Archive for Christian Living

Overcoming the World: Part 1–Peace

I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you have oppression; but cheer up!  I have overcome the world.  John 16:33 (WEB)

 

Ever have a day where it seems like the world is just coming down on you and everything seems hopeless?  Ever have about five months in a row like that?  I did.  That’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while.

 

It isn’t that anything traumatic happened in my life in this stretch of time.  I just ran into an extended dry spell where my faith wasn’t keeping up with my circumstances.  Election years in general do that to me, and this has been the worst one ever.

 

In times like these, we Truthseekers need to get a grip on ourselves (and each other) and simply remember just Who it is that’s really running the show, whether or not we are aware of it.

 

God’s goal is never to confound us, but to bring us peace.  Another way to word that would be “confidence.”  He wants us to rest assured that He is not only bigger than whatever comes our way, but that our circumstances are all a part of his plan.

 

There are so many ways that we can learn from adversity.  Sometimes it’s a course correction if we are going a way that we should not be.  Sometimes it’s to find out that we are really stronger than we thought we were.  But sometimes it’s the opposite of that.  Sometimes God allows us to walk through difficult seasons as a means to get us to STOP relying on our own strength and to rely on His instead.

 

That sure sounds like the right thing to say from a spiritual standpoint, but it sure doesn’t feel that way when you’re going through it, does it?  I really admire people who hold unswervingly to their faith when going through things like extended illnesses or financial hardships.  I am one who wants things fixed, and fixed NOW, so I can get on with my life.  Trials and tribulations are an obstacle to my plans.

 

If you think this way, as I often do, that’s the indicator that you’re getting off track.  Because if you’re most concerned about your own plans, then you’re not in submission to God.  He knows what’s best for us, and more importantly, He knows what’s coming next.

 

Maybe it’s just part of being American, but I can get so bent out of shape over my first-world inconveniences.  I can count the major trials I have had in my life on one hand.  They are significant, but they are not a daily occurrence.  We get so spoiled in this country that we forget all too easily that troubles are a normal part of a normal life.

 

The world can be frustrating.  The people in it can be REALLY frustrating.  However, it is pointless to allow ourselves to be mastered by our frustration.  There will be things in this world that we can not conquer, but Jesus has already conquered everything that ultimately matters.

 

The Mission and the Message

 

Who has believed what we’ve been saying?
Who has seen the Lord’s saving power?  (Isa 53:1 NIRV)

 

Some people ask me why I write this stuff without getting paid for it.  Simply enough, I didn’t pay to receive the messages, so I imagine it’s only fair to offer them for free.

 

Basically, I sit down to write, I pray for a message, and I type what comes.  It is no concern of mine who accepts the message and who doesn’t.  My job is simply to deliver it.

 

So is it worth it?  I would say yes.  I do encounter some opposition, but not as much as you might think.  That would probably be significantly worse if I were broadcasting my own opinions, but since I deal in Truth, I am more interested in ending arguments than starting them.

 

Sometimes I wonder though.  Why is it that I don’t encounter any more opposition than I do?

 

Do the messages have more authority because they come from God?  Well, Jesus was speaking the words of God straight from His mouth, and they crucified Him, so that’s not it.

 

Is it because of my superior skills as a writer?  Doubt it, because then somebody would be paying me more for my words by now.

 

Maybe my messages just aren’t bold enough to make people angry enough to respond?  Maybe, but I’ve never really been one to hold back.  If anything, I’m known for erring on the side of Truth rather than grace.

 

So what is it then?  I have an idea.

 

You see, I pray before I write so that whatever message comes out of my laptop onto this page is the message God wants me to broadcast to the world, but I also pray when I’m finished writing, just before I click “publish,” that the message will be delivered to just the people who need to see it.

 

This is where faith comes in.  I am never thinking of anyone specific when I write.  I just write.  I am completely relying on God that the message will be coherent, and understood by those who need to hear it.

 

I don’t get many comments, and I am OK with that.  But it does mean the world to me when somebody drops me a brief note to tell me how something I tossed out onto the internet brightened their day or caused them to look at something in a new way.

 

That is how I know I am fulfilling my mission.  Why would I charge money for that?  Part of the trust and reliance I have on God is that my needs will be met if I obey his instructions.  And they are.

 

I never know what I’m going to write when I sit down to do a Truth Mission post.  Many professional writers will tell you that’s a bad idea, but I am reminded of a story Corrie ten Boom told in her book, The Hiding Place.

