Bright Lights

My son is learning to drive with his learners permit in his pocket.  A piece of plastic that gives him the right to drive on the road with an adult in the car with him.  I have always believed that permit was to learn to drive.  Now I’m seeing that it is there for his protection by forcing an adult to be in the car with him to teach him how to deal with impatient adults on the road.  (He is now the 4th child I’ve ridden with.  I don’t recall seeing so many impatient adults with the previous 3 children).

What have we become as a society?  It’s hurry here and there.  It’s hurry, hurry, hurry!  But, you know, mistakes occur when we hurry.  When you think of a hurried time in your life what comes to mind?

  • A scheduled appointment you are late for?
  • Impatient about finding a job?
  • Someone breathing down your neck to get something done… a deadline?
  • Finding that perfect relationship you will spend the rest of your life with?

We get in a hurry over a lot of things.  These four points are just from observations in life. (I could have written more…. but I’m in a hurry. Ha!… Sorry!) At some time in life we have all been in a hurry for one of those reasons or something else.  I can just about bet you that when life-decisions get hurried mistakes are made and accidents happen.

While riding down the road with my son, there was this car with bright lights on his tail.  He was going just over the speed limit.  He kept referring to the lights in his mirror and getting frustrated.  I encouraged him to focus on the road ahead and let the person deal with whatever they have going on by themselves.  We can’t control what they have going on. We can only focus on what we can see ahead of us.

Sometimes when others are in a hurry it can affect our own performance.

This conversation lead to more talk about the past.  We can’t do anything about the past in our lives.  Just like those bright lights, if we focus on the bright lights of the past we will be blinded and lose sight of what is up ahead.  Sometimes you have to reposition yourself, while in the driver seat, so that those things behind you don’t interfere with your future.

Who is sitting in your drivers seat?  Are you letting the guy behind you push you into a hurried state?  Are you getting your eyes off of the road in front of you all because you are focused on what’s behind you?

In Hebrews 12 we read,

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed- that exhilarating finish in and with God- he could put up with anything along the way:  Cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. (The Message).

If you are wanting to look back, then look back to the life of Jesus.  See how he dealt with life.  The encouragement for the day is to look to Jesus… keep your eyes on him.  As we approach the final days leading up the celebration of his birth, look back over his story.  See how his story from the past can lead you on into a great future.

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Being made strong

The Bible says, “When I am weak, I am made strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

A piece of steel can’t say that.  When it fails…. it fails and people get hurt or even die.  And it’s final.

When we are weak, in a particular area of life, we also can experience hurt and pain as well as a variety of other emotions.  This weakness can hurt us and others around us.  Yet, in our deepest weakness, Jesus reminds us that in our weakness we are made strong.

When we come to the end of ourselves and turn to Jesus for our strength, understanding, and power, he will give us what we have need of in the moment.

As a cyclist, I know if I want to complete an event that is extremely difficult, I must train.  I must get myself prepared and ready to accomplish whatever it is I want to do.  Without the proper training, time, nutrition, and encouragement, I will not be able to do what I set out to do.

Finishing doesn’t happen overnight.  I plan for it.  I train for it. I suffer for it.  I get frustrated when setbacks come my way.  And, yes, things get in the way.  This year I got sick just 4 weeks before the event I was training for all year.  My body was in good shape but my mind was not.  I showed up to the event in shape physically – not mentally.  You have got to have both to reach your objective.  Even the best encouragement couldn’t help me overcome my own self doubts in my head.  I was there to do the 80 mile ride and settled for the 50.  The 50 was no cake walk with over 3500 ft of climbing – with one of the climbs over 8 miles long.  I completed a lesser ride but I did what I my mind said I could do.

I look around my life these days and I see many of the same fears and feelings I have had pretty much all of my life.  I’m not sure why I keep fighting these same things over and over.  Maybe I get tired and let my guard down.  I allow the stuff of life to get to me.  And, yes, Satan knows me well and knows when I am on a good track and uses individuals and circumstances to send me down from time to time. During ALL seasons of life, I must remember to surrender to Jesus….. hear his words “Come to me…”

I’ve been in training as a Christian for many years.  Too often, I still feel like a newbie.  Even so, I, just as you, need to heed the words of Jesus, “Come to me…”

“Come to Me…” (Matthew 11:28). His word come means “to act.” Yet the last thing we want to do is come. But everyone who does come knows that, at that very moment, the supernatural power of the life of God invades him. The dominating power of the world, the flesh, and the devil is now paralyzed; not by your act, but because your act has joined you to God and tapped you in to His redemptive power. (My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers, November 4).

