Day Away With God Resource

 

Thanks for committing time to seek the Lord.  Please find a place that inspires you and plan to spend time in solitude.  Just you, the Holy Spirit, a Bible, and a journal.  If you take your computer commit yourself to no surfing and no work.  The goal is to hear from God.

Please read Matthew 16:13-20.

Jesus asked His disciples “Who do you say that I am?” And then He said to Simon, “You are…” and He described what kind of person Peter would be and how he would function in the Kingdom.

Jesus cares about who we think He is.  And He cares about who we think we are.  He also wants us to have direction, guidance, and a clear sense of calling.  We are the church, the called out.  Who we are and what He calls us to transcends the circumstances we find ourselves in.  It’s also important we keep the boundaries in the right place.

As you spend time with Him please start a saved document entitled “Listening.Yr.Mo.Da.Location”.   Please ask Him these questions and then listen… just a Bible, a journal, and quiet…

  1. Who are You, Lord? -Mt 16:15-17
  • Which of Your attributes are important to me currently?

 

 

  1. Who am I, Lord? -Mt 16:18
  • Who have You created me to be?
  • What kind of son or daughter do YOU intend me to be? Our understanding of who He is will determine much of who He wants us to be as His sons and daugthers.
  • What kind of spouse do You want me to be?
  • What kind of parent do you want me to be?
  • What kind of professional do you want me to be?
  1. What am I to do, Lord? Where are we going?  Mt 16:19

 

  1. What are the boundaries, Lord? -Mt 16:20

 

Reasonableness of Reconciliation

Grand Canyon

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  1 Peter 2:2-3

In the United States, Christians are often stereotyped as being critical, condescending, and unreasonable. Is this what God intended for His disciples?  Often times among churchgoers, we watch resentments and unforgiveness grow into estrangements.  Is this what Jesus wants for His body?

I want to invite you to crave pure, spiritual milk.   The pure milk refers to the Word, that by it we are nourished to grow up in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus and His grace (2 Peter 3:18).  This word “spiritual” is fascinating to me.  It means literally that we apply God’s logic to become divinely reasonable.  Craving pure spiritual milk means we apply God’s logic to our everyday lives and in so doing become divinely reasonable.

First, pure, spiritual milk helps us to apply God’s logic.  As we grow in our faith we move from understanding the gospel literally to understanding it logically.  When I became a Christ follower in 1979, I understood literally that the wages of my sin was death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord, and I wanted that.  I understood it literally.  But over the years, as I apply God’s logic to my life and I study through the principles of the gospel, I’ve moved from understanding that I need a Savior to understanding that I am the chief of sinners.  My sin caused Christ to experience the pain of God’s wrath.  My sin caused Christ to experience more pain than anyone’s sin on earth has ever caused anyone else.  And so like Paul, I can agree with him in 1 Timothy 1:15: “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst.”  When we apply God’s logic, we understand what our sin has cost Christ.  It creates a humility in us that as we’ve been forgiven much, we can love much.

Secondly, pure, spiritual milk creates a divine reasonableness in us.  To be reasonable is the ability to think through things and see across to the other side of a matter.   The Grand Canyon is up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep. (6,093 feet or 1,857 meters).  The rim to rim, top to bottom to top again hike is 23 miles long and takes most hikers two to three days to complete.  The Grand Canyon is a huge chasm.

To paint a picture of the reasonableness of God, I would point to Romans 5.  It says while we were sinners, living in darkness, while we were God enemies, while we were defiant toward Him, God was living in unapproachable light, perfect in holiness and sinlessness, and He was able to see across the chasm that separated us.  He, in unapproachable light, saw us in the darkness.  He, in perfect holiness and sinlessness saw me in my rebellion and sin.  He was able to see across to the other side – that’s what it is to be reasonable.  And He made a plan even while I was separated from Him to draw me back to Him through the death of His Son.  In Genesis it says we were created in the image of the Trinity.  Of the many ways we reflect His image, one of the things that we reflect is the ability to reason.  We are the only creation of God with the ability to reason.  However, when sin came into the world, in our sinful nature, our reasonableness was broken.  In my sinful nature I see everything through my own selfishness and my own pride.  I’m not willing to see beyond myself.  When I’m able to see God’s perspective, which is different from my sinful nature, my ability to reason is reawakened.  Our reasonableness grows as we crave the pure spiritual milk, applying God’s logic to think through things.  As we consider how great a work it was to reconcile the separation that was between us and God, we begin to consider how we can participate in reconciling others separated by a great distance.

Revelation 7:9 says heaven will be filled with people from every nation, tribe, people and language.  These are people different than me!  May we apply God’s logic to become divinely reasonable.  May we come to understand that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

May we have the divine reasonableness to participate in His reconciliation.