 

Corrie would frequently ride the train from Haarlem to Amsterdam with Casper, her father.  He would always have the tickets in advance, but he wouldn’t give Corrie her ticket until right before they got on the train.  The lesson is that she always got what she needed right at the moment she needed it, and not a minute sooner, even though she knew that it was coming.

 

That is how faith works.  God knows what we need before we do.  He holds onto it until just the right time.  This may not be what we perceive as the right time, because we are not patient people.  But faith is trust, and trust involves learning to wait.

 

Life isn’t ever going to be perfect, and things rarely go well on our own schedules.  I would love to be able to post every day on here, and have advertisers falling at my feet wanting to sponsor my site, and make lots of money writing so that I would never have to hear an alarm clock again.

 

But that’s not why I’m here.

 

I am here to plant seeds of Truth.  The harvest is God’s job.

 

I’m not trying to “save the world.”  But if something I felt prompted to write affects even one person’s life, then I have changed that person’s world.

 

And who knows where that might lead?

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 3–Love is a Verb

 

This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you.  No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends.  (John 15:12-13 AMP)

 

Our kids’ generation is not immune from the error of past generations trying to pass love off as a feeling.  Love is an action word.  It is the act of sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others.

 

It seems that the first thing to go when a child loses his or her innocence is the ability to love.  Not the ability to feel, but the impulse to give sacrificially without thinking about it.  I believe that this is because kids in our American culture are so habituated in getting that it doesn’t even occur to them to give.

 

Remember, a child’s “reality” is limited by his or her perception, just as an adult’s is.  But the less life experience you have, the narrower your perception.  Children don’t instinctively know the difference between perception and reality, so it isn’t ever going to occur to them to test their worldview.

 

Where this becomes problematic is if they think that the world revolves around them, they will assume that to be true until they find out otherwise.

 

Another stumbling block for kids once they reach their adolescent years is their growing self-reliance.  Growing up is inevitable, and becoming more independent is generally a good thing as one gets older.  However, because kids don’t know what they don’t know, it is very easy for them to get in over their heads when trying to do something themselves.

 

Because they have not yet mastered their pride, if indeed they are even aware of it, it is also not in the nature of most adolescents to ask for help, even when they are completely overwhelmed.  Sometimes, it seems that they gravitate more toward the drama of being in a mess than in actually finding a solution to their problem.

 

I think this is why it is frequently so difficult for older kids to show love.  1 John 4:19 reminds us that we love because God loved us first, but unless you know that, you can’t act on it.  To live out a life of love effectively, you have to allow yourself to be controlled by the Spirit of love.

 

Now when was the last time you met a teenager who wanted to be controlled by anybody?  They are just reaching the stage of life when they can finally do things for themselves, and now we’re telling them NOT to think of themselves, but others?  No wonder they get confused, which of course, cranks up the drama even more, which throws them right back into the cycle of attention seeking about their confusion rather than helping them move forward with solutions.

 

Because God is love, if you are showing love, people see God through you.  The sooner we teach our kids how to look outside themselves, the easier it will be for us to help them shape their worldview into a view that actually has some WORLD in it.

 

 

Whose Money Is It Anyway?: Part 3–Tithing

The Lord All-Powerful says, “Try this test.  Bring one-tenth of your things to me.  Put them in the treasury.  Bring food to my house.  Test me!  If you do these things, I will surely bless you.  Good things will come to you like rain falling from the sky.  You will have more than enough of everything.  Mal 3:10 (ERV)

 

 

The Bible has many examples of people testing God.  Most of them occur when Israel was wandering in the desert for 40 years after Moses led them out of Egypt.  The New Testament frequently refers back to those instances as warnings of what not to do in a relationship with God.

 

Yet here, near the very end of the Old Testament, God is straight up inviting us to test Him.

 

In 2003, right after I became a Christian, my pastor preached a sermon on the verse above, emphasizing that in this instance alone, God wants us to test Him.  I had never thought of tithing that way before.  In my mind, tithing was like a church tax, or else something that only extra-credit Christians did.

 

Besides, I had very little money at the time.  I was living on my own and trying to pay down debts from my recently failed first marriage.  What did I have to offer God that could win His favor?

 

Did your red light buzzer go off just then?  It should have.  For one thing, God’s favor is just a part of who He is.  There isn’t anything we can do to earn it.

