Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Difficult Path

Have you ever made a decision that you prayed about and felt strongly that it was where God was leading you only to experience difficulty after difficulty once you made the decision?  Maybe you felt strongly that you should switch jobs but when you did you got let go just months later?  Maybe you purchased a car and had the transmission blow just weeks after you got it?


It's so easy to wonder . . . Did I hear God right?  I must’ve made a mistake and stepped out of the “will of God”.


Nehemiah could so easily have questioned if he had made the right choice to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.  It seemed smooth sailing at first.  He had asked the king if he could go and the king heartily agreed and sent him with supplies and a cavalry for protection.  But once he arrived in Jerusalem he faced difficulty after difficulty.  First it was the enemy from outside the walls of Jerusalem and then it was from those who were within the walls.  How exhausted and weary he must have become and how easy it would’ve been for him to wonder if he’d made the right decision.  But he didn’t!  He stayed focused on the task that he believed God had called him to and he let nothing deviate him from it.


Why do we allow hardship and struggle to eat away at our faith?  Why do we question God’s will when we face heartache and difficulty?


Could it be that we believe that if we’re in the “will of God” that are path will be smooth?  Do we secretly believe that God is our great Santa-in-the-Sky and if we somehow are able to discern what He wants than all will be well?  Are we trying to make God into our image?


Who can know the will of God?  We can!  The Bible clearly states what God’s will is for us.


So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. 
Romans 12.1-2 (MSG)


We get so focused on our own comfort and ease that we neglect what God is really calling us to – a life devoted to Him.


Nehemiah kept his heart and mind focused on God.  He was in relationship with him.  He sought God every step of the way and so for Nehemiah, the path was clear, even though it was littered with difficulty.  He knew where to step.  He saw God’s hand and He trusted.


Are you disillusioned because you thought you were doing what God wanted you to do and facing opposition at every turn?  Have you taken your eyes off what you should be focusing on – your God, not your circumstances. 

Seek Him.  Trust Him.  Don’t turn away.  God is in the mess.  He is using the heartache, struggles and difficulties to deepen your faith and make you stronger. 


If you were to look back at your life and measure the times of spiritual growth, you will most likely find that the times of greatest growth were the times of greatest difficulties.   Why?  Because struggle strengthens us and ease weakens us.


So . . . Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  (Ephesians 6.10)  Rejoice always.  Pray continually.  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18)


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Are You Ready to Give Up?

I am in a season of fasting and praying, seeking God, waiting on Him.  I’ve committed to forty days and am currently at the half-way point.  And I confess, it would be easy to quit.


I had expectations of what my prayer and fasting would be like.  That God would somehow be more real, I would see Him more clearly and I would have a heightened sense of His presence as He directed my every waking step.


But to be honest, God has remained quiet.  I haven’t heard an audible voice, haven’t experienced any great miracles (except that I’ve remained faithful in my fasting), and have received no clear direction as to what He wants me to do or where He wants me to go.  In fact, this road has been littered with tragedy.  The problems have seemed bigger and my God seems quieter.


It would be so easy to give up, to call it quits and throw in the towel.


But Noah kept building the ark when there wasn’t any rain.  The Israelites continued to circle Jericho even though nothing had happened.  Paul kept preaching The Way even though it meant imprisonment. Daniel kept praying even though he was destined for the lion’s den.  Nehemiah pressed on building the wall even in the face of much opposition.


So why should I give up? 


I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Psalm 40.1-3 (NLT)


What if Noah had given up building the ark?  What if the Israelites had only circled Jericho six times?  What if Paul had let fear keep him from preaching the truth?  What if Daniel had given in to peer pressure?  What if Nehemiah had turned tail and run back home?


They would’ve missed out!  And their faith?  Would’ve been small.


Instead they were able to witness the mighty power of God.  And their faith?  It was supersized!


What about you?  Are you tempted to give up or give in?  Are you wondering if God is really there?  Is He listening to your heart cry?  Does He really care about little insignificant you? 

Have you prayed so long for the burden of your heart that you feel hopeless?  "Will God ever answer my prayer?"  You wonder in the emptiness of your soul.


Don’t give up.  Don’t Give in.  Keep pressing on.  Keep praying through.  Let God grow your faith.


If you throw in the towel now, you might just miss an opportunity to witness His great power!


But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”       As for me, since I am poor and needy, let the Lord keep me in his thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my God, do not delay.   Psalm 40. 16-17 (NLT)


Lord, I am weak, feeble minded, poor in spirit.  I want to Quit.  Give up.  Walk away.  But You call me to trust You even when I can’t see.  So I refuse to give up.  Strengthen my resolve.  Give me hope.  Grow my faith.  I look to You.  Amen.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Out of the Box!

