Friday, June 18, 2010

Making Decisions by Hearing God

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

God speaks to his children in many varied ways. God has said that his ways are not our ways. If left to our reasoning, we will fail to fully walk in the full counsel of God, which leads to poor decisions.

Thus, our goal is to avoid being deceived and to develop a listening ear that hears the voice of God with confidence. Our goal is to have such intimacy with God that we can walk in the full blessing of our decisions and to be assured they are not based on our own reasoning alone. This does not mean that we do not use the intellectual and logical skills that He has equipped us with.

A.W. Tozer said that the man or woman who is wholly and joyously surrendered to Christ can't make a wrong choice - any choice will be the right one. J. Oswald Sanders explains his method of receiving guidance from God for decisions; "I try to gather all the information and all the facts that are involved in a decision, and then weigh them up and pray over them in the Lord's presence, and trust the Holy Spirit to sway my mind in the direction of God's will. And God generally guides by presenting reasons to my mind for acting in a certain way."

The apostle Paul said, "For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13). God has equipped us with everything we need to make good decisions. Hearing His voice is the first step toward making right choices in life.

Do you have a decision to make? Submit that decision to the Lord, ask God for clarity. Ask Him to make the desires of your heart the same desires that He has for you in this matter. Await His perfect timing on the matter. Then you can be assured of making the right decisions.

I love these verses

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Dear Lord, today I eagerly ask You to give our loved ones knowledge, understanding, discernment, and the perseverance needed to follow it. Help them to trust in You even through the waiting. Help them to hear Your voice whispering nearby. Allow them to feel Your very presence and see Your purpose in the midst of their circumstances. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application Steps:
Make a list of verses on wisdom and take notes on what you find.

Where do you find godly wisdom for your life?

How might my life look different if I followed godly wisdom?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 2:2-3, "Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding." (NIV)

Deuteronomy 4:29, "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." (NIV)

2 Chronicles 15:12, "They entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul." (NIV)

Make These the "Good Old Days"

When Donald Trump writes a book, it becomes an instant best seller sought after by businessmen and women from around the world, and all of those wanting insight and desiring the riches of an established billionaire.

We have an even greater source of wisdom, God, through the words of King Solomon (thought to have been the author of Ecclesiastes). He was very much like the Donald Trump of 900 B.C. He had everything a man could desire at his finger tips—money, power, women and wisdom, yet he warns us not to be consumed with yesterday.

Don't long for the 'good old days,' for you don't know whether they were any better than today (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

Why not? For many of us, those days were great. They were filled with memorable moments and people who we sorely miss. Why wouldn't we want those days back again?

I had a conversation about this subject with a pastor who I used to serve under regarding the days we spent together in youth ministry. We talked about how great it would be to get our team back together, how much fun we would have, and all of the things we can do together "for God." At the end of our conversation, we sadly, but gratefully, concluded we can (and are) probably doing more for his kingdom apart from each other than we can together. It wouldn't be the same anyway—a different church, different kids and a different time and place.

Solomon confirmed our thoughts on the latter part of the passage. We don't know if the past would be any better than today, so why wish for something that can never be or for something we cannot determine?

For some, today can't be any worse than yesterday, the thought of the past often surfaces pain, broken promises, sadness and regret. Many don't long for the good old days, but are rather troubled by them and continue to "relive" them through the scars and baggage they carried away from them. Some live preoccupied with too many "what ifs," "if only," and "I should haves."

What if I went to college, if only I had the guts to approach that person, what if I took that job and moved, I should have bought or sold that stock, what if...?

There's nothing wrong with thinking about the past, but there is a huge difference between "reminiscing" over (and learning from) and "longing" for (or letting it consume you).

When we long for or allow something from our past to take over our thinking, we get stuck in it, maybe not physically, but internally and emotionally. Our life begins to revolve around something that had happened or something that was missed out upon.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past (Isaiah 43:18).

Many years ago, I was presented with a question, "If your life was a cruise ship, which direction would your deck chair face?" It seemed like an innocent and simple enough question off hand, but your response can say a lot about you and where you are.

Would you place your chair in the bow (front) watching for what's coming ahead with the breeze in your face, would it be on the side of the ship watching the world go by, or would you sit in the stern (back) more protected from the elements watching the ship's wake?

At different times in our lives we may visit all three locations, but each of us has a tendency to "live" in one part more than the other.

If we choose the bow, we look to guide the direction we want to go and take a proactive role in our future. We can see trouble coming in order to ward off potential danger. We face the wind and the spray of the bow crashing through the water, but we also live with our eyes on the horizon ahead able to deal with life as it comes.

