Archive for August, 2011

Defining Moments

August 31st, 2011

“Jacob was left alone, and [God] wrestled with him until daybreak.” Genesis 32:24 NIV

“God’s loving pursuit of you is indefatigable.”

My thoughts today are about “defining moments.”

There are seasons and situations in life that greatly shape what your life will become. They may appear ordinary at first, but very quickly that moment touches something eternal. The consequential times in your life are when you meet God in ways you have not previously known Him. There could and should be many such occasions when and where you experience God, but all too often people sleep-walk through them, oblivious to a destiny that hinges on that encounter with God.

There are relationships and experiences that impose defining moments for who you will be, and how you will live, and what you will prize and value. There are moments in history that have defined individuals, marriages, families, friendships, communities, churches, and even nations. We are approaching the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. George W. Bush’s presidency was defined by that horrific event, as was America. The worst that happened to our nation that day brought out the best of which we as a nation are capable.

Jacob spent much of his life running – running from home after deceiving his father; running from Esau, a brother he had angered; running from Laban, a conniving uncle who prospered at his expense; running from himself, probably unhappy with what he had become; and ultimately running from God, until he got tired of running. That eventually happens to everyone; you just get tired – tired of being someone less than you could be, and tired of the public masquerade.

That’s when you’re finally ready to meet God without conditions. That’s when Jacob met God, “So Jacob was left alone, and [God] wrestled with him until daybreak.” Genesis 32:24 NIV. If you have to be always surrounded with people, you most likely are not comfortable being alone with God. Usually there is a reason; there is something that you are not ready or willing to face. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. God works best in your life when it is just One on one.

Jacob’s heart turned toward home, a home he had left long before. Jacob sent messengers to Esau that he was coming; he sent his servants and herds and flocks ahead with gifts for Esau. He finally sent his family safely before him, and then all his possessions. Jacob was ready to stop running; Jacob was coming home to stay. This was a defining moment for Jacob – first, facing a problem from his past, and then, struggling with God until his breakthrough.

Jacob’s story has two defining moments: “God wrestled with him until daybreak.” God’s loving pursuit of you is indefatigable. God wrestled with him until Jacob wanted what God wanted for him, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” vs 26. God is serious about your need for change; you must be serious about needing His help. The schemer became a prince; the past was put behind him; the much desired birthright was finally realized.

My prayer for you today is that you hunger for God’s blessing upon your life at all times.

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August 30th, 2011

“Cast out the bondwoman and her son.” Galatians 4:30 NKJV

“All mistakes are not sins, but all sin is certainly a mistake.”

My thoughts today are about “mistakes.”

Everyone makes mistakes. I have made more than my share of them, and that’s probably just as true of you. Some I never recognized as mistakes at the time. Some I probably still have not realized were mistakes. Some I wished would just go away on their own. Some I hoped no one would know about. Some I tried to make up for in other ways. Thankfully, there are those that I dealt with and from which I learned. Mistakes have a long shelf-life if you do not deal with them early and honestly.

My dearest of friends, Campbell, said, “Sin can only leave a person’s life one way, through one’s mouth, in confession of the wrong.” The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse our unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 NKJV. All mistakes are not sins – some are not willful, just from poor judgment, or inadequate knowledge or experience – but all sin certainly is a mistake. Dealing with mistakes honestly and humbly, and making them right before God and man is essential to be truly free of them.

Today’s verse, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son” (Galatians 4:30 NKJV), is a New Testament reference to Hagar and her son, Ishmael, a mistake that Abraham and Sarah made when they became impatient with God. Read Genesis 16:1-15. Sarah soon regretted her mistake, but too late to avoid or correct it. Her maidservant, Hagar, had birthed a son, Ishmael, which Sarah herself was unable to provide. Ishmael was a terrible mistake, a good idea that was never God’s idea.

Your good ideas are not always as good as you think they are at the moment. Abraham tried to convince God to accept Ishmael as the promised son and heir, but God’s plan was Isaac, not Ishmael. Genesis 15:1-6 NKJV. Don’t waste your time trying to convince God, or yourself, that your mistake isn’t such a bad idea. Read Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV.