For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains and all the animals of the field are mine.  Psalm 50.10-11

When I pray, do I pray as if my God owns a cattle on a thousand hills?   Or more like He has a few coins in his pocket He can give me?  Do I really believe my God is resource rich or hopelessly poor?


If you were to hear my prayers you might think the latter.


I find myself praying hesitantly, crossing my fingers and hoping that God will answer.  I don't ask for too much and I rarely step out in faith believing He will answer.  It isn’t really that I don’t believe God can do what I’m asking but more will He do it?  But, is this just an excuse so that I don’t look like a fool when God doesn’t come through for me?  I wonder . . .


How does God wish I would pray?  What is His heart’s desire?


I confess my tendency to put God in a box.  I want Him Small.  Convenient.  Controllable.  I want Him to wipe away my tears, love me unconditionally and soften the jagged edges of my life.  I don’t want Him to ask me to do something that makes me uncomfortable, or to go someplace I have no desire to go or put me out on a limb that might very well break! 


But is that really what I want?  A God who is safe, mediocre and blasé?   


I wonder . . . Would that God have even bothered to send His only Son to die for me so that I could have eternal life, true life?


It’s time to let God out of the box! 


God is bigger than I will ever understand.  Greater than I can ever imagine and more powerful than a locomotive!  He’s my true Superhero!  So what is keeping me from praying Superhero prayers?


When I believe little, my prayers are little and God answers little.  When I believe BIG, my prayers are BIG and my God answers BIG.


My God owns a cattle on a thousand hills.  He knows every hair on my head.  He hung the stars in space and calls them each by name.  He formed the dry land with a word.  He tells the wind where to blow.  He never slumbers or sleeps.  He dresses the flowers and knows every bird.  He is intimately acquainted with all my ways. 

God is out of my box!

Lord, I’m sorry for making you small.  You are so much more! . . .  I want to spend the rest of my life discovering Your greatness.   Today, I’m letting You out of the box that I placed You in.  I want to believe Big because You are Big.  Teach me.  I’m Yours.  Amen.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

God is in the Waiting

When Nehemiah learned that the walls of Jerusalem had not been rebuilt, he broke down and wept.  (Nehemiah 1.3-4) Even though he had never been there, his heart was broken for his people and their city.  But it didn’t stop there.  For the next four months he prayed and fasted and sought God about what he could do.


When was the last time you prayed and fasted over an issue, problem or person in your life for four months?   The answer for me is easy – NEVER.  I’ve rarely given a focused, concerted prayer time (much less fasting) toward any difficulty in my life more than a few days. 


In our hurry-up, do-it-quick, solve-the-problem-immediately world we have little time for waiting, much less prayer and fasting.


As I’ve studied the life of Nehemiah, my heart keeps coming back to this moment in Nehemiah’s life, where he devoted this time to God. 


What happens in a person’s heart that spends four months of focused, purposeful time with God?  What would happen in my life if I were to devote a good chunk of time to God? 


When a friend asked me if I would be interested in devoting forty days to purposeful prayer, I jumped at the chance.  Here was my opportunity to do like Nehemiah.  What would God show me?  What would he teach me?  What would He have me do? 


As the start of the forty days drew closer, I felt the nudge of God to consider stripping away an area in my life that has hindered me from pursuing Him.   


“No not that, God.  I’ll do anything else but not that!” 


What I knew He was asking me to do made me want to curl up in a fetal position – there was no feasible way that I could see myself doing what He asked.


For most people, what God was calling me to, might seem trivial but for me it has long been a stronghold in my life.  A place, I have not wanted to relinquish.  I have excused, justified and given every reason in the book why this area in my life should stay mine and not God’s.


BUT I long for God to do great things in and through me.  AND IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN as long as I cling to this area of my life.   I must choose to TRUST and walk the pathway of OBEDIENCE.


 Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws;
Our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.   Isaiah 26.8


It is the sixth day of letting go, of purposeful, focused time with my Father and my heart is so full.  I’m searching for God in the quiet moments, in the busy-ness of my day, in the morning when I wake up and in the evening when I close my eyes in sleep.


All night long I search for you;
in the morning I earnestly seek for God.
   Isaiah 26.9

 Could God be calling you, my friend, to relinquish an area of your life that is holding you back from being all that He wants you to be?  Will you join with me?

I’m WAITING . . . eyes wide open, for what He will do!  Are you?