If we faced our chair on the side, we would watch other ships go by without any real sense of where we were heading. We have a beautiful view, and that's exactly what it would be, a "view." We would be a spectator on the ship of life.

Finally, there are those who feel the most comfortable sitting on the stern of the ship where we are sheltered from the conditions; however we only see the places we have been. We have no indication or clue as to where we are going or any danger that lurks ahead. We take life for what is handed to us, mostly going along for the ride.

In the1997 movie, Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Jack Dawson, takes his love interest, Rose DeWitt Bukater to the front of the ship. He leans forward off the bow proclaiming, "I am king of the world," and he encourages her to experience what it is like to let go of her appropriateness and inhibitions she grew up with and lives.

That is the imagery I have of someone who has left his past behind, living life with an eye to the future and facing today with anticipation and excitement. Understandably, it is only a movie, but it helps us to visualize and contrast his character with an image of a person sitting on a deck chair in the stern with a blanket over himself going along for a ride.

If you look and long for the good old days or think about what wrongs the past has dealt you, consider how it adversely affects you each day. You are not able to see, experience or enjoy today completely because you are living partially in yesterdays. Solomon was alluding to this when he said, "Don't long for the good old days."

The Lord wants all of us to approach him each and every day with a clean and open heart, not with ghosts, regrets or hardships from the past or harboring ill feelings toward others who have done us wrong.

Matthew encourages us to work through any problems we may have with another person before we approach him.

If you are offering your gift in front of the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24).

If you are held captive by or haunted from experiences or people from the past, get help with them, and do it soon. Yesterday is gone. Why live your life thinking, worrying about or carrying "stuff" around from days gone by?

Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Life is hard enough when we are committed to today, don't live in or allow yesterday to rob you of the present or damage your future.

Are You Horizontal or Vertical?

June 16

"Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight" (Isaiah 5:21)

Many of us have been trained to make decisions and respond to problems in a horizontal way instead of vertical. Operating from a horizontal basis means we try to fix the problem through our own self-efforts by bringing greater pressure upon it through our reasoning or our natural skills. Operating from a vertical position means we are seeking God for the answer and waiting for him to impact the problem. Perhaps it is a spouse who fails to put their clothes away, or a boss who is overly critical, or an employee that you clash with. When we operate horizontally we attempt to shame or coerce the other to change their ways.

God knows the solution to the problem before it ever exists. Our responsibility is to ask God for help to solve the problem and to rely on Him for the outcome. The minute we take on the responsibility, God quietly stands by to let us experience failure until we decide to seek Him for the answer.

One of the best examples of the contrast between a vertical and horizontal dimension in scripture is that of King Saul and David (see 1 Samuel 25). King Saul thought the way to preserve his kingdom was to kill David. While in pursuit of him there were several occasions when David had the opportunity to kill Saul, but David chose to wait upon God's timing and await his own deliverance because he understood authority. David had such respect for those who had been put in authority by God over him that he would not take matters into his own hands.

Saul represents the exact opposite of this principle. He thought David was the problem and sought to get rid of him through force. As a result, he lost his kingdom because he chose to rule horizontally instead of vertically under God's rule in his life.

No matter what problem you face today, stay vertical with God.

Our Bodies, God's Temple

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NIV)

It was an odd conversation, I must admit.

As I was driving my sixteen year-old daughter to church, she expressed she was hungry. Pulling up to the drive through window, she ordered a Double Baconator Combo - you know, the hamburger with two thick patties, six strips of bacon, cheese and toppings, plus a large fry and drink.

I gently warned her that unhealthy eating habits would eventually catch up to her. Then the conversation took an interesting twist.

I had recently been studying the book of Leviticus, which focuses on the building of God's temple by the Israelites after they had left Egypt, and apparently I had "temple on the brain" syndrome.

I explained to my daughter that she needed to remember that her body was God's temple; therefore, she should take care of it, and part of taking care of our bodies, is eating healthy. She replied by saying (with her teenage facial expression of utter confusion), "Are you trying to tell me that eating this hamburger is a sin?!"

This comical conversation went on for several minutes while I attempted to convince her of the importance of treating her body as God's temple, and she held her ground that eating a hamburger was not a sin.

You see, after reading countless details about the tabernacle (the tent-version of the temple), I had a newfound appreciation for its sacredness. I felt encouraged knowing that the Lord actually resided in the Temple. I admired the hours of work devoted to building the Tabernacle, and the many rules and requirements that God set forth regarding honoring and caring for it.

