Who Knows What Will Happen – But God

Who Knows What Will Happen?

election, confusion, worry, concerns of futureThis morning I heard a news commentator say this year’s election could be like the one in 2000. One man could get the popular vote while another wins the electoral vote.

Could be.

Seems to me we spend a lot of time talking about what will happen if one person does this or the other person does that. We discuss and forecast as if we are in complete control.

Man has choices. I thank God for mine and I will exercise the right to vote. I also thank God that His purposes prevail in the midst of our choices. He is sovereign and He will accomplish His plan.

Starting today, I’m highlighting scripture passages that demonstrate God moving among rulers–even those who aren’t His servants–all for the purpose of accomplishing His plans.

The first example is from Genesis 20.

Where: Gerar, in the region of the Negev

Who: Abraham and Sarah (still a childless couple at this point)

What: Abraham and Sarah lie to King Abimelech (claiming Sarah is his sister rather than his wife)

Scripture tell us in earlier chapters that Sarah was a beautiful woman. It seems King Abimelech agreed. He sent for Sarah to be brought to the palace.

But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” Genesis 20:3

Did you catch that?  God's sovereignty, worried about election, concerned about future

But God.

The king had a plan, but it wasn’t in accord with God’s plan. Abraham lied. His lie set up his wife to be taken to the palace, intended to be added to the wives of a foreign king.

But God did not allow Abimelech to touch Sarah (see verses 4 – 6).

So why did Abraham lie?

I said to myself, “There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.”  Genesis 20:11

Abraham was afraid. He thought he had to manipulate the situation to be safe.

But God.

God’s plans to make Abraham a great nation through a descendant He would bring from Abraham and Sarah would not be changed by the choices of man. Not Abraham’s choices. Not King Abimelech’s choices.

Who knows what will happen?

But God.

Rather than punish Abraham–this foreigner–for his deception, the king returned Sarah, then gave Abraham sheep, cattle, and silver. He then said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”

Talk through this story with your kids. Ask them to predict the ending. Do they expect the king to show such favor to Abraham?

Here’s a great link to remind yourself of other “But God” scriptures.

Is there a personal situation you’re frustrated with, or are you in fear of a certain outcome? What truth from God can you hold onto?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walk In The Light, With Friends

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” 1 John 1:7 NIV.

 

Meditating on this verse confirms a clear cause and effect. If we walk with God, who is the light (look up verse 5), we will be connected with other believers.

Why?

  • Believers who have determined to be followers are walking in the light, walking with God. We will be in the same place if we are doing the same.

 

  • God designed it that way. When we are walking with God, we are living according to His design. And His design includes fellowship with other believers. He made us for relationship, relationship with Him and with one another.

 

Image courtesy of photoxpress.com by David Hughes

 

This verse ends with the assuredness that walking in the light results in Jesus purifying us from all sin. I believe that with all my heart. Likewise, I believe what this verse says about community with fellow believers. It comes with a true walk in the light, a daily following of God and His truth.

God, reveal to me what my level of connection with other believers indicates about my daily walk with You. 

I remember many years ago, my sister sharing how a bible study friend brought Sonic slushes to her and the kids when they were all sick. That simple gesture meant so very much. That simple gesture furthered their growing friendship.

Share something you’ve done or that someone has done for you to extend Godly friendship.  

 

 

Courage to Speak: God’s Requirement of Leaders

What does God require of leaders?

Courage to speak what people do not want to hear.

We’ve seen this in recent days with the Chick-fil-A saga. The world hates to hear truth upheld. The world hates God’s authority.

But those God allows to lead must worship Him. Those who lead must speak His truth.

1 Samuel chapter 3 provides a case study on a leader speaking God’s truth.

Young Samuel is serving in the temple at Shiloh. Eli, the priest, is in charge of Samuel, but has been reprimanded by the LORD for failing to restrain the sin of his own sons, also priests.