Smile, You’re The Apple Of His Eye!

apple-of-my-eye1I had traveled alone, and after a 14 hour flight I had arrived in Shanghai.  I had no idea where I was going, so I followed the Americans through the airport trying to navigate strange signs.  I made it through fingerprinting… then immigration… then picked up my bags and passed screening.  Finally I came around the corner into a large group of people waiting, mostly short Asians.  And then I saw him!  My brother stood head and shoulder above the crowd, and he made sure that I knew he was excited to see me!  That was cool.  I’ll never forget the joy of seeing my brother on the other side of the world.

In Luke chapter two, “the angel said to (the shepherds), ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’”  They were learning that God loved them so much, He was sending His one and only Son (Jn 3:16) to be their Savior.  And while we celebrate how excited we are that Jesus came to us, we maybe overlook that the Christmas story is about our Heavenly Father working out His plan to reconcile us to Himself, so He can communicate to us how excited He is to see us and to be close to us again!

One of my friends sang his bride a love song at their wedding.  The guys were amazed he pulled it off.  The ladies seemed to think it was so sweet, the kind of thing every girl wishes someone would do for her.  The Bible says in Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”  The Bible is teaching us God sent Jesus at Christmas, to restore our relationship, so He could rejoice over us with gladness, and affirm His love for us by loudly singing us a love song!

When you picture God in your mind how is He looking at you?  Is He distant and unapproachable?  Is He stern and condescending?  Is He scowling and disapproving?  If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, the Bible portrays a very different image of Him.  In Psalm 147:11, He is the Father who delights in those who trust in Him.  He is pleased with, or He takes pleasure in, those who hope in His steadfast love.  The Numbers 6:25 blessing is that the Lord would “smile on you and be gracious to you!”

The Christmas story is good news that creates great joy.  I hope you spend time considering how much your Heavenly Father loves you in Christ Jesus.  And I hope you are satisfied with His steadfast love, so that you can rejoice and be glad all your days (Ps 90:14).  Be encouraged friends, and smile — you are the apple of His eye (Ps 17:8)!

I Know The Plan

321742566-I-know-God-has-bigger-and-better

One of my favorite football coaches was asked a question about his leadership following the game.  He had just been beaten badly by a rival, he was navigating ongoing player discipline issues, and he looked exhausted and discouraged.  A reporter asked him, “Do you think you’ve lost the team?” and he answered, “I don’t know.” Two days later he was fired. I learned a valuable lesson from that coach I respect so much. I learned that one of the most important tools of a leader is confidence in the plan.  

As Christians we have an unfair advantage when it comes to leadership.  We’re trusting the Lord Jesus who always knows the plan (Jer. 29:11) and is faithful to establish us (2 Thes. 3:3),  so we can be confident He will complete the plan in us (Phil. 1:6, He. 12:2). But our feelings will betray us.

Elijah experienced overwhelming discouragement and burnout in 1 Kings 19.  He was being threatened and chased because God had used him mightily. The Bible says that he was so exhausted he lay down and prayed that he might die.  An angel came to encourage him to eat because the journey was too great for him. If we had asked him that day how would overcome Jezebel, I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.”  If we had asked him if he would survive the difficulty, I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.” If we had asked Elijah that day about his leadership ability I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.”   These battles of uncertainty are exhausting and scary, and each of us has been there from time to time. Later in the chapter, Elijah’s confidence in the Lord’s plan is renewed and he goes back to work.

Paul said in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me… 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith.”  Paul knew how to answer every question and was confident in every overbearing difficulty. He knew we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:10).  

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost recently said after starting the season 0 and 5, “it would have been easier to stay where we were comfortable, but there’s not going to be a place where it’s sweeter or more fun for me than here, when we get this right.  Wherever I’m going to coach, we’re going to teach our players to play with a desire to excel with no fear of failure.  ”

Dear Christian leader, the next time you’re in a great difficulty, or you’re exhausted or discouraged, and you’re asked a question about your leadership, be careful not to say “I don’t know.”  Start with what you know. Be confident in who He’s created you to be and what He’s called you to do. Be confident that He will complete it, and your only work is to believe (John 6:29). Remain in fellowship with Christ so that you can be full of courage and not shrink back (1 John 2:28).  Communicate the confidence you have in following Christ, and demonstrate humility by inviting other wise counsel into the discussion. After sharing what you’re confident in, ask other key leaders what wisdom they can share with you, and acknowledge the “I don’t know” when it comes to the details.  And always, when you’re just really not sure, “lay down before you hurt yourself,” and allow the Lord to minister His Bread to you until you can get up in confident humility again.

I Am Free!!

I Am Free Raging Bull Six Flags

I love rollercoasters.  Raging Bull at Six Flags is one of my favorites.  Being 202 feet in the air in a side less train is incredible, and the 20 story drop into the underground tunnel at 73 miles an hour is exhilarating.

