Are you prepared?

Photo by James WhiteThere were two farmers who were both praying for rain.  But only one of them prepared his field.  Which farmer do you think was praying with faith? (Facing the Giants, The Movie)

Do you take a trip or plan your vacation without first counting the cost and consulting a map to determine how you are going to get to your destination?  I know the way to my mother’s house.  But each time I make the trip I consult the map, calculate the cost, and determine how long it is going to take to get there.

John the Baptist came preaching a message of baptism.  He came to prepare the way for people to receive the message Jesus would bring.

“That explains it,” said Paul. “John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you’ve been baptized in John’s baptism, you’re ready now for the real thing, for Jesus.” (Acts 19:4, The Message).

Maybe you have been made ready and you have begun following Jesus.  Now the question is, “What is it he is preparing you for?”  I believe we are always being prepared for something.  God takes all of our experiences in life and puts them together for His purposes and His glory.  He isn’t going to waste anything.  The hinderance to our moving forward tends to come in at a time of failure.  How we respond to that “failure” is crucial to our moving forward.

In Matthew 4, Jesus calls Peter to follow and immediately Peter follows.  Peter spends the next three years with Jesus being prepared for a future that he had not come to a complete understanding of.  Leading up to the time when Jesus was to be crucified – Jesus prepared Peter and the other disciples for what was to come.  In John 21, after the resurrection, Jesus prepares Peter once again for what is still to come.  John tells us Jesus was telling Peter to, “feed his sheep.”  Jesus also hinted to Peter at the kind of death he would suffer.  Once again Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me.”

Peter’s life is an example of the growth we each experience as we follow Jesus.  As we read the Gospels, we see all of the life-lessons each of the disciples experienced as they followed Jesus.  There were a lot of great moments as they followed and trusted him.  But there were also moments of failure… even denial as we read concerning Peter.  Jesus doesn’t give up on the man.  He continues to love, forgive, and prepare.

Maybe you are at a place in life where you have failed in some way.  I hope this is a reminder to you that Jesus loves you.  Jesus forgives you.  And that Jesus is still preparing you for your destiny.  Have you been praying for “rain”? Then prepare your field and get ready for the rain.

Photo by: James White

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My best for His glory

2013: Day 1.2013

New things bring about fresh excitement. A New car, a new house, a new job, a new relationship, and a New Year all bring about this fresh excitement. Today being January 1, all of us are probably going to make some sort of commitments to change. We are going to live better-healthier lives by joining the gym, start running, lose weight… the list goes on and on. Maybe for you it is not to get fit physically but rather to be fit spiritually. Both are important. Both can bring about healthier living and greater enjoyment of life.

I have my own, not so little, list of things I want to accomplish in this New Year. I’ve gone over this page -or so of notes in my journal – and the goal of everything on it is ultimately to be closer to God in some way. I want to surrender each point on my list to the will of God. I want to make this year – the year of looking up. I want this to be the year that Oswald Chambers would say, “My determined purpose is to be my utmost for His highest— my best for His glory.” This will start as I look up – from my knees – in prayer… Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

As you begin this New Year, and you focus on the spiritual aspect of your life, don’t forget the fact your decision to follow Jesus or not will have ramifications on those you love the most. Your decision will affect, either way, those you are around on a daily basis. It’s a choice you make. You can’t ignore the fact that if you choose not to make bold commitments for the Lord today you will be delaying or hindering the blessings that He wants to work through you for the sake of those around you – for His glory.

My choice this year is to:

  1. Look up
  2. Daily open my eyes to God’s wonder all around me
  3. Seize every opportunity to encounter God
  4. To be my utmost for His highest – my best for His glory

What do you choose for yourself as you start 2013? Is it for your glory? Or is it for His glory?

Look up and open your eyes…

I have been captivated by Margaret Feinberg’s new book Wonderstruck. Many other people have been too. It has barely been out a week and it’s already into the 2nd printing!! Before its release on Christmas day, I received an advanced copy of three chapters. The timing for me to read these chapters were definitely God ordained. And I believe God has inspired Margaret to write this book for such a time as this. I’m excited to start 2013 with Wonderstruck.

We are living in a time where the pressures of this world are very over-whelming. So many people I have talked with have lost their joy, their focus, the understanding of their purpose, and the wonder of God. I’m thankful I haven’t lost my job, my house, or anything like so many others have. I can say that other circumstances in life, both, past and present, have had me extremely over-burdened. These things have worked over-time to take the life right out of me for the past few years.