Living with Real Joy

In Luke 10:17-20, Jesus cautions his disciples not to get caught up in what great service they have done, “The seventy-two returned with joy,”  Jesus knew how easy it is for us to get caught up in what we accomplish and for our personal accomplishments to sway our feelings of “joy.”  Jesus received what they had to report and quickly turned their attention away from what they accomplished to himself saying, “Do not rejoice that the evil spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20, NIV).

Real joy does not come from what we do but rather in the One in whom we seek, find, and live.  Our real joy comes from knowing Jesus and walking faithfully in his leading.  The point of our following Jesus is wrapped up in him more so than in what we do… there is where joy is truly found.

Paul lived with great joy.  He was full of the Holy Spirit and was confident in Jesus.  He was introduced to Jesus on the Road to Damascus.  But he came to know Jesus as he walked with him the rest of his life.

I’ve got a friend who played professional baseball.  He played for many years at the top of the Triple A League.  He would get called up to the Big Leagues from time-to-time when someone was hurt then go back down.  His desire was to play in the Major Leagues full-time but that opportunity always seemed to escape his grasp.

In my opinion, he was living his dream.  He lived with joy.  He knew his “call” was the minor leagues.  He is a guy with great character, integrity, and faith.  Much like the Apostle Paul.  Paul found great joy in his sufferings for the sake of Christ.  My friend knew his greater impact in the lives of others was the Minor Leagues.

I read an article recently that spoke of Paul’s desire to serve in Spain.  Bet he never got there.  I thought of my desires in serving the Lord…. There is a deep growing in the process.  The ultimate goal of the Lord’s is not that I obtain that goal but rather a deeper relationship with him.

The missionary’s great essential is remaining true to the call of God, and realizing that his one and only purpose is to disciple men and women to Jesus (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 27).

  • Do I know the Lord?
  • Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit?
  • Am I wise enough in God’s sight, but foolish enough according to the wisdom of the world, to trust in what Jesus has said?
  • Am I abandoning the great supernatural position of limitless confidence in Christ Jesus, which is really God’s only call for a missionary?

I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 10).

Seek Him first in your season

What season do you find yourself in today? Would you characterize your life as being in the Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter?

I know where I live the season seems a bit messed up. It’s May and I’m writing on the back deck of our home wearing a sweatshirt. The Fall-like weather feels great but it’s a little unusual. I’ve read today where there are still major snowstorms going on. It seems crazy not being able to predict what to wear from day to day. It’s as if we are in the midst of a climate shift.

Just as the seasons change our lives change and go through different seasons of cold, dryness, warmth, and growth. During the springtime of life, growth happens almost flawlessly. If you are a Christian, in the springtime, the Word of God is alive and sharp in your life. The Holy Spirit seems to be speaking at every turn. There is a great sense of excitement in the air. I know during these moments of intense growth it is easy to become complacent and begin to expect this to be the “norm”. If you find yourself today in the midst of a spiritual growth spurt be alert to the unpredicted shifts in the climate. Don’t look at it as a set back – rather understand God is going to use this time to bring about more growth.

Maybe your life is characterized by being in the “dead of winter.” Don’t lose hope. Know that Spring is near. Draw close to God and don’t worry. No matter how cold your winter may feel – He is with you and He will sustain you. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness!

We aren’t to worry about what tomorrow may bring. Jesus said,

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:34, The Message).

I know there have been several mornings in recent days I have been surprised by the frosty-like weather. As I walked to the car with my son several mornings ago, we talked about how Fall-like it was. It reminded me of what Oswald Chambers has to say about uncertainty,

We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God—it is only believing our belief about Him. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 29).

Do you trust God and believe in Him with your entire life? Or are you holding on to what you believe about Him? As Chambers points out, there is a difference in believing in God and believing in your belief about Him. I think a lot of times we throw up a prayer of hope without faith in Him. We pray hoping what we believe about Him is true. Then when things don’t turn out the way we hoped then we get mad at Him. I think that’s one reason why Jesus teaches us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Seeking Him first removes our agendas and puts our focus where it needs to be.

