Leaving behind . . .

“Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.” – Psalm 119:33

We’re packing to move and, in that process, are sorting all our belongings into three theoretical piles: What goes to our Colorado home, what will be moved to our downsized  Michigan condo, and what will be left behind (given away or discarded).

This laborious process made me think about Jesus’ call to Peter, James, and John. They were fishermen and he asked them to leave their nets and boats and, in James and John’s case, even their father. Then I realized that following Jesus always means leaving something behind.

And, for us, that means even family. We’re moving across the country leaving adult children and amazing grandchildren in Michigan. Of course, we’ll still see them several times a year and we hope they’ll come often to visit, but following Jesus to Colorado (long story, but we believe he’s asking us to go there), means leaving family, and friends too, who will remain in Michigan. Ouch! Really, God?

“Yes, really. Following me means leaving some things behind and missing some people – at least for a time. Trust me with this. All will be well. I am working together a plan you cannot see and could not possibly imagine on your own. It will be good!”

Can you relate? Is Jesus calling you to follow him in a new direction? If so, what is he asking you to walk away from? It might be a home, job, relationship,  habit, or possessions. Talk to him, yield to his will, and watch him work his plan. Be prepared to be amazed!

“For God Himself works in our souls, in the deepest depths, taking increasing control as we are progressively willing to be prepared for His wonder.” – Thomas Kelly

#followingGod

When God Roars

“They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars,his children will come trembling from the west.” – Hosea 11:10

Have you ever lost track of one of your children in a crowd? What do you do when that happens? You shout out the child’s name. You call out loudly, wanting him to hear your voice and come back to you.

Do you know God does that, too?

The prophets tell us that sometimes the great Lion of Judah roars to warn of coming judgment. But Hosea gives us a different view. He tells us that sometimes God roars when his children get too far away from him. He roars to let us know where he is so we can come back to his side. Hosea tells the people of Israel that when they decide to turn back to God, he will roar like a lion. Not at them, but for them. He will make himself clearly known so they can find their way from wherever they are. God’s roar is a call to come home. He makes it easy for us to find him!

I thought about that image and realized that, if I like the quiet voice of the shepherd more than the roaring voice of the lion, I need to stay near him. When he stops, I stop. When he moves, I move, always staying close enough so he can whisper in my ear. Never wandering away so he has to raise his voice to bring me back. Close is where he can sing to me. There I am safe, loved, caressed, and taught. Close is where I want to be!

“I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.” – Mary Gardiner Brainerd

 

 

#walkingwithgod

A nap? Really?

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” – John 13:7

Sometimes we try too hard. We have a problem and think of all kinds of ways we might solve it. But our solutions can be frustrating and unfulfilling, and we often cry out to God asking why he won’t help us.

God has a better way, but sometimes waits for us to get to the end of our own resourcefulness before he acts. In fact, he started that pattern with the very first human.

Here’s how I see it: When God created Adam, he knew he would need a mate, but he waited – waited for Adam to become discontent, to not like being “one-of-a-kind”. Then God paraded the animals in front of Adam, asking Adam to name them, knowing Adam would evaluate each animal as a potential mate. Of course, Adam found none suitable for him and began to get discouraged. That didn’t surprise God! When, finally, Adam despaired of having a partner, God said, in essence, “I have a plan. You take a nap.”

Sometimes we’re not ready to yield to God until we’ve exhausted our own ideas, resources, and energy. When, at last, we quiet down, give up control, and allow God to work, the outcome will, most likely, be something we never could have imagined on our own. Just ask Adam!

So, what is it you have been looking for? A good friend? A new job? Financial security? A way to serve? When you’re ready to give up control, take a nap. Trust God. And wait for him to show you what his plan has been all along. Then do it his way!

“Childlike surrender and trust, I believe, is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship.” – Brennan Manning

#trustingGod

Is that you, God?

“. . . your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” – Isaiah 30:21b

We’re beginning to understand that God really does communicate, often through thoughts he plants in our heads. Have you ever sensed that maybe God was speaking to you? Then you pause, wondering if it’s really him. Next time that happens, ask these questions:

Is it truth?

If the voice in my head says I’m stupid or unlovable or hopeless, I know it’s not from God. But if the voice says he wants more for me or from me and will help me grow, that’s likely from him. He never nags. He doesn’t whine. He always tells the truth.

Is it consistent with the Bible?