 

And for another . . . does God really need MY money?  He’s God.  I don’t think He’s short of funds.

 

What I have come to learn is that it really isn’t about the money itself.  It’s about trust.

 

God entrusts us with His wealth according to our ability to handle it.  Jesus illustrates this principle in the Parable of the Talents, which can be found in Matthew 25:14-30.

 

But trust goes both ways with God.  He wants us to trust Him not just concerning the money, but also with our general well-being.

 

I chose the translation of the verse at the beginning of this post specifically for the phrase “Good things will come to you like rain falling from the sky.”  To the people hearing this prophecy from Malachi firsthand, in the middle of the fourth century B.C., this would have been a literal message.  They weren’t concerned with having new Cadillacs; they were concerned with their crops, as there was a great drought going on at that time.

 

So in context, what God was saying to Israel at that specific time was, “You want me to stop holding back the rain?  Fine.  Stop holding back your tithes.  I DARE you to give me back the first 10% of what you only have because I gave it to you in the first place.  Do that, and watch what happens.”

 

Now today, many folks who are not proponents of tithing argue that this was a specific message for a specific people in a specific time; therefore, it does not apply to us today.

 

But for me, I just couldn’t get past those words, “Test me!”  God is always testing me to prove my faith; now He wants me to test Him?

 

So that’s exactly what I did.  Here’s how it worked out.

 

The first thing that I had to wrap my brain around is that tithing is not something you do when you can afford it.  It’s 10% of what you have, even if that’s very little.  It’s not about the amount you’re putting into the collection plate.  It’s about trusting that God will bless the 90% you have left.

 

Once I got over my guilt about the tiny little checks I was writing each Sunday and just went with it, I started to notice things happening in my budget.  Like how I never ran out of money at the end of the month, regardless of how bleak things appeared at the beginning.

 

Over the years since then, I have noted many other instances where the math just didn’t add up at first, but things worked out better than I could ever have planned it.

 

The most recent example is this.  After our honeymoon, my wife told me that her dream vacation would be an Alaskan cruise.  Those aren’t cheap, but I told her then that if we started saving, we could set a goal to do that for our 10-year anniversary.

 

So we saved for nine years, at which point, I said, “Honey, we can do this, but it will wipe out our savings.”  We went forward with the plans.

 

Long story short, we went on that cruise and land tour in Alaska.  We just got back a couple of weeks ago.  Counting the flights out and back, it was a two-week adventure.  In my life, I have owned several cars that did not cost as much as this trip.

 

And we still have over three fourths of our savings intact.

 

Not only that, but we had beautiful weather the entire trip (which just does not happen in Alaska).  At nearly every stop, the guides on our excursions were amazed at all of the “rare” things we got to see, such as orcas, humpback whales bubble net feeding, the Hubbard Glacier calving, and the peak of Denali in clear sunshine, just to name a few.

Diana and I at the Talkeetna River with the peak of Denali over my right shoulder.

 

Indeed, God poured out his blessings on my family during this trip, but really, it was just a very obvious and visible manifestation of how He has blessed us, and our finances, all along.

 

Even during the extended periods of unemployment that I have had, I have never felt like we were “in need,” because God doesn’t respond to need.

 

He responds to faith.

 

And that is what tithing is really all about.  It is a tangible expression of the faith that God will meet your needs and then some.  And he blesses it every single time.

 

Do any of you have stories of God’s faithfulness regarding your finances?  I’d love to hear them!

 

Whose Money Is It Anyway? (Part 2–Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt)

The wealthy rule over the poor,
and anyone who borrows is a slave to the lender.
(Proverbs 22:7 ISV)

 

Back in 2013, we talked about the Greek word doulos, which is a voluntary bondservant, or someone who has chosen to place himself under the authority of another.

 

However, as we also discussed in Part 1 of this series, no one can serve two masters at once.  You can’t serve God and be a slave to money at the same time.

 

So how do we become a slave to money?  In a word—debt.  When we spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to satisfy our cravings and desires, we are worshipping creations rather than the Creator.

 

If we are trusting God to provide us with what we truly need, then why would we leave His service to worship at the altar of prosperity?  How prosperous are we really, if we have a big fancy house with no furniture in it or a shiny new sports car that we can’t make the payments on?