When my emotions are on a rollercoaster I don’t find it as fun.  Recently I was flying high with excitement and gratitude for how good life was that day.  And then in less than 5 minutes, after one conversation, I was in an emotional free fall into darkness of fear and insecurity, being tempted with reproach and despair.  How does that happen?  And how should we respond?

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  5We destroy arguments, and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  We need to grow in assessing what thoughts we should allow and what thoughts we need to get a hold of and get out of our minds!  I’m learning anytime I have thoughts of anxiety, insecurity, fear of rejection, or resentment, amongst others, it’s a thought I need to take captive.  It’s a lie.  It’s positioning itself to set up against what God would have for me.  My litmus test is the fruit of the Spirit.  If our minds are not full of the fruit of the Spirit, we should regularly ask ourselves, “What thoughts do I need to take captive?”  Then pray, “Father, I take captive thoughts of insecurity or anxiety, please empower me to be obedient to the mind of Christ for me.”

James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”  Are you willing to confess “stinkin thinkin” as your own sin?  Or do you prefer to blame someone else for the thoughts in your mind?  We can be enmeshed victims, or we can be differentiated overcomers.  When we are willing to confess our sinful thoughts and attitudes and emotions, we differentiate from people and circumstances and God can heal our emotions so we can be full of the fruit of the Spirit.  What do I need to confess? And then pray, “Father I confess thoughts of insecurity, I know these are not what you have for me.  Or “Father I confess thoughts of anxiety and fear.  Please forgive me, I know you’ll never reject me!”

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  In a military sense, we understand that someone has to stand up for liberty.  But do we understand what it takes to stand up for psychological and emotional freedom?  Ephesians 6:12-13 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”  For many of us, our interpersonal relationships or daily circumstances seem to be at war against our emotions.  However the scriptures teach it’s not our fleshly relationships or our bodily circumstances that we at war with.  We are war with cosmic powers, or demons of darkness.  You are not at war with your spouse, kids, coworkers, finances, or that person at church.  The demonic world is full of rejection, reproach, fear, anxiety, despair, adultery, rebellion, idolatry, pride, etc. The Bible says in James 4:7, “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  What am I standing against?  Then pray, “Father I stand against and resist demons of dark thoughts and dark emotions in the name of Jesus.  Help me stand firm in the freedom you have provided for me.”

Matthew 18:18 says, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.”  What needs to be bound?  Let’s cut to the chase.  The “demons of darkness” from Ephesians 6:12 need to be bound in the name of Jesus from whispering all their depravity into our minds.  Matthew 8:31 says, “And the demons said, if you cast us out, send us away into the pigs…”  You would do those around you a big favor if you didn’t stop at just taking the thoughts captive and binding it up.  If that demon of darkness is whispering to you, you can be pretty sure he and his “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph 6:12) are whispering to those around you too.  You’re not alone in temptation.  Where does this need to be cast to?  Why not bind it all up in Jesus name and cast it back to hell where it belongs?!!!  Then pray, “Heavenly Father, I bind demons of insecurity and anxiety in Jesus name and cast them to hell.  They have no place here Lord, may you fill me with your Spirit and may His fruit control my life.”

But be prepared, if you pray these kinds of cleansing prayers, it may get worse before it gets better.  Luke 11:24-26 says, 24“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”  Jokingly, demons must be like cats because they hate the water!! I can remember times of standing against something in prayer for our church, and then having it come back seven times more violent.  But just keep standing.  Plead the blood of Jesus over yourself.  And having done all, stand firm.

If this resonates with you, please spend time in prayer.  Use the song links below and spend time in quietness asking God to help you understand what you need to stand against.  Answer the bold questions above.  And then pray the prayers in italics for yourselves, your loved ones, and your churches!

I’m Free –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CJX4NT6jMw

Child, You’re Forgiven – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI9npdwLATc

So the next time the rollercoaster of your emotions is on a free fall to darkness, please take time to reconsider what you need to stand against.  Pull back from arguing and wrestling with people and circumstances, and stand firm for the spiritual freedom of your mind and heart.  Then you can celebrate, “I AM FREE!”