Last month, I was out for a fall run on Pine Mountain. I started out with one thing in mind… to get near to God and for things to change within my life. I am so glad I took the time to listen to God that day. I am thankful I am able to share with you some of the images from the pictures I took. God was speaking to me in ways I didn’t fully comprehend. I’m confident that God is not finished with what he began in me.

As I move into the year 2013, I have adopted one sentence from Wonderstruck that will be my life theme for the coming year.

God invites us to look up, open our eyes to the wonder all around us, and seize every opportunity to encounter him. (Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck, 27).

As I ran on the trail I stopped to take this photograph. Pine Mountain in the shadowsI began to run again and God whispered to me, “Stop and look up.” The sight was beautiful. What I saw were these leaves with the bright blue sky as the back drop. God had painted this beautiful canvas all around me. But it was in the invitation to look up that I really began to understand what his desire has been for me.

I have had my eyes focused on my journey, focused on my surroundings, focused on the darkness, focused on the past and ignoring the moment. His purpose and plan for my life and for your life is far greater than anything either one of us could imagine on our own. Pine Mountain Look Up

This moment is his. His invitation is for us to look up and open our eyes to the wonder all around us. He is all around us. He is inviting us to experience him beyond what we can see. He wants us to seize this moment. He wants us to take the hill and conquer this life and allow ourselves to encounter him.

Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world. The Spirit of God seizes me and I am compelled to get alone with God and fight the battle before Him. Until I do this, I will lose every time. The battle may take one minute or one year, but that will depend on me, not God. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, December 27).

As I look forward to this new year of 2013, my prayer is to get to know God in a fresh and new way… to encounter him. I pray you will also embark on this same journey to encounter him too. He is inviting all of his people to, look up, open our eyes to the wonder all around us, and seize every opportunity to encounter him.

Surrender

Waving the white flag of surrender today…

I want to give up all of my past, my hopes, my plans, my dreams, my future… everything!  I want to lay it all down and surrender. 

Before they ever landed in a prison for their faith they made a decision to surrender to Jesus Christ.  Maybe that’s one reason why they could sing praises in the midst of their situation.  They had already surrendered to Jesus long before they surrendered to those who imprisoned them.

Surrender.  “To give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner.”  Surrender doesn’t come too easy for me.  I seem to want to continue to fight on my own terms.  I pray a pretty good game. But if my prayer life is just a game then what good is it?  At times, my prayer-life seems to be lacking surrender… total commitment.  When I pray for myself and/or for others I seem to interject my own selfish twist.

An example we have to follow is found in Matthew 26:39-42 is of Jesus praying with total surrender.

39Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

40-41When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

42He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.” (The Message).

I typically pray, “If there is any way, get me out of this…” Then find myself asleep like the disciples.

It’s not just in prayer but throughout life we are faced with decisions and choices we must make.  Our choice: To live a life surrendered to the will of God or to live for ourselves.

 Oh, the city’s afire
A passionate flame
It knows me by name
Oh, the city’s desire
To take me for more and more
It’s in the street, getting under my feet
It’s in the air, it’s everywhere
I look for you
It’s in the things I do and say
If I wanna live I gotta
Die to myself someday (“Surrender” lyrics by U2)

Walking in God’s deep wisdom

As children, we all live with the thought of, “When I grow up I’m going to…..”

As a child, I dreamed of being an architect.  I had notebooks full of designs.  I charted my course in that direction and attended Middle Georgia College.  I made several discoveries that year.  One big discover was this choice was going to be really hard considering how challenged I was with Pre-Algebra.  I guess the greatest discovery I made was not in the classroom.  It was the world I found inside the pages of the Bible. I recall not being able to read enough and I looked for opportunities to share with others what I was discovering.

It was through the reading of God’s Word that I made decisions on how I was going to live and the path in life I was going to follow.  Reading Psalm 119:1-5 today reminded me of those days at Middle Georgia College.

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. (The Message).

Are you in love with God’s Word today?  Do you read His Word in hopes of getting closer to Him?  Are you freely giving yourself, your will, your dreams, and aspirations to him?  Stay the course whether or not you are living out those hopes and dreams.  In relentless pursuit, seek the wisdom of God.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! (Proverbs 3:5-7, The Message).

One way God reveals himself to us is through the Bible.  If the Bible is not a part of your daily life I encourage you to make it.  I bet that when you do He will help you stay the course.  Honestly, it’s not always easy.  Often times the road can seem unmarked.  Keep your eyes open for him.  Trust him today.  Take a moment or two and read Psalm 119.