“In those days, the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions” 1 Samuel 3:1

In the midst of the failing priestly leadership, young Samuel served and grew. We see God:

  • Honor Samuel’s obedience
  • Cultivate Samuel’s courage
  • Reveal HIMSELF to Samuel

Obedience – Scripture records Samuel’s faithful service four times in 1 Samuel 2 (see 2:11, 18, 21 and 26). Chapter 3 opens with the same words, “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD.” When he hears his name, Samuel runs to Eli three times. When Eli instructs Samuel that the voice is the LORD’s and how to answer, Samuel responds in obedience to God’s voice the fourth time. “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”

Courage – The LORD spoke to Samuel and the message was one of judgement and curse on Eli and his sons as a result of their sin against God. Verse 15 specifically tells us the boy was afraid to tell Eli about the vision. Yet, God set the stage for Samuel to speak in courage. Eli urged Samuel not to hide anything the LORD had spoken. In courage and obedience, Samuel told Eli everything. Samuel sought to please God above Eli.

Revelation – By the close of the chapter, God has clearly spoken to Samuel repeatedly and used him as a mouthpiece to all of Israel (see verses 19 – 21). The LORD revealed Himself to Samuel. As a result, Israel again heard from the LORD.

Born from a mother’s worship and obedience is Samuel, a prophet speaking God’s truth, even in moments of fear. Even to a generation where God’s word had been rare.

The culture doesn’t sound all that strange, does it?

Are we serving, even if in the midst of failing leadership?

Are we worshipping in a world that doesn’t?

Are we speaking God’s truth as He directs, even if afraid?

In Hayley DiMarco’s book, Devotions for the God Girl, she writes:

Obedience isn’t always comfortable; in fact, true obedience demands something of the obedient. If God isn’t demanding something of you, then you’re not listening.

With God’s grace and strength, may we be able to say, “LORD, speak for your servant is listening.”

What is God asking of you today? 

To continue reading in this series, click here.

What Does God Require? Leaders Must Worship

Post #1: What does God require of those who lead? 

We’re studying God’s word to see what He requires of His leaders. You can read the intro about this series here if you missed it.

We all lead. Many lead in a combination of roles.  Mom. Teacher. Co-Worker. Friend. Church member. Minister. Lay leader. Writer or speaker.

We’re beginning in 1 Samuel chapter 2 and here’s the core message: LEADERS MUST WORSHIP.

In this passage we’ve got two main groups of people. Parents and children.

Observe the text and find the markedly different descriptions of the sons. Compare and contrast Hannah’s actions with Eli’s. I marked my Bible and made this chart:

 

Scripture Observations

 

There are five key people here, all in a various leadership role (parent, priest, temple servant). Yet the roles we would emphasize in our human thinking (the priests) are those who receive reprimand from God.

Why have you kicked at My sacrifice and My offering in My dwelling and honored your sons above Me? You’ve made yourselves fat on the choices of every offering of My people?                1 Samuel 2:29

True leaders worship. Worship is sacrifice, obedience and faith.

    • Hannah gave her son to the LORD (see 1 Samuel v11, v24-28) 
    • Hannah obediently came the temple every year to sacrifice (1 Samuel 2: 19 – 20)
    • Hannah prayed – worshipful, personal prayer of exaltation (1 Samuel 2: 1 – 10)
    • Hannah left Samuel with Eli – acting in faith on God (1 Sameul 2:11) 

Remember, everyone knew the evil ways of Eli’s sons (see verse 23). I believe scripture shows Hannah knew first hand. Look who presided over the sacrifices of Hannah and her husband back in 1 Samuel 1:1 – 3.  

Hannah is leading me today. Her prayer in this chapter gives a wonderful outline of praise.

Verse 1:  Personal Surrender

  • My heart exults in the LORD
  • My horn (strength) is exalted in the LORD
  • My mouth speaks boldly against y enemies because I rejoice in Your savation.