On the Road Again

On The Road Again

As we’re planning a family vacation my kids asked, “Are we going to sleep in the car?” I’m sure most of you would hope the answer is no.  But I asked them if they wanted to, and they went crazy saying, YES!!!  When I consider driving straight through the night I feel like groaning, but my kids feel like celebrating.
In his book, Ministry Mantras, J. R. Briggs shares a story about when his son was three years old and he helped plant vegetables one morning.  When his son woke up from his afternoon nap later that day his first questions was, “Are the vegetables ready yet, Daddy?”  He responded to his young son, “No buddy, that’s not how vegetables work.  It takes a long time.”  Briggs is challenging and encouraging the many of us who get impatient with God’s seemingly long and slow plan.  He says, “Much of ministry is learning to plod along faithfully, even when we aren’t seeing results.  As Eugene Peterson writes –quoting German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche –a life committed to ministry is a ‘long obedience in the same direction.’”1
Over the many years of staff devotions, there are two I will never forget.  One was a challenge from my dear friend Tom Zillman, who after reading Isaiah 6 asked this question, “If God calls you to an unfruitful ministry, will you be faithful to it?”   Well God would never do that right?  And how could it be ministry if it’s unfruitful?  And then Pastor Tom pointed out God told Isaiah to preach to those who would not listen, perceive, understand, or respond.  And when Isaiah asked God how long he would have to do this, God said until the cities are empty and the homes are desolate.
Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, is a great example of perseverance: a long obedience in the same direction.  He wrote in his early years in China, “At home, you can never know what it is to be absolutely alone, amidst thousands, everyone looking on you with curiosity, with contempt, with suspicion, or with dislike. Thus to learn what it is to be despised and rejected of men…and then to have the love of Jesus applied to your heart by the Holy Spirit…this is precious, this is worth coming for.”
As Paul Harvey would say, The Rest of Hudson Taylor’s story is.. “Taylor’s daughter died from water on the brain; the family was almost killed in the Yang Chow Riot of 1868; Maria, Taylor’s first wife, died in childbirth; his second wife died of cancer; and sickness and ill health were frequent. Yet, the China Inland Mission continued its work of reaching China’s millions for Christ. By 1895 the Mission had 641 missionaries plus 462 Chinese helpers at 260 stations. Under Hudson Taylor’s leadership, C.I.M. had supplied over half of the Protestant missionary force in China. During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, 56 of these missionaries were martyred, and hundreds of Chinese Christians were killed. The missionary work did not slack, however, and the number of missionaries quadrupled in the coming decades.  Chinese Christians proved remarkably resilient under Communism. They did not die out but multiplied many-fold in one of the greatest expansions in church history.”2  Praise the Lord for Hudson Taylor’s persistence!
I’m sure on our long road trip at some point I will groan and my kids will whine and ask “are we there yet?!”  But I’m learning to “apply the love of Jesus to my heart by the Holy Spirit.”  Maybe even with a beef jerky and Diet Dew at a gas station in the middle of the night.  Then it’s on the road again!
For other articles by this author see http://www.choosemercy.org

1 Ministry Mantras, JR Briggs and Bob Hyatt, pp 84
2 http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/hudson-taylors-heart-for-chinas-millions-11630493.html

The Rest of God

rest area
While talking about road trips with our dear friends Dick and Bev, Stephanie and Bev were laughing about how Dick and I hate to stop while traveling. “Do we have to stop here or can you hold it until the next rest area?!” Why don’t we like to stop and rest?
At our house, we often have the most conflict over bed time. “Really, I have to go to bed (like this is the first time we’ve ever done this)?!” “Can’t we stay up?!” And you can ask my dad and mom, I faught bedtime and naps everystep of the way growing up too. Why are we so resistant to rest?
Genesis 2:1 says that God “rested on the seventh day from all His work that he had done.” Does this imply that Almighty God was tired? I don’t think so.
A collegue asked me to listen to a message by Tim Keller entitled “Work and Rest.” Keller suggests physical rest won’t do anything for us if it is not accompanied with soul rest. He said, “Entering God’s rest is being completely satisfied with what’s been done and who we are in Christ.” He points out that at the end of the days during creation, “God saw that it was good.” Keller suggests we find the meaning of God’s rest in Genesis 1:31, “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”
This was a light bulb for me! When we have time to slow down and rest, a key component is being able to take a step back and see that life is good! God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3)
Recently I have been with a family by the bedside of their deceased loved one. I have sat across the high security glass of a friend in prison. I have talked with a dear friend estranged from family members who refuse to talk with them anymore. And I have prayed with a dear friend who struggles to understand why God would ask them to work at such a difficult job. All of these situations are heavy and overwhelming, and I would not have been surprised at all if they could not see the goodness of God in their lives.
But each of these friends have told me how good God is to them! They are thankful for the work God has completed for them in Christ Jesus (forgiveness, the peace of the Holy Spirit, the hope of heaven). We can also be thankful for what God has provided for us each day. And we can be thankful for the good things God has prepared for us to do each day. The friend in prison is sharing the gospel with those they interact with there.
How bout you and me? What circumstances, disappointments, or frustrations compete to keep our souls from rest? Can we enter the rest God has for us and see that life is good right where we are?! Next time my kids tell me they’re not tired, I’m going to ask them to go lay in their beds, and think of how many things they could say, “Life is good!” That is the rest of God.

for more articles from this author see http://www.choosemercy.org