Do you have an “if” list? I do. It’s that list of conditions in my head that prevents me from serving God right now, right where I am—with the resources I already have.
I hear the debate going on in my head. If I had more money, I could give more. If I was more organized I could have more time to devote to God. If…the list goes on and on.
Other’s lists would be different than mine. Their lists might contain things like, if I could only find the right husband, if I could live in that city, if I could live in that house or neighborhood, if only my health would improve, if…if…if…
When we fill our “if” list we build up road blocks that prevent us from being effective for God. We find ourselves just waiting for the perfect conditions and THEN we can do what God is calling us to do. What we are really doing is stalling and finding excuses that keep us in our safe, predictable lives. Until all the conditions we have listed are met, we feel justified in waiting. After all, doesn’t the scripture say “wait on the Lord?”
But of course, waiting on the Lord and procrastination are not the same thing. One is a directive from the Lord not to run ahead of him. The other is our own inclination to drag our feet. We need to land somewhere in the middle. Willing to pause and let God lead but not to sit down and do nothing until we decide the conditions are right. Frankly, if you are walking close to the Lord, He will have you doing things you never thought you would do and in the most unlikely circumstances.
So perhaps it’s time we looked honestly and closely at our own lists. Are there ideals that we need to dispel? Things we need to let go of?
What’s on your “if” list? Are you willing to tear up that list of distractions and move forward with the Lord? There’s no time like the present.
“I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandment.” – Psalm 119:60 (ESV)
“Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.” – Proverbs 3:28 (ESV)
We’ve had a lot of rain lately and that means pulling out the umbrellas. I don’t think we see as many umbrellas now as we used to. It seems that people are not too concerned about getting wet. Some would rather run and hope to avoid a few raindrops than bother with getting the umbrella out. Others would rather just get wet knowing that they will dry eventually so what’s a little rain?
Consider for a moment that God’s love is like an umbrella that He places over you. You can come under His umbrella and be protected from all kinds of evil and danger. You can be shielded from the hurts of life.
Life under God’s umbrella isn’t perfect. Just because you are under His covering, it doesn’t mean that you are never affected by evil or the ugliness of this world. When it rains, sometimes the dirty water splashes on you even with your umbrella up. Life is like that. Sometimes we are touched by evil and sin and we must make the best of it.
But there is something we should never do. We should never choose to step out from under God’s umbrella thinking that a little of the evil in our world won’t hurt us. We should resist the temptation to just make a run for it on our own, thinking that whatever we encounter will eventually evaporate like a spring rain.
God has offered us His umbrella of love and under His shelter we are safe. Always choose to remain in His care.
Does it look like rain? Don’t leave your umbrella at home.
“There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.” – Isaiah 4:6
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” – Psalm 91:1-2
This week in my Bible reading plan I am in Isaiah. I try to read through the Bible every year and I always learn something new, that I didn’t see before. This week it was one short verse in Isaiah 37.
“The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward.” – Isaiah 37:31 (CSB)
I pondered this verse and got curious about trees that bear fruit. Most fruit trees don’t bear fruit for at least 2 years and some varieties up to 8 years after they are planted. What are they doing during those years? They are growing strong roots and sturdy branches. I watched a video of a man sharing his “trick” to get fruit more quickly than normal. His secret? Lots of fertilizer and water. Not much of a secret. If you feed a plant you will cause growth.
Isn’t it the same with us? If we want to bear fruit—spiritual fruit—we have to feed the roots. How do we do that? Simply spending time with the Lord and in His word. We can’t expect much fruit, or good quality fruit if we neglect to feed our spiritual roots. We need to feed on God’s word and allow the Holy Spirit to bring streams of living water into our lives.
Does your fruit seem a little shriveled and tasteless? Feast on God’s word and watch what happens.
“My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” – John 15:8 (CSB)
It’s a common phrase I hear regularly. You do you. What does that mean, exactly? Does it mean, be yourself, don’t let other people’s opinions stress you out, be who you were meant to be? Perhaps it started out that way.
Now it seems to mean something deeper. More like “nobody can tell you what to do.” But that isn’t true. There are many boundaries we need to live by. “You do you” begins to sound quite self-centered and we know that isn’t what the Scriptures exhort us to be.
Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) That doesn’t sound much like “you do you.” In order for me to follow Christ, I have to learn to NOT do me.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he makes a clear case for what should influence our actions when he says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I also try to please everyone in everything, not seeking my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)
Our goal is to bring glory to God and to bring others to Christ. If you focus on yourself—if you do you—are you really putting Christ first? Or is it just a way of giving us permission to serve ourselves?
Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to say, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.” Paul wasn’t asking the Corinthians to “do Paul,” he was telling them that HE was doing Christ and so should they.
Paul was no stranger to chains. He was familiar with suffering for the sake of the gospel. The circumstances of Paul’s life could have made him bitter and resentful but instead he focused on the mission. He knew the end result of many coming to Christ was worth whatever he had to endure along the way.
I wonder how many of us can say that we have put the mission of sharing the gospel so far above our own agenda and our own comfort that we can say with Paul, “to live is Christ and to die is gain?”
In 2 Timothy 2:8-10, Paul says, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and descended from David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer to the point of being bound like a criminal. But the word of God is not bound. This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”
Paul was so convinced of His calling, that even in his worst circumstances, he was able to set aside his own needs and press on because he knew “the word of God is not bound.” It didn’t matter what he experienced, God’s word would not be stopped.
In the current condition of our nation, we too must remember that no matter what happens around us or to us… the word of God is not bound. We have so many things that could cause us to be discouraged or to become bitter that we can sometimes forget that God’s word, God’s plan for the salvation of humanity is still moving forward. The events of the year 2020 have been so challenging that people are looking for answers and we have them. Let’s be like Paul and be encouraged that we can share the gospel no matter what situation we find ourselves in and rejoice because…
It’s a story about Hezekiah, who became King of Judah. He followed a long line of kings who abandoned their faith in the God who had redeemed them. God was so fed up with His people’s constant and consistent disobedience throughout the generations that He scattered them.
Hezekiah was a refreshing change. He honored the Lord and tried to restore the kingdom’s reliance upon God, their creator. The Bible says, “He remained faithful to the Lord and did not turn from following him but kept the commands the Lord had commanded Moses.” Fourteen years into his reign (Hezekiah was 39 years old), the King of Assyria (Sennacherib) initiated a campaign to attack all of the fortified cities of Judah. He then sent a massive army and a spokesman to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. Hezekiah sent three high-ranking officials to meet with the spokesman, including a court secretary and a court historian.
The King of Assyria, through his spokesman, began his verbal attacks. He questioned Hezekiah’s loyalty. He questioned his faith. He mocked the Lord God. As a matter of fact, the Assyrian King claimed to have a command from the Lord to “attack this land and destroy it.”
The spokesman turned his attack to those within earshot, against the wishes of King Hezekiah’s spokesmen. He was trying to start a riot–a revolt. He told them, “Don’t listen to Hezekiah.” He asked the people to surrender and promised that he would take them to a land of grain, new wine, olive trees, and honey–so that they may live, and not die.
The spokesmen returned to Hezekiah with their report. He became distraught and immediately went into the Lord’s temple. He said, “Today is a day of distress, rebuke, and disgrace.” They were helpless. They sought out the prophet Isaiah who relayed this message from the Lord: “Don’t be afraid because of the words you have heard.”
While Hezekiah was distressing over the situation, the King of Assyria sent another message. “Don’t let your God, on whom you rely, deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be handed over to the King of Assyria…will you be rescued? Did the gods of the nations that my predecessors destroyed rescue them? Where are the kings of these nations now (paraphrased)?”
Here’s the interesting part–Hezekiah took this written message from the King of Assyria, went to the temple, and spread it out before the Lord. I can picture it, can you?
Then he prayed. He praised God for who He is and what He has done. Then he asked God to listen and hear and to open His eyes and see. He finished by asking God to save them “so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are God–you alone.”
It wasn’t a selfish request. Hezekiah wanted it to be known throughout the lands that he serves the one true God. He wanted it to be a testimony and a witness to God’s grace and mercy.
There is so much more to the story. I encourage you to take the time to sit and read it.
What thoughts have been going through your head lately? What have you been hearing? Are you hearing a parent say, “You’re never going to amount to anything?” Are you telling yourself that you’re not much good to anyone? Are you afraid of stepping out in faith and doing what God has called you do to…to be who He called you to be? Are you trying to solve your problems on your own? Are you desperately seeking quick fixes to your problems, frantically looking for relief? Are you questioning your faith right now? Are you questioning whether God even exists and if He does, does He really care about you? Are you looking at a hopeless situation with no relief in sight? Are you seeing the consequences of bad habits but don’t know how to break them?