Are you ready… Are you prepared for what tomorrow may bring? I believe you are ready if your focus today is on what God is doing right now. Pray and seek Him first.

Rise to the occasion…

It’s the end of one of those weeks I would much rather forget.  I couldn’t wait to get to this day… FRIDAY!!!  It’s way too easy to get lost in a terrible, no good, rotten week.  It’s been one of those week were you begin to think, “I don’t think things could get worse!”  Then I catch myself and remember Job… I don’t want to go there. 

No matter what sort of week you may have had – I think Oswald Chambers sums it up nicely.

Remember that you have been saved so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in your body (see 2 Corinthians 4:10  ). Direct the total energy of your powers so that you may achieve everything your election as a child of God provides; rise every time to whatever occasion may come your way. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, May 15).

Who is your god?

I haven’t asked the question in awhile:  How are you doing with your Read through the Bible for 2009?  Are you on task with your goal for the year?  Have you begun to develop a healthy habit in reading the Bible?  I hope so!

The past several weeks have been tough for me.  My routine and schedule has been turned upside down.  I have been feeling a bit guilty for not staying on track with where I wanted to be.  Everyday I think, “I need to read the Bible.” 

Has reading the Bible become all about checking a box?  Or is reading the Bible drawing us closer and deeper in a relationship with Jesus? 

Of course, Oswald Chambers would have something to say on this!

Your god may be your little Christian habit— the habit of prayer or Bible reading at certain times of your day. Watch how your Father will upset your schedule if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes. (My Utmost for His Highest, May 12).

This was a great reality check for me.  Reading God’s Word should never be about getting through it – like some book.  God’s Word is His voice to us…  Providing truth, life, freedom, and correction.  The focus of our everyday reading should never be about just being able to say, “I read the Bible for the day.”  It needs to be about, “What does God want to say to me today?”

As you continue reading through the Bible this year, make sure you are spending time to draw closer to Him as you read.  Don’t trade God in for the Christian habit (god).

Love means that there are no visible habits— that your habits are so immersed in the Lord that you practice them without realizing it. (My Utmost for His Highest, May 12).

Can you see what God is doing?

Have you ever ridden the log ride at Six Flags or at some other park? 

Lately my life has seemed much like I am riding a log ride (just not as fun).  My life is in motion bumping up against the parameters (or shall I say the principles) of life.  All the while, I know there is a destination out there that I will arrive at.  As Oswald Chambers puts it, I’m living my life based on principles rather than vision.

There is a difference between holding on to a principle and having a vision. A principle does not come from moral inspiration, but a vision does.

Our own idealistic principles may actually lull us into ruin. Examine yourself spiritually to see if you have vision, or only principles. (My Utmost for His Highest, May 9).

How do you live your life?  Do you get up everyday and hop onto the log ride of the expected routine in life or do you live it a bit more dangerously with a spiritual vision?  I know it seems like I have settled into the log ride and today am being challenged to get off of the ride and jump into a raft and conquor an uncharted river.  The Holy Spirit will be the guide and he will provide the vision.

Many years ago I went white water rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee.  I was nervous and stressed the entire time.  The water was freezing, the rapids were rough, and I had to trust the guide.  At times, I even got angry with the guide because I thought he was intentionally sending us through rougher water when it wasn’t necessary.

I realize in life I do the same thing.  At times, I get upset and angry with where this course is taking me.  I want to point a finger at the Holy Spirit and say, “Why didn’t you tell me to dig earlier?”  I’m quick to forget that He is teaching me as I go.  He allows the rough waters in my life and I need to learn from them. 

I have come to know when He is telling me to do something.  I have learned His voice.  But I haven’t overcome my fear of taking risks in following Him.  I like the log ride.  I know what I will experience in the log.  As for the the raft, there’s a risk and I will have to trust the Guide.

Have you lost the excitement for living?  Your job? Ministry? Family?  Read Proverbs 29:18,

  If people can’t see what God is doing,
   they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
   they are most blessed. (The Message)

I know the following quote is from a message on marriage.  But it is applicable to any aspect of life that pertains to personal passion.  Job. Family. Ministry.  Whatever!  We all get involved in doing something based on how it makes us feel but to keep it going and alive there must be a plan… a vision.  It’s the plan that will keep you moving forward.

“Falling in love requires a pulse, staying in love requires a plan.” (Andy Stanley).

Are you following the vision for your life?  Or have you decided to remain comfortable with where you are?

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