Thursday, February 4, 2010

How God Uses Pain

"I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things" (Isa 45:7)

God will use pain in order to create a love relationship with His creation. This statement may challenge your theology. However, consider that God allowed Jesus to experience incredible pain in order to create an opportunity to have a relationship with His creation. Consider how Jesus created a relationship with Paul. He blinded him and used a crisis in his life in order to bring him into a relationship with him and use him for God's purposes. Consider how God recruited Jonah for the mission He had for him.

This is not God's first choice for His creation. Romans 2:4 reveals that God's preference is to show mercy and kindness: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" The problem is there are few people who respond to the goodness of God. God loves people more than He loves their comfort. He invests a great deal into mankind. He desires relationship with us and will go to great lengths to create such a relationship in order for us to receive the rewards and inheritance He has for us.

I have observed this process in the scriptures in working with people through years of ministry. I have noticed three distinct stages. First, we live based on convenience. Our obedience is largely based on circumstances in our lives. We choose to obey based on the circumstances.

The second stage is the crisis stage. God allows a crisis to come into our lives. We are motivated to obey God in order to get out of the pain of our situation. Many times God allows us to stay in this condition in order to demonstrate His love and faithfulness during our pain. Gradually, we discover something knew about God and often have a personal encounter with Him that changes us. Our very nature is affected by this God-encounter.

This begins to move us into a third phase that is a relationship that is motivated now by love and devotion instead of pain. This is where God desires us to be. Another way of saying this is we are no longer seeking His hand. We are seeking Him. We want to know God personally.

Obedience will not last when the motivation is only the removal of our pain. Obedience only lasts when the motivation is loving devotion. Where are you in your obedience and what is the primary motivation? If it isn't love, why not tell the Lord you love Him today and want to know Him for who He is and not for what He can do for you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Heavenly GPS

"After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone." Matthew 14:23 (NLT)

It was a drama-packed day. Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, was dead because a drunken king chopped off his head. Jesus tried to get away to deal with the news, but crowds of people called his name.

Heal me! Feed me!

He healed the sick. He fed over 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread. These miracles caused the crowd to press in closer, to shout louder and to demand more from Him. It also caused conflict.

He's our new king!
No; he's dangerous; kill him!

Sometimes life gets complex. Many times we just keep on going even though we are pulled between the demands of the people we love - Feed me! Love me! - with those feelings festering just under the surface.

But what happens when you arrive at ground zero emotionally because of loss or pain or fatigue?

What did Jesus do? When His day was finally done, Jesus hiked into the mountains to pray. He needed strength. He needed guidance. He needed to be refreshed spiritually and physically. Jesus settled in to talk to His father.

I'll be honest. When I'm at that place, the temptation is to wrap up in my favorite blanket, turn on a mindless TV show, and veg.

But what waits for me in that alone place with God?

He knows us better than anyone else. He's willing to carry our burdens, soothe our hearts, and that prayer time becomes a shelter, an oasis where we are revived. At that point it's not about the time we spend, or even the words that we say, but what we discover when we settle in.

Prayer becomes our heavenly GPS system.

An earthly GPS system contains atomic clocks that are accurate to a billionth of a second! No matter where you are, it can find your location and give you direction.

Think about this: The God of the Universe is greater than any earthly GPS. God knows where you are, where you are headed emotionally, and how to recalculate so that you can find your way back to sanity, peace, and even to joy.
Dear Jesus, You know what it is to be emotionally and physically spent. You know what it is to hurt, to grieve, to long for quiet and peace and healing. Thank You that You understand how I feel, and that You carry my burden when it's too big for me to carry alone. I adore You. In Your Name, Amen.
Application Steps:

Many of you, like me, probably talk to God throughout the day. But is there a sacred place set aside for you and God?

Don't set a time limit, or make it a duty.

Settle in with Him. Close the door.

Talk to Him about your day. Praise Him for His great love.

Breathe in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Don't rush it.

Let God do His work inside of You.


Prayer is a spot where we go just as surely as a church sanctuary is a place. When we pray, we are going into a place built from words. Or at least it's a place where words are the parameters, the walls into which we enter.
Power Verse:

Psalm 19:7, "The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple." (NLT)

Psalm 91:1-2, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom trust.'" (ESV)

Being Chosen

"'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.'" At once they left their nets and followed him (Matt 4:19-20)

Do you recall how good it felt when you were chosen to be on a team? It makes one feel special to be preferred over another.

During the time of Jesus rabbis' were well known in their community. Each rabbi had a following of students. Jesus was developing as a "superstar" rabbi. He was unlike the others. He did things differently. He often confronted the accepted thinking of other rabbis and Pharisees. The younger men had great respect for Jesus, the rabbi. To be selected by Jesus would be a great honor because most rabbis would usually select only the cream of the crop in the community as their disciples. By these standards, Peter and the other disciples would not have qualified. But Jesus had a purpose in mind for Peter and the disciples.

God is the one who calls people into relationship with Himself and to their calling in life. It is for His purposes, not ours. Jesus chose each of his disciples from the workplace instead of the rabbinical schools. They did not choose Jesus, Jesus chose them and it was deemed a great honor in their culture to be chosen by such a rabbi (Jn 15:16).

Jesus called you into relationship with Himself because His desire is for you to be a faithful priest in your work life, family, and city. "I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind." (1 Samuel 2:35). He desires that you be a willing participant in his agenda. He has not called you for your purposes, but His.

Sometimes we think it's all about us. It has to be all about Him in order for us to fulfill what is in His heart and mind for His overall plan for His Kingdom. He doesn't need us, but He has chosen to use us.

God has an agenda for planet earth. He has chosen you and me as the primary instrument for accomplishing His plan. Are you willing to be his faithful priest and king to do what is in His heart and mind? Why not say "yes" to His agenda.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Deep Things

"He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light" (Job 12:22)

One of the great mysteries of the Kingdom is how God uses the darkest times in our lives to reveal greater depths of understanding of His ways. The only way we can receive these deeper things is to be driven to the depths of darkness. It is here that we discover important truths that He plans to use in our lives and the lives of others.

There is a process God uses to draw us into greater levels of intimacy. The first phase involves a depth of soul experience that causes great pain in our lives. We seek God for deliverance from the incredible emotional pain this causes. Our primary motivation for seeking God is to get out of our pain.

During this time, God meets us in the depths of darkness. We discover that He never left us but is in the midst of the darkness. We develop a new relationship with God. Gradually our motivation turns from removal of pain to love and intimacy with God. This is the place our Heavenly Father desires us to be.

During this season God will make spiritual deposits into your life. Others will be making withdrawals in the future from your life as well. You see, God reveals deep things in darkness that will be revealed in the light.

If you find yourself in great distress, know that God will bring your deep shadows into the light. The key to your deliverance is becoming satisfied in God. He becomes your all. He is your life. You will know your deliverance is near when your circumstances simply don't matter to you anymore.

Love the Lord your God with all your soul and see what things He will show you in the deep things of darkness.