 

It’s bad enough that our nation has promoted a consumer-driven culture where people are conditioned to believe that they need. . .no, that they DESERVE shiny, fancy, new, expensive things.  However, as if people going into debt for unnecessary playthings weren’t enough, now they are being encouraged to further mismanage the wealth that has been entrusted to them by turning to legalized gambling to provide a solution to this debt problem.

 

In my tiny little town of 4,952 people, we have five locations that have slot machines.  (I refuse to call them “video gaming facilities.”  Aladdin’s Castle is a video gaming facility.  People aren’t going to our bars to play Pac Man.)

 

In the month of January 2015 ALONE, a total of $100,136 was wagered at these five locations.  Let’s do the math.

 

First, you have to be 21 to play the slots, so that eliminates about 2,300 residents.  But not all of the adults in town play the slots either.  Indeed, most don’t even frequent the places that have them.

 

In the absence of an exact statistic, let’s assume that one in five adults in town plays the slots.  This estimate is probably on the generous side.

 

Now we’re looking at an average of $190 a month that each person is contributing to the one-armed bandits.  For some, it’s probably higher than that.

 

So what’s the problem?  Well, do YOU have upwards of $200 of disposable income each month that you can flush down the toilet?  Some folks do, but these are not the folks that typically go to bars in small towns to play slot machines.

 

Over half of the households in our town have a combined income of less than $5,000 a month.  A family with that level of income, IF they manage their money well, should have about $100 or so per month in discretionary income at best after the bills are paid.  But again, people that manage their money well are usually not found around slot machines.  And remember, the actual amount being deposited here is double that much.

 

So if people can’t afford to be blowing this kind of cash, why do they do it?  Well, duh, because they’re trying to make more.  They are under the illusion that they’re going to hit some kind of jackpot and be rich.  The reality is that they will have even less money to pay the bills they were having trouble paying in the first place.

 

But lest you think that I’m going off on a self-righteous jag about gambling, there are other ways to fall into the same trap of money mismanagement.  I learned my lesson the hard way with multi-level marketing.

 

Now I admire people in this country who go into business for themselves and make a lot of money.  But it never comes without hard work.  If anyone ever tries to show you how you can be rich beyond your wildest dreams and not have to suffer for it, RUN!  Anyone who gets involved in a scheme like this hoping to “get rich quick” will find themselves getting broke even quicker.

 

Generally speaking, God has a plan for us each day, and we are expected simply to be available, receive it, and obey it, carrying it out to its completion.  This method ALWAYS leads to success, though sometimes it takes a long, long time, and we may not even see the big-picture results directly.  Trying to get rich quick takes our eye off the plan Jesus has for us, which consequently robs us of the potential blessing attached to that plan.

 

Fortunately, God’s plan for blessing us in our finances begins with a very simple test of obedience.

 

(Which we will learn about in Part 3—Tithing)

 

 

Whose Money Is It Anyway? (Part 1–Stewardship)

Whoever can be trusted with small things can also be trusted with big things.  Whoever is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in big things too.  If you cannot be trusted with worldly riches, you will not be trusted with the true riches.  And if you cannot be trusted with the things that belong to someone else, you will not be given anything of your own.  Luke 16:10-12 (ERV)

 

Take a moment to consider this question:  What do you have that wasn’t given to you?

 

We use words like “earn” and “create” to maintain the illusion that we alone are responsible for everything that we have.  However, if these things were really ours, then we couldn’t lose them, could we?

 

Sure, we work for our money, but then someone else has to give it to us.  Then either we give it away to someone else by spending it, or we hold onto it forever and die, at which point we don’t take it with us.  There’s a reason you don’t see hearses towing U-hauls!

 

So if it’s not really “our” money, then whose is it?  King David answered that question emphatically after taking the offering to build the temple in Jerusalem:

 

To you, Lord, belong greatness and power,
honor, splendor, and majesty,
because everything in heaven and on earth belongs to you.
Yours, Lord, is the kingship,
and you are honored as head of all.
  You are the source of wealth and honor,
and you rule over all.
In your hand are strength and might,
and it is in your power to magnify and strengthen all.

  (1 Chronicles 29:11-12 CEB)

 

Everything in heaven and earth (yes, even the money) belong to God.  Therefore, we don’t really “own” anything.  Rather, we are stewards of everything currently in our possession.

 

Simply put, a steward is someone who is placed in charge of someone else’s stuff.  The principle at work here is that at some point, the steward will have to give account of how he or she has managed the property belonging to the Master.  A steward that proves faithful is rewarded, but those who aren’t . . . not so much.