In the New Testament, we are reminded many times about how we are now God's dwelling place. We no longer have to worship, pray or converse with God in a specific place, because He lives within us.

At first glance, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 implies an overwhelming responsibility to understand that we truly are God's temple, that we are the only ones who can take care of it, and that He has commanded us to do so. But thank goodness, caring for a temple is not nearly as hard as it was for the Israelites. Let's look at how we can care for God's temple today:

- The original temple had walls made of cloth. Their purpose was to protect the holy contents that were inside. In the same way, we also have to protect the contents of our temple, which is the Holy Spirit living within us.
- A lot of cleaning took place in the temple continually. We can keep our temples clean through purity of heart and mind.
- The temple was built for worshipping. God calls us into worship every day, inviting us to spend time with Him and in His Word.
- The Lord spoke in the temple and His voice was heard. The Lord is still speaking to us, in our hearts, and being able to hear His voice requires an intimate relationship with Him.

1 Corinthians 6:20b, says we are to honor God with our body. Does that mean never eating another hamburger or doughnut? Of course not! God does not command us to have perfectly sleek figures, or infallible eating habits. Nor is He is concerned with what we wear, what color our hair is, or how many wrinkles we have.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, "But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'"

God cares about our hearts, His Temple. We are called to care for His Temple daily, through healthy eating, yes, but most importantly through purity of heart, mind and soul.

Dear Lord, prompt me to never forget that I am Your temple, Your holy dwelling place. Help me to honor You in all that I do. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application Steps:
Consider any changes you could make in your life to better care for God's temple.

Do I treat my body as the residence of God?

Am I committed to living a life of purity of heart and mind?

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (NIV)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jacob's Defining Moment

Jacob's Defining Moment By Os Hillman
June 9

"So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, 'It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared'" (Gen 32:30).

Every believer in Jesus Christ must have a defining moment in their lives. Jacob is about to meet his brother Esau in the desert after years of separation. The last time he saw him was when he manipulated the birthright from him years ago. He assumes Esau is going to try to kill him. He sends gifts ahead as a peace offering. And he spends a restless night in prayer asking God to spare his and his family's life. Jacob has lived a life of control and manipulation. Yet, there is something in Jacob God finds worthy of redemption. He has a heart that genuinely wants to serve and be used of God. But God must do something in him to chisel away the bad traits in his life.

He sends an angel in the form of a man to wrestle away the striving in Jacob. The only way to remove the striving in Jacob is to injure his physical abilities. "When the angel saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man'" (Gen 32:25-26). Jacob's natural abilities were so great that God literally had to make Jacob a weaker man physically in order for God's power to be manifested in his life.

When this happened a turning point took place in Jacob. A new nature was birthed in him that required a total trust in God. His name was changed in recognition of this defining moment. "Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome'" (Gen 32:28).

My friend Bob Mumford once said, "Beware of any Christian leader who does not walk with a limp." If a leader has not wrestled with God over their natural abilities and come to a place of total dependence on God, that leader will live a life of striving and manipulation.

Let go and let God do the work needed in you. When this happens even your enemies will be a peace with you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Responses to Adversity

June 8

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior" (Hab. 3:17-18).

When we experience adversity, we generally respond in one of three ways: (1) we become angry; (2) we try to gut it out; or (3) we accept it with joy.


When adversity comes our way, we say, "Why me, Lord?" We become bitter and resentful and blame God and others for our problems. We view ourselves as victims and demand that God answer our accusing questions: "Why don't You love me, Lord? We feel entitled to life, health, wealth, and happiness.

Gutting It Out

Another way we respond to adversity is by adopting a stoic attitude, repressing our emotions. We lie to ourselves and say, "I'm gutting it out. I'm demonstrating endurance." In reality, we are merely isolating ourselves with a shell of false bravado. We don't meditate on God's love, we don't pray, we don't believe God really has anything good planned for us. We simply tell ourselves, "This will soon be over. I'm a survivor." We never receive what God has planned for us if we stay here.

Acceptance with Joy

This is the response God seeks from us. When adversity comes, we rest in His love and trust that He knows best. We realize that nothing can happen to us without His permission. If there is pain in our lives, we know it's because God deems it necessary for our growth or wishes to use our pain to minister to others.

God revealed to the prophet Habakkuk that Israel was soon to be invaded by the Babylonians. Habakkuk knew that Israel was about to suffer intense adversity as part of God's loving discipline of His people. Habakkuk faced the looming national tragedy with an attitude of acceptance with joy.

If Habakkuk could be joyful in the face of a national calamity, then we can rejoice in the Lord no matter what comes our way.