Be Prepared

In a Bible study, we were talking about the old cartoons where the character has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Someone pointed out that you never have to invite the devil to whisper in your ear, but you have to be more diligent to commune with the Holy Spirit. The more you try to do God’s will, the louder the devil will shout, but the Holy Spirit is a still, small voice.

When the children of Israel first came to the Promised Land, they focused on the giants and refused to move forward. They listened to the enemy shouting in their ear that it was impossible instead of the confident voices of Caleb and Joshua who proclaimed that the land was theirs for the taking. Because of this, the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness until that generation had died before they tried again. This time they had Joshua as their leader.

“And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

(Joshua 3:5)

Joshua told the people to prepare themselves mentally and spiritually for the battle ahead because God was about to do a miracle. Not only did they cross the Jordan on dry ground when it was at flood stage, but also they saw the walls of Jericho come crashing down a week later. They merely had to step out in faith to see God at work.

Whenever I try to intentionally persevere at writing, I am always bombarded with doubts, fears, and obstacles. In the past, I let those things get in the way, like the children of Israel staring at the giants. Now I am trying to move forward. The obstacles and the doubts are still there, but my perspective has shifted. I am focusing on God instead of the obstacles. I dipped my toe in the Jordan River, but I have to keep walking if I want to see walls of Jericho fall down.

10 And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. 11 Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.”

(2 Corinthians 8:10-11)

Now is the time to perform what I had willed to do before. In a sermon on James, a pastor pointed out that the biblical equation for success is as follows:

humility + hustle + Holy Spirit.

First, we have to realize that success will only come from God not ourselves, so we shouldn’t boast. We have nothing that was not given to us by God, and any success we might have also comes from Him. Second, we still need to do our part and do the work assigned to us. Waiting on the Lord does not mean sitting down. It means following His timing. Third, it is up to the Holy Spirit what the outcome will be. God decides what success means. What seems small to us may change someone else’s life.

So, let’s be prepared for God to do a miracle by doing the work assigned to us. Let God determine the increase. What we think of as success may not be what God has in mind, but what God has in mind is always better in the long run. Time to hustle.

Stay

Goldie

Probably one of the hardest tricks to teach any animal is “stay.” With cats it is nearly an impossible command to teach because they are independent and stubborn. To stay means to wait for something. When Goldie was young, he finally figured out that if he waited patiently, when I finished with my cereal, I would let him have the remaining milk in the bowl. Meep, on the other hand, has no patience at all. She keeps reaching out and tapping me on the shoulder, pawing at my knee, or even trying to pull the plate or bowl with her paw. It makes mealtimes rather frustrating to say the least.2011-09-26 21.31.06

Psalms 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” Verse six says, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.” Verse 8 goes on to say “I delight to do they will.” God wants our obedience, and sometimes that means waiting instead of doing. For humans, that’s tougher than being asked to go into battle. We only feel like we are making progress if we are moving forward. Standing still and waiting seems like a waste of time, but God isn’t interested in our works; He is interested in our obedience.

In I Samuel 15:22 we find that King Saul did not fully obey God’s command of destroying the Amalekites, including their animals. Saul used the excuse that the people kept the animals so that they could sacrifice them to God. Samuel replies, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” God told him to destroy the animals not to bring them home because they looked good. They destroyed anything that was weak or sick but took the healthy flocks as spoils of the battle. The excuse that they kept them to use as a sacrifice was just a cover for their greed.

Like cats, we want what we want and we want it now. When the command is to wait, we find it hard to be obedient. Like Meep we try to paw or manipulate circumstances to achieve our desire; however, our desire should be to be obedient. When we finally learn to wait in obedience to His Will, then the Lord hears from us and answers our prayer in His time and His way. In the meantime, we can know that God is at work and is present in our lives. If He tells us to wait, then we can know that He means it for our good (Romans 8:28).

So, while you wait, praise the Lord now for what He is going to do in your life. Listen to to this song and maybe it will minister to you as it did me:

Take Courage by Kristene DiMarco

Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey is a song I have sung in church since before I can remember. It’s as familiar as a favorite sweater, but because it is so familiar, it is easy to overlook the words. It is even easier to overlook the meaning of the words much less how they should work out in our daily lives. Trust is easy when the going is smooth and even, the road stretched out clearly before us. Trust is something else altogether when the road is full of curves, the end unseen, and rain coming down so hard you cannot see the next curve until it suddenly appears in front of you.