I am confident He will help you finish the statement, “When I grow up I’m going to….” No matter what age you are today.

Run to God!

I’m not very patient!  And I have been in this season of life for a long time now…  at least much longer than what I have wanted.  I guess you can figure out that I am not where I want to be.  However, this season has been all about growing me into the man God desires.  It’s been about fine tuning my voice and His story He wants to tell through me and my journey.  I understand that.  It’s not been easy – at all.  There have been some days where I’ve wanted to give up.  Give up on my dreams, desires, hopes, and even God.

Five or six weeks ago I was ready to do just that – give up!  No matter the arena – things were not working out.  Dead ends in all directions.  I was tired and not wanting to seek any longer.

The best thing I could have ever done was to reach out to a friend… who also reached out to me!  I let him know where I was, what I was thinking, and the deep emotion I was feeling.  He is one of those friends I have prayed with for many years.  He has believed in me during a time when I didn’t believe any more.  I’ve asked God several times, “Why have you allowed me to go through a season like this?”   I read this tweet yesterday and it seems to be appropriate for my question, “Jesus extends #grace to us no matter where we are on our spiritual journey and no matter what doubts or denying we’ve done.” (@mafeinberg, Margaret Feinberg). 

I don’t understand why any of us go through situations that are this difficult, trying, hard, and faith-shattering.  I do know, and have known for many years, God’s grace is more than I can grasp this side of heaven.  Why I live with these doubts and questions is beyond me. Yet, by faith I move forward.

I’m reminded in Proverbs 3:5-8,

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! (The Message).

I would bet you have had a similar experience(s).  Maybe you have already been through it and are on the other side living out your life-long dream.  You have experienced the grace and the hope He gives.  If so, I can’t encourage you enough to share it with someone else.  Walk along someone else and be the one who will believe and have faith when they can’t.  Maybe you are like me in the midst of or are just coming out of a very trying time in life… beginning to see the light.  All I can say is don’t give up.  Run to God for He is and will be your strength if you allow Him to be.

Be humble.  Seek His face.  Ask God for wonder.  Continue to walk the path God has laid out for you and move into your destiny in Jesus Christ… even if each step means you are taking it by faith and not by sight.

Faith invites us into an enchanting journey—one marked by mysteries of divine beauty, holy courage, irrepressible hope, unending love…  For me, a prayer for wonder asks the Lord to expand my capacity to see and savor the divine gifts all around.  (Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck).

Run to God… I’m praying for you today!

I’m staying on Your trail…

I love David’s unique way of communicating to God through praise and prayer. He had a way of talking with God that was free and honest.  Psalm 17 gives us a glimpse of David’s heart and his unwavering pursuit of God. He begins with, “Listen while I build my case, GOD, the most honest prayer you’ll ever hear.”

David does not lack confidence as he approaches his Heavenly Father. He is sure of the One he seeks, “Go ahead, examine me from the inside out, surprise me in the middle of the night – You’ll find I’m just what I say I am. My words don’t run loose.” (17:3).

In verse three, he is honest before God. There is not manipulation in his words to try and get his way. He lays his life out before God and asks for an examination. Much like how we do when we go to a doctor for a full physical on our health. We want the truth from the doctor and we hide nothing from them.

I have a strong desire to be used in God’s plan on this earth. I want to be available to be used by Him however He desires. Sometimes I seem to get lost in this pursuit. So often I seem to get trapped by the circumstances of the past that try to dictate my future.  However, I have come to know the God of all grace who sees me through… He has become the Writer of all things new in my life.  David found Him to be that as well.

“I’m staying on your trail; I’m putting one foot in front of the other. I’m not giving up.” (17:5).

David prays in verses 6-7, “I call to you, GOD, because I’m sure of an answer. So – answer! bend your ear! listen sharp! Paint grace-graffiti on the fences; take in your frightened children who are running from the neighborhood bullies straight to you.”

David sought God desperately to get away from the clutches of his enemies. He prayed what he wanted to see happen to those who came up against him. (17:10-14). He didn’t hold back and presented his circumstance to the Father.

Finally in 17:15, “And me? I plan on looking you full in the face. When I get up, I’ll see your full stature and live heaven on earth.” David knew victory would be his. He knew who he was and he knew his GOD… he trusted with all his heart. David didn’t give up or give in. He stayed hot on the trail seeking GOD.

Let’s do the same!!

Psalm 17 quoted from The Message, Eugene Peterson.