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.

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I will pursue You

Give my lifeToday is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent.  It is a time that many Christians take to prepare themselves leading up to the celebration of Easter.  I have heard of those who are giving up things like chocolate, Facebook, Coke, or some other daily habit during this time.

Lent is not something my church tradition has observed.  But I have grown increasingly curious to look at it more the past couple of years.  After reading Margaret Feinberg‘s book, Wonderstruck, I have decided to take the next 40 days as a time to focus my prayer life.

Margaret writes about how she fell in love with this time of Lent.  She talks about God leading her to give up prayer… at least prayer in the form that she had grown accustomed – lengthy prayers.  God had instructed her to shorten her prayers to three words.  Imagine that!  Condensing every prayer down to three words.  I don’t know if my brain has the vocabulary or creativity to accomplish that kind of prayer.

During Lent, I’m not going to cut my prayers down to three words but I am going to cut out praying for my personal needs over the next 40 days.  Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.” (New Century Version).  I’ve been noticing how much my praying is focused on me… my needs… my wants… I have made prayer about me and not about Jesus.Your presence

Jesus says if we will seek God’s kingdom first – what He wants – THEN our other needs will be met.  It seems like I have had my prayer life backward.  Praying for my needs and not necessarily seeking first God’s kingdom.  Over the next 40 days I want to grow closer to God and I want to get to know Him on a deeper level in the power of His Holy Spirit through prayer.

Oswald Chambers states,

The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing. A flower, a tree, or a servant of God may convey God’s message to me. What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. I am devoted to things and even to service and my own convictions. (My Utmost for His Highest, February 13).

Over the next 40 days I want my life to be marked by being devoted to the right things.  To the pursuit of walking in His presence.  How are you going to spend these days leading up to the celebration of Easter?

Why do you pray?

In the words of Oswald Chambers, “The purpose of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not of the answer.”  So, why do you pray?

Prayer is a powerful weapon and tool for those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  The goal of prayer is not that we get something. Or that we hear from God is some way.  The goal of prayer is that we grow closer to God and with His Son, Jesus.  That’s it.  Matthew writes in the New Testament, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (New Living Translation, Matthew 6:33).

I recall working for UPS while in Seminary.  I loaded package cars for delivery in Fort Worth, TX.  Those packages would come down the belt to my slide… and they would come fast!  It would get overwhelming most mornings.  Everytime I would stop and look at how bad I was backed up that feeling would come over me like I will never get this done.  I would overcome this by looking at the package that was right at my finger tips.  One package at a time and I would get it done.  It wasn’t by reaching beyond what I could do but by taking ahold of the package right before me. 

If I can encourage you with one thing today, I would say to you, get close to the Lord.  Don’t worry about that thing that is beyond your control or grasp.  Look to God and pray in Jesus name.  Seek first His Kingdom and he will help you with the rest.  In this moment look to Him and rest assured of His love.  Pray in order to get ahold of God and not the answer.

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.

Don’t ever be satisfied…

At the beginning of the year, I set for myself a goal to ride 2-3 Centuries (100 miles) on my trusty Centurion.  Many upgrades to my bike over the past year have me set in a good position to continue to ride.  Well, the first two rides have come and gone.  The first Ididn’t get to ride in.  As for the second,  I only completed the Half Century (50 miles).  I hadn’t put the miles in  needed leading up to this second opportunity.  The icing on the cake was the 100+ degree temperatures we were having on June 30.  Although the bike is ready… I haven’t been.  I’m real proud of a couple of my riding partners who did complete the 100 mile ride in 100+ degree temperatures. (Great job Dean and Jeff!!)

I had the vision to do these rides yet I didn’t have all the makings to see the vision through.  The vision to complete a Century is still there and I will make that attempt in September.  In the meantime, I have signed on to the Le Tour Challenge at MapMyRide.  To complete 544 miles during the 23 days of the Tour de France.  So far, I am on target.  The weather has cooperated and all of the schedules I have to keep up with have all worked in my favor thus far.  This is one way for me to keep getting those much needed miles on my legs in order to obtain my goal.

I’ve had visions, dreams, and goals in life… I say, “had,” but really I still have them.  Now I keep them tucked away – hidden and out of sight.  The only time I seem to let them out is in my frustration.  I’ve even told one friend I’ve just about gotten to the place where I was ready to give up on them… and my ability to see them through.

It’s a funny thing how God works.  It never fails when I reach the low moments of frustration God sends someone to me with an encouraging word,call, text message, or email.  It’s really bazaar how that happens with the words that are used to encourage.  As I read Oswald Chambers this morning I have thought about several individuals who have played important roles in my life.  Those people who have believed in me for years – who have seen me as a success when I couldn’t see it.

What is it in life you are working on?  What sort of goals do you have that you have not attained? Have you had a vision from God that hasn’t come into being?  Don’t settle for second best.  Don’t seek out Plan B, C, or even D.  Let the words from today’s My Utmost for His Highest encourage you for another day of dreaming.

Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it. (July 6)

Confession of Sin

When was the last time you sat down with God to deal with sin in your life? 

That’s  heavy question.

I can recall so many times being in one particular church needing to go to the altar to pray… often!  Maybe it was because going to the altar to pray was a big part of the “tradition” of that church. Or, just perhaps, it was the result of having been in the presence of God.  For me, that was a big part of what I did when I went to church… go to the altar in response to the message I had just heard.  It was something about taking that step to kneel and pray to confess sin or to make a commitment to God in some way that was in response to His Word I had just heard in the message from the Pastor.

Oswald Chambers brought my thoughts back to several experiences as I read this morning.  He speaks of Isaiah’s confession of sin when he enters into God’s presence.  Isaiah’s confession was not a blanket confession, “God, please forgive me of my sins.”  No, Isaiah’s confession was specific, “Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips…” Isaiah 6:5.

A person will easily say, “Oh yes, I know I am a sinner,” but when he comes into the presence of God he cannot get away with such a broad and indefinite statement. Our conviction is focused on our specific sin, and we realize, as Isaiah did, what we really are. This is always the sign that a person is in the presence of God. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest July 3).

Go back to my original question, When was the last time you sat down with God to deal with sin in your life? If I understand Oswald Chambers correctly that just may be the last time either one of us was in the presence of God.