Your “Ishmael” can be anything born of your fleshly desires, but not of God’s Spirit. The Bible contrasts, “. . repentance from dead works, and faith toward God,” when differentiating between immaturity and spiritual maturity. Hebrews 5:12-6:3 NKJV. I would describe a dead work as anything that God does not originate or does not sustain. Those God will not bless, no matter how much you ask that He will. Ishmael was a “dead work,” a bad idea that never included God.

I learned that lesson some years ago. My “Ishmael” was a car I bought simply because I could and I wanted to! Very soon, my heart told me I had made a mistake, God did not view lightly. In my decision, there was no thought of prayer, nor consideration that my financial ability was God’s provision, not my own to do with as I pleased. We are not owners of what God gives; we are stewards, and I had violated a basic principle of wise stewardship. Only when I named my mistake as my ungodly disregard and asked God’s forgiveness did I find peace of mind and heart again. It is painful to cast away what your flesh craves or creates, until your love for God is more than your love of what you want and would hold tightly to yours or others’ harm.

My prayer for you today is that you avoid every mistake you know to be one.

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Secrets of the Heart

August 29th, 2011

“Search me, O God, and know my heart.” Psalm 139:23 NIV

“Until you allow God to redeem and rule your heart, it will remain unholy and unruly.”

My thoughts today are about “secrets of the heart.”

The heart! Who knows their own heart for sure? When it comes right down to it, none of us really know our own heart as well as we think we do. The prophet Jeremiah, wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart; I test the mind, even to give every man according to His ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV. The heart is the source from which both affections and actions come, often overruling your mind and misdirecting your will. Until God is allowed to redeem and rule your heart, it will remain unholy and unruly.

One’s heart, as used in Scripture, refers to something more than the physical organ that beats, pumping blood and life-giving oxygen to every part of your body. The Bible uses the word to describe an aspect of God’s wondrous creation even more spectacular and critical to your well-being – the central part of your inner being where God desires to dwell and rule righteously.

Your heart can lead you to God or turn you from Him. God begins in your heart to accomplish His work of redeeming, and cleansing, and changing you. “And I will give them singleness of heart (undivided) and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their hearts of stone and give them tender hearts instead, so they will obey My laws and regulations. Then they will truly by My people, and I will be their God.” Ezekiel 11:19-20 NLT. Your heart has to be right before your relationship with God and others can be right.

Your heart’s cry must be as the Psalmist pleaded, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NIV. Notice the sequence of verbs – “search, know, test, see, and lead?” Are you willing to invite him to “test” you? See 1 Timothy 5:24-25 NIV. God’s tests are to prevent you from failing the final exam“. . his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day shall bring it to light . . I saw a great white throne . . the small and great standing before God, and books were opened . .” Read 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 NIV/Revelation 20:11-15 NKJV.

God uses ordinary circumstances to expose repressed feelings, carefully controlled reactions, buried emotions, old grudges and resentments, hurtful jealousies, suppressed anger and fears, or habitual behaviors. Those tests in everyday life are not for God’s enlightenment, but to reveal the secrets of your heart for redemption, not destruction. God knows your heart; there are no secrets from Him hidden there. See Luke 12:1-3 NKJV. You may try to hide things there, but will not succeed. If invited, God will test your heart so that you will know what is hidden there in order to deal with it, inviting and allowing Him to cleanse and renew. Such an invitation – “Cleanse me from secret faults” – comes only from a heart disgusted with its secrets. Read Psalm 19:7-14 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that your heart is clean and pure before God.

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There For You

August 26th, 2011

“No one came to my support . . but the Lord stood at my side.” 2 Timothy 4:16-17 NIV

“People who rise to greatness have probably had a solitary experience with God alone.”

My thoughts today are about “there for you.”

Most people have had an experience when someone you counted on didn’t show up when you needed them. You felt alone, threatened and frightened. There is no lonelier moment. F. Scott Fitzgerald called that “the dark night of the soul.” American author 1896-1940. The crowd will not always be there for you. Sometimes friends won’t be. There are times in a person’s life when few are able to walk alongside, some times when none can.