 

You see, how we handle money is an indicator of how we will steward all of the other blessings in our life.  Money is just the easiest one to track.  So how do you track this in your own life?

 

The best way to gauge that for yourself is to figure out who it is that you really serve.  Are you putting your trust in the provider or the provision?   As Jesus said in the verse that comes right after the passage at the top of this post:

 

You cannot serve two masters at the same time.  You will hate one master and love the other.  Or you will be loyal to one and not care about the other.  You cannot serve God and Money at the same time.  (Luke 16:13 ERV)

 

If you are primarily interested in serving God by stewarding HIS wealth, then your needs will always be met.

 

However, if your hope is in the money itself, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

 

(Come back for Part 2—Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt)

 

Fishers of Men: Part 2–Track Record

 

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration.  When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”

 Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me?  My time hasn’t come yet.”

 His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.

 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did.  The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine.  He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

The headwaiter called the groom and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first.  They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely.  You kept the good wine until now.”  This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee.  He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.  (John 2:1-11 CEB)

 

Jesus hasn’t even had a chance to start teaching or building into these guys who are following Him.  His disciples have only just met Him and have literally not had time to do anything but get to this wedding, perhaps chatting a bit on the way.  They really didn’t have any way of knowing for sure at this point what they were getting into.

 

But then, Jesus reveals His glory to His new disciples by changing the water into wine.  From that point on, the fishermen were themselves hooked.

 

Now go back to the passage at the beginning of Part 1, where Simon (now called Peter) and Andrew drop their nets to follow Jesus full-time.  This event takes place A YEAR after the wedding at Cana.

 

So Jesus wasn’t just walking along the beach casting hypnotic spells on ignorant and gullible people.  First, they knew their scriptures well enough to know that a Messiah was coming.  Second, John the Baptist had pointed them directly to Him.  Third, they had seen Him perform a miracle firsthand.

 

So by this time, Jesus had an established track record with these guys.

 

Luke 5 goes into much more detail than Mark 1 about what Jesus was doing at the lake that day.  He wasn’t just walking along; He was teaching people at the water’s edge.  Then He gets into Simon’s boat, and has him take it out into the lake a bit, so He is better situated to teach the crowd.

 

Afterward, He has Simon go out deeper into the lake and let down his nets.  This doesn’t make sense to Simon, because they hadn’t caught anything all night.  Nevertheless, Jesus already has enough of a track record with Simon that he does it anyway.  This is what happens:

 

They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart.  Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this happen, he knelt down in front of Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t come near me!  I am a sinner.”  Peter and everyone with him were completely surprised at all the fish they had caught.  His partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were surprised too.

Jesus told Simon, “Don’t be afraid!  From now on you will bring in people instead of fish.”  The men pulled their boats up on the shore.  Then they left everything and went with Jesus.  (Luke 5:6-11 CEV)

 

They left everything.  Think about that for a minute.  Think of your job, your family, your house, your friends, your community—everything that makes your life what it is.  Is there anything, or anyone, that could make you leave all of that behind you?

 

If you said no, then consider these words of Jesus:

 

Those who love their father or mother more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers.  Those who love their son or daughter more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers.  Whoever is not willing to carry the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who try to hold on to their lives will give up true life.  Those who give up their lives for me will hold on to true life.  (Matthew 10:37-39 NCV)

 

These fishermen were ready to become man-fishers.  They were expectant, they were vigilant, and they were patient.  And because of this, we are still talking about them 2,000 years later.

 

So what about us?  Are we ready?  Are we willing to drop it all and go fishing?  Does Jesus have enough of a track record with us that we would follow Him wherever He would have us go?

 

If your answer is yes, then it’s time to go fish.

 

Your Will Be Done

Then they arrived at a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to the disciples, “Sit down here while I pray.”
He took with him Peter, James and John, and began to be horror-stricken and desperately depressed.
 “My heart is nearly breaking,” he told them.  “Stay here and keep watch for me.”  (Mark 14:32-34 PHILLIPS)

It’s hard to imagine Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world, being “horror-stricken and desperately depressed.”  And yet, it happened.  Jesus was facing the greatest test of His time on earth, and He was facing it as a human being.

 

It’s difficult to wrap your brain around the concept of Jesus being both fully divine and fully human, rather than being some sort of a spiritual half-breed.

