Friday, October 23, 2009

Accepting the Challenge - Day 5

Here we are at the end of the week! It's Friday...and Sunday's Comin'!
I pray that it has been a good week for you. And that does not necessarily mean it has been an easy week. Some of the best weeks are the hard weeks when God gives you the strength to endure and increases your faith in Him. But only if you have eyes to see, ears to hear and you are anticipating His work in and through your life. Remember to keep your eyes on him. C.S. Lewis is good at drawing it down to the simple:
There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."

Psalm 86
"Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Ps. 86:11) With so many things happening in our lives at once – school, work, marriage, family,ministry, etc. – it is so very easy to be distracted and go from one “good” thing to the next.
Yet, in the rush of activity, it is easy for my heart to become divided, my attention diluted and I do not fear the Lord. He becomes a source of strength for me to accomplish all that I do and not the reason for all that I do.
I confess that in my busyness, God is often reduced to a passenger that I take along in the journey. I pray this morning, as the psalmist did, to have an undivided heart. A heart that is focused on the One whom I follow and fear and worship.
As I consider this verse in reverse order, it becomes my prayer for this day: “God, may I fear you because my heart is undivided, undistracted and focused on You. May this focus on you allow me to walk in your truth. But only if you teach me, will I know the way."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Accepting the Challenge - Day 4

I often stare at a task list on Monday and convince myself, "There is no possible way for me to get all this done." I put my nose to the grind and I get to work. As the week rolls on, I finally confess, "I think I might be able to do this."
Perhaps it was because the list was not all that bad. Maybe there were some things on the list that didn't need to be there. Or more often than not, I just needed to chill out and take it one day at a time.
So here we are near the end of the week. Maybe you have knocked off some important tasks. Maybe you had something unexpected show up. Do you still have eyes to see? Have you protected the margin in your life necessary for you to have time to be still and listen?
Well there is no better time to start than today. Make a commitment to seek God with all your heart knowing that unless He is involved, it is not worth doing.
(PS I would love to hear stories of your week that have surprised you or encouraged you. Stories of how God gave you strength to endure a difficult circumstance. If it is something that honors God, I have a place in my sermon on Sunday to share your story. Please email them to

Psalm 73
I continue to be struck by the witness of the sovereignty of God in the Psalms. I have not seen an example of the writer praying for God to give him strength so that he can defeat his enemy. Instead, the prayer is that God Himself would defeat the enemy. The implication being that unless God does it, it cannot be done, no matter what the strength of man. Even understanding is from God. Psalm 73 describes logical thoughts of Asaph, but his confession is that “when I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me”. Only when he entered the sanctuary of God did he understand the final destiny of his enemies. He later confesses his utter dependence on God when he says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” I pray that I might also come to the end of myself. A place where my only hope is in God, my one desire, my strength and my portion forever.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Accepting the Challenge - Day 3

One characteristic that marks the average church today is lack of anticipation. Christians when they meet, do not expect anything unusual to happen; consequently, only the usual happens, and that usual is as predictable as the setting of the sun...
We need today a fresh spirit of anticipation that springs out of the promises of God. We must declare war on the mood of nonexpectation, and come together with childlike faith. Only then can we know again the beauty and wonder of the Lord's presence among us.
-A.W. Tozer

Are you anticipating his Spirit to work in and through your life today? Have you seen the evidence of His Spirit among you in ways you may have missed in the past?
Monday night the elders prayed for a need in our church. I came to the office the next morning and someone stopped me and said, "Can I talk to you about something on my heart?" That "something" was what we prayed for the night before.
Later in the day, I was praying about a particular individual and was perplexed about how I might care for this person in a very difficult situation. In walks a mutual friend who says, "Can I talk to you about a situation?" The "situation" centered around the friend I was praying for and the conversation answered my question.
Those are just 2 examples. And here is the point. Those things happen every day. And yet, most of the time I miss them. It's not that God is not at work. It's just that I am not anticipating it with eyes to see and ears to hear. I am in a hurry and I walk right by. Can you relate?
I pray that today is different for all of us. May we live with anticipation.

Psalm 50
Psalm 50 serves as a good reminder that God does not need our sacrifices and prayer. For He is self sufficient within himself and there is nothing that we could add that would make him more pleased or more content or more satisfied. Instead, the sacrifices and prayers ordained by His law were not for Him but for us. They existed to teach us to honor Him and humble ourselves before His sovereign control. They point to the ultimate sacrifice of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.
In verse 16 He rebukes the wicked who go through the motions as if to appease God by offering sacrifice and then live life normally within their own desires. God is not treated as an almighty God but as “one of them” who can be calmed down and soothed. Yet, it will not be so since He promises to destroy the wicked in the end. The true test of a genuine sacrifice is one made in thanksgiving, not in petition or placation. Only then is the sacrifice given not expecting something in return but simply giving honor and praise to the only one to which it is due.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Accepting the Challenge - Day 2

Well...Day 2 of the Living in the Spirit Challenge. How are you doing? Have you been able to slow down enough to recognize where God is at work? Have you been still enough to hear His voice? Are you humble enough to obey His prompting when He speaks into your life?
The Psalm I read today helps to simply our focus. Here is how God spoke to me through His Word this morning.