Passage after passage in the Bible tells the story of people, ordinary people, called to step out in faith and trust and obey. They were asked to do build a boat when there had been no rain, pray fire down on a soaking wet altar, or walk on water. We think how amazing those people were but they are no different than us. They were merely believers who trusted and obeyed. Saying we trust means nothing until we actually obey, actually take a step forward in faith.

To walk out on the water sounds so difficult, but we have to remember Peter was looking at Jesus and hearing his actual voice calling to him. In John 20:29 the Word of God says, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” It takes more faith to trust and obey when you can’t see at all. I was watching Field of Dreams this morning while I was eating breakfast and trying to get motivated. The whole story is one of trust and obedience and not understanding why he was asked to do things that made no sense while his world seemed to be crumbling around him. His obedience is rewarded in a way he never dreamed with the fulfillment of worldly needs (money to pay the mortgage) and spiritual/emotional needs (a chance to make it right with his father).

It is hard to continue to move forward on a path that the world says is not logical or practical. It is hard to trust when bills loom in the distance and we don’t see how it will get paid. We are tempted to fall back into old patterns of trusting on what the world says is the way to go, but God says, “Trust. I am doing something new” (Isaiah 43:19). We will never see God work in glorious new ways if we never step out. God is working in the background for our good (Jeremiah 29:11)we just have to hold tight to the promise and Trust and Obey.

Trust and Obey

Message from God

Communication

I often hear people say that they want a word from God. The problem is not that God isn’t speaking; the problem is a failure to communicate. The communication process requires two parts: send and receive. The website Skills You Need gives the following diagram to explain the communication process:

In 1 Samuel 3:10 we have an example of communication:

 “And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth” (KJV).

The sender (God) sent a message to Samuel by calling his name out loud. Samuel heard his name being called and responded by saying “Speak; for they servant heareth.” Then God gave a message to Samuel. It seems pretty straightforward, but a lot of things can happen in between sending and receiving.

God Speaks Speak

God chooses to speak in a variety of ways. In the example, He spoke to Samuel in an audible voice. While God doesn’t necessarily speak audibly to us today, He does make himself known through a variety of channels: The Word of God (Bible), The Holy Spirit, and other Christians. For example, last week I was trying to decide what my next step should be in a financial situation when I pulled out my Sunday school lesson to prepare to teach. The lesson was on remembering what God has done in the past and continuing to trust God in situations instead of depending on men. It answered my question, not in as much detail as I would like, but it was a response: Trust Him. God also uses modern media. Just this week I was praying about the same issue and I received an email with a blog post that encouraged me that God was still working on the problem for me.

Barriers Road Closed

Remember the “Can you hear me now?” commercial from Verizon? It was all about getting a signal, which is a key to communication. There is an endless supply of things that can attempt to block a message from God. The enemy will try to use distractions, such as a child two rows up fidgeting or making noise through a sermon until you realize that you have no idea what the pastor just said. Another barrier is sin in our lives. Sin hardens our heart and the message can’t penetrate the barrier that we have put up. When we fail to confess sin, it builds a wall that makes communication difficult.

We Listen…or notListen

If the message makes it through the barrier but our receiver is turned off, then we will miss the message. How many times have you had someone say they tried to call you only to realize your phone battery was dead so you missed the call? Like Samuel, we have to be actively listening for God to speak to us. Otherwise, we might miss the message.

Busy Signal?

No Answer

If all of that goes well, what about those times when you are looking for a response and it doesn’t come. It feels like God is ignoring you. Have you ever been waiting for a response to a text only to find out that you had received the answer already in an earlier text but didn’t realize it? Sometimes God does not speak because He is waiting on you to respond to an earlier message. If God has told you to do something, He will not move forward until you are obedient in what He has already told you to do. If a parent says a child can play video games after he cleans his room, then there will be no video games until it is done no matter how much complaining the child does. Is there something God has told you to do that you have refused to be obedient about?

Just like my internet provider always says, before you blame the Provider make sure that all the equipment is turned on and connected properly. God wants to commune with us, but we have to be actively listening and working to keep the lines open on our end. When we do that, the message is sure to come through, often in ways we never imagined. So, keep your eyes and ears (and heart) open for what God has to say.

 

 

The Surety of Adversity

Adversity Flower in Concrete

“Divine comfort is given that a man may be stronger to bear adversities. And temptation followeth, lest he be lifted up because of the benefit.” – Thomas A’ Kempis

Storm WarningI was listening to a CD of devotionals and heard an excerpt from Priscilla Shirer. She was repeating something I had heard her say in the simulcast where I got the CD. The idea that a storm is a given. You are either going into a storm, are in a storm, or are coming out of a storm. In any case, it will pass. Either the state of rest or the storm will pass as you move into the next phase of the cycle. Why? I think the quote above from Thomas A’Kempis spells it out for us.