God will never ask us to do something that contradicts his written word. He won’t tell you to have a romantic relationship with someone who’s married or to go into debt for something you can’t afford. But, if what it seems he’s asking you to do is pure, loving, grace-filled, or healing, most likely you’re hearing from him.

Is it something I am willing to do?

Often God tests our obedience with small assignments. It will be something simple like talking to the person behind you in line at the store or helping a neighbor with yard work. If you think God is asking you to do something, just do it. Do it believing it would please him. Once we get into that habit, his voice becomes clearer and sometimes will stretch us a bit more. He doesn’t ask us to walk on water until he knows we’re willing to get into the boat!

“You must learn how God speaks; not doing so will constantly undermine your confidence in your personal relationship to him.” – Dallas Willard

 

#listeningprayer

Do you really know why Jesus came?

“. . . to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12

If I had lived when Jesus was here and if I knew he was God, I think I would have been afraid. If God is holy and all-knowing, he must surely be angry at humans. But no! The good news is he came to do away with sin, not us! His disciple John explains it this way: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8b).

John also tells us Jesus came, not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17).  He knew the world was a mess and we humans are a mess, but he put the blame exactly where it belongs: on Satan! He came to free his children from Satan’s grasp, to invite us into relationship with himself, and to make us better people. He came to reveal the irrational love of the Father for all his children trapped in a world of evil. He came to love us, not to hurt us.

Every human since has had to decide how to respond.  At some point, we’ll be accountable for the choice we made: Did we choose to allow him to free us from sin’s stranglehold, or did we choose to continue on a hopeless path without him? We’re not responsible to untangle ourselves from all the trouble sin brings, but we are responsible for the choice we make about Jesus and his invitation to be his.

I hope you choose Jesus this Christmas. And if you already know him, choose to know him better!

“The loving mission of our Lord Jesus Christ was not to condemn but to forgive and reclaim.”A. W. Tozer

 

#Jesus

#Christmas

Your kingdom come?

“Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.” – Psalm 98:8

What do you suppose Jesus meant when He taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Do you wonder would it would look like if God’s kingdom and will ruled the earth?

Maybe that’s part of what Jesus was showing us when He walked with humans long ago.

  • His miracles give us a peek into a kingdom where everyone would see, hear, walk, jump, have enough, and be well.
  • His casting out demons show us what it will look like when we’re all free from the influence of evil.
  • His teaching reveals God’s kingdom as a place where grace, unity, forgiveness, and integrity reign.

If we’re sincere when we pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done”, how could we not desire to be working alongside God to bring His kingdom values to earth today? Of course we won’t do it perfectly, but we can at least be moving in the same direction God is.

Jesus exampled what it means to live in a kingdom-come way: He taught truth, showed compassion, decried evil, and dealt honestly with everyone. He helped us see what it means to begin the process of making all things new (Revelation 21:5). And, He sends us out to continue what He started.

What does He want us to do today to help accomplish His will on earth? I think we should ask Him. It seems there’s a lot to be done!

“God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven would mean food, water, and homes for all who lack, justice in politics and economics, peace between nations, harmony with nature, healing and comfort for the sick, souls reconnected to their spiritual source.” – Philip Yancey

 #kingdomofgod #doinggood

I don’t like self-denial!

” . . . the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” – Psalm 84:11b

I don’t like self-denial. It may relate to how I use time, spend money, or express opinions, but most of the time I want to have what I want, when I want it.

So when I read Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23), I cringed inside. I wanted to follow Him, but daily self-denial just sounded hard.

Then I read John Piper’s teaching in his book Desiring God, and my view about self-denial began to change dramatically.  According to Piper, the biblical concept of self-denial is letting go of the lesser good so we can grab onto the greater good. When I started to look at it that way, I realized Jesus’ demand for self-denial was for my benefit, not His! I understood that I deny myself, not to make Him happy with me, but to allow Him to do greater things with me. Greater than I can do if I follow my natural instincts.

It makes sense in other areas of life: I choose to workout, denying myself an hour on the couch, because I value health more than rest. I deny myself a frivolous expense because I am saving for something really special later. Spiritually, it makes sense, too. We deny ourselves what we want humanly so we can receive what God wants for us supernaturally – things that are better for us than whatever we give up. Maybe it’s not self-denial at all!

 “To become like Christ is the only thing in the world worth caring for, the thing before which every ambition is folly, and all lower achievements vain.” – Henry Drummond