 

But if there are any doubts about Jesus being fully human, his anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane should put those to rest.  He knew what He was about to face, and He needed strength to get through it.  Matthew’s account of this episode words it this way:

 

He took Peter with him and Zebedee’s two sons James and John, and began to be filled with anguish and despair.

 Then he told them, “My soul is crushed with horror and sadness to the point of death. . . stay here. . . stay awake with me.”  (Matthew 26:37-38 TLB)

 

Despair.

 

The One who was the Light of the World, who came to bring hope to everyone in it, was filled with . . . despair.

 

So considering this, is it any great wonder that we can feel despair when we face our moments of greatest testing?

 

And to take that one step further, usually when we are having our moments of fear and torment, the worst thing that we are facing is the unknown.  We are scared, because we wonder what is going to happen.  Will I have the strength to endure this trial?  What will people think of me if I fail?  What am I about to lose?  Do I really want to know the answers to these questions?

 

Jesus didn’t have the luxury of fearing the unknown.  He knew EXACTLY what was about to happen.  And it scared Him.  A lot.

 

Let’s be clear about this.  Jesus, the Son of God, knew why He had come to earth.  He knew He had work to do, and He knew He had to finish that work.

 

But Jesus the son of Mary and Joseph said this:

 

“Father, if it is your will, take this cup of suffering away from me.  However, your will must be done, not mine.”  (Luke 22:42 GW)

 

 

Jesus knew going into this time of prayer what God’s answer was going to be.  He knew what He had to do, but He was NOT excited about it.

 

Nevertheless, He submitted to His Father’s will.  He did not want to go through with His arrest, torture and execution, but more than that, He did not want to go against His Father’s will.

 

The Greek word regarding God’s will in this sentence is ginomai.  This signifies that Jesus is not only saying that God’s will must be done, but that it must be.  In other words, God’s will is eternal, just as God is eternal.

 

In light of His knowledge of this, Jesus really didn’t have any illusion that His prayer was going to be answered with a “yes.”  And yet, He prayed for God to let Him off the hook anyway.

 

Perhaps this knowing was the greatest reason for His despair?  He knew He wasn’t getting out of this.  I can’t even imagine what He must have felt like in the garden.

 

And yet, He remained submissive, because He never lost focus on what His greatest mission was.  And that was simply for God’s will to be done.  Jesus was sincere about completing His work.  He isn’t just saying “Your will be done,” to sound pious, like it’s the right thing to say while praying.

 

It is, of course, the right thing to say, but it is also the right thing, period.

 

Because God’s will wasn’t about Jesus the man doing something He didn’t want to do.  It was about Jesus the Savior bring God’s plan of salvation to fulfillment:

 

Jesus Christ did the things God wanted him to do.  And because of that, we are made holy through the sacrifice of Christ’s body.  Christ made that sacrifice one time—enough for all time.  (Hebrews 10:10 ERV)

 

This sacrifice began not on the cross, but in the garden, when Jesus made up His mind to be in agreement with God’s will.  Because of this resolution, and the confirmation of His purpose that it signified, we are able to approach God today as His adopted children.

 

But this is about more than our salvation.  Heaven will be awesome, of course, but what about the here and now?

 

Do you ever have situations that you know you won’t be strong enough to face  by yourself?  Isn’t it helpful to know, then, that even Jesus needed to be strengthened not only by angels and the Holy Spirit, but also His three best buds?  It is much less difficult to say to God, “Your will be done” when you have your closest friends surrounding and supporting you.

 

It is not likely that any of us will ever have to face a crucifixion, and we DEFINITELY won’t ever have the weight of the sins of the world upon our own shoulders.

 

Nevertheless, when I am faced with something I really don’t want to do, and fear is holding me back, it helps at least to know that the God to whom I pray knows a thing or two about fear and apprehension.

 

But it helps me even more to know that He still got the job done.

Whatever We Ask: Part 5–Unstable

But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.  But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.  (James 1:5-8 NABRE)

 

Back in 2012, we ran a series on Doubt, in which we discussed that doubt could be healthy if you put it to work for you by testing new information in your search for Truth.

 

Nevertheless, doubt is not always a healthy thing.  It is one matter to doubt one person’s interpretation of scripture or another individual’s worldview.  It is quite another to doubt God Himself.

 

God knows what you need.  He knows it before you know it.  He is not only capable, but also willing to meet your needs.  Yet, it is not your need that He responds to when you pray.  It is your faith.