Verse 2: Praising God’s Position, Character

  • Holy
  • Unmatched
  • Rock (security)

Verses 3 – 10: Acknowledging God’s authority as judge

  • God of knowledge
  • Weighs actions
  • Brings low anad exalts

 Verse 11: Hannah’s praise is completed with the faithful action of leaving young Samuel to serve the LORD.

“Then Elkanah (and Hannah) went to his (their) home at Ramah. But the boy ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest.”

 You cannot be a godly leader without personal worship. God will work through those who worship Him. He will judge those who do not.

How can we keep personal worship ahead of the tasks of leading? Share what else do you see in this passage.

Next time, we’ll look at young Samuel. The boy interwoven in Samuel chapter 2 as one who is busy ministering and growing before the LORD. Read 1 Samuel 3 for next time. To continue reading in this series, click here.

Loss of Direction — Fasting

As I continue reading through Acts, I’m noticing all the times the apostles and church leaders are fasting.

I don’t know about you, but I could use a Fasting 101 course. I hear a lot of talk about loss of direction, but not much talk about fasting. 

Photo by John Sfondilias via Photoxpress.com

Yet, when reading the scriptures I cannot ignore the emphasis on fasting. It’s in the Old Testament and the New.

  • Moses fasted.
  • Nehemiah fasted.
  • Esther fasted.
  • Christ fasted.
  • Paul and the disciples fasted.

The book of Acts– which is a shortened version of the title “Acts of the Holy Spirit”–shows and teaches us about being filled with the Spirit and led by the Spirit. One of the God-ordained ways to submit ourselves to hear from God is through fasting.

I am convinced the lost art of fasting contributes to lost disciples of today–loss of direction. Fasting is clearly a path God has provided for us to humble ourselves and hear from Him. I blogged about one example of this not long ago.  

God will not bless an outward action with an impure motive (read Isaiah 58), but He will surely bless a surrendered heart following the instruction and example in His word.

Acts 13 opens with worship and fasting. Paul and Barnabas then set sail as led by the Holy Spirit on a missionary journey. They preach, they face opposition, they spread the Word of the Lord. Their journey includes many stops. By the end of Acs 14, they return to Antioch where again, they pray and fast.

My application is to continue a personal study of fasting. I’ve been working my way through Precept Ministries’ Key Principles of Biblical Fasting by Kay Arthur and Pete De Lacy. Please, leave a comment on any favorite scripture passage regarding fasting or teaching tool that’s benefited your growth in this area.

Wilderness, Waiting and Worship – Acts 9

“There’s no worship without wilderness” — Michael Card in A Sacred Sorrow

Yesterday, I read Act 9. The familiar passage where Saul fell to the ground and was blinded for three days. Then, I read those words of Michael Card. “There’s  no worship without wilderness.”

God used Saul’s physical body to reveal his spiritual condition–blind to truth. Not just blind to the truth of Jesus as Messiah, but blind of his own need for Him.

Saul entered a wilderness. He was made to wait on God.

Three days passed. 

Saul must have been in anguish. Acts 9:9 says, “For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”

It seems Saul chosenot to eat or drink anything. Was he fasting? Maybe. Was he in anguish and grief? He’d been killing Christians. Stephen was stoned right before his feet with his approval.

Photo by Boguslaw Florjan via Photoxpress.com

Wilderness hurts. It shows us we are not in control. Waiting in helpless condition, facing our inner pain punctuates our need for Jesus. But what we do in response to our pain determines what wilderness will bring. Wilderness can be beautiful.

What did Saul do?

The scripture suggests to me Saul repented and believed in his heart. Here’s why.

  1. The choice Saul made not to eat indicates a broken heart.
  2. The Lord sent Ananias and specifically said, “Saul is praying.”
  3. God provided a vision to Saul about the restoration of his sight.
  4. God fills Saul with the Holy Spirit.

God restored Saul’s sight, both physically and spiritually (see Acts 9:17-18).