That’s when who you are and what you believe deep down in your heart will be revealed. In such experiences, you discover much about yourself. The person who never knows moments bereft of human companionship never really knows a richness of fellowship God intends. I think that men who rise to greatness have probably had that solitary experience, when conviction replaces opinion, when friends replace casual acquaintance, where you either despair of life or meet God face to face.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He was tempted in solitude, in a lonely wilderness where no man could stand alongside, as the devil challenged Him physically, emotionally, and spiritually. “Then the devil left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him.” Matthew 4:1-11 NKJV. In the closing hours of Jesus’ earthly time and just moments before his betrayal and arrest, Jesus was left alone in Gethsemane while His closest companions slept. “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” Luke 22:39-46 NKJV.

Paul described one of those dark nights of the soul. He was a prisoner, wrongly accused and jailed. His frequent traveling companions could not be with him. Listen to his words, “No one came to my support, but everyone deserted me . . But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.” 2 Timothy 4:16-17 NIV. Don’t blame others; God isn’t taking them where He is leading you. When others can’t or won’t be there for you, God is! Those are life-changing moments when the God you previously knew about, becomes your God that you know personally and powerfully.

Whatever price you ultimately pay for that kind of knowledge of God’s character and personal experience of spiritual intimacy is never regretted, yielding expansive dividends lifelong. Paul affirmed another such time, “Our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Nevertheless, God who comforts the downcast, comforted us . .” 2 Corinthians 7:5-6 NKJV.

Your faith needs a testimony of “nevertheless, God” moments that proclaim the faithfulness of God to you, times where you “found grace to help in time of trouble.” Hebrews 4:16 NKJV. He is God who is there for you!

My prayer for you today is that you prize God’s company above all other companions.

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Start Small, End Big

August 25th, 2011

“Who [with reason] despises the day of small things.” Zechariah 4:10 Amplified Bible

“Whatever God provides is enough for a successful beginning and a spectacular finish.”

My thoughts today are about “start small, end big.”

Lives are spent and irreplaceable time is wasted trying to gather and/or store up enough to make a great start; but is that ever possible, really? If you wait until you have everything you could possibly need to do what you plan to do, you probably will be left with too little time to do it. And if you never begin, one thing is for certain, you will never finish.

Whenever you are called of God, whatever God provides you is always enough for a successful beginning. Sometimes you may think you need something more of what you have or something other than what you have, but what you have is exactly what you need for your obedience to begin. Willingness is a good beginning. God says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10 NLT. The Bible is filled with stories of individuals who found that what seemed so insignificant when they began became sufficient when they included God.

Needing more than you have? When Moses worried about going to Pharaoh on Israel’s behalf, he could recite multiple reasons why he couldn’t do what God was asking. He recounted everything he lacked until God asked, “What is that in your hand? Throw it down!” Exodus 4:2 NIV. Nothing much, except a shepherd’s staff. God always starts with what you do have, not what you don’t. Obedience and release makes ordinary things extraordinary in God’s hand.

That’s where God begins; such a small beginning, but one not to be despised. Moses could hardly believe what God did with a simple, ordinary staff. If you read the story, that is never again called “the staff of Moses.” From the time he chose to obey God, the Bible says, “And he took the staff of God in his hand.” Exodus 4:19 NIV. That staff parted a sea and released water from a rock. The key is trusting what you have into God’s hands fully, the same for you as for Moses. What he had was more than enough when Moses began to obey. In the story of Moses leadership, “the staff of God” was always in his hand! God is always sufficient; we are not. Read 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 NLT.

Needing faith to believe God for a big thing? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . . for without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:1/6 NKJV. Begin with the faith God has given to you, “for God has given to every man the measure of faith.” Romans 12:3 NIV. How much faith do you need? You have the faith you need if you use the faith you have. Jesus said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed . . nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 NIV.

Needing more resource than you have? You should see what Jesus can do with “five barley loaves and two small fish!” Read John 6:1-13 NKJV. Philip counted what they needed and pronounced it “not sufficient.” Andrew brought a boy with his small lunch, but decided, “What are they among so many?” Jesus began with what they thought was too small and multiplied it until they had too much. The little you have is a sign of bigger and better things to come!

My prayer for you today is that you place all you are and all you have in God’s hands.

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