When we are at rest, we soon forget who we owe the joy of rest and peace. Sometimes we even begin to believe that we earned the blessings we have received. We forget that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17, KJV). Storms come to keep us grounded.

Matthew 6:19-21 says:

 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

MistSometimes we must endure storms and suffer loss so that we will remember that everything on earth is ethereal, a mist that can dissolve as quickly as it came. We are merely passing through this world as well. As Christians our eternal home is Heaven where there will be no need of storms to remind us because we will be in the very presence of God.

How are we to live then, knowing storms will come as long as we walk this earth? Learn to ride the waves as they come. Be joyful in or out of the storms, knowing this too shall pass. Enjoy the blessings with a thankful heart and be thankful that in the storms we have the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Lay up for yourself treasures in Heaven through obedience to God’s Word. Then, as Paul says:

 “11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:11-13, KJV).

 

 

 

Alignment

Garage doorPriscilla Shirer told the story of how she was trying to leave for an appointment one day and her garage door wouldn’t open. They punched every button, tried everything they could think of, but could not get the door open. Eventually, they discovered that one of the lasers had been bumped out of alignment so that it was not connecting properly. Once the laser was bumped back into place, the garage door opened. Do you ever find yourself stuck in the garage trying to get the door open?

I often have dreams where I am trying to get somewhere, but things and people keep Dreamgetting in my way, and I just can’t seem to get where I want to go. I wake up frustrated and irritable. It is often a representation of my real life. I feel stuck in the garage. The door just refuses to open. Maybe it is a case of needing realignment.

GrapesIn John 15:4 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” To be properly aligned, we must abide in Christ. To abide in Christ is to be obedient to His Word, which means we have to take time to read and meditate on the scriptures and then apply them to our lives. In the process, God prunes away whatever keeps us from producing fruit, allowing us to grow spiritually.

If we want the door to open, we need to align ourselves with God’s Word, and then He will open the door to the path He has planned for us. The answer is simple, but it isn’t always easy.  The alignment process may only take a small bump in the right direction, or it may mean a complete overhaul.  However, the process is worth it because it brings you to where you were meant to be. No matter where you are on the spectrum, I think the words of an old hymn sum it up beautifully:

 

Trust and Obey

 

Motivation

We all have the best of intentions of getting up in the morning and getting things done, and then the alarm rings and we groan and roll over. Monday morning…notice I said Monday… I was not ready to get up yet. It was the day after Easter, and the weekend had been busy. I just wanted a few more minutes. As I started to drift off to sleep, the persistent poking of a small paw woke me up. I lifted up the covers, thinking she wanted to join me, but she jumped under and back out again. We repeated this routine a couple of times until I felt something tickle my arm. I sat up and turned on the lamp to find a palmetto bug in my bed. Sassy was chasing it around, which is why she wanted me to move the covers. Let’s just say that motivated me to get out of bed and get said bug out of my bed. Going back to sleep was no longer an option.

As it turned out, I got quite a few things done that morning before work, which made me feel productive and got some things off of my to do list. However, I still had hard time not being aggravated for the ruckus that got me up and moving. I was thankful for the end result even if I would have rather skipped the unsettling events that led up to it. I think God has a way of using unsettling events to move us in the direction that we should go when we would rather stay under the covers and nap.

We all like our comfort zones, where we feel all warm and safe, but God wants to go on an adventure with us, spiritually speaking. He wants to us to cast out into the deep and go fishing where we never have before because He wants to do something new in our lives. In John 21, Jesus comes to some of his disciples who were fishing all night and had caught nothing. He told them to cast out into the deep and cast their nets on the right side of the boat. They were a little skeptical, but obeyed and caught almost more than they could haul. The reward for obedience was greater than they had imagined.

Mind you, the rewards are not always tangible, but they are always more than we could have imagined. God wants to do something great in our lives, but sometimes he has to unsettle us and shake us free from our routines and send us in a new direction in order to do something new. Sometimes it is something substantial like the loss of a job, and sometimes it is just a palmetto bug in our bed that motivates us to change our morning routine to make room for something new. You may not like the motivation, but use it to cast out into the deep with Christ and you will not be disappointed by the end result.