Again, the physical mirrors the spiritual:

  • New birth. The Holy Spirit entered Saul and he got up and was baptized.
  • Eating. Saul took some food. He also spent several days with the disciples, being fed spiritually.
  • Grew strong. The food brought back physical strength and Saul grew more and more powerful as he exercised his new spiritual sight and nourishment by preaching in the synagogues.  

Certainly not every physical issue is linked to a spiritual malady.

Sometimes our wilderness is physical, sometimes emotional. Other times it’s circumstances surrounding our lives. Our wilderness may or may not point to unrepented sin (remember Job?).  But wilderness tills our hearts for worship.

Our heart response to God matters every time. It does not guarantee an end to wilderness. Saul, who became known as Paul, certainly experienced more physical pain and suffering. He was imprisoned. He was beaten. He had a physical affliction that wasn’t removed. Some might see it as Saul’s wilderness was just starting on that Damascus road. That may be so, but Saul’s joy of worshipping Jesus was also starting and it lasted a lifetime.

Lord, bring us hearts that choose to worship as our desperate need for you pains us in wilderness moments.

 

Sounds of the Holy Spirit – How It Forms Community

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting Acts 2:2 (KJV).”

I’m reading Acts this month with Mom’s Toolbox. The sound of the Holy Spirit really struck me in this week’s reading. The disciples were all in one place, in Jerusalem, after Jesus resurrected and ascended into heaven. Then, the mighty sound.

Have you ever been in a room where a sudden sound caused everything else to fall away?

Photo from Photoxpress by Susanne Guttler

On Christmas night, a sound like that happened in our home. My two sons were upstairs playing. My husband and daughter were in the living room together. My mom-in-law was in her room, and I had just climbed into bed. Four permeating sounds like gun shots rang from what appeared to be somewhere behind our house, past a greenbelt to the back of other homes.

We all rushed from where we were, questioning looks on our faces. We huddled in an interior hallway absent of windows. We stayed and waited. Wondered what we should do next. Was it what we thought? Where exactly did it come from? What might happen  next?

The sound had beckoned all of our attention – each of us from where we were.

Before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus spoke to Nicodemus and explained the second birth of a man is in spirit from the Spirit of God.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit  John 3:8 (NIV).”

Just as Jesus had described it prior to His death, the Holy Spirit rushes in on the disciples at the beginning of Act chapter 2. There were twelve of them (Judas had been replaced with Matthias, see Acts 1: 15 – 26).

In a single day, the 12 become 3,000. By the end of Act 2, a community of three thousand are gathered together, devoted to teaching and learning of God’s word, praying, and doing life together.

How?

Sound. Again, a sound ushers man’s attention and movement of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of God filled each disciple and they began to speak in foreign languages. Not just any languages, but in those which correlated with the nations of crowds gathered in Jerusalem.

“When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language  Acts 2:6  (NIV).”

The sound of their own languages–personal. God could have granted the understanding of the disciples’ own language to the people in the town. Instead, God poured out a personal message to all people.

No doubt the message was for them. The Spirit moved and caused a heart response. Community grew.

Lord, let us hear you! May the personal calling of  your Word to each of our hearts be answered with our attention, astonishment, and obedience. Obedience to make sounds which your Spirit prompts to build community and growth among your followers. Teaching. Praying. Making phone calls. Giving a word of encouragement. Providing for a need.

What sound does the Spirit prompt you to make to grow His people?

A Word for 2012: Response

Maybe you’ve prayed for a word or a verse from God to frame your upcoming year. I really hadn’t done this, but rather prayed about goals and focus, topics to study and write over.

Then, I suddenly had a word hover over me. One I didn’t want at first. Response.

Wouldn’t it better to have a word like “Proactive”?

Yet, as I thought of what God has shown me during prayer and study time in the past weeks, I began to see how “response” encompasses it all.