 

Prayer is based on trust.  We ask God to meet our needs and hear our petitions because we believe and trust that He will handle the situation.  If we didn’t believe that, why pray at all?

 

But we still do that sometimes, don’t we?  Have you ever offered up a prayer because it seemed like the thing to do, but you didn’t really expect that your prayer would be answered?

 

Jesus’ brother James is not one to mince words, as you can see in the passage above.  He explicitly says that someone who doubts when he prays will not get the answer to their prayer that they hope for.  The key word there is “hope.”

 

There are two different kinds of hope.  There is expectant hope, where you are welcoming an event in advance that has not yet come to pass, and there is “I don’t know if this is going to work or not, but I sure HOPE it does.”

 

Again, what is the point of praying if you don’t expect an answer?  Do you believe that God is God or don’t you?  If we offer up a prayer from a position of worry, then we are literally “of two minds.”  One mind is thinking of God answering the prayer, and the other is thinking of a Plan B.

 

When we do this, what we are really doing is making God the Plan B, because worry and anxiety will always cut in line ahead of whatever else is present.

 

So clearly, it is a daunting task to hold both kinds of “hope” in your mind at the same time.  Just as you cannot serve two masters, you cannot persevere on two different paths in life simultaneously.

 

So when James says that a person who does this is “unstable in all his ways,” he is not only saying that this person is indecisive, but by extension, that he cannot be trusted.

 

That sounds inordinately harsh, but think about it.  We’re talking about Christians here.  If we can’t even make up our minds about relying on the God we claim to serve, then who would ever rely on US to follow through on anything?  A person who spends their life in an endless “What If?” loop never gets anything done that needs doing.

 

So if that’s what unstable looks like, then what about stable?

 

Throughout the Bible, the image of a rock is used to denote stability.  God Himself is referred to as the Rock on many occasions.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also uses this image to describe a life lived by faith:

 

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock.  The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-5 HCSB)

 

Notice the “and” in Jesus’ statement.  It’s not enough to hear what He’s saying and answer with a “yeah, but. . .”  Stability and security come not from passive hearing, but from active LISTENING and the follow-through that accompanies it.

 

Now having used the word “security” there, I am reminded of one more issue regarding the answering of prayers.  One that is particularly sticky to us here in the USA.

 

(Come back for the conclusion in Part 6—Prosperity)

 

Whatever We Ask: Part 4–(Un)answered Prayers

All prayers are answered.  Sometimes the answer is, “No.”—Bono

 

 

One of the pitfalls of the Christian life is how easy it is to backslide from “highly favored child of God” to “spoiled brat.”

 

We have seasons of life where everything seems to be going our way, and we give God the glory for that.  But then life throws us a curveball, and the whining starts.

 

“Why isn’t God answering my prayer?  He said He’d give me anything I ask for.  Haven’t I been ‘doing it right’?”

 

The truth is that God does answer prayer, but not always in the way that we expect.

 

Sometimes we get excited and run up ahead when He needs us to hold back and notice something He wants to show us.  Sometimes selfishness creeps in and the “desires of our hearts” become more like the cravings of our appetites.  And sometimes, we simply don’t recognize the answer for what it is when it comes.

 

God is not a vending machine or an ATM.  We exist to serve Him, not the other way around.  For this reason, the point of prayer isn’t primarily to address our own needs.  Jesus explained it this way:

 Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them.  Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants.  Then all your other needs will be met as well.  (Matthew 6:31-33 NCV)

Prayer is your Out box.  When you put something in your Out box at work, do you pull it back and put it in your In box again?  No, you put it in the Out box because you are finished with it.

 

Whatever it is that you are praying for, God has a plan for it.  It may not be the plan you would have scripted for yourself, but think for a minute.  Who’s smarter, you or God?  Don’t you think it might be possible that Father knows best?

 

There’s more to it than that though.  Logic alone will tell you that God is bigger, more powerful and more able to meet your needs.  The question is, “Do you TRUST Him to do that?”  Do you believe that He not only knows what’s best for you, but that He WANTS what’s best for you?

 

How you answer that question will determine how you respond to His answers.  If you really believe that God’s way will lead to a better result than anything you could have come up with, then it becomes a lot easier to roll with the changes when they do come.

 

(But what happens if we don’t?  Come back for Part 5—Unstable)