The lesson we learn from Hezekiah is prayer. Earnest prayer. But it has to be coupled with a recognition of who God really is–our Creator, our Savior, our Redeemer. The Old Testament is really a story of Jesus. He was there then and He is here now. He, like Hezekiah, intercedes on our behalf to God the Father. Seek Him. Spend time with Him. Every day. Read and study His word. It’s full of stories of how God can conquer our enemies, the thoughts that keep us from fulfilling His purpose for our lives, “so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are God–you alone.”
But look, the Lord keeps his eye on those who fear him — those who depend on his faithful love to rescue them from death and to keep them alive in famine. We wait for the Lord; he is our help and shield. For our hearts rejoice in him because we trust in his holy name. May your faithful love rest on us, Lord, for we put our hope in you. –Psalm 33:19-22 CSB
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and rescued me from all my fears. –Psalm 34:4
Winnowing is a step in the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. In its earliest form, it was when the wheat, which had already been beaten on the ground to loosen the wheat from unusable parts of the plant, was thrown into the air to allow the wind to blow away the chaff. What was left was the pile of valuable wheat kernels which fell to the ground and could be collected.
We have a similar process we use when we sift flour, but the results are just the opposite. After sifting, left in the sifter are the impurities and the clean flour is in a pile beneath the mesh screen of the sifter.
We understand that both actions result in the same outcome. We have separated the good from the bad. We have removed the impurities that would make the end product unusable.
How does this apply to our thoughts? Take a moment and consider what your mind has been dwelling on for the past few days… or weeks… or months. If you are like most of the rest of us, you have been thinking about viruses, riots, statues, masks, loss of income, political arguments, name calling, destruction…chaos.
I feel the Lord calling us away from this obsession with darkness, fear, and anger. We have been tricked into focusing on all the distractions in this world and have gotten away from what God calls us to do.
Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy–dwell on these things. – Philippians 4:8 (CSB)
I am not saying we should hide our heads in the sand and ignore the things going on around us. I AM saying we need to stop fixating on the problems and focus on the only One who has the answers.
How much of what you’ve been thinking about fits into the verse from Philippians? My challenge to you is to rise up and take your thoughts and throw them all into the air so the Lord can blow away the chaff and let what is of value become your focus.
There is a saying, “glance at your problems and gaze at the Lord.” I think we may have it backwards.
Today I was thinking about this question. What does it mean to really follow Christ? Of course it means that we have made that life-changing decision to ask Him to be Lord of our lives. But when we agree to that, we may not fully understand that it means Lord of everything. Every. Thing.
So really, following Christ isn’t just saying yes to Him. It’s saying no to the world over and over and over. Every time we say no to something the world offers we are saying yes to Jesus again. We are reaffirming our commitment to follow Him.
It’s a daily, moment by moment, kind of thing.
The decision to follow Christ is really a collection of daily choices made one decision at a time. Forever.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”– Matthew 16:24 (ESV)
In the current state of our culture, it seems that everyone is talking and no one is listening. There are so many topics to discuss and everyone has an opinion. But it seems that no one is listening.
A few years ago I went through a trying time where I felt like my opinions, ideas and suggestions were not valued or welcomed. I struggled with feelings of rejection that lead to some depression. During that time, I did some research and learned that I was not alone in my experience.
Studies show that one of the best ways to show someone love is to listen to them. Listening to others seems to be a lost art these days. What kind of listener are you?
Are you listening to understand? That means you intentionally choose to turn off all distractions and engage with the person speaking. Or, are you listening to respond? That’s means you’re listening but also formulating your response before the speaker is even done talking.
The Bible has strong words regarding this. It says in Proverbs 18:2, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
So how do we show love by listening? We take time to allow someone to share their heart. We put their needs of being heard before our own. We give them the gift of our time and we wait until they have finished what they need to say before responding. Sometimes a response may not be appropriate at all. Perhaps they just need someone who will share their load without trying to “fix” things or have all the answers.
Who in your life needs you to just listen? Your spouse? Your child? Your parent? Your friend or coworker? When was the last time you laid aside your own agenda and offered someone a listening ear? Isn’t that what our entire culture needs right now?
I encourage you to start today. Make yourself available to listen without feeling the need to make sure everyone else knows your opinion.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. – James 1:19
God’s promises are not earned by our behavior. Sometimes He tells us, “if you will do this, I will do that.” He requires our obedience but that’s not the same thing as performance or merit. God sees our potential and not our failures. We cannot be disqualified from receiving God’s promises if our hearts are truly His. We don’t have to earn His love, compassion or peace by measuring up to some standard. He loved us first, before we had a single opportunity to prove our loyalty or commitment and His peace can be received anywhere, anytime. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more than He already does.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (ESV)