My heart has been flooded with thoughts of community. Has our strong concern for individual rights caused us to loose a sense of burden, responsibility, and action for our community? Do my goals and resolutions all center on me–the individual–or are they balanced with participation/contribution in community?

My heart has been flooded with thoughts of lost spiritual disciplines among believers. Personal study. Seeking Prayer. Meditation on His Word. Active Repentance. Fasting. Spiritual disciplines are personal pursuits which should overflow to impact community.

My heart has been flooded with the tremendous need for God’s word. All of us can go further, myself for sure. His word is alive and active. We will never cease to grow and learn as we lay ourselves open before the Holy Spirit and delve into this living work. 

Are these not all responses to God? This entire life is a response to God.

This leads me to Acts chapter one. Again, for the month of January, I’ve chosen to read alongside Mom’s toolbox.

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen   Acts 1:1 (NIV).”

These words struck me, “…all that Jesus began to do and to teach.”

Our response to God, His Word, His instruction–it is a response to what Jesus began.

The book of Acts chronicles the early years of the first churches, the first missionary efforts–community.

So I’ll be posting on these heart concerns that are summed up in the word “Response.”  I’ll be reading and studying Acts in the process.

Leave a comment. What is your committment to community this year? Do you have a reading plan to keep yourself in God’s word? (check out free resources from Kathy Howard’s site here) Are you part of a church, a small study circle, an accountability group? What’s your word or verse for 2012?

Don’t You Fear God? Luke 23

Reading through Luke chapter 23 this morning, the words of the criminal crucified beside Christ struck me. He was speaking to the other criminal who hung on the far side of  Christ Jesus–the one who’d been hurling insults at Jesus.

“Don’t you fear God?” he said.  See Luke 23:40

Though the man hung on a cross next to Jesus, suffering and dying, he believed. He still feared God. Still dared to believe Jesus was the Messiah and there was a kingdom Christ would be ushered into, and there was a point to what was taking place.

I’m reminded of the lines in One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. She wrote that she’d claimed the “yes” of believing God, but lived the no.

Don’t you fear God?

To fear God is to be reverent of His mighty authority and power. To recognize his infinite might alongside his infinite love.

Sometimes I sense we focus so heavily on the love and forgiveness, we fail the rightful dose of fear. Doesn’t the fear of God go hand and hand in the surrender to God? To whatever he brings?

The first verse of Job tells us he was a man who feared God and shunned evil. And don’t we think of Job as  synonymous with suffering?

Yes, Job suffered much loss, much anguish and grief. Yet, the second half of his life was more blessed than the first, than before the suffering. (See Job 42:12 – 17)

Job told his wife, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”  see Job 2:10

Lord, it’s hard. It’s scary. I’d rather fear you and have it go well all my days. But I fear you always. I choose to surrender to you in the good and in the trouble.

When We Cannot Do What God Asks

Does God ever ask you to do something you cannot do?

I’m still reading Luke alongside Mom’s Toolbox and it’s been fabulous.

Over the weekend, I read Luke 6. I was reminded of a recent Sunday School lesson and something one of my friends pointed out in this chapter.

Jesus told the man with the shriveled hand–“Stretch out your hand.”  See Luke 6:10

The man shouldn’t have been able to do what Jesus asked. Yet, he did it.

How? Jesus provided the power.

Diseases were being cured and evil spirits cast out, “and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.”  Luke 6:19

In verses 27 – 36, Jesus gives all of us instructions which on our own, we cannot do. Truth is, we often do not want to.

  • Love your enemies
  • Do good to those who curse you
  • Pray for those who mistreat you
  • Turn the other cheek
  • Give more than what someone takes from you
  • Give without expecting repayment

Without Jesus providing the power and strength, how can we do these things God asks of us? We cannot.

Lord, please give me a heart that longs to do what you ask. Remind me to pray and ask for the desire and obedience you provide to do what you ask. Thrill me with your pleasure and joy as you grow me in my walk with you.