Psalm 27
As David writes this Psalm (prayer), it is clear that he is in a difficult situation. His enemies are advancing against him (v2), he is in trouble (v5), his parents have forsaken him (v10), and false accusations discredit his integrity (v12). Yes...I would say that describes a difficult place!
And yet, what struck me is that David focuses his prayer on ONE THING. Verse 4 says that his one request amidst his difficult circumstances was the desire to experience fellowship with God.
OK...Let's be honest here. I'll start! If this is me, I would have a much longer prayer list. It would begin with a request to stop the advancing enemy and move on to the removal of my troubles, the reconciliation with my family, the vindication of my integrity before the people.
You get the point. I would be distracted by the details of my circumstances that I just might miss the ONE THING - the refuge of fellowship with God.
Because here is what I see in this Psalm. David does not necessarily expect his circumstances to change. "For in the day of trouble, He will keep me safe." Not the removal of trouble but protection amidst the trouble. So much so that he can pray that "His head be exalted above the enemies that surround him." In other words, the enemies are still there, but he expects to live above them through his fellowship with God.

His confidence is this: "I WILL (strong expectation) see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." What confidence David has that God will be faithful.
What a reminder! I pray for all of us today that amidst all the details of our day - and for some of us, the turmoil of our troubles - we may have the heart of David and seek ONE THING: a deeper fellowship with God made possible through our faith in Christ. May we share His confidence that God will be faithful. Wait on Him and rest in that assurance today.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Accepting the Challenge - Day 1

This past Sunday, our church family took a challenge to awaken our sensitivity to the work of the Holy Spirit in and through our lives. To live in the newness of the Spirit made possible by Christ's death and resurrection as we have been learning through our study in Romans. (
We made a commitment to look to see where His Spirit is at work, to listen for His voice in our life, and when we hear Him speak, to obediently follow His lead.
This may be as simple as slowing down to recognize the beauty of God's creation or as difficult as forgiving those who have offended us. In either case, we are going to ask God's Spirit to empower us to live this new life He has created in us. For apart from Him, we can do nothing.
Now that we have been released from the law so that we might be led by the Spirit, in humble submission, we will let Him have His way in our life and be transformed. We are all in!
One of the committments I made was to share my reflections as I spend time in the Psalms this week. You are welcome to add your thoughts about your time in the Psalms or any of the other ways God might be prompting you this week. Whatever we do, let's glorify God by recognizing His power in our life as we live in His realm of grace.

Psalm 1

This morning, my attention was drawn to verse 3 where the psalmist describes the outcome of those who trust in the Lord when he writes: “whatever he does prospers”. Yet, in a moment of despair, the psalmist will later write in verse 5 of Psalm 10 the very same attribute of the wicked when he writes: “his ways are always prosperous”.
The contrast seems to focus on the heart. For it says of the wicked, “he is haughty and your laws are far from him.” Yet of the person of faith, “his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”
The wicked trust in themselves. Their branches become stiff and their hearts hardened by the wisdom of the world. Their leaves wither like chaff and what once appears to be prosperous now leads to destruction.
The person of faith trusts in God who sustains. They yield fruit in season and their leaves never wither. What may appear to be barren will soon spring to life as it nourished by the truth of God's Word.
May we delight in the Lord today and trust in Him alone.

Friday, October 16, 2009

You Are Not In Control

As we are spending time as a church seeking to understand the amazing gift of God’s grace, I am convicted that we don’t often live in the fullness of that gift. Even more specifically, the gift of God’s grace super-abounds in us through the presence of the Holy Spirit which energizes, empowers us to live in a newness of live and service to our Redeemer King. (Rom 7:6)

But just stop and consider our common conversation and let’s see if what we say reflects this reality of new life empowered by the Spirit.

How many times have we been in a situation or encountered a difficult person and said, “When they did that…it made me so mad!”

Or how about the circumstances of our job or family life or finances and we say, “This is just overwhelming me. It is stressing me out!”

But here is the deal…No one can make you mad. There is no situation or circumstance that has power over you to cause stress. Here’s how I know this is true. The Bible says that anger and anxiety as we have described them here are sins. (Eph 4:26, Col 3:8, James 1:20, Phil 4:6, Luke 21:34) And as a Christian, since these are sins, they do not possess the power to control you. (Rom 6:14)

The only way these sins can control you is if you let them reign. (Rom 6:12) Therefore, no one can make you made. There is no situation or circumstance that can stress you out…unless you allow it to. You have to give that person or that circumstance permission to control you. Based on your decision to follow Christ, sin’s power has been broken and it cannot control you…unless you invite it to do so.

So next time you hear yourself say, “She made me so angry.” OR “That really stresses me out.”, remind yourself: they didn’t make you do anything. You did that to yourself. And because the Spirit of God lives in you, it does not have to be that way. His power, when you submit instead to Him, is sufficient to bear a different kind of fruit.

Instead of being controlled by anger, be controlled by love. Instead of being controlled by sadness, be controlled by joy. Instead of anxiety, peace and patience. Let kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control rule and reign in your life. It is life in the Spirit made possible by His grace through faith. (Gal 5:22-23)