He was usually wrong though, way wrong. Overhearing his conversations could be both entertaining and excruciating. Although no one could possibly know how many people he negatively influenced with his misinformation, you can be sure that his “know-it-all” attitude turned many people off. It usually has a way of doing that. Nobody likes a “know-it-all”.
It’s really all about your attitude and the way you approach conversations. As Christians, it’s undeniable that we’re given the responsibility to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. Still, isn’t there something ridiculous about acting like we’ve even begun to have God figured out? Compared to everything there is to know about Him, we must confess that we know a relatively small amount. This doesn’t exactly give us cause to act like subject-matter experts. I’m not saying we shouldn’t share what God has revealed to us, but we should do it with the right attitude, with humility and in love. God must be experienced. The message you carry is precious. Don’t ruin your opportunity to share it by acting like a “know-it-all”.
I’ve always enjoyed puzzles. I love the feeling of finding a piece that “clicks” in place. It’s the moment when all the searching and trial and error pays off.
Has it been a while since things have “clicked” for you? Sometimes, you reach a point in life when it feels like all your searching and trial and error don’t pay off. Take time to slow down and reset your focus. While you’re busy trying to make all the pieces fit, “The Maker” is trying to show you the big picture. He’s drawing your attention to the details of each piece.
Put first things first. Define your borders. Group similar pieces together. Work on one area at a time. Start with what’s easy. God can help you make things click. It’s amazing how those small victories provide all the encouragement you need to keep pushing towards completion.
We’ve been hearing a lot about change recently at our church. It seems God is calling us both corporately and individually to new things. Sometimes change is sudden and God brings about miraculous transformation in a matter of moments. Often though, change can be a long arduous process that God calls us to play a significant role in.
I was thinking about Noah recently. It would have been easy enough for God to drop an ark full of animals out of the sky when it started to rain and tell Noah and his family to hop aboard. But he didn’t. Instead he called Noah and his family to a decades-long process of building this massive ark. I can only imagine the obstacles to overcome and the highs and lows that Noah must have experienced over that time as He pursued his calling.
Let us take a moment to consider what God has called us to. Does it seem impossible? Does it seem too incredible of a dream to ever come true that you doubt its Divine origin? I believe that God equips and empowers those whom He calls. What tools has God equipped you with to begin the process of change? I know as I begin to take steps to bring about changes God has called me to, I’m thinking about Noah and what it must have been like for him to take that first swing of the ax.
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
Do you ever look at the world and wonder, “why can’t things just work the way they’re intended to”? Everything seems broken: government, schools, families, churches… It’s easy to stand at a distance, casting criticism, excusing ourselves of any personal responsibility to bring change.
It’s hard to be honest about the malfunctioning bits and pieces of our own lives. There may be aspects that are temporarily “out of order”. There are probably even components of our lives that are undeniably broken. Regardless, I think we convince ourselves that everything’s OK, as long as the sum of our parts somehow equals something “good”. There’s a problem with this thinking, however, if you believe you’ve been designed and placed on this Earth for a purpose.
Think about a machine. They’re created to accomplish a specific task. Successful operation requires all components to be fully operational. If something malfunctions, it may be able to limp along for a while. Eventually, though, it’s gonna crash. If just one part of that machine is broken, the sum of it’s parts just equals a broken machine.
It’s important that we allow the Holy Spirit to strip us down to our basic parts, revealing what’s in need of repair. Allow God to fix what’s broken, knowing your wholeness helps repair what’s broken in your family. Healthy families serve to repair what’s broken in churches and schools and government.
Before you lay blame for it’s problems, remember that a broken world is simply an extension of what’s broken in us.
I’m a critical person…a very, very, very critical person. Honestly, I’m just hard on people, much harder than people deserve. The problem? I expect grace from everyone…and I’m critical of others when I don’t get it. There just isn’t any life in that cycle.
These are all difficult admissions, but necessary.
Last Sunday, during worship, our Pastor challenged us to ask God what we need to let go. It took nearly zero nano-seconds for God to tell me that I need to let go of the need I feel to be right. …ouch. Harder than hearing that, I felt like I needed to share this epiphany with my wife. Thankfully, she made it easy…or maybe it was the mild shock my confession induced, as she sat it what I now realize was stunned silence.
I especially feel a need to apply this to the desire to share my understanding of God. He is great, so great. Yet, all I know of Him is only what He has revealed. It isn’t hard to imagine the small fraction of a percent of what glimpse we’ve seen, compared to all He is. What justification, then, does this give me to argue that I’m more right about Him than anyone else? All I can effectively do is live a life that inspires others to see Him for themselves. What better way to live that life, than by showing grace?
His grace, in exchange for my need to be right, sounds like a good deal.
Take a look outside and you’ll see a tell-tale sign of winter, trees awaiting the new growth that comes with spring. It’s all a part of the season. This preparation begins in fall, as they shed their leaves. Why hold on to them anyway? They’re dead, right? Can you imagine seeing a tree, come spring, that chose to hold on to it’s dead leaves? As everything else experiences the refreshing explosion of new life, a solitary tree clings desperately to the crusty emblems of what used to be.
This picture came to mind Sunday morning as a word was spoken about emptying yourself of all that keeps you from receiving the new thing God wants to give you. Why is this easier said than done? What holds that place of importance in our lives: personal possessions, habits, self-perceptions, religious ideologies? Is it an issue of comfort or trust? Do we truly believe these things are ours? Don’t we know that, like dead leaves, it all turns to dust in the end?
There are murmurings of God getting ready to do something new among His people. I can’t shake the feeling that a season of growth and refreshing is coming soon. If you find yourself, in this present season, barren. Stand confidently, with empty hands raised, trusting that new life is around the corner. God may just have you exactly where He intended you to be, in the right place, in the right season. If you’re full and lacking nothing, ask God if there’s true life in the things you hold so dearly. Be willing to respond, if you hear